LONDON (Reuters) - The James Bond film franchise turns 50 on Friday with the release of a revealing new documentary about its turbulent past and the first listen of the new theme tune performed by Adele.
The premiere of the first Bond film, “Dr. No”, was held in London on October 5, 1962 and starred Scottish actor Sean Connery as the suave and brutal super-spy working for British intelligence to thwart the plans of an evil megalomaniac.
By the time the third movie in the franchise, “Goldfinger”, hit the screens two years later, Bond was a cultural phenomenon generating the kind of public excitement more often associated with British pop group the Beatles.
The character was quickly adopted by the British public and further afield as the embodiment of sophistication and courage, and his dress sense, taste in fast cars and beautiful women and catch phrase “shaken, not stirred” entered mainstream culture.
Not everyone liked Bond. The films have often been dismissed as sexist for the seemingly endless line of scantily clad women who fall into bed with Bond, and several have been panned by the critics.
But Bond’s lasting appeal was underlined this summer when actor Daniel Craig, as 007, and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth appeared together in a short, comic scene at Buckingham Palace in a highlight of the London Olympics opening ceremony.
Over the last five decades, EON Productions, formed by the central partnership of Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, has made 22 Bond movies which have amassed around $5 billion at the global box office.
The 23rd film “Skyfall” gets its royal world premiere in London later this month and Adele’s theme tune for the movie starring Craig on Her Majesty’s secret service hit the airwaves early on Friday to mixed reviews.
Also released on Friday was “Everything or Nothing”, the documentary directed by Stevan Riley that charts Bond’s passage through studio collapses, personality clashes and the end of the Cold War which could have spelled disaster for the series.
Instead it has adapted to the modern era with a female spymaster M, played by Judi Dench, and a tough and serious 007 in the form of Craig.
That constant reinvention has been one of the franchise’s greatest strengths, with six actors playing the role in the official Bond movies.
Asked what he thought was the key to Bond’s survival, producer Michael G. Wilson, the stepson of Broccoli who now co-produces the films, said it was down to the source material - Ian Fleming’s novels.
“It comes first of all from Fleming writing a character that has many aspects, so that when we turned them into film, different actors could take on different aspects of the character,” he told Reuters.
“And it’s really been our great fan base we’ve kept faith with over the years and they’ve kept coming back. It’s really the public that makes it more than anything else.”
Also planned for “Global James Bond Day” is a charity auction at Christie’s in London where among the Bond memorabilia on sale is an Aston Martin car driven in “Quantum of Solace” valued up to 150,000 pounds ($242,500).
In the United States, events include a film retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in New York and a Music of Bond Night hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles.
There is also the inevitable marketing drive with an anniversary Blu-ray box set on sale and even a fragrance for men called “007”.
($1 = 0.6186 British pounds)
Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato