It took Ian Fleming just eight weeks to write his first James Bond novel but the legacy of his eponymous spy has been far less fleeting.
Fifty years after 007 first made it on to the big screen in Dr No (see Sean Connery, above) a Barbican exhibition is celebrating with a stunning display of Bond gadgets, clothes and paraphernalia, such as Jaws’ metal teeth (until 5 September).
Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style has more than 400 such items, playfully arranged in rooms recalling Bond’s own stomping ground: a casino, M’s office, and so on. There is Ursula Andress’s white bikini, Scaramanga’s golden gun, even an Aston Martin DB5, although sadly the Sean Connery leaning nonchalantly against it is a replica. It is, says Bronwyn Cosgrave, co-curator, ‘the only EON production where James Bond is a supporting character’.
Perhaps even more absorbing than the artefacts themselves are the sketches detailing their conception. Plucked from the EON archives, these blueprints give a fascinating insight into the care and innovation that have gone into the franchise.
Bond has endured because of this innovation. From sets to costume design, the films have always moved with the times. While Connery wore the Chesterfield coats and quintessentially English tailoring of Savile Row, Daniel Craig is more of a Tom Ford man.
Set designer Sir Ken Adam even described Bond’s look as ‘slightly ahead of contemporary’. He may have been around for half a century, but 007 is not just a museum piece.