It can be difficult to separate history from myth in nailing down the particulars of the James Bond icon. There’s also an element of timing when considering first-hand research versus relying on the initiatives of others.
Playboy magazine is an invaluable resource when it comes to the James Bond legacy. At once, it captures snapshots in context, and provides that to researches for the most part, as said.
The following is from the November 1965 Playboy, titled, “Playboy Interview: Sean Connery – A candid conversation with James Bond’s acerbic alter ego.”
Here’s Sean Connery on “the phenomenal success of the Bond books and films.”
Well, timing had a lot to do with it. Bond came on the scene after the war, at a time when people were fed up with rationing and drab times and utility clothes and a predominantly gray color in life. Along comes this character who cuts right through all that like a very hot knife through butter, with his clothes and his cars and his wine and his women. Bond, you see, is a kind of present-day survival kit. Men would like to imitate him — or at least his success — and women are excited by him.
Then there is this on the character of James Bond in particular, in an attempt to reconcile what’s said by those who criticize and defend.
He is really a mixture of all that the defenders and the attackers say he is. When I spoke about Bond with Fleming, he said that when the character was conceived, Bond was a very simple, straightforward, blunt instrument of the police force, a functionary who would carry out his job rather doggedly. But he also had a lot of idiosyncrasies that were considered snobbish — such as a taste for special wines, et cetera. But if you take Bond in the situations that he is constantly involved with, you see that it is a very hard, high, unusual league that he plays in. Therefore he is quite right in having all his senses satisfied — be it sex, wine, food or clothes — because the job, and he with it, may terminate at any minute. But the virtues that Amis mentions — loyalty, honesty — are there, too. Bond doesn’t chase married women, for instance. Judged on that level, he comes out rather well.
Ten years earlier, however, this is how the recollection above would have compared to what Ian Fleming wrote of James Bond in Moonraker.
It was only two or three times a year that an assignment came along requiring [Bond’s] particular abilities. For the rest of the year he had the duties of an easy-going senior civil servant — elastic office hours … evenings spent playing cards in the company of a few close friends … or making love, with rather cold passion, to one of three similarly disposed married women….
When he was on a job he could spend as much as he liked, so for the other months of the year he could live very well on his £2000 a year net.
He had a … 1930 4½-litre Bentley coupé, supercharged, which he kept expertly tuned so that he could do a hundred when he wanted to.
On these things he spent all his money and it was his ambition to have as little as possible in his banking account when he was killed, as, when he was depressed, he knew he would be, before the statutory age of forty-five.