The Birth of the James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Franchise

The Birth of the James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Franchise

Larry Holzwarth - December 23, 2019

Ian Fleming was born with the proverbial silver spoon in 1908, to a wealthy and politically influential family. His father fought and died in the First World War. Winston Churchill wrote his obituary in The Times. Fleming was raised with three brothers, one older than he, and a half-sister born out of one of his mother’s affairs. While at Eton Fleming established his life-long pattern with women, one which would later be endowed upon his character, James Bond. He left Eton to attend the military school at Sandhurst, which he also left early, having contracted a sexually transmitted disease. The disease indicated conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman.

The Birth of the James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Franchise
Ian Fleming at his Jamaica home, Goldeneye. Ian Fleming Estate

He initially worked as a journalist, a position gained through the influence of his mother, and later moved into banking in 1933, a profession which he found insufferable. He consoled himself with several affairs, usually with the wives of other men. In 1939 he entered into government service as the personal aide to Rear Admiral John Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence gaining a code name (17F) and a commission in the Royal Navy Reserve as a Lieutenant. His role included acting as liaison with the intelligence services and the Prime Minister’s office. He was serving in that capacity when Hitler invaded Poland, Great Britain declared war, and World War II engulfed Europe. Here is the story of the extraordinary life which unfolded from there.

The Birth of the James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Franchise
Fleming’s idea of using a corpse to mislead the Germans was used to create Major William Martin in Operation Mincemeat. Wikimedia

1. Fleming wrote plans during the war which read like his later novels

When World War II began, Fleming, newly promoted to the rank of Lt. Commander, produced a document for his boss which was entitled the Trout Memo. “The Trout Fisher casts patiently all day. He frequently changes his venue and his lures. If he has frightened a fish he may ‘give the water a rest for half-an-hour’…” The memo was a list of ways and means of luring the enemy into actions detrimental to him, and beneficial to the British. Though the memo was circulated – including to Churchill, then serving as First Lord of the Admiralty – as being from Admiral Godfrey, there was little doubt that it had been authored by Fleming.

The memo included the suggestion, “not a very nice one”, of using a corpse, equipped with a false identity and papers to mislead the Germans, being dropped to appear as if its parachute had failed to open. “I understand there is no difficulty in obtaining corpses at the Naval Hospital, but, of course, it would have to be a fresh one”, read the memo. A similar idea was later used in Operation Mincemeat, and its relationship to the Trout Memo was evident in the message of the success of that ruse, which was sent to Winston Churchill; “Mincemeat swallowed rod, line, and sinker”. Fleming began to work closely with British Intelligence, as well as American counterparts.

The Birth of the James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Franchise
The British desire for an Enigma machine led to several plans to acquire one. Bundesarchiv

2. Stealing the Enigma was a priority for British Intelligence and Fleming

In early 1940, Fleming conceived of a plan to steal a German Enigma machine, which he described in another memo to Admiral Godfrey. Fleming’s plan called for a volunteer crew of fluent German speakers “crashing” a German bomber into the British Channel. The crew, after being rescued by a German E-boat, was to be trained to overpower their rescuers and bring the E-boat (or U-Boat, if such was the rescuing vessel) back to Britain, with its Enigma machine intact. Fleming described the plan in detail to the codebreakers at Bletchley Park, including Alan Turing, who strongly supported its execution.

Churchill liked the idea as well, unsurprisingly, since he was always eager to endorse similar adventurous undertakings. But the idea was never seriously considered for execution. The RAF and the Admiralty objected because there was no way of ensuring the rescue would be undertaken by an E-boat, U-boat, or any other vessel equipped with an Enigma machine. There was no way of ensuring the crew would be rescued at all. Fleming argued the German-speaking crew could radio their superiors that they were in trouble prior to ditching the airplane, but that produced identification problems. The plan was quietly dropped.

The Birth of the James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Franchise
William Donovan consulted with Fleming and his boss when setting up the agency which became the OSS. Library of Congress

3. Fleming began to work with his American counterparts before the United States entered the war.

In 1940, William “Wild Bill” Donovan served as the American liaison to British Intelligence services in his capacity as a special advisor to President Roosevelt. In 1941, Donovan was tasked with the creation of the Office of the Coordinator of Information, a new agency designated to assimilate all of the intelligence gathered by the agencies of the Navy, Army, and State Department. The office was intended to coordinate the separate agencies, instead due to turf wars and professional jealousies it ended up duplicating their work in many cases. Eventually, it merged into the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

Fleming traveled to Washington DC, with Godfrey, to work directly with Donovan in creating the new agency, which was known as the OCI. Godfrey had been instrumental in convincing Roosevelt of the necessity of the new agency, which was opposed by Army and Navy Intelligence. The OCI included propaganda and news broadcasting wings, and intelligence and covert action wing, When the United States entered the war the wings were split into the OSS and the Office of War Information, which later became the United States Information Agency, parent agency of the Voice of America during the Cold War.

The Birth of the James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Franchise
Numerous operations were undertaken to ensure Gibraltar remained in British hands. Wikimedia

4. Protecting Gibraltar from the Germans after the fall of France

When France fell to the Germans the great British naval base at Gibraltar was threatened. If Franco in Spain allied with Germany, or if Spain fell to the Germans, the base critical to British control of the Mediterranean (along with Malta) would be difficult to maintain. Fleming was assigned the task of ensuring communications with Gibraltar could be maintained through Spain via an underground network of spies and agents operating under the control of London. The plan was given the code name Goldeneye. It included the ability to conduct sabotage operations in Spain in the event that nation became part of the Axis.

Fleming secured a diplomatic passport to travel to Gibraltar through neutral Spain, where he assessed the possibility of the Germans installing radar facilities in French Morocco, then under the ostensible control of Vichy France. Fleming established a liaison office for Goldeneye in Gibraltar, and a second office in Tangier, Morocco, as a backup in the event of Gibraltar falling to the Germans, and to monitor German activities in the Vichy territories in North Africa. Fleming also met again with Donovan, by then the head of the OSS, and suggested coordinated activities between the American and British agencies in the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa.

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Fleming’s agents helped prepare the way for Operation Torch in 1942. Wikimedia

5. Goldeneye was an essential component of Operation Torch in 1942

Operation Torch was the invasion of North Africa in 1942, in which the United States and Great Britain assaulted beaches defended by mostly French colonial troops. There was considerable uncertainty if the French would resist (they did, with varying degrees of enthusiasm) in the weeks leading up to the invasion. During the build-up to Torch, Goldeneye was used to assess the situation in French Morocco and Algiers. It was through Goldeneye, which was coordinated by Fleming in Madrid, the Allies learned of the plan to use Italian divers to launch attacks from wrecked ships on Allied shipping entering the Mediterranean.

Fleming long remembered basing covert operations in wrecked ships, and would resort to the tactic several times in his novels. Frogmen and limpet mines, which the Italians successfully deployed many times in the Mediterranean theater, were featured in many of his stories as well. With the Allies in control of North Africa in 1943, and Spain’s clear intention to remain neutral apparent, Goldeneye was shut down in the late summer. Fleming had by then resumed operations in the Admiralty in London. He also shut down a companion operation to Goldeneye, which had been created by Godfrey, called Operation Tracer.

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Admiral John Godfrey, the inspiration for M. Wikimedia

6. Godfrey created Operation Tracer as an expedient should Gibraltar be captured

Admiral Godfrey was forced to consider that Gibraltar could fall to the Germans in the early days of the war, and he created Tracer as a means to counter that catastrophe. The plan was to use the tunnels carved out of the rock to create a hidden chamber, which would hold a team of volunteers serving as a covert observation and listening post. The six-man team were to be placed in the sealed chamber for about a year, when they would be relieved by infiltrators, if necessary. The team realized that relief was not guaranteed, and provisions to support six men for up to seven years were stored in the chamber.

In the end, the operation was not necessary, since Gibraltar remained in British hands throughout the war. Fleming, under the direction of Godfrey, shut down Operation Tracer in 1943. He removed the remaining supplies in the chamber and had it sealed. The operation was so highly classified that the existence of the chamber was not confirmed (there had been rumors since the war) until 1997. Fleming’s influence on Tracer was minimal, he was too heavily involved with Goldeneye to have much to do with Godfrey’s operation, other than to shut it down when Goldeneye was also brought to an end in August 1943.

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British commandos in 1942. Imperial War Museum

7. Fleming developed a new commando unit in 1942

Once Goldeneye was established in Spain and North Africa, Fleming approached Godfrey with an idea. He had read with interest of the activities and successes of Germany’s elite commando unit led by Otto Skorzeny during the Crete invasion. Fleming envisioned a similar unit for the British. His unit was designated 30 AU, which stood for assault unit. The unit was used to gather intelligence in advance of Allied troop movements and to covertly infiltrate behind enemy lines, obtaining intelligence, conducting sabotage operations (often in conjunction with the Underground) and capturing targeted officials and officers.

The unit participated in Operation Torch, using information provided to it by operatives under Goldeneye. 30 AU consisted of 120 commandos, for the most part, culled from other British commando units, and in many cases operated independently and singly. It changed its name several times over the course of the war, when it was formed by Fleming it was known as the Special Intelligence Unit. It was known as the Special Engineering Unit during the Italian and Greek campaigns. Among its members were civilians brought in for their unusual skills, such as safecracking, and sleight of hand, as in the stacking of a deck of cards.

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The Dieppe Raid provided another opportunity to acquire an Enigma. Library and Archive Canada

8. Fleming participated in the failed Dieppe raid in 1942

Ian Fleming did not go into action with his commando unit, though he selected its missions and targets. In 1942 he selected the unit to participate in the raid on Dieppe, which was a much larger mission involving primarily Canadian troops, with contingents from the British Army and Navy, and a small contingent of US Army Rangers. The Special Intelligence Unit was assigned to the raid for a specific purpose. They were to obtain an Enigma machine and bring it back to the British. This has led some to speculate the Dieppe Raid was a cover for the Enigma raid, though such was not the case.

Instead, the Dieppe Raid, which was already being planned, was seen by British Naval Intelligence as an opportunity to snatch a coveted Enigma. Fleming’s team was to be in and out, not remaining with the other commandos. The attempted seizure of an Enigma machine, like virtually all of the goals of the Dieppe raid, ended in failure. Fleming was present during the Dieppe Raid, the closest he personally came to combat during the war. He observed the catastrophic raid unfold from the deck of a destroyer, HMS Fernie. Fernie was attacked several times by the Luftwaffe during the raid, but Fleming was not injured.

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Members of T Force dismantle a German experimental atomic pile. Wikimedia

9. Fleming participated in the covert operations of Target Force in 1944

During the summer of 1944, as Operation Overlord took place in France, Fleming was part of the planning and operations committee for Target Force, known as T Force. T Force was a joint Anglo-American operation which did for science, engineering, and technology what the Monuments Men did for art, with one exception. T Force also targeted people, capturing leading German talent in their respective fields and bringing them to the areas under British and American control. Their actions included identifying personnel in the areas under control of the Soviets.

Fleming’s role was to identify targets and arrange the missions which captured them. In some instances, captured Germans already working for the Soviets were targeted for assassination or kidnapping. T Force existed as much as to deny German-developed technology and knowledge to the Soviets as it did to benefit the British and Americans. The activities of T Force were the beginning of the espionage operations against the Soviet Union and its allies which were a feature of the James Bond books of the 1950s and 1960s. Several of the operations conducted by T Force remained classified for decades following the war, but some now known operations were the basis of several of Bond’s adventures.

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Fleming built his Goldeneye estate with family money following World War II. Wikipedia

10. Fleming served briefly in the Pacific in the latter stages of the war

In December 1944, Fleming went to the Pacific Theater of Operations, sent there by Admiral Godfrey to identify areas of interest for the British. His trip to the theater was essentially one of information gathering for British Naval Intelligence, and he was back in Europe by war’s end there. Fleming’s espionage role for the British Navy ended in May, 1945. During his service, in 1942, he attended an Anglo-American Conference held in Jamaica, and decided to purchase land there. In 1945 he had a house built on the island, though he did not move to the island full time. He named the estate Goldeneye.

After the war, he was hired as the Foreign Manager for a newspaper publishing group which at the time owned, among other newspapers, The Sunday Times. He negotiated a contract which allowed him three months off every winter, during which time he lived at his Jamaica estate. During the remainder of the year, he lived in London, unless business took him to other destinations around the world. His job was the management of the global network of foreign correspondents who worked for the syndicate. By then Fleming had the basis of the James Bond universe at his disposal, though he had yet to create the character.

The Birth of the James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Franchise
Fleming was well-known as a womanizer and heavy drinker during his lifetime. The Independent

11. Fleming was a serial womanizer throughout his life

Ian Fleming was a passionate womanizer, preferring the wives of other men as his companions, a trait which he would endow upon his character James Bond. He maintained a relationship throughout the Second World War with Ann Charteris (who also carried on a long affair with Esmond Harmsworth) while married to Shane O’Neill, styled as Lord O’Neill. O’Neill was killed during the war, and Ann expected a proposal of marriage from Fleming. When it wasn’t forthcoming, she married Harmsworth, by then elevated to the peerage through inheritance of his father’s title as Lord Rothermere. She and Fleming continued their extramarital affair during her second marriage.

During Fleming’s three-month stays at Goldeneye, Ann joined him, leaving her husband with the impression she was visiting with Noel Coward. In 1951, the obviously befuddled Rothermere divorced her, and the pregnant Ann married Fleming. Their son, Caspar, was born the following year. He was their only child together. Both Ann and Ian continued to enjoy extramarital affairs throughout their marriage, neither giving much consideration to monogamy. In addition to Fleming’s estate in Jamaica, the couple purchased a large house in London which they named Sevenhampton (she took Rothermere for £100,000 when they divorced) where they resided during their time in Britain.

The Birth of the James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Franchise
Sean Connery, the first feature film Bond, clowns with Thunderball technical advisor Charles Russhon. Wikimedia

12. The creation of James Bond in 1952

Fleming often mentioned to friends and colleagues during his time with naval intelligence that he would write a spy novel one day. He didn’t tell them that they would be part of it, but many of them were. The inspiration for M, the head of the double 0 branch in his fictional world, was his former boss and mentor, Admiral Godfrey. Felix Leiter grew out of the many American agents with whom he worked during the war years. Q as a character didn’t exist in Fleming’s novels, but Q Branch did, as when M told Bond to see Q Branch “for any equipment you need”. Q Branch was based on Fleming’s experience with various pieces of special equipment created by Charles Fraser-Smith of the Special Operations Executive during the war.

Miss Moneypenny was a combination of several women with whom Fleming had worked, both during and after the war, including one or two with whom he had romantic relationships for a time. In the original draft of the first Bond novel, Casino Royale, the character was named Miss Pettaval, after Kathleen Pettigrew, the personal secretary of real-life MI6 director Stewart Menzies. Fleming’s brother Peter advised the author to change the name after reading the manuscript, to avoid legal complications. Bond’s supercharged Bentley could be seen in Fleming’s driveway, his custom-made cigarettes in his creator’s hand, enjoyed while the author sipped a vodka martini, pondering his creation’s next adventure.

The Birth of the James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Franchise
Bond was said by his creator to resemble Hoagy Carmichael, seated at the piano. Wikimedia

13. The inspiration for James Bond

A cottage industry over who was the inspiration for the British spy James Bond has emerged over the years, with several competing candidates proposed as giving Fleming the model for the British superspy. Russian, German, British, and American espionage agents have all been labeled definitively as the prototype Bond. Fleming himself never said who it was. But he left tantalizing clues. They are evident in the behaviors and tastes exhibited by the character in the Bond novels. Nearly all of them were the behaviors and tastes exhibited by his creator. Ian Fleming took his inspiration for James Bond from the image he saw while shaving. The rest was personal history and fantasy.

From Fleming we learned what Bond looked like, the author described him as resembling Hoagy Carmichael (who also resembled Fleming). Fleming later wrote that Bond was a combination “of all the secret agents and commando types I met during the war”. He imbued the character with several aspects of his own background, including being educated at Eton, attaining the rank of Commander in the Royal Navy, and enjoyment of the game of golf (Bond and Fleming held the same handicap). Both the author and the character enjoyed gambling, particularly the game of chemin de fer. And there were many more similarities.

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Fleming at work in Jamaica. Gentleman’s Journal

14. Fleming’s Bond was a reflection of his own experiences and fantasies

Both James Bond, at least as he was originally portrayed in the novels, and Ian Fleming shared a remarkable number of character traits. Both preferred the companionship of married women. Both smoked custom-made cigarettes, though Fleming used a holder, an affectation which he did not give his spy. Both enjoyed vodka at a time when gin was the preferred white liquor in the west. Both drove a Bentley (though Fleming soon switched to American cars), enjoyed scuba and snorkeling, and exhibited a staunch British stiff upper lip. Both were somewhat contemptuous of Americans. They used the same brands of personal hygiene products, exhibited the same tastes in clothes and foods.

Both James Bond and Ian Fleming were heavy smokers, averaging about 60-70 cigarettes per day (a factor in Fleming’s relatively early demise from heart disease). Both purchased their cigarettes from the London tobacconist, Morland’s of Grosvenor Street. Bond would purchase Chesterfield cigarettes when his own weren’t available, as would his creator. Both had a decided taste for scrambled eggs. Fleming didn’t provide details of Bond’s youth until after the first movies featuring his character appeared; when Scottish actor Sean Connery played him in Dr. No, Fleming added to the literary character’s background as a Scottish father and youth in that country, as well as a Swiss mother.

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Casino Royale was sold under another title in paperback in the United States. Pulp Covers

15. The birth of the James Bond franchise

James Bond was born of Fleming’s imagination, and first committed to the page in 1952, while Fleming wintered at Goldeneye. The first novel, Casino Royale, pitted James Bond (a name borrowed from a British ornithologist) against Le Chiffre, a French villain working for the Soviet Secret Service. The novel also introduced Bond’s American ally, Felix Leiter. Fleming gave the book to his brother Peter, a travel writer and editorialist, to solicit his opinion. It was Peter who convinced his publisher to take a chance on the book. The book was released in April 1953 in Britain, and was well received by both critics and the public.

Fleming’s first novel sold well enough in the UK for him to receive a multiple book contract from the publisher, Jonathan Cape. A later paperback edition also sold well. In the United States, the book was less well received, and US paperback editions carried a different title, which did nothing to increase sales. In 1954 CBS produced a one-hour television presentation of the book for its Climax series, with actor Barry Nelson portraying the secret agent and Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre. Bond was presented as an American agent in his first screen appearance, with Leiter as his British counterpart. Neither the television version nor the book made much of an impact with American audiences and readers.

The Birth of the James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Franchise
When JFK publicly announced he enjoyed the Bond books, Fleming sent him a note of thanks. Wikimedia

16. Fleming’s vacations in Jamaica became the period when he added to the Bond canon

Although Casino Royale was a success, Fleming retained his position with the newspaper syndicate, and used his annual winter vacation at Goldeneye to write additional Bond stories. From 1953 to 1966 a Bond novel or short story collection appeared annually, though the last two were published following Fleming’s death. The second novel, Live and Let Die, was written before Casino Royale was published, and when it was released in 1954 its sales surpassed those of its predecessor. It too earned mostly favorable reviews from critics, as did the next three works; Moonraker, Diamonds Are Forever, and From Russia With Love.

While researching Diamonds Are Forever Fleming gathered the information he used to write a non-fiction book, The Diamond Smugglers. The book grew out of several articles Fleming wrote for The Sunday Times in 1957. It too earned positive reviews for the most part. By the time the book appeared Fleming was well known for the Bond series, and had a steadily growing fan base in the United Kingdom. His books did not sell as well in the United States. Fleming enjoyed financial success, the accolades of critics, and the attachments of celebrity in Great Britain, Jamaica, and while on his travels. In the American market, he was relatively unknown. One American who was a devoted fan was a Massachusetts Senator, John F. Kennedy.

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Dr. No was the first of the novels made into a feature film, though it received numerous critical reviews when published. Pinterest

17. Fleming found his later works attacked by critics

Following the publication of the non-fiction, The Diamond Smugglers Fleming returned to James Bond in Dr. No, published in 1958. For the first time, Fleming felt the sting of blunt criticism of his work. One critic called it “the nastiest book I have ever read”. Another called the book, “the usual sadomasochistic free for all”. Fleming responded to criticism in The Guardian in a letter, which the paper published, in which he defended Bond’s sexism. “Perhaps Bond’s blatant heterosexuality is a subconscious protest against the current fashion for sexual confusion”, he wrote. He also defended his character’s violence and his use of branded products, many of which were the products he used.

Despite being lambasted by many reviews and controversy on television talk shows the book was accepted by Bond fans. Fleming based the book in Jamaica, and his knowledge of his second home made the background more accessible for readers. He was not pleased with the criticism of either the book or its main character. What would today be called conspicuous consumption by James Bond was one of the focal points of critics. It was part of the character’s behavior which had been instilled by the author as reflective of his own. Simply put, Bond was criticized for a lifestyle which Fleming followed, and he resented the criticism.

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Fleming loathed the work of architect Erno Goldfinger, but loved his last name. Wikimedia

18. Fleming became more arrogant with critics and fans as time went on

In describing his manner of writing while in Jamaica, Fleming wrote in Books and Bookmen Magazine, “I never correct anything and I never go back to see what I have written”, also claiming that he wrote about 2,000 words per day. In March 1958 Fleming arrived in London following his winter in Jamaica with the next book of the James Bond series, which he had tentatively titled The Richest Man in the World. Its title was changed to the last name of its featured villain, Auric Goldfinger. It was the longest Bond book yet written, and it reflected Fleming’s long love affair with the gold. He was a longtime collector of gold coins, and the owner of a gold-plated typewriter.

The name Goldfinger he encountered from an architect whose work Fleming found distasteful, Erno Goldfinger. When the new Bond book was announced, but not yet released, the real Goldfinger threatened to sue. Fleming responded with a letter to the architect in which he wrote that he would include a note within the already printed copies of the book changing the name to Goldprick, as well as the reason for the change. His publisher, Jonathan Cape, smoothed matters over with the real Goldfinger. A huffy Fleming told friends that the book would be his last featuring James Bond, but the public reaction to the book and its sales quickly changed his mind.

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A TV series featuring Bond was planned for actor Barry Nelson, (standing at right) but only one episode was filmed. Wikimedia

19. Fleming was approached to create a television series for James Bond

In the late 1950s, Fleming wrote several plot outlines for a television series featuring James Bond. When the series failed to materialize, he adapted some of the outlines into short stories, and in 1960 they were published in a collection titled For Your Eyes Only. One of the stories was based on a tale related to him by a neighbor, Blanche Blackwell, with whom he also conducted an affair. Blackwell was the likely inspiration for Goldfinger’s Pussy Galore, as well as Honey Rider from Dr. No. The story told to Fleming by Blackwell was the basis of the short story Quantum of Solace. Fleming’s marriage had by then become difficult, in part because his wife detested the James Bond character.

Critical commentary was mostly approving of both the new format and the stories themselves. Fleming also thought the short story format was a good way to initiate some changes in the character, and several critics wrote that Bond was apparently mellowing. Fleming did not date his works in that there was no mention in his stories of the year in which Bond had his adventures. As in Bond’s previous adventures, Fleming relied on personal experiences and acquaintances from his days with Naval Intelligence to generate his plots and Bond’s activities, as well as having 007 enjoy his usual distractions.

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Sean Connery as Bond in Diamonds are Forever. Wikimedia

20. The James Bond novels and short stories were pro-British at the expense of America

Throughout the James Bond series, in the works written by the character’s creator, the Anglo-American alliance during the Cold War was stressed. The stress was always on the superior contribution of the British. American CIA agent Felix Leiter was presented as always following Bond’s lead, Bond’s orders, and Bond’s direction. In three of the novels Bond is presented with a crisis which is actually an American one, and he resolves it for them, with British Intelligence saving the United States from its less competent agencies. When Dr. No threatens the United States, a British warship and British troops are used to thwart him.

Fleming wrote the Bond series of books and short stories as the British Empire was in sharp decline. So was the British military, the fleet was no longer the most powerful in the world, nor the largest. Britain was increasingly dependent on the United States for its defense, as was most of western Europe. Fleming’s resentment of the United States and most things American became increasingly evident as the series went on, reflected in Bond’s actions, thoughts, and conversations. Fleming wrote of British world dominance as a symbol of normal times, and though he was aware of Britain’s decline, it was presented in his novels as a bad thing, longing for the situation to be reversed, expressed through James Bond.

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Fleming’s book for children wasn’t published until after his death. Biblio

21. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was based on bedtime stories he told his son

In 1961 Fleming had a heart attack, and while recuperating he used the bedtime stories he told his young son as the basis for the book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It was not published in his lifetime. Fleming used much of the techniques he employed when writing the Bond stories in that he used names and situations he encountered in his own life. One such example is the character Caractatus Pott, a former Commander in the Royal Navy. Pott, like Fleming, was fascinated with automobiles and unusual devices. Pott advised his children in the novel as Fleming did in life, “Never say no to adventures. Always say yes, otherwise you will lead a very dull life”.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was written in three volumes. The first two volumes were completed in the spring of 1961. The third was not completed until 1963, when Fleming was recovering from a second, and then a third heart attack. The latter required him to be convalescent. The third volume of the children’s story was the last the wrote, and it was not published until two months after his death in 1964. The Guardian was scathing in its review of the work, writing “we have the adult writer at play rather than the children’s writer at work”.

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M (seated), Bond, and Major Boothroyd from Q Branch. MGM

22. A James Bond fan gave his name to the books and films

In the first five James Bond novels, 007 is equipped with a Beretta as his standard sidearm. Fleming received a letter from a noted British firearm expert and fan of the series, Geoffrey Boothroyd. Boothroyd suggested the Beretta was insufficient for Bond’s work, and the agent should be equipped with a Walther PPK, a firearm of larger caliber and stopping power. Fleming thanked Boothroyd, and from that point on sought his advice on firearms used by villains, silencers, other weapons carried by Bond and his fellow agents, and the accurate portrayal of weapons used by agents of Smersh and other enemy agencies.

He also, as he so often did, appropriated the fan’s last name. Bond’s armorer and supplier of devices used in the field, became Major Boothroyd beginning in Dr. No, and continued through the series. In From Russia With Love (film), Major Boothroyd and the head of Q Branch become the same person. Bond’s Walther PPK became as iconic as his phrase, “Bond, James Bond”, which was also created by Fleming, not Sean Connery nor the screenwriters for the Bond films which began with Dr. No.

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The only Aston Martin driven by Bond in the books was a DB III in Goldfinger. Pinterest

23. Bond’s Aston Martin DB 5 never appeared in the books

James Bond is associated with Aston Martin automobiles as a result of the films, beginning with Goldfinger. Fleming did not so equip his secret agent. In the early Bond books, he drove a supercharged Bentley, described as “battleship grey”. The car was destroyed in Moonraker, and Bond drove another Bentley, a Mark II Continental. In Goldfinger Bond was assigned the Aston-Martin DB III, which was equipped with the homing device through which he followed the title character. For the rest of his career as created by Fleming, he drove the Bentley.

Fleming’s Bond did not reflect his own taste in cars. Following the success of Casino Royale, the author purchased a 1955 Thunderbird. Four years later he was tired of the car and after shopping around he purchased another Ford, the 1959 Thunderbird. He also owned a British Aceca coupe and demonstrated a marked taste for American cars – one of the few things American of which he approved – by owning a Studebaker Avanti.

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Fleming gave grudging approval of Connery’s portrayal of Bond. Getty Images

24. Fleming grew to approve of Sean Connery’s interpretation of James Bond

Ian Fleming lived to see the first of his novels made into a feature film, 1962’s Dr. No, starring a then little-known Scottish actor, Sean Connery. “The man they have chosen for Bond, Sean Connery, is a real charmer — fairly unknown but a good actor and the right looks and physique”, he wrote to a friend, despite having described Bond as resembling Hoagy Carmichael previously. Connery and Carmichael bore little resemblance to each other. Connery years later told a different story on British television, and one which seems to be more compatible with Fleming’s character.

“What was it he called me, or told somebody? That I was an over-developed stunt man. He never said it to me. When I did eventually meet him he was very interesting, erudite and a snob – a real snob”, Connery said in 2008. Fleming had originally wanted Cary Grant to portray Bond, but the production of Dr. No had a limited budget. Fleming’s approval of Connery came after the success of the film, which boosted the sale of all of his books into the millions.

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The last Bond novel was completed just before Fleming died. Amazon

25. Fleming’s last Bond novel was published after his death

In March 1964, Ian Fleming returned to London from his Jamaica estate much the worse for wear. He was in the advanced stages of heart disease, and during his stay at Goldeneye, he was too weak to work at his former pace. The manuscript he brought back and submitted was the first draft of The Man with the Golden Gun. As with all of his past works, he used the names of acquaintances and events which had occurred to individuals he knew or had known. The novel also included Bond and the villains using devices much more than in the previous books, an idea absorbed from the two Bond films which had been released.

Fleming suffered yet another heart attack after a day of golf and dinner with friends in Canterbury. He died the following day, August 12, 1964. It was his twelve-year-old son’s birthday. His final novel and another collection of short stories, Octopussy and The Living Daylights, and the three volumes of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang were published after his death. Fleming left an estate valued at the equivalent of £6 million pounds today, and to date, his books have sold over 30 million copies. The character he created in his own image, James Bond, is among the most famous literary and film characters of all time.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“The James Bond Dossier”. Kingsley Amis. 1966

“Ian Fleming”. Andrew Lycett. 1996

“James Bond: The Man and His World”. Henry Chancellor. 2005

“Ian Fleming left teasers about Bletchley Park in James Bond novel, expert claims”. Lydia Willgress, The Telegraph. October 2, 2016″

“Secret plan to bury soldiers alive inside Rock of Gibraltar”. Ann Penketh, The Independent. February 4, 2007

“Ian Flemings Commandos”. Nicholas Rankin. 2011

“T-Force: The Race for Nazi Secrets”. Sean Longden. 2010

“Dark side of 007 author Ian Fleming”. Neil Clark, Daily Express. December 21, 1013

“‘Bond, James Bond’. The Creation of Ian Fleming’s World Renowned Secret Agent”. Sarah Mares, St. Mary’s University History Media. Online

“The man behind Bond”. BBC News. November 19, 1999. Online

“The Life of Ian Fleming”. John Pearson. 1967

“Fleming vs. Goldfinger: What really happened when the architect took on the author”. Michael Duncan, Footprints of London. November 12, 2015. Online

“Bottoms Up”. Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic. April, 2006

“Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to fly again”. Mark Brown, The Guardian. March 22, 2011

“Letter to Geoffrey Boothroyd”. Ian Fleming, Letters of Note. May 31, 1956. Online

“Sean Connery: Snob Ian Fleming didn’t want me to play Bond”. The Express, October 19, 2008