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Remembering Sean Connery: an Icon of the 1960s

by Daniel Herman

 

When anyone living in the 1960s heard the name “James Bond,” they immediately thought of one man, Sean Connery. Sadly, Connery passed away today at the age of 90.

For many young (and older) men and woman of the “swinging” 1960s, Connery epitomized what was “cool” about pop culture.

When he made the first Bond film, Do No, President Kennedy was quick to pick Ian Fleming's (for those of you who don't already know, Fleming was the creator of James Bond)From Russia with Love as one of his favorite books.

Being Bond, though, was a struggle for Connery, the actor; as the character grew in world-wide fame and attention, he became bored with the public adulation he received, which he thought made it impossible for him to have a private life.

Connery left the series in 1967 with You Only Live Twice only to return four years later inDiamonds are Forever. In the interrum Bond was portrayed by Australian model/actor George Lazenby in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, whose portrayal of Bond while not initially well received, in retrospect has become highly regarded.

Connery's career as an action star went through fits and starts with both superb performances and roles taken just to pay the rent. Despite his fame as Bond, he was a gifted actor turning in exciting and thoughtful performances in Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie, The Man Who Would be King (with Michael Caine), The Wind and the Lion, Robin and Marian, The Time Bandits, only to return to James Bond again in Never Say Never Again, which was an intelligent meditation on growing older but not loosing style or panache. Connery would go on to make numerous intelligent, engaging and downright fun films and in the process pick up an Oscar for his performance as the older, world-wise cop in Brian DePalma's Untouchables. He would go on to to play Indiana Jones' father in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and would star in other genuinely entertaining films with fine work in The Hunt for Red October, The Name of the Rose, The Russia House, and Finding Forrester.

Unfortunately, the film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, allegedly based on the first comic book of Alan Moore's series of stories, was an unmitigated disaster in every respect and was the vehicle which convinced Connery to quit acting, forever.

It seems Connery truly enjoyed his retirement and when frequently queried about when he would return to film generally commented he was having too much fun.

It's hard to sum up the career of an actor whose legacy encompassed more than the roles he played and to look at the larger context of how sometimes films influence style and social perceptions and norms. Connery was legitimately a cultural icon of the 1960s, just as The Beatles, John Kennedy, Brigitte Bardo, Joan Baez, John Glenn, Muhammad Ali, and a host of other individuals helped define the era, gone but not forgotten. For many, despite his numerous achievements, he will always be Bond, James Bond, which in the overall scheme of things ain't too bad!


Dan Herman
Dan Herman

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