While relatively few moviegoers nowadays are aware of the 12 novels that inspired the wildly successful James Bond movie franchise, fewer still can tell you much about their author Ian Fleming, whose life experiences helped shape his iconic protagonist. Born in London in 1908, Fleming evolved from a rebellious youth to a womanizer before entering the workforce as a reporter for Reuters, which sent him to Russia to cover an espionage case. At the onset of WWII, Fleming got tapped by the Royal Navy to assist Naval Intelligence Director John Godfrey, a position that took him to the U.S., Portugal and, perhaps most importantly, Jamaica, where he later built a vacation home he named Goldeneye.
After the war, Fleming returned to journalism — managing overseas correspondents for the Kemsley News, launching the niche quarterly The Book Collector, managing the publishing house Queen Anne Press and even penning a society gossip column under the pseudonym Atticus — but managed to set aside the first two months of every year (from 1952 until his death in 1964) to write novels surrounding the worldly adventures of hedonistic British secret service operative James Bond — code name: 007. In 1953, Fleming introduced Bond to the world via Casino Royale, a well-received debut based chiefly on the author’s Naval Intelligence years. As Fleming developed the series, he shifted away from memory-based writing to build storylines from research and imagination. Although Casino Royale inspired the TV adaptation Climax! in 1954, Bond didn’t reach the silver screen until the release of 1962’s Dr. No, starring relatively unknown Scottish actor Sean Connery. Although Fleming was reportedly appalled by the casting of a working-class former sailor as his mysterious man of the world, audiences embraced Connery, and Fleming eventually warmed up to him as well.
Based on Fleming’s 1958 novel, Dr. No follows Bond to Jamaica to investigate the murder of a fellow British agent who fell victim to the titular villain — a mad scientist whose experiment du jour is diverting rockets launched from Cape Canaveral. After surviving several attempts on his life (via kidnapping, a murderous temptress and a tarantula), 007 encounters bikini-clad sexpot Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress in a defining role) hunting shells on Crab Key and subsequently finds himself trapped alongside her in Dr. No’s island fortress. A box-office success that garnered mixed reviews, Dr. No did more than just bring Fleming’s most-beloved creation (sorry, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) into the realm of Hollywood as it established stylistic hallmarks including dramatic theme music and stylized opening credits. An enticing follow-up to last year’s multi-venue, outdoor Wes Anderson film festival, Slab Cinema’s new summer series “Six of 007” sets up shop in Hemisfair for a string of outdoor screenings accompanied by pre-show entertainment and food and beverages available for purchase from Dough, Con Safos and Paletería San Antonio. After kicking off on April 30 with Dr. No, the fest highlights the history of actors who’ve portrayed Bond over the years via revivals of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service starring George Lazenby (May 7), The Spy Who Loved Me starring Roger Moore (May 14), The Living Daylights starring Timothy Dalton (May 21), GoldenEye staring Pierce Brosnan (May 28) and Skyfall starring Daniel Craig (June 4).
Free, pre-show entertainment with Brie & Anthony Acoustic Duets at 7pm, Dr. No at 8:15pm Tue April 30, Hemisfair, 434 S. Alamo St., (210) 212-9373, slabcinema.com.
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