Saturday, October 31, 2020

DAMN YOU 2020 (RIP Sean Connery)

Just saw this morning reports that actor Sean Connery passed away.

The Scottish actor was best known for his portrayal of James Bond, being the first to bring the role to the big screen and appearing in seven of the spy thrillers.

Sir Sean died peacefully in his sleep in the Bahamas, having been "unwell for some time", his son said.

His acting career spanned five decades and he won an Oscar in 1988 for his role in The Untouchables.

Sir Sean's other films included The Hunt for Red October, Highlander, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and The Rock.

DAMN YOU 2016 2020 for taking my childhood celebrities from us!

I first remember seeing Sean Connery here and there in snippets of any of the Bond films playing on rerun on the evening television matinees, but I really saw him first in a theater in the movie Time Bandits, playing Agamemnon as a king with surprising depth and humanity:

And charm. That quickly became the thing I noticed watching the films he made. There was a level of self-confident whimsy to himself that seeped into most of his performances, not just as a not-so-secret British agent but also as Robin Hood, or a Chicago beat cop, or a professor of archaeology.

Connery came to stardom in the early 1960s, working in bit roles in the late 1950s before getting lead roles in stuff like Darby O'Gill and the Little People (no really) in which he caught the eye of movie producers looking to cast the first James Bond in Dr. No (no, REALLY).

Trying to explain how Connery not only filled the role of Britain's greatest fictional spy but defined the style and charm of fictional Cold War spies across the genre would take books to spell out. He portrayed Bond as a man who wouldn't be out of place at a tuxedo gala nor a Jamaican beach bar, able to flirt and bully his way into any office, any dining room, any bedroom. Someone with an upper class sense of judgment - look at his snobbery over wine and fine cuisine - but a middle class determination to get his hands dirty and get the job done.

His personality didn't fit the literary appearance of Bond, but writer Ian Fleming acknowledged the influence Connery had by changing Bond's biography to fit Connery's own (giving Bond a Scottish background, for example).

Connery achieved an effect few other actors get to make: creating from his own cloth the cultural and memetic traits of a character - "Bond, James Bond" - who achieves legendary status. Nimoy did with Spock, Basil Rathbone almost did it with Sherlock Holmes (although Jeremy Brett in the 1980s took that title away and kept it for good). Every other actor who followed Connery in the role - George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig - faced stiff comparison to how Connery did it. While Moore, Brosnan, and Craig were able to achieve their own takes, they still had to match up to the overall panache that Connery brought to the role.

Post-Bond, Connery struggled a bit in the 1970s with meaty roles in more dramatic films - The Man Who Would Be King so-starring his best friend Michael Caine, for example - but didn't hit box office success until the 1980s and 1990s during the action movie craze as a man in his fifties and sixties fighting battles more suited to men in their thirties... and yet pulling it off because of that charming self-confidence that underlined every role.

Not to mention sticking to a Scottish accent in his dialog even when playing a Russian submarine captain:

People still bought it because SEAN FREAKING CONNERY.

It did get ridiculous towards the late 1990s when he was still getting cast in roles of an action hero with romantic interests played by actresses in their thirties or even twenties, a case of age bias that questioned how Hollywood would keep casting older men with younger women. His real-life womanizing and open talk about slapping women also revealed a man with a "macho" sense of personal honor that went too far into justifying violence towards women in the worst ways.

But Connery was a brilliant actor, not necessarily someone trained for Shakespeare but capable of impressing and enticing audiences to root for him. Someone who did on-screen present male role models of determination and skill, and in some moments genuine emotion and gravitas.

These were some of his best moments:

(Note: I will go to my grave arguing that Connery should have won the Best Supporting Oscar for Last Crusade over Untouchables)

Also, the man pretty much brought Scottish kilts back to sexy.

Summon the pipers! We have a Scotsman down!

All British flags to remain at half-staff until 11/007 presumably.

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