Exhibition celebrating 50 years of Bond aims to leave fans shaken and stirred at Barbican
From Ursula Andress’s underwired brassiere to Sean Connery’s 1964 Aston Martin DB5, the Barbican exhibition is licensed to thrill, writes MARK HENNESSY
IT REMAINS one of cinema’s most iconic images: Ursula Andress emerging from the sea in a white bikini as Honey Rider in the first of the James Bond movies, Dr No, complete with a dagger held in a side pouch.
However, the Andress look was concocted only the night before, according to a newly opened exhibition, “Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style”, which opened at the Barbican in London yesterday.
The actress’ white top was put together by one of Andress’s staff, using “an underwired brassiere”, the night before the scene was shot, according to the exhibition, which heavily emphasises the fashions used by a series of Bonds and Bond girls over the decades.
Lest anyone think the exhibition is as sexist as the early movies, it is worth emphasising that the light blue trunks worn by Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, in which he emulates the Andress scene when he walks out of the sea in the Bahamas, are also on display.
The Bond look was directed by the relatively unknown Terence Young, a former Guards officer, who had no interest in trying to transpose the rather humourless Bond of Ian Fleming’s book on to the big screen, but instead wanted lots of humour and sex.
Taking Sean Connery to his tailor, Young ordered a narrower cut than the then norm – it became known as the “conduit cut”, “where tailoring has little to do with fashion and everything to do with class”.
Equally, the influence of the Bond movies on the fashion world is illustrated by the gold-coloured jerkin worn by Honor Blackman, who played Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. Blackman’s appearance prompted international demand for the garment.
The exhibition, which will travel the world over the next three years as the Bond franchise celebrates the start of its sixth decade of life on celluloid, has been put together by the Oscar-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming.
It includes the 1964 Aston Martin DB5, carefully watched over by Barbican staff, along with the only surviving version of the golden gun – made specially by the cigarette lighter manufacturer Colibri – and used by Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) in The Man with the Golden Gun.
Naturally, it destroys a few illusions along the way: the “rebreathers” used by Bond during a dive in Thunderball did not work: “It looked the part,” said special effects technician Bert Luxford, who provided some of Bond’s greatest images.
In 1977, the Bond producers did the most expensive special effects shoot up until then when they spent £500,000 on the opening sequence of The Spy Who Loved Me, which ends with Bond going over a cliff – only to be saved by his Union Jack parachute.
By Tomorrow Never Dies, starring one of Connery’s many successors, Pierce Brosnan, the Bond franchise was again breaking new ground when it became one of the first to agree to a product-placement deal.
A BMW R1200 motorcycle was used during high-speed rooftop scenes in Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam, even though there were fears that the bike was too heavy.
Stunt riders spent a fortnight practising to get everything right.
The exhibition will lay the early groundwork, if such is needed, for the launch of Skyfall, the 23rd work in the Fleming-inspired oeuvre, and the third featuring Daniel Craig, who has opted to create a more vulnerable but also a more violent Bond than his predecessors.
“Bond films have been responsible for the British film industry working constantly over the years when there were other lulls and therefore kept many technicians in employment,” said Hemming.