By George!

Posted: June 5, 2015 in James Bond
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Let us start with an expression of pure, unadulterated honesty. George Lazenby is not a very good actor. In fact it might not be too much of a stretch to say he’s barely an actor at all, although given he has acting credits we really should at least give him that.

He was a male model who suddenly got elevated to one of the most iconic roles of the sixties. A man with no acting experience, a man who had to be dubbed during the production, presumably because he couldn’t affect the upper class accent required for impersonating Sir Hilary Bray, and whether it was down to him or those around him there’s a perception that the set of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was not always a happy place to work. And however much one has to admire his chutzpa in nabbing one of Connery’s suits for the audition and actually punching a stuntman out during his screen test, this bravado is completely undercut by his decision to walk away from the role after one film, which has to rank up there with Denise Crosby leaving Next Gen after a handful of episodes and all those publishers who turned down JK Rowling’s book about a boy wizard as really bad moves.

And yet…and yet…

There is a lot about George’s portrayal that I like, and some things that I like a lot.

Physically he looks the part, and he more than holds his own in any fight scene. You could argue that he’s more of a conventionally handsome leading man than Connery, and he’s certainly the most square jawed of all the Bonds. Despite his lack of experience there’s also a lightness to his portrayal which, for better or worse—you decide, foreshadows Roger Moore.

In my commentary on Connery I made it clear that I couldn’t always empathise with him, and that he never seemed vulnerable. Well Lazenby’s Bond has vulnerability in spades, and I’m not just talking about that ending. This is a man who starts the film failing, at least by the standards Connery set up, he goes to the aid of a damsel in distress and all he gets for his trouble is beaten up and left clutching the lady’s shoes as she runs away from him. This most assuredly did not happen to the other fellow. Soon afterwards he’s kidnapped by Draco’s men. Held at knifepoint in the back of a car he quips, but this isn’t a cold Connery one-liner, he seems genuinely nervous. Lazenby’s Bond is more out of his depth than any other Bond, certainly more so that Connery who never seemed as vulnerable (except maybe when his nads were about to be lasered). Now I can see the argument that this vulnerability is just another thing that make Lazenby rubbish, we don’t want a vulnerable Bond after all, and perhaps that point has some validity— not that I want Bond to be some superhuman terminator, I know he isn’t going to die but I need to know he can at least be hurt— and perhaps if Lazenby had done more films that vulnerability would have increasingly led to a law of diminishing returns, but in OHMSS it is absolutely perfect, and yeah, now we can talk about that ending. It is ironic that the man pretty much universally derided as the worst Bond, has arguably one of the finest moments in the history of the franchise. It would be interesting to have seen each of the other Bond’s play that scene, and I realise time and the fact that it was so unexpected help make it so powerful, but I’m really not sure any of them would have done a better job.

Which is why Lazenby gets bumped to #5!

Paul’s rundown of the Bonds will return…

Bond #001           TBA

Bond #002           TBA

Bond #003           TBA

Bond #004           TBA

Bond #005           George Lazenby

Bond #006           Sean Connery

 

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Comments
  1. Mim says:

    It’s a fantastic film, so I’ve never ranked Lazenby badly, but you’re right, he’s not a brilliant actor! The BBC did a radio version of OHMSS and it’s excellent. You get much more of a sense of how broken Tracy and Bond both are.

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