Girls, Guns and Dinner Jackets
The Iconic Posters of James Bond
In 1961, a Canadian film producer named Harry Saltzman read Ian Fleming’s 1959 spy novel Goldfinger, the seventh in the James Bond series, and decided to buy film rights to the character. Not long after, he was approached by Cubby Broccoli, a Queens-born film producer living in London, who explained he wanted to purchase them for himself. Instead of competing, they formed a partnership, founding Danjaq, LLC (named after their wives, Dana and Jacqueline) and Eon Productions, which have produced all 24 bond films to date.
Their first was a low-budget adaptation of Fleming’s first novel, Dr. No, starring an amateur bodybuilder from Ireland named Sean Connery. It was a massive success; the film grossed nearly 60 times over its $1.1 million budget, launching 007 into the cultural conscience of generations to come. (For perspective, the budget for Spectre, five decades later, is reported to exceed $300 million.) Promotional posters for the films have become collectables, originals often selling for tens of thousands of dollars. Early artwork was illustrated, and pictured the motifs to be expected from Bond — girls, guns and dinner jackets — which were later photographed in the Hollywood style de rigueur. Below are a handful from 1962 to 2015, which when seen together chart the growth of the character we know and revere today. The girls and guns, however, haven’t changed much. Call Bond a little old-fashioned.
Dr. No (1962)
Dr. No wasn’t just the first Bond film — it was the catalyst for an entire genre of stylized spy-espionage films and television shows in the ‘60s, including The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Our Man Flint. Set in the Caribbean, with an unforgettable cameo by Ursula Andress (and her two-piece bathing suit), the film secured Bond’s iconic self-introduction with the words: “Bond. James Bond.” Above is the 1962 debut poster, drawn by Mitchell Hooks, which proved monumental. It was the first time the world saw Connery as the longstanding face of the franchise.
From Russia with Love (1963)
The followup to Dr. No, From Russia with Love, was scored by John Barry, who went on to produce the soundtrack for 11 Bond films from 1963 to 1987. Both Connery and the plot are subtle, like the book it is follows, making the film one of the most memorable in Bond history. The poster for the French market (pictured above), illustrated by Russian-born French artist Boris Grinsson, is not only considered to be among the finest movie posters in Bond history — but in the film industry as whole.
With a new director, Guy Hamilton, Goldfinger saw Bond nod toward Hollywood, where glamor and spectacle were both encouraged and rewarded. Connery, still leading, made both humor and gadgets a part of Bond’s identity; the film was also the first that disclosed Bond’s longterm affinity for Aston Martin cars. Goldfinger went on to win an Academy Award for Best Sound Effects Editing — the first Oscar in Bond history — and set a new world record at the time for the fastest-grossing film to date. The promotional poster above could be seen on billboards across the United Sates around the time the film premiered.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
As far as Bond movies go, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is an underrated cult classic, one both Christopher Nolan and Steven Soderbergh cite as their favorite in the franchise. It stars George Lazenby as agent 007, the successor to Connery who left the role citing issues with the film’s producers. At 140 minutes, it was the longest Bond film until Casino Royale (144 minutes) premiered in 2006. (Spectre will be 148 minutes.) Pictured is the British cinema poster for the film, designed by Robert McGinnis (who also illustrated the poster for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961) and Frank McCarthy (The Dirty Dozen, 1967).
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Roger Moore’s portrayal of Bond was over the top, near cartoonish — take his Lotus Esprit, for example, which could transform into a submarine — but unquestionably influential in the franchise; during the Moore era, 007 became a larger-than-life figure, one that all actors who have played him since have tried to either emulate or resist. The tagline of the original cinema posters, designed by Bob Peak, said it best: “It’s the biggest” Bond movie, ever.
License to Kill (1989)
Timothy Dalton, who debuted in this late-’80s thriller, was as gritty as they come, and is often seen by Bond audiences as a black sheep of the Bond family. His unflinching portrayal was matched with excessive violence that alienated and confused even the most loyal fans of the franchise. Pictured is artist Bob Peak’s concept art for a promotional poster that never saw the light of day; MGM instead went with a traditional and frankly forgettable campaign with posters by Steven Chorney.
The Brosnan era gets a bad rap, despite a string of strong performances from the Irish actor. His best was GoldenEye, which most critics saw as the modernization of the franchise, a critical release after Bond’s six-year hiatus following License to Kill in 1989. Ebert called Bond here “somehow more sensitive, more vulnerable, more psychologically complete” than his predecessors, though the film was not without its bells and whistles: the opening scene, for example, shows Bond bungee jumping 700 feet off a dam, then grappling to the ground (the stunt set a world record). But the advance cinema poster (pictured above) was minimal, suggesting that Brosnan’s Bond would be somewhat cerebral — an overstatement in light of the Craig era.
Casino Royale (2006)
The international poster for Craig’s breakout as Bond highlighted his distinction — blonde hair, blue eyes, his open tuxedo jacket and untied bow tie suggesting he might be a little untamed. Behind him is the silhouette of Eva Green, filled out with a picture of an Aston Martin DBS V12. Let’s just say it was a strong breakout and leave it squarely at that.
The first promotional poster for Spectre, the 24th installment of the Bond series, was released in February 2015, nine months before the film’s premiere. It shows a strikingly blue-eyed Daniel Craig, dressed in a drab turtleneck with a holster to his left shoulder and a Walther PPK in hand. Many have commented that the look actually resembles that of Moore in Live and Let Die. While recent movies have shed emotional light on Bond’s dark past, one wonders whether this homage is evidence that Craig’s last film as Bond will be his biggest action spectacle to date.