Connery's Departure Kills Great Bond Movie...

ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (OHMSS), based on what many consider Ian Fleming's finest 007 novel, was a brilliant production doomed by incredibly bad timing. Originally intended as the follow-up to THUNDERBALL, had it been filmed at that time, instead of pushed back to make YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, Sean Connery's presence, and already recognized acting skills (with rave reviews in THE HILL and A FINE MADNESS) would have made OHMSS a classic. Instead, audiences got a far-fetched 'Bond in Japan' entry as Connery's final film under his contract, and, exhausted, he turned his back on the 007 franchise, and a project that would have been worthy of his talent!

With Connery out of the picture, producer Albert Broccoli scrambled to find a new 007, and he decided to cast an unknown, using the search as a publicity gimmick, a la GONE WITH THE WIND. With actors from around the world lining up to test for the part, 29-year old Australian model George Lazenby, with no acting experience but a Bond-like TV commercial to his credit, decided to take a chance. Visiting Sean Connery's barber and tailor, he made himself up to look as close to the actor as possible, then attended an audition. Viewing the commercial, and facing a Connery 'look-alike' with charm and a sense of humor, Broccoli must have thought he'd died and gone to heaven! With great fanfare, Lazenby was announced as the 'new' James Bond.

With a remarkable script by Richard Maibaum, long-time Bond editor Peter Hunt was given the director's chair for the first time with the film, as a terrific cast, headed by "The Avengers" Diana Rigg as Bond's doomed love, Tracy Di Vicenzo, and future "Kojak" Telly Savalas, as Ernst Blofeld, was assembled. Then rehearsals began...and Lazenby's inexperience soon became embarrassingly evident.

Despite Lazenby's later claims that he was forced to learn how to play Bond 'by himself', Hunt spent as much time with him as possible, teaching him how to be believable as the world's greatest spy. To Lazenby's credit, he was a 'natural' at action scenes, able to fight and ski quite well. Dialog was a problem, however, particularly 'losing' his Australian accent, and capturing the right emotional 'center' for the climactic scenes proved nearly impossible for the novice actor. The strain on Hunt, tutoring Lazenby AND directing his first film, must have been enormous.

Yet the film, upon completion, was remarkably good, considering the 'heavy' storyline, with James Bond falling in love and getting married, with a 'downbeat' ending unlike any 007 movie, before or since. That fact weighed heavily on Broccoli and Saltzman, and they considered ending OHMSS with Bond's wedding, saving Tracy's murder until the pre-title sequence of the next Bond film, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. But to everyone's credit, they decided to remain faithful to Ian Fleming's novel, and conclude the film tragically, with DIAMONDS planned as the story of Bond's revenge against his wife's killers.

Then, as shooting 'wrapped', George Lazenby, surrounded by new 'friends' who told him how 'important' he was, developed a MAJOR case of 'star' ego, made some undiplomatic comments to the press, and huge salary demands to Broccoli, to even 'consider' playing Bond again. The veteran producer held his temper, waiting to see how the film would be received...and the film BOMBED! Many of Sean Connery's fans avoided OHMSS completely, and the multitude of negative reviews singled out Lazenby's performance, describing it as 'amateurish', 'wooden', and 'artificial'. While it is a matter of conjecture whether Lazenby 'quit', or was 'fired', the Australian was finished in Bond films, as, sadly, was Peter Hunt, and the entire Bond franchise faced it's greatest crisis...


Time has allowed OHMSS to be recognized as the superior 007 outing it actually was, and that Lazenby's performance wasn't "totally" bad (although there will always be more than a twinge of sadness that Sean Connery didn't make it). The actor would 'make peace' with Broccoli and Eon Productions, wryly admitting that he wasn't prepared for either the pressures of 'stardom', or how quickly his 'friends' would disappear, when he lost the role.

While his subsequent acting career has been sporadic, he appears frequently at fan events, has 'cameo'-ed as "007" occasionally, in television and onscreen, and he still points, with pride, to being 'Bond' in the 'best' of the 007 films...

Most amazingly, he married tennis star Pam Shriver in 2002, and, in his late sixties, is the proud father of three...a feat James Bond, himself, would be envious of!



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