"Ve know your sekret, Mr Bond": James Bond – the spy, the cult and the brand
50 years ago, Dr No hit cinema screens around the world, featuring the unknown young Sean Connery, and the James Bond phenomenon began, quite literally, with a bang.
Since then the James Bond films have grossed $ 5 billion — the second biggest grossing film series of all time, after Harry Potter – and, as someone calculated, 25% of the world's population has watched at last one James Bond movie. As a result, James Bond is no longer just a fictional spy, or even a cult figure, but a superbly managed global business; he's come a long, long way from that day in 1952, when author Ian Fleming sat down at a typewriter intending, simply, to write "the spy story to end all spy stories".
Ian Fleming himself had worked for Naval Intelligence during World War II, and was responsible for thinking up some of the War's most imaginative intelligence operations, like "Operation Mincemeat" – an ingenious plot to parachute the dead body of a British naval officer, carrying a briefcase of fake plans, designed to deceive the German High Command about the planned Allied landings in Sicily. Apart from being known as an ideas specialist in British Intelligence, Fleming also, significantly, authored a paper on the formation of an intelligence agency, which was the blueprint on which the CIA would be set up. There's even an intriguing conspiracy theory that he led a team of crack commandos to snatch Hitler's aide, Martin Borman, from Berlin in 1945. It's important to remember this when reading the James Bond novels, because it reminds us that, however fantastical their story-lines, they were, in fact, never too far removed from possibility.