Bond author Ian Fleming gave the early women characters pastiche names — Pussy Galore in “Goldfinger”, Tiffany Case (“Diamonds Are Forever”) and Mary Goodnight (“The Man with the Golden Gun”).
“Maybe that’s an indication that we are not meant to take those characters seriously,” said James Chapman, historian at Leicester University in England and author of “Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond films”.
But the women playing opposite Bond have evolved with the times, he noted.
“The advent of the films in the 1960s coincided with the rise of Playboy magazine and there is a strong association between the kind of Playboy ethos of modern, liberated but very voluptuous and sexy feminity and the way in which women are presented in the early James Bond films,” he told AFP.
“In the 1970s things start to change, we have a response to the rise of the women’s lib movement and from ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ in 1977 there is an attempt to create more fully rounded female roles.”
Some of the best-known Bond girls are:
— Ursula Andress: The image of Andress emerging from the sparkling waters of the Caribbean, a large knife strapped around her white bikini, became a classic pin-up and exemplified the genre known as “Bond girls”.
Andress, who is Swiss, is now 76. Playing opposite Sean Connery in “Dr No”, she became the standard by which all subsequent “Bond girls” were judged.
— Lois Maxwell: Another long-time fixture of the Bond films, Maxwell played the role of Miss Moneypenny — the long-suffering secretary in M’s office — in no less than 14 films, starting with “Dr. No” right at the start in 1962 and ending with “A View to a Kill” in 1985.
Maxwell, who was born in Canada but lived for most of her life in England, died in 2007, aged 80.
— Honor Blackman: The English actress was already well-known for her role in the TV series “The Avengers” when she was approached to play the character Pussy Galore in “Goldfinger” (1964).
Blackman, who is now 87, was unusual in being no less than five years older than the actor who played James Bond, Sean Connery.
— Michelle Yeoh: The renowned Malaysian-born actress starred opposite Pierce Brosnan in the 1997 Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies.” The other “Bond Girl” in that film was the American Teri Hatcher, who was later to star in the TV series “Desperate Housewives.”
— Britt Ekland: The Swede had married comic actor Peter Sellars in the 1960s but achieved fame on the screen playing the hapless Mary Goodnight in “The Man with the Golden Gun”, which was shot largely in Thailand and was released in 1974. Now 69, she acts on the stage in Britain.
— Eva Green: The French actress played opposite Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale” in 2008 as Vesper Lynd, an agent for the British Treasury given the unenviable role of supervising Bond, but the spy falls for her.
As the Bond franchise has worn on, the writers turned tables, putting women in charge of giving him the orders.
— Judi Dench: The Oscar-winning British actress, now aged 77, has played in more Bond films than any of the string of young beauties cast, and typecast, as “Bond girls”.
Since 1995 (“Goldeneye”), Dench has played the role of “M” — Bond’s boss in the secret services — in every Bond film.
Her steely authority as “M” is based on an established career in classical acting; she started her career as a Shakespearean actress.
— Lotte Lenya: Another woman who most definitely was not a “Bond girl” was the German Lotte Lenya, best known as a singer and actress in the operas produced by her husband Kurt Weill, in the 1920 and 30s.
Lenya, who was to flee Nazism with her husband and arrive in the United States in 1935, was cast as the sadistic character of Rosa Klebb in the 1963 Bond film “From Russia with Love”.
She was 65 years old at the time, and she died in New York City in 1981.