Bond, James Bond
Updated: Dec 29, 2020
I begged Mama to take me to see the new 007 movie, Thunderball. I was only nine, but already had a crush on Sean Connery. Thunderball was Connery's fourth James Bond film preceded by Goldfinger, From Russia with Love and Dr. No.
Mama hesitated but finally agreed. It was the three of us as usual, Mama, Mike and I as we walked into the Egyptian Theater on a Saturday evening in 1965.
The film opened with Tom Jones singing the title theme while silhouettes of naked women swirled underwater. "He always runs while others walk. He acts while other men just talk. He looks at this world and wants it all. So he strikes like Thunderball..."
I was mesmerized, but not for long. Mama immediately put her hands over my eyes to protect my innocence. How frustrating. That was the first of at least seven or eight times throughout the film that she would cover my eyes or my ears. Annoying as it was, at least I was sitting in the theater wide eyed watching Bond, James Bond. The following year my sweet grandmother took me to see "You Only Live Twice". Little did I know that 13 years later I would get to meet Mr. Connery in person.
Our next film, Meteor was primarily shot at MGM studios with some location filming in Hong Kong, Switzerland and Meteor Crater in Arizona. Surprisingly, this was not an Irwin Allen film. It was produced by Arnold Orgolini, Theodore R. Parvin and Run Run Shaw. And directed by another good friend of Dad's, Ronald Neame. The cast was indeed impressive starring Sean Connery, Natalie Wood, Karl Malden, Brian Keith, Martin Landau, Henry Fonda, etc.
I was excited to meet Mr. Connery but didn't know when that would happen. Barry was busy in the costume department and Dad always swamped in production. My work on Meteor was minor. I was a replacement stand-in when needed and a reoccurring "extra" in the communications center. There was one scene in the center when Martin Landau's character, General Adlon yells at Paul Bradly (Sean Connery) then storms up the stairs as I turn and watch him leave.
That was the day that I was introduced to 007.
Dad called me over while he was talking with HIM. Palms sweating, I nervously walked over to meet "Mr. Bond". I thought of asking him if I could make him his favorite cocktail - a martini, shaken, not stirred. No. That would be way too corny. I just followed Dad's lead. He started, "Sean, I'd like you to meet the apple of my eye, my daughter Mara." I was mortified! Apple of his eye?! How about just Mara? I reached out to shake his hand. He took mine and raised it to his perfect mouth and kissed it, as he said,"Pleasure”.
I must've turned 10 shades of red. Handsome? Oh my. Charming? Definitely. And that accent of his - was the icing on the cake. I can't remember much more other than we talked pleasantries for two or three minutes until he was called to the set. Naturally, Dad was grinning from ear to ear, while I was still catching my breath.
Sean was always polite and friendly with all the cast and crew unlike Karl Malden who seemed to be in a perpetual bad mood. Natalie Wood was cordial and gave the occasional smile, but I wouldn't call her overly friendly. She was quiet and mostly kept to herself. She had that star-quality but a bit too snobby for me. The rest of the cast were nice enough, but where I felt the most comfortable was hanging with the crew, many of whom I'd worked with before. They were my studio family.
Life was exciting back then. I was very fortunate to have the kind of life I had, and especially the amazing father I had. Not a week goes by that I don't miss him terribly. I guess it wasn't so bad to be the "apple of his eye."