Columns

The spy who literally came in from the cold

LANCE NEITA

Sunday, October 06, 2019

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The news is out, and in case you missed it, the latest James Bond movie, partly filmed in Jamaica, is called No Time To Die. The title is reminiscent of another Bond flick, Live and Let Die in 1973, also partly filmed in Jamaica. 

Filming of the 25th instalment in the 007 series began this year in Port Antonio and was a kind of homecoming for Bond. Much of the action in the first Bond film Dr No was shot along the north coast from Falmouth in Trelawny to Laughing Waters in Ocho Rios. But the crew took time out to play along the hip strip across St Mary to Portland, stopping to party at Bond author Ian Fleming's Goldeneye, Noel Coward's Firefly, and Errol Flynn's former playground Navy Island.

This was in 1962 when the world was on its toes in anticipation of the transfer of Fleming's spy novel Dr No to the big screen. They weren't disappointed. The impact of Dr No on cinema audiences of the time was dramatic. There had never been anything like it before. It catapulted Sean Connery to fame. Film lovers were clamouring for more.

Jamaica's tourism benefited to the max. It was in Jamaica, at Laughing Waters, where Bond first saw bikini-clad Ursula Andrews (Honey Rider) rising out of the waters. It was at Morgan's Harbour in Port Royal where Bond searched for the bad man Quarrel.

Dr No's mining plant was Reynolds Jamaica Bauxite. Movie fans from around the world watched Byron Lee playing carnival at Morgan's Harbour, and the mangrove swamp where the dragon tank captures Bond and Honey was at Falmouth.

Behind the scenes news out of this year's filming was sparse, and controlled. The stars, for the most part, stayed locked in at Goldeneye where Fleming wrote most of his Bond series.

But we glimpsed pictures of the new breed of Bond ladies, including British actress Lashana Lynch, who inherits Bond's secret agency number 007 after he retires from MI6. Lynch is young, black, and beautiful, and in the film Bond, who is played by Daniel Craig, is literally taken aback when he is called out of retirement to be introduced to this stunning woman who has taken his number. Very interesting.

Not as much local interest as when Eon Productions and a host of international stars arrived in Jamaica in January 1962 for Dr No. There was much excitement as local musicians were called to Copacabana Club to audition for the cabaret scenes in Pussyfeller's Bar.

Not only did fans hang on to every word that came out of camp but the excitement grew as it turned out that Jamaicans were being scripted to play roles in the movie. The three 'blind mice' who ambled through Harbour Street on their way to assassinate English envoy John Strangeway at what they called 'Queen's Club' (Liguanea Club), included Eric Coverley (husband of Louise Bennett) and Henry Lopez.

Among the other Jamaican cast members were Reggie Carter, Count Prince Miller, Carey Robinson, Chris Blackwell, Kes Chin, William Foster-Davis, and quite a few more.

Much excitement too, as at one stage some 100 people blocked the gate at Eon Productions offices in Carib Ocho Rios, seeking work on the production. They even demanded that no more filming should take place until they got their share, whatever that was. That would have made a good scene in the movie, how come the producers missed that?

No Time To Die has been working the rounds, filming first in Jamaica, then moving to Italy, London, Scotland and Norway. Jamaica has interest because the release, timed for November, will reap dividends for our tourism, and as usual, should pack local cinemas.

Not as many Bond fans are around today compared to the 1960s.

Nevertheless, an earlier column on the filming of Dr No in Jamaica inspired quite a lot of comments and memory lane rides, with one reader asking for a whistle stop reminder of the filming of Papillon in Jamaica in 1973.

Papillon is a dramatic prison film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, and was filmed at various locations in Jamaica, with the cave scenes beneath the cliffs at Negril, the penal colony scenes at Falmouth, and, I am told, the swamp scenes near Ferris Cross (Bluefields), Westmoreland.

A number of great movies have been shot in Jamaica, as our landscape lends itself to multiple scenic and exotic locations for motion picture sets.

If memory serves me well it may have been Ginger Rogers who was associated with the development of a Cinema City complex in Montego Bay in the 1960s, but unfortunately it didn't last long.

Several James Bond movies were also shot on location in Jamaica. Live and Let Die with Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto and Jane Seymour was filmed at Couples San Souci in Ocho Rios, and a cemetery set was built on Falmouth road north of Montego Bay for the shoot. A bus chase was filmed on the Montego Bay-Lucea Highway. The wharf where Bond and Rosie tried to board a yacht is located in Montego Bay, and the restaurant scene was filmed at a bungalow in the Half Moon Bay Resort.

Jamaica was also the location of other film shoots, including Cool Runnings (check Kaiser Sports Club in Discovery Bay), One Love, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Dancehall Queen, Island in the Sun, and many others too numerous to mention.

The Dornoch Riverhead in Trelawny, owned and unspoilt by Noranda Bauxite, was the scene of a movie shoot, Daughter of the Gods, shortly before the 1914 World War. We are told that the society ladies and gentlemen of the parish were invited to watch the proceedings, sitting in deck chairs while the star, Annette Kellerman, dived 50 feet into the pool from a platform above the falls.

Just a parting word to the Bond makers as we await the 25th movie. The new stars can't hold a candle to Sean Connery, the first James Bond. Incidentally, underneath that wig he was totally bald, but a smooth operator whose most telling moment was when he introduced himself around a gambling table in a London nightclub. After losing a hand to Bond, a lady asks his name. He pauses, lights a cigarette, and in his super cool manner delivers the famous line, “Bond… James Bond”. Immediately the Bond music theme with its distinctive guitar-driven rhythm is heard for the first time.

Goldeneye, nose and throat

Chris Blackwell has transformed Goldeneye in Oracabessa into a world-class tourism property. The house today is a far cry from the architectural inelegance of Ian Fleming's time. His friends teased him mercilessly about the rough and tumble design, the uncomfortable furniture, and the window louvres that you had to climb on a stool to see through.

Sir Noel Coward, who lived down the road at Firefly in Port Maria, was quite cutting in his descriptions of the house (he was the one who nicknamed it goldeneye, nose and throat), but the house was really a great joke between them and the two enjoyed a close friendship.

I found the house exactly as Sir Noel described it when in my Jamaica Tourist Board days I took a team of English journalists to visit the shrine. Fleming had already died, 1964, and the house was empty, so we had to cut through undergrowth in the garden to get to the building. We were greeted at the door by none other than his famous housekeeper Miss Violet, who still managed the estate.

The point of interest was, of course, the desk where the Bond novels were written, but as we were leaving we took a last look at the beach and lo and behold, a giant crab suddenly crawled out of the water and spread-eagled itself on the sand. The journalists were happy with the perfect timing. Was Mr Crab one of those Russian spies waiting on the beach for Bond himself to appear?

Sir William Stephenson

Quite recently, public relations ace and one of my role models Berl Francis told us the story of how a portrait of the late Sir William Stephenson, former founder and chairman of Caribbean Cement Company, turned up unexpectedly while workmen were renovating some old offices at the company.

Jamaicans may remember Sir William as a captain of local industry in the 1950s and 60s. We lauded him when he announced a multimillion-pound expansion of the factory in 1962, seen as a significant vote of confidence in Jamaica's Independence.

What most of us did not know at the time was that there were many more sides to this aristocratic industrialist than his Windward Road interest. For Sir William, known as “Little Bill” or “the Quiet Canadian”, was the head of the British Intelligence Network throughout North and South America during World War II. He was also a fighter pilot and a European lightweight amateur boxing champion. In addition, he was quite wealthy.

He had a house in Montego Bay and Fleming and himself exchanged visits between Goldeneye and Hillowton. They were great friends, and it came as no surprise to find out that the James Bond character was based on Stephenson.
I wonder how many of his close friends on the social circuit in Kingston and in Montego Bay knew that the man they often dined with at King's House receptions and in their luxury homes, or sat with at business meetings, was the spy who literally came in from the cold.


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