Fans across the globe are celebrating James Bond’s 59 years in film on Friday, as part of Global James Bond Day, but they might reflect that no matter how quintessentially British 007 is, the filmed Bond franchise nearly began with an American in the role.
Hollywood idol Cary Grant was urged to take the role by his close friend, the Bond producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli – who had Grant as the best man at his wedding.
Grant’s English birth and upbringing – he became a US citizen in 1942 – might have helped to soften the blow of a “possible American Bond”, but the deal was kiboshed by Grant, who would only commit to one film. He would also have been 58 – Roger Moore’s age when he played Bond for the final time, in 1985’s A View to a Kill – when it was released.
Sean Connery, of course, took Grant’s place, but the Scotsman was not the first Bond to air. That honor went to an American, Barry Nelson, who in 1954 played a character called Jimmy Bond in an hour-long Casino Royale adaption, for a CBS anthology series called Climax!
Nelson was a successful actor who enjoyed a steadfast career, including the US television series My Favorite Husband and a small but memorable part in The Shining.
Bond producers went on to welcome Australian, English, Welsh and Irish leading men to the role, before settling on another Englishman, Daniel Craig, for Bond’s most recent incarnation.
Craig portrays a more serious Bond than some of his predecessors, but that will fade temporarily over the weekend after Global James Bond Day, when he hosts Saturday Night Live.
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