Tuesday, September 29, 2015

James Bond as Code Name: The Evidence for and Against Part 1

A popular theory out there is that in the official movies, not only 007 but even the name James Bond are codes for various secret agents as they are killed or incapacitated, or simply leave Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This series looks at the evidence from the various Eon Productions movies.

First off, a word about five key non-canonical Bond series and why they aren’t examined more closely. The big reason is they’re not part of the official series. Beyond that: The Casino Royale episode of Climax! treated Bond as an American secret agent. The original Casino Royale big screen movie, while it fits in nicely with the pro-code name side is a comedy that isn’t easily integrated into the core series, especially the ending. Never Say Never Again, while featuring former official Bond Sean Connery, is a remake of Thunderball. The cartoon series James Bond Jr. focuses on his nephew and not on Bond himself. And the GoldenEye TV movie is set in a pseudo real world where Bond is an ornithologist, not a spy.

Proponents of this theory believe that every time a new actor is cast as Bond, it’s a different character. If casting is that important an element to the theory, I think it’s also worth looking at all instances where an actor has been recast, not just Bond himself.

Dr. No (1962)


For this movie there are six recurring characters (in one case just barely so): James Bond (Sean Connery), Felix Leiter (Jack Lord), M (Bernard Lee), Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson, voices by Nikki Van der Zyl), Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), and Major Boothroyd (Peter Burton). As this is the first appearance of all in the Eon series, there is no actor switch to consider at this early stage.

Other Evidence:

Bond right from his first scene throws out the name James Bond. As he does throughout the series, he is already pretty free with using this name publicly given his profession. Given that this is more or less a constant, it will not be examined further unless there is new information to examine.

The James Bond as code name theory raises the issue of why whoever is using the James Bond code name also consistently used then 007 code name and vice versa. Again, both names are used throughout the series so this also won’t be discussed unless there is new information.

Bond continues to use the name James Bond even when not in the field. While the obvious implication is that Bond therefore is his real name, it could also be the case that MI6 is particularly tight with security. Once again he is referred to as both Bond and 007 throughout the series during mission briefings.

From Russia with Love (1963)


The characters mentioned above reappear except Leiter (though he returns later). However, Sylvia, again played by Gayson/Van der Zyl disappears from the movies after this movie. Therefore, while not a bad character, she’s of no consequence to this particular debate. Connery, Lee, Maxwell also reprise their roles. While Dr. No is referenced, he does not actually appear. Two new recurring characters debuts here: an as yet identified man (played by Anthony Dawson and voiced by Eric Pohlmann) stroking a white cat, and the cat itself. Casting information on the cat is not readily available and for the most part thus will not be examined in this series except in one instance where the passage of time makes it certain that it was a different cat. It is probable however that many cats were used in the series.

Anthony Dawson is an interesting case as he played a different character in the first Bond movie. Normally the logical extreme conclusion of the James Bond as code name theory would be that different characters played by the same actor are in fact the same person. However, since Dawson is only partly seen, we can make allowances as we would for stunt doubles.

Desmond Llewellyn becomes the first instance of a character being recast, taking over from Peter Burton. While he would be known as Q in most of his appearances, in this film he is referred to as Major Boothroyd as per the first film. So if James Bond is a code name, it stands to reason that Major Boothroyd is also a second code name. This raises the question as to why someone who is rarely in the field (Boothroyd being the man who equips Bond with vehicles and gadgets) would need two code names.

Goldfinger (1964)

Connery, Lee, Maxwell, and Llewellyn all return, with Llewellyn now credited as Q, the code name of Major Boothroyd. Taking the Bond as code name theory to its extreme, this is the first time that Bond's gadget man took on a second code name.

Cec Linder takes over as Felix Leiter, Bond’s main American ally from Jack Lord. Taking the Bond as code name theory to its logical conclusion suggests that Felix Leiter is also a code name. However, after Dr. No, Bond seems to have familiarity with one another. If Bond and Leiter are in fact code names, people taking on the two code names seem to have a fairly easy time striking up a friendship with one another.

Next post: Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

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