My James Bond Retrospective: Bond Girls.

In the 50 years that Bond has been in cinema, few things about the movies are more glamorous or iconic than the women of the franchise. Clearly, the Bond movies are not known for their progressive sexual politics, but therein lies the allure. There’s a traditionalism and machismo (I’d even say misogyny, but I’ll save that for a different post) that betrays a yearning for yesteryear, and the Bond girls serve to fulfill that desire.

Here’s a list of my seven favorite Bond girls. No, they’re probably not all going to be your favorites, but I chose them for my own reasons. I chose each Bond girl not so much for her looks as much as her chemistry with Bond, the depth of her story, and her ability to captivate the audience with her story.

007. Claudine Auger, “Dominique ‘Domino’ Derval” in Thunderball

Claudine Auger was born in Paris, France, where she attended the Paris Drama Conservatory. Kevin McClory first saw Auger while vacationing in Nassau, and he suggested that she audition for his upcoming film Thunderball. Her audition was so impressive to the producers that they rewrote the character (who was originally an Italian named Dominetta Petacchi) to better fit her French roots.

While Auger’s acting wasn’t necessarily superb, she did a decent enough job to sell me on her character. Domino is Emilio Largo’s mistress until Bond (played by Sean Connery) seduces her and reveals the truth that Largo is the man behind her brother’s murder.

Thunderball wasn’t a particularly good film, but it wasn’t terrible either. Domino helped to ensure that the movie wasn’t a total flop. She was a believable character who’s motivations were clear and who served not just as eye candy, but also a way to move the story along and give Bond the impetus needed to take Largo down.

Claudine Auger won the title of Miss France in 1958 and continued acting in European film following her appearance in Thunderball.

006. Carey Lowell, “Pam Bouvier” in Licence to Kill

Licence to Kill was one of the darkest Bond films, and the character of Pam Bouvier reflects this. She’s a former army pilot who works as an informant for the CIA and presents a challenge to Bond. While she can be useful, she can also get in the way (from his perspective) as she often feels the need to complete the mission her way. When Bond (played by Timothy Dalton) first encounters her, she’s working undercover as a courier for the drug lord Franz Sanchez. They end up working together to get Sanchez.

Lowell plays Bouvier as smart, dangerous, but still subject to the same emotions everyone deals with, jealousy, in particular. When she sees Bond with Lupe Lamora, she’s heartbroken, thinking Bond was never in love with her.

Carey Lowell was born in Huntington, New York. She began her career as a model for Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein before turning to acting. Lowell continued her acting career after her appearance in Licence to Kill, starring in the TV show Law & Order.

005. Izabella Scorupco, “Natalya Fyodorovna Simonova ” in GoldenEye

Izabella Scorupco was born in Białystok, Poland, and moved to Bredäng in Stockholm, Sweden, where she learned English and French. She traveled around Europe working as a model and even made the cover of Vogue. In the early 1990s, she had a successful, though brief, career as a pop singer, releasing an album in 1991 that was certified gold.

GoldenEye is still my favorite Bond film, and Natalya Simonova is part of the reason it remains my favorite. She’s a level 2 computer programmer working on missile guidance systems at the Russian Severnaya facility. She’s a fiery character who doesn’t take any BS from anyone. She’s one of the first Bond girls to openly challenge Bond, directly asking him what makes him so cold. Bond (played by Pierce Brosnan) responds to her with guarded interest, knowing that she is touching on many of his insecurities and exposing his weaknesses.

Following GoldenEye, Scorupco continued acting and has recently resumed her singing career as well.

004. Honor Blackman, “Pussy Galore” in Goldfinger

Honor Blackman was born in Plaistow, Newham, London. She began training as an actress at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Before starring in Goldfinger, Blackman had already developed an extensive résumé in film.

Pussy Galore is a pilot and personal assistant to Auric Goldfinger. Along with her flying circus, Pussy helps to set in motion Goldfinger’s plan to rob Fort Knox. But thanks to Bond (played by Sean Connery), she changes allegiances and helps Bond thwart Goldfinger’s plan.

Galore is a tough character. She doesn’t fall for Bond very easily and presents more of a challenge than he’s used to. She’s determined, hard working, and dangerous. Interestingly enough, she’s the first Bond girl to appear completely clothed throughout the movie (though clearly not in her publicity photos).

003. Sophie Marceau, “Elektra Vavra King” in The World Is Not Enough

Sophie Marceau was born in Paris, France. She began working as a model and actress when she was a teenager and has one of the most prolific résumés both prior to and following her appearance in a Bond movie.

Marceau’s character isn’t a Bond girl in the strictest sense of the term; she’s one of the many femmes fatales that have been a part of the Bond franchise. However, she is arguably the best out of all of them.

Elektra King is the daughter of British oil tycoon Sir Robert King. After his death, she emerges to continue his work on a new oil pipeline. However, unbeknownst to any interested party, she had been scheming to claim her father’s wealth and title as her own, going so far as to kill him and cast suspicion on a terrorist known as Renard. As part of her plan, she seduces Bond (played by Pierce Brosnan) and sends him on a wild goose chase searching for her father’s murderer before he puts the pieces together and discovers her involvement.

King is a complex character. Marceau plays her masterfully, carrying across the subtleties of the lie that her character is living. One of the finest performances by a Bond girl to date.

Marceau continues her acting career to this day, starring primarily in French cinema.

002. Diana Rigg, “Contessa Teresa ‘Tracy’ di Vicenzo” in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Early on in the series’ history, it wasn’t very common for the leading lady of a Bond movie to have a solid acting résumé. In fact, the only one who had at this point was Honor Blackman, who had played Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. And then along comes Diana Rigg.

Diana Rigg was born in Doncaster, South Yorkshire (West Riding of Yorkshire at the time). When she was two months old, she moved to Bikaner, India, where she became fluent in Hindi. She returned to England when she was eight years old to study at the Moravian School in Fulneck, near Pudsey. She trained to be an actress at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

She made her professional debut in The Caucasian Chalk Circle in 1955 when she was just 17 years old. After that, her career was wide ranging; including a five-year stint with the Royal Shakespeare Company that ended in 1964. In 1965, she became famous for the role of Mrs. Emma Peel in the hit 60s television show The Avengers.

Her character in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a tragic one. Teresa was the only daughter of Marc-Ange Draco, head of a powerful international crime syndicate. Her mother had died when she was very young, so her father sent her to a boarding school in Switzerland. She entered a gang lifestyle, committing one crime after another before her father cut her off from his wealth. She then married Italian Count Giulio di Vicenzo. Di Vicenzo took all of Teresa’s money before leaving her for one of his mistresses. He died in a car accident. During this marriage, Teresa had a child with the count, but the child died due to spinal meningitis.

Teresa attempted to commit suicide by drowning herself in the sea, but Bond (played by George Lazenby) showed up to rescue her. Bond proceeds to court Teresa and eventually marries her.

Tracy is one of the strongest characters in the whole Bond series. She’s emotionally captivating, and her friendship and romance with Lazenby’s Bond is one of the most believable character interactions of the series.

001. Eva Gaëlle Green, “Vesper Lynd” in Casino Royale

Eva Gaëlle Green was born in Paris, France. She studied acting at St. Paul Drama School in Paris, Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in New York City. She made several theatre appearances before making the switch to film. Her film debut was in the controversial film The Dreamers (directed by the infamous Bernardo Bertolucci), in which she had many scenes that included full frontal nudity and graphic depictions of sex. Despite its controversial nature, the film helped to launch her film career, garnering the attention of Ridley Scott, who cast her in his 2005 epic Kingdom of Heaven. A year later she appeared as Ian Fleming’s Vesper Lynd.

Vesper Lynd is one of the most complex and tragic characters of the series. When Bond (played by Daniel Craig) enters a high stakes poker game in Montenegro using government money, Lynd, a British officer for Her Majesty’s Treasury, is sent to monitor his progress and ensure the safekeeping of the money.

Unbeknownst to Bond (or anyone she is working for, for that matter), she was emotionally connected to the mission as her boyfriend had been killed by the villain’s employer, Mr. White. Mr. White offers to let Bond live if she steals the money from him and gives it to Mr. White’s organization.

Vesper is the first of two women Bond actually falls in love with (the second being Tracy di Vicenzo). She connects with him so well that he is willing to give up everything to spend the rest of his life with her.

The romance between Green’s Vesper and Craig’s Bond is one of the most convincing romances I’ve seen in any film, let alone in the Bond movies. Green plays her character so well, I really believe that she and her character are the same person. Deadly, beautiful, and disarming, Vesper Lynd is, in my opinion, the series’ best Bond girl.

Click here to go back to the James Bond Retrospective index.


2 thoughts on “My James Bond Retrospective: Bond Girls.

    • Thanks! I tried to steer clear of conventional lists and stuck to my tastes and opinions as much as possible, rather than being influenced by who everyone else considers the best.

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