His name’s Connery. Sean Connery.
There is only one James Bond for me. Sean Connery. The original 007 who just died at 90, was the embodiment of the Ian Fleming character. Just as Goldfinger remains the gold standard of Bond movies, Connery is the gold standard of Bonds.
And both served as my introduction to that dashing M16 spy.
I first experienced the Scottish actor as James Bond while as a 9-year-old watching Goldfinger in a run-down movie theatre in Atlantic City.
In the deep freeze of the last week in December 1964 my family headed for Christmas break to Atlantic City that famous resort town in Southern Jersey. While other families might vacation in sunny Miami Beach taking advantage of new jet travel, Atlantic City was as far south as we got.
By the mid-1960s this once glittering, grande dame of vacation spots was more like an aging dowager, fading, long past its Boardwalk Empire prime. The once majestic hotels of the gilded age like the Shelburne and Traymore that still lined the world-famous boardwalk now loomed like dinosaurs towering over the plethora of ticky tacky souvenir shops that dotted the former blue-chip prize of Monopoly fame.
I had caught Atlantic City in a strange time period – after its golden and glamorous heyday as the Worlds Playground, but before its casino incarnation that tried to rival Las Vegas. Although down on its heels, my parents gambled that we would enjoy it, and they were right.
The Jersey city, however, was as far removed from the glamorous, international jet-setting world of James Bond as was our quiet suburban neighborhood.
In a year filled with a wealth of movies, Goldfinger seemed an odd choice for a family film.
As a grade-schooler, I certainly would have opted for the sweet Disney charm of Mary Poppins and I’m sure with a little bit of luck, My Fair Lady would have been my Broadway-loving Mom’s druthers. It was clearly my spy novel aficionado Dad’s decision. In this instance Father Knew Best.
1964 had been a rough year for my Republican Dad.
As a staunch Goldwater for President supporter, my father was still smarting from the crushing defeat of his candidate losing the election in a landslide. Maybe agreeing to see Goldfinger was Mom’s consolation to Dad’s loss of Goldwater.
For the entirety of his life, we would in fact pay homage to Dad’s love of Bond’s creator Ian Fleming.
My father Marvin was forever known as “M” in our family, a nod to “M” the fictional character in the Bond series, head of the Secret Intelligence Service known as M16. It was how my father signed his birthday cards and how we addressed him.
Settling deeply into the cushiony seats in the dark overheated theater, I noticed that my 12-year brother Andy and I were the youngest ones in attendance.
Goldfinger opened with a pre-title sequence. James Bond quickly peels off his tight wetsuit to reveal a perfectly pressed white Tuxedo underneath, forever establishing him as a debonair and suave secret agent.
While Shirley Bassey belted out what might be the most recognizable theme song ever, the gold-painted body of actress Margaret Nolan was used as a canvas to project the opening credits. Squeezed into a gold leather bikini her skin painted the same shimmering hue, the statuesque starlet ( who sadly also died in Oct) stood still.
This was no Julie Andrew’s rendition of Spoonful of Sugar.
But it sure as hell was supercalifragilisticexpilidocious!
Though the double entendre of Pussy Galore was totally lost on my 9-year-old naivety, Sean Connery’s primal appeal was not. The man did more than pack heat. As James Bond, Connery was heat. Even if I was too young to understand the sly innuendos and risqué references, I knew this was not about romance. This was sex.
I felt excited to be privy to this normally exclusive adult world.
Saturday Night and The Livin’ is Easy
Unlike the Saturday night parties my parents gave for their friends that were strictly grown-up affairs, strictly off-limits to me, I was now an invited guest at this movie. A fourth-grader with my own ticket into the forbidden.
When my parents entertained, my brother and I would be vanquished to our bedrooms. But as the night would wear on, like a Pied Piper, the sound of boozy, lusty, adult laughter would draw me out of my room. Stealthily padding down the hallway I’d watch the drama from the sidelines undetected.
The air was redolent of Shalimar, scotch, and cigarettes, as blue plumes of smoke filled the house. The freshly coiffed women seductive in their after-dark best were dressed in figure-hugging sheathes in crepe and shantung. Giggling flirtatiously while batting Maybellined eyes, they bore no resemblances to familiar cub scout moms.
The men trim in tapered Robert Hall Continental suits, smelled of Old Spice. With a cut-crystal tumbler of J&B Scotch in their hand, they weren’t someone’s car-pooling Dad who drove a Country Squire Station Wagon but a debonair man about town behind the wheel of an Austen Healy.
Stealthily I would catch snippets and glimpses into a world that seemed to lay far into the future for me but one, that for now, I didn’t belong to.
Everything He Touches Turns To Excitement
Now in the darkened theatre I was no longer sneaking a peek in a suburban hallway in my flannel robe and pajamas. For 2 mesmerizing hours, I was peering right into the grown-up world of libidos. Of martinis shaken not stirred. Womanizing and misogyny. A glamorous, cosmopolitan universe of fast cars, fast women, and even faster repartee.
In a pre-feminist era, I swallowed these nuggets of sexist tropes as mindlessly as I did the popcorn my family shared at that movie.
It was seductive. I was seduced.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2020.