In Praise of George Lazenby

George Lazenby
In a speeded punch-up on a beach at dawn, a dark-haired man beats up several goons in brutal fashion. The man is James Bond number 2; but the actor is destined to only play him once. He will be remembered as the wooden Bond. One of the big mistakes of the series. Watching the pre-title sequence of On Her Majesty's Secret Service one thing is clear. Lazenby was the most physical Bond of them all. I wouldn't take any of the others in a fight with the 1969 model.
The first non-Connery Bond was never going to be easy for Eon .Do they go for a big-star? Do they go for someone completely different this time? After considering John Richardson, Ian Olgilvy and a very,very young Timothy Dalton they went for a (physically at least) Connery clone. The dark-haired model Bond was back although the man playing him was best known for chocolate adverts on television.
The most faithful, human, and best James Bond film ever made, On Her Majesty's Secret Servicenever quite got the credit it deserved ,then or now. At the time people just couldn't get their heads around a James Bond film without Sean Connery and now it is still a familiar refrain to hear Bond fans sigh: If only Sean Connery had made On Her Majesty's Secret service. Personally I'm glad Lazenby made the last Bond film of the sixties. If that sounds like a strange statement, let me try to explain.
By 1967 Connery was completely bored of James Bond. Bored of the character. Bored of the time the films took to make.Bored of doing interviews. Bored of being followed into the toilet by Japanese journalists. Bored of not being able to do other, much more varied work. Connery had had it. You Only Live Twice featured Connery's (up until then) weakest performance.Thunderball was his high-water mark and he clearly didn't have the interest to maintain that level. By 1969 Connery's biggest battle was with his waistline. The physical edge that Lazenby brought to OHMSS was above and beyond anything Connery could have done by then and somehow the idea of Bond being vulnerable and marrying Diana Rigg doesn't ring true to Connery's Bond. Lazenby's younger and more human Bond was simply more believable in this story. If you can get past his slightly wooden delivery at times there is much to enjoy from James Bond number 2.
Forget people who ignore this film and Lazenby. It is the best in the series. Never before or again would a James Bond film have such an acute sense of style right down to the costumes. Bond relies on his own wits and physic in this film. Q, who only appears at the end, does not supply a host of gadgets to save 007's life. That alone was radical after the jet-pack and ejector-seat era of Connery There are countless moments that mark OHMSS as a special entry in the series. The helicopter going up to Piz Gloria. The original ski-chase. Bond actually doing some detective work and reflecting on past adventures because, as it should be, this is supposed to be the same character as before. Tracey being dragged away in the snow as Bond looks out of the window in M's office. And Diana Rigg who can probably never be equalled as the female lead.
Lazenby's fight scenes are the best in the series too. This is one James Bond who really can fight his way out of trouble. In the course of this film Lazenby is tough, petulant, arrogant, vulnerable, and an expense account snob. He is James Bond. Always in the middle of the action, Lazenby looks the part and shrewdly surrounded by good actors and tight-editing makes for, in my opinion, an exciting younger Bond. It is a great pity that he couldn't be enticed back for Diamonds Are Forever. They may have done the Blofeld trilogy in the wrong order and ruined the chance of a truly faithful YOLT, but a follow-up revenge story featuring Lazenby and Telly Savalas again would surely have been more interesting than what Bond fans finally recieved in 1971.
Lured back at great expense, a heavy Sean Connery - temples flecked with grey hair - ambled his way through Diamonds Are Forever in a most jovial fashion, thoughts of the golf-course, you imagine, never far away. A campy adventure with a truly bizarre script,  DAF set the tone for the Roger Moore era. Strange as it seems, Connery actually served as a bridge between Lazenby's darker Bond and Roger Moore's lighter take on the character. The box-office tills rang out at Connery's return  but, to this day, rather than lament Sean's absence from OHMSS, some fans find themselves lamenting Lazenby's absence from DAF.
The most under-rated Bond of them all deserved at least one more film.
- Michael Cooper

c 2006 Alternative 007