Tribute to Sean Connery

Published: 27/10/2022

The original James Bond 007 star, Sir Sean Connery starred in many memorable roles in a career spanning a stellar fifty years.

Early years

Sean Connery was born on 25 August 1930 in Edinburgh, Scotland and grew up in a working class family with his Mother, Father and younger brother.

 As a young boy growing up in Edinburgh, Connery's first job was a milkman. In 2009 he recalled an entertaining moment while riding a taxi during a visit to the Edinburgh Film Festival :

 "...the driver was amazed that I could put a name to every street we passed. "How come?" he asked. "As a boy I used to deliver milk round here", I said. "So what do you do now?" That was rather harder to answer."

Connery joined the Royal Navy in 1946 when he was sixteen and it was here that he got his first and only two tattoos. One to tribute his parents "Mum and Dad" and the other a homage to his homeland "Scotland Forever". He trained briefly at the naval gunnery and anti-aircraft crew but was discharged when he was nineteen on medical grounds due to a stomach ulcer.

A young Connery photographed when he was in the Royal Navy
A young Connery photographed when he was in the Royal Navy

He later went on to work as (get ready for it) a lorry driver, lifeguard, labourer, artist's model, coffin polisher and bodybuilder - which in 1950 he came third in the Mr Universe contest. He was also a keen footballer and was even scouted by Manchester United but declined saying:

"I realised that a top-class footballer could be over the hill by the age of 30, and I was already 23. I decided to become an actor and it turned out to be one of my more intelligent moves"

Early career

Connery's earlier bodybuilding experiences opened doors to opportunities on the stage and in 1954 he had a small part in the musical South Pacific, which he later scored the leading role in.

More acting work followed for Connery, including a highly praised role as a washed-up boxer in BBC's production of Requiem for a Heavyweight (1957).

Connery's talent and appeal continued to improve and it wasn't long before his face was appearing on the big screen, albeit in extra roles. Connery's first casting was an extra in the musical film Lilacs in the Spring (1954). Stardom wasn't an overnight success story for Connery and it wasn't until four years later that he was cast opposite Lana Turner in Another Time, Another Place (1958) and had a leading role in Disney's Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959). Another film during this period was the World War II epic The Longest Day (1962).

With a myriad of other small roles on stage and screen, it was in 1962 that Connery's career would jump to stardom when he uttered the memorable words, "Bond, James Bond."

James Bond 007

Between 1962 and 1967, Connery played 007 in seven films, all of which were very commercially successful. They were: Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965) and You Only Live Twice (1967). Departing briefly from the role, Connery returned for his seventh 007 film, Diamonds Are Forever (1971) before making his very last Bond appearance in Never Say Never Again (1983).

The film Dr No starring Sean Connery as James Bond. Courtesy MGM.
The film Dr No starring Sean Connery as James Bond. Courtesy MGM.

The American Film Institute selected Connery's portrayal of James Bond to be the third-greatest hero in cinema history. His adaptation of the line "Bond ... James Bond'' also became a popular catchphrase following Dr. No which Film critic Peter Bradshaw said of this:

"It is the most famous self-introduction from any character in movie history. Three cool monosyllables, surname first, a little curtly, as befits a former naval commander. And then, as if in afterthought, the first name, followed by the surname again. Connery carried it off with icily disdainful style, in full evening dress with a cigarette hanging from his lips. The introduction was a kind of challenge, or seduction, invariably addressed to an enemy. In the early 60s, Connery's James Bond was about as dangerous and sexy as it got on screen"

Connery as Bond with Margaret Nolan in Goldfinger.
Connery as Bond with Margaret Nolan in Goldfinger.

Sean Connery brought charm, witt and a whole lot of sex appeal to Bond movies and many agree the franchise wouldn't be as strong as it is today without his original on-screen presence. Sean Connery 'was' James Bond.

"... one of the true greats of cinema. The wit and charm he portrayed on screen could be measured in megawatts." Daniel Craig

Later years

Following Bond stardom, Connery grew tired of the franchise admitting he was fed up "...with the whole Bond bit" which best friend and co-star Michael Caine said:

"If you were his friend in these early days you didn't raise the subject of Bond. He was, and is, a much better actor than just playing James Bond"

Which he certainly proved during his later years. The 1970s saw Connery feature mostly in drama and science fiction films like: The Molly Maguires (1970), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), Robin and Marian (1976) and The First Great Train Robbery (1978).

 

Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn in Robin and Marian.
Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn in Robin and Marian.

Memorable roles in Time Bandits (1981) and his last time role as Bond in Never Say Never Again (1983) reestablished the heartthrob actor as a major star.

Connery's portrayal of a monk turned detective in The Name of the Rose (1986) earned him Best Actor at the British Academy Film Award and his gritty performance in The Untouchables (1987) saw him win an Academy Award and Golden Globe, both for Best Supporting Actor.

His role as Professor Henry Jones, father to Indiana in Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) was a fan favourite and when asked by Spielberg to appear in the fourth Indiana film Connery said:

"If anything could have pulled me out of retirement, it would have been an Indiana Jones film. But in the end, retirement is just too much fun." - Sean Connery 

He worked on the Indiana Jones film series, playing Indy‘s dad
He worked on the Indiana Jones film series, playing Indy‘s dad

Other popular Connery films during the 1990s included The Hunt for Red October (1990), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), First Knight (1995), The Rock (1996), Dragonheart (1996), Entrapment (1999) and what was to be his final film, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003).

Remembering Connery

Sean Connery was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000 and after receiving the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award on 8 June 2006, Connery announced his retirement.

"Love may not make the world go round, but I must admit that it makes the ride worthwhile." - Sean Connery

Sean Connery passed away in his sleep on 31 October 2020, aged 90 in his longtime home in the Bahamas.

There are only a few actors who will earn the star status that Connery did and why his movies will no doubt continue to inspire actors and entertain viewers, of any generation for many more years to come.

"I admired Sean so much…I was happiest when I was working with him - his wisdom, humbleness, and extreme honesty has guided me ever since I met him. He was my friend and greatest teacher in cinema. The first movie star to lead the way in combining drama, action adventure and comedy. He did it all effortlessly and with dignity. Maestro, you will be missed."  - Nicolas Cage

Rest in peace Sean Connery...

"You were mighty in every way, as an actor and as a man, and will remain so till the end of time…" - Pierce Brosnan.

By Kirsten Jakubenko

Sources:

  • https://www.scotsman.com/news/people/sir-sean-connery-tributes-what-celebrities-and-politicians-have-said-about-late-scottish-bond-legend-jackie-stewart-donald-trump-3022745
  • https://seanconnery.com/biography/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sean_Connery 
  • https://www.britannica.com/biography/Sean-Connery   

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