Fifty years on

Licensed to thrill

Fifty years on, James Bond remains a movie juggernaut. While the protagonist, villains and gadgets may change, the appeal of 007 lingers.

LONDON — Fifty years on, James Bond remains a movie juggernaut. While the protagonist, villains and gadgets may change, the appeal of 007 lingers.

The world of Bond is not timeless — the cutting edge of the car phone and pager in 1963’s From Russia With Love has long since dulled — but 007’s style has been a constant.

Bond cuts a suave figure, be it in a dinner jacket prowling a casino, or a ski outfit outracing a legion of no-name henchmen.

The exhibit Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style showcases Ian Fleming’s creations on the 50th anniversary of Dr. No, the first of the Bond movies.

The show debuted in July at the Barbican in London, running through Sept. 6. In addition to the exhibition, the performing arts centre added to the Bond mood with a martini bar and Bond shop.

It comes to Toronto in the fall, with the TIFF Bell Lightbox hosting the first North American stop from Oct. 26 to Jan. 20, 2013.

The Toronto visit coincides with the release of Skyfall, the 23rd film in the Bond series (not counting the 1967 version of Casino Royale and 1983’s Never Say Never Again). And Bond’s contribution to the Olympic opening ceremonies, albeit in a supporting role to the Queen.

Bond aficionados will be enamoured with the detail of the exhibition and its stylish layout.

At the Barbican, foreign-language movie posters (like Bons Baisers de Russie and Kasino Rojal) adorn the way to an entrance in the form of a giant gun barrel. Above, six TV screens air credits from the various movies.

The exhibit is crammed with Bond trinkets, from Oddjob’s hat (powered by an electric motor) and the original golden gun to Jaws’ (actor Richard Kiel’s) metal teeth. There’s Bond’s platinum American Express card and Daniel Craig’s Bond passport (the spy was born April 13, 1968, as opposed to Craig’s March 2nd birthdate that same year).

Those who take the time to read the wall-mounted blurbs or watch video interviews with members of the behind-the-camera family will learn more about the Bond franchise.

The late Terence Young, director of Dr. No, used Mayfair tailor Anthony Sinclair — who dressed both Young and Fleming — to give Sean Connery a stylish made-to-measure or bespoke look. The director urged Connery to wear the suits in his spare time, even to sleep in them, to feel more at home in the clothes.

Young, a former member of the Guards, favoured the slim trousers and hacking (riding) jacket that became Bond’s sleek wardrobe.

Others in the US$1-million production were not as fortunate. M’s secretary Ms. Moneypenny, played by Lois Maxwell, wore her own clothes.

As the series grew in popularity, so did the budgets. The movie-makers turned to renowned designers to add to the Bond sense of style. Today, Tom Ford dresses Bond.

The exhibit contains many of the outfits worn in the movies. Some of the clothes paid homage to earlier films. Craig’s form-fitting swimming trunks in 2006’s Casino Royale were a nod to the beach shorts worn by Connery in 1965’s Thunderball. Halle Berry’s two-piece orange swimsuit in 2002’s Die Another Day echoes Ursula Andress’ memorable bathing suit from Dr. No.

That head-turning (for the time) two-piece outfit was made overnight, with Andress’ underwire bra covered in cotton.

The show is divided into rooms, featuring everything and everyone from M’s office and Q Branch to “Foreign Territories” and “Villains and Enigmas.”

While the array of knick-knacks and memorabilia will tickle Bond fans’ fancy, ultimately the films themselves remain the star of this show. Video screens throughout the exhibit play loops from the movies, reminding viewers — among other things — just how many times Bond has set foot in a casino.

Visitors may find their journey though the show delayed as they stop to take in the film clips, especially in the casino room where various gambling scenes play side by side.

The film clips also save some of the sparser rooms. Action scenes from 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me — at the time the most expensive movie stunt of all time at $500,000 — and The World is Not Enough are the highlights of the “Ice Palace” room.

The show also offers a look at Fleming, a complex character who used his background in naval intelligence and the newspaper world to churn out Bond novels in just eight weeks. He died in 1964 at the age of 56.

The exhibition, with close to 500 pieces, draws from Bond’s EON Productions and private collectors including Shirley Bassey. It was designed by Ab Rogers with guest curation by fashion historian Bronwyn Cosgrave and Oscar-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming.

The shaken not stirred crowd will love every moment, even if they cannot take photos inside the exhibit.

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