The Living Daylights (1987) is my favorite Bond movie. Of course, every Bond movie is a cinematic treat. They all have powerful musical scores playing in the background of exotic locations with super sexy men and women who are clothed in stunning garments and costumes. The action includes edgy and exciting chase scenes that are inspired by a unique, ultra villain who has a mission to harm the world. The gadgets and fascinating technology is a science nerd’s dream. Bond movies are fully loaded with adrenaline packed delights.
From Sir Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, the Bond men are handsome, charismatic, witty, and deadly. They all prefer coffee over tea, dry Vodka martinis, shaken not stirred, drive an some version of an Aston-Martin, answers to M, flirts with the female population, gets lectured from Q, are highly intelligent, willing risk takers, professional killers, and extremely complex human beings.
As a younger woman, I did not appreciate the Bond movies as much as my male friends and partners. I was especially uncomfortable with the some of the humor aimed at woman. The jokes I am referring to had nothing to do with what they done; instead, these jokes were aimed at all women, in general. For instant, many women are given some of the dumbest/sexist names ever created: Pussy Galore, Chew Mee, Holly Goodhead, Xenia Onatop, Miss Moneypenny and more.
Let’s just say I enjoyed Bond movies for the most part but endured some aspects of them. Even so, there is one Bond movie that completely changed my perspective of all Bond films, forever. In 1986, I read an article about the new, improved Bond, Timothy Dalton, in the latest Bond movie, The Living Daylights.
Personally, I think Timothy Dalton is the best Bond ever, if there is such a thing as a “Best Bond.” Even though, he only starred in two of the 24 Bond movies: The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence To Kill (1989), his Bond is nearly perfect when compared to Ian Fleming’s book version of 007. Fleming wrote 14 novels centered on MI6’s favorite spy. The Living Daylights is the second short story in a collection of short stories, Octopussy is the first. It is also the last Bond story written by Fleming and many critics consider it his best story too. It first appeared in a magazine in 1962. Later, it was published as part of a collection of stories in 1966. It was printed two years after Fleming had died. There is an excellent audio version of these collected stories narrated by Tom Hiddleston (Lokey in Thor).
I believe some actors are born to play certain roles; and, Dalton was destined to play Bond. He is an accomplished stage, film and television actor. He first caught the eye of Eon Productions (producers of Bond movies) in 1968 during the time when Connery was wishing to retire from making Bond movies. They were interested in Dalton as Bond after they saw him in a movie with Peter O’Toole (Henry II) and Katherine Hepburn (Eleanor of Aquitaine), The Lion in The Winter (1968). Dalton played Phillip II who was the ex-lover of Richard The Lionhearted played by Sir Anthony Hopkins.
Twenty four year old Dalton could not see himself replacing Connery. Following Connery would be a bit intimidating for any actor; but, Dalton felt he was too young to play the part well. Dalton also claimed Connery was far too good and wonderful to successfully replace as Bond. In addition, Dalton was an avid fan of Fleming’s books; and, his perception of Bond was different from the producers. Eventually, the Bond they hired was George Lazenby for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).
As luck would have it, Dalton was considered again for James Bond in 1979; but, after Connery and Moore’s portrayal of Bond, Dalton didn’t like the direction the producers had taken Bond’s character. Dalton didn’t think they were seriously looking for a “new” James Bond. Again, he refused.
It must be true when people say about the third time is a charm. When Pierce Brosnan was not allowed out of his Remington Steele contract to play Bond, Dalton was asked a third time to be the next Bond. Thankfully, he accepted with the hopes of putting the original book Bond on the screen.
So, in the 15th Bond movie produced by Eon Productions, Timothy Dalton brings a critically acclaimed Bond to the screen. Dalton and Flemings’ Bond was much more serious and darker. This Bond was a reluctant agent who didn’t relish his assignments. At times, he even questioned and refused to fellow orders. This Bond was in the burnt out stage of his career. Dalton was so dedicated to doing right by his character that it was reported that he was often seen on set, between takes, re-reading and referencing the novels. Dalton’s Bond had an edgier, darker humor that reflected his suffering as a tired killing machine.
Internationally, the movie was a box office hit. It bought in the fourth largest profit for a Bond movie at the time. Yet, it failed in the box offices across the United States. Some people blamed it on the marketing and changing the title to License Revoked. Others blamed it on the major movie releases. That year Bond was up against Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade with Sean Connery, Tim Burton’s Batman, and Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon II. More importantly, the reason for the poor box office results might have been the public’s perception of the new Bond. There was much publicity concerning the new Bond being more sensitive and politically correct when it came to women. This was interpreted to mean that sexy women, as the eye candy, in little or nothing outfits, was going to cease in the new Bond format. In the eyes of the average American male, Bond had been neutered. What kind of guy wants to see that?
In Dalton’s movie there is romance; however, it was not the gratuitous sex with multi-partners of earlier films. Remember, in 1986, the AIDS scare was at its highest level. People were becoming more cautious and more selective in sexual partners and insisted on safe sex, even James Bond. According to Bond Facts, James Bond has killed 370 people and slept with 55 women in 22 movies. Oddly, Bond might be having safer sex; but, the last two Bonds are more violent (Brosnan) and drinking more (Craig).
Dalton was contracted to do three Bond films. He did the second movie, License To Kill (1990). But, after the second movie and for nearly five years, Eon Productions was tied up in legal battles. Dalton decided it had been too long and during contractual renegotiating, he made the decision to retired as Bond. Pierce Brosnan who was finally free from his television contract, was hired as the next James Bond.
I really liked the Bond in The Living Daylights. This “new” older and hopefully wiser Bond realistic sense. In one of the earlier scenes, located in Berlin, Bond is waiting to kill a KGB sharp shooter. This KGB agent has an ingenious cover. She, Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo), is a cellist in the National Soviet Orchestra. She is sent to kill a defector, General Georgian Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe) who is trying to escape to the West and to freedom. As Bond studies his cellist mark, he is urged to shoot her by another MI6 agent. In a split second, he decides not to kill the shooter. Instead, he disobey orders and shoots the shooter’s weapon which allowed the defector to escape. The other British agent is “flipping out” that Bond refused to kill the KGB sharp shooter. He even accuses Bond of refusing to shoot because the KGB shooter was a beautiful musican. Of course, he informs Bond he is reporting him to the Home Office. Bond doesn’t joke. He is emotionless and simply could care less. He continues his mission by escorting the Soviet General into Austria through an oil pipe line tank.
Later, we learn that as Bond studied his mark, he noted that the “professional killer” is not holding the weapon properly and probably couldn’t hit the side of the building, let alone some running man at a distance and height that would challenge the best marksman. Bond didn’t know why she had the gun; but, he knew she didn’t know one end from the other and was definitely not KGB.
Although Bond, rescues the defecting Soviet General Koskov, he is remarkably recaptured from MI6. Bond sets out to find answers and starts with the beautiful cellist. Once he locates her, he realizes her life is in danger too. Surprisingly, she claims she was helping her boyfriend, General Koskov, to escape by shooting bullets in the wrong direction. Bond knows that she was set up to be killed by her boyfriend.
As this story evolves, Bond comes across gun dealers and the Taliban. Historical note****This movie was made at the time when the U.S. was friends with the Taliban and supplying them with weapons to fight the Russians. All the elements of a great Bond movie is here, including a sweet romance with only one woman. If you haven’t seen this Bond movie, I urge you too.
This post has been part of The 007 Blogathon hosted by Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. To read more Bond posts please use the link below.
Theme Song to the Living Daylights performed by A-Ha