24 James Bond Films, Ranked

No Time to Die, the 25th 007 film, was set to open this month, after two pandemic-induced delays. Well, those plans went out the window, again because of COVID-19, and we won’t see the new adventures of Bond, James Bond, until April 2021. But I thought fans of the movies would still like to celebrate Bond this week — especially in light of the death of the greatest Bond, Sean Connery — so I’ve ranked all of the films from worst to best (not including the original Casino Royale from 1967 or 1983’s Never Say Never Again because they’re not part of the official Bond canon).

24. Spectre (2015)

Uploaded to YouTube by Sony Pictures Entertainment

To be honest, there are worse Bond movies, quality-wise (like the next four on this list), but I give Spectre the nod for worst because it’s illogical, silly, and frustrating, with a needless plot involving arch-nemesis Blofeld that makes no sense (and practically ruins the other Daniel Craig-era Bond films). He’s Bond’s…foster brother? And they give him an alias just because it will trick viewers but in reality means nothing to Bond or anyone else in the film? Sigh.

I don’t know why the most recent Bond movies feel the need to give Bond either an origin story or an “I quit” story almost every time but it’s getting ridiculous. It also has a boring car chase and one of the worst theme songs too.

(They even screw up the film’s title. It should be SPECTRE.)

23. A View to a Kill (1985)

Uploaded to YouTube by YouTube Movies

At this point, Roger Moore could barely walk let alone run or fight bad guys. It was his final Bond film. Christopher Walken is a great villain though. Too bad the movie that surrounds him is one of the worst.

22. Moonraker (1979)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

Because of the success of movies like Star Wars, Bond had to travel to outer space, which tells you all you need to know about Moonraker. It has a good opening scene though, where Bond is pushed out of a plane without a parachute.

21. Live and Let Die (1973)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

Moore’s first 007 outing just isn’t much fun, with a dreary plot involving drugs and voodoo. The best thing about it is the theme song by Paul McCartney and Wings.

20. Die Another Day (2002)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

Pierce Brosnan’s final Bond movie has a great opening sequence, but it also has Madonna as a fencing instructor, CGI action scenes that look more like a video game, and a freakin’ invisible car.

19. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

Christopher Lee could have been the greatest Bond villain of all-time; too bad the rest of the movie is rather lame. The best thing about it is a spectacular car stunt I still don’t know how they pulled off.

18. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

This has one of my favorite opening scenes — Bond has to steal a plane armed with nuclear bombs — but also one of the worst endings. In between there’s an invigorating action scene with a remote-controlled car in a parking garage, but that’s about it. I don’t believe for one second that Teri Hatcher was the love of Bond’s life.

The story goes that the title was supposed to be Tomorrow Never Lies but the fax with the title was smudged and they misread it. It certainly would have made more sense.

17. The World is Not Enough (1999)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

The Brosnan entries all have great opening scenes but then they get worse and worse as the movie goes along. Why is that?

16: The Living Daylights (1987)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

Timothy Dalton’s first outing (of only two) isn’t bad, it’s just a little “meh,” even if he is a solid choice after the Moore years. Great soundtrack.

15. Octopussy (1983)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips

There are a couple of good action sequences, and Louis Jourdan is a fun villain, but you should also be aware that during the film, Bond dresses as a clown and swings on a vine like Tarzan.

14. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

Connery quit the franchise after You Only Live Twice but was convinced to come back when George Lazenby didn’t return for a second film. And it’s…not bad! Not great, but not bad!

13. Quantum of Solace (2008)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

This didn’t get great reviews — maybe people were expecting too much after Casino Royale — but I think it’s the Bond movie that will be looked upon more and more kindly as the years go by, even if the theme song by Jack White and Alicia Keys is horrendous.

12. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

This has a nice balance of the serious and the silly, but I feel it has always been a bit overrated.

11. For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

Many consider this Moore’s best, because it takes things a little more seriously after all of the goofiness of the ’70’s films. Except for a truly bizarre opening where Bond drops Blofeld down a smokestack, the villain pleading for his life by promising to buy Bond a delicatessen, “in stainless steel!”

10. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

Many people consider this the best 007 film. It’s not, but it’s quite good, and Lazenby, a model plucked out of nowhere for the role, is underrated. This is the one where Bond gets married.

Trivia: Lazenby was once married to tennis player/commentator Pam Shriver.

9. Thunderball (1965)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

This film is a bit overlong — and there are probably too many underwater scenes — but it’s undeniably fun.

8. You Only Live Twice (1967)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

When you think of big, epic Bond adventures, this is the movie you’re thinking of, with its outrageous villain’s-lair-hidden-in-a-volcano set.

7. Dr. No (1962)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

The first 007 big-screen adventure, more low-key and with no opening theme song but a great introduction to the character and his world. Oh, and it has this iconic scene.

6. From Russia with Love (1963)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

This is also often cited as the best Bond movie, and it’s not a bad choice. It’s a serious spy story with just enough crazy elements (Rosa Klebb and her poison-tipped shoes) to make it classic fun. It includes the first appearance of Blofeld (called Number 1 here) and a great scene on a train where Bond fights henchman Robert Shaw.

5. Licence to Kill (1989)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

The most underrated 007 film. Some people think it’s too action-oriented (?), too gritty (!), too ’80’s. Those people are nuts. It’s actually one of the more satisfying entries in the series, as Bond infiltrates a drug cartel to avenge the murder of a friend’s wife.

4. Goldeneye (1995)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

Brosnan’s first Bond film is his best Bond film, a stylish and fun adventure that feels both ’60’s-ish and ’90’s-ish, a throwback to the Connery era and a new vision for the future. I’ve seen many 007 films in the theater, but this is still the only one where the audience actually applauded after a scene (where Bond flies off the cliff and takes control of a plane).

By the way, this movie inspired one of the greatest video games of all-time.

3. Casino Royale (2006)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips News

Daniel Craig’s first Bond film has not one but two great opening scenes, a black-and-white meeting with another agent that shows how Bond got his 007 status, and a terrific scene where Bond chases a rather athletic bad guy through a construction area. This is a return that makes you forget all about Brosnan’s last film.

2. Skyfall (2012)

Uploaded to YouTube by Sony Pictures Entertainment

I didn’t think the makers of the Bond movies could top Craig’s first film, but they did it with Skyfall. It’s really a tie between the two. If they had decided to end the Bond series for some reason, this would have made for a great send-off. It introduces Moneypenny and Q, gives Bond a “comeback” story and emotional scenes with Judi Dench, and is exquisitely shot and directed.

1. Goldfinger (1964)

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

This is number one on most lists for a reason, because it really sets up all of the Bond elements for the rest of the series: the big theme song, the evil villain with the master plan, the henchman Bond has to fight, the sexy girl with the crazy name (Pussy Galore!). A film so good you don’t care how ridiculous it is (I’ve seen it 20 times and I still don’t get why Goldfinger kills the mob guys) or how many mistakes there are.

Where will No Time To Die rank? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned for that, because James Bond Will Return (when I update this post next year). If the trailer is any indication, it’s going to be a good one.

Uploaded to YouTube by James Bond 007

Featured image: RichartPhotos / Shutterstock

Sean Connery Never Forgot His Humble Beginnings

“I suppose more than anything else,” Sean Connery said in 1964, “I’d like to be an old man with a good face.” No one could deny that his wish came true, particularly after he became the oldest recipient of People’s Sexiest Man Alive honor in 1989 at 59 years old.

Connery passed away in his sleep over the weekend at 90 years old, leaving behind a legacy of popular film roles like his principal portrayal of James Bond.

Though he was widely regarded to have the charm of Cary Grant and the toughness of Marlon Brando, Connery’s foray into show business was a sort of happy accident. He was born into a poor Scottish family and spent his early working years as a truck driver, a cement mixer, and even a coffin polisher. When he landed a role in a touring South Pacific company in London in 1953, he found a passion for performance.

Connery’s debut as Agent 007 in 1962’s Dr. No launched the lucrative spy movie franchise that continues to this day. He became an overnight star, known for bringing tall, dark, handsome life to Ian Fleming’s British agent. Pete Hamill profiled the newly-famous Connery in this magazine in 1964, making much of the Scotsman’s ability to throw his weight around Hollywood. Connery declined interviews, carefully negotiated his contracts, and even demanded to read a Hitchcock script (Marnie) before agreeing to take part. “Compared to the fatuous James Bond, Connery comes off as an admirable, self-effacing, modest, 100-percent, levelheaded good guy,” Hamill wrote.

After Bond, Connery’s career in action and adventure movies chugged along, with roles in Murder on the Orient Express, A Bridge Too Far, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He won an Oscar in 1988 for playing Jim Malone in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables. Though his career seemed to be predicated on sex appeal, Connery found lasting success through his willingness to play along as a character actor.

In 2000, Connery was finally knighted by Queen Elizabeth II after being denied the honor for several years, possibly because of his support for Scottish independence.

Even the most diehard Bond fans might have missed Connery’s right-arm tattoos, barely noticeable in his shirtless scenes. He received them during his service in the Royal Navy, and they signified a firm commitment to his humble roots: “Scotland Forever” and “Mum and Dad.”

First page of the article as it appeared in the magazine
Read “Bottled in Bond: Sean Connery” by Pete Hamill from the June 6, 1964, issue of the Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Featured image: pv brothers / Shutterstock

Robert Vaughn, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” Dies at 83

When The Post’s profile of Robert Vaughn appeared in 1965, he was as big a star as television had. He was receiving 2,500 pieces of fan mail every week, and frequently mobbed by female admirers.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. played to America’s fascination with spies, which had begun with the James Bond novels and motion pictures. It was easy to imagine a world of spies during the Cold War. Throughout the 1950s, Americans had repeatedly heard warnings that Communist agents were at work in business, government, and schools to undermine the U.S.

But U.N.C.L.E. never took espionage seriously. Vaughn’s character, Napoleon Solo, gently spoofed the spy genre just as his contemporary, Adam West, played a campy version of Batman. (The character’s unusual name was lifted from a mobster in Ian Fleming’s James Bond story, Goldfinger.)

Before Ronald Reagan rose to national prominence, the idea of a performer running for office seemed ridiculous. Vaughn, a long-time liberal Democrat, dismissed the idea of his running for office in Don Freeman’s interview, but he never lost an interest in politics. He was one of the first actors to publicly state opposition to the Vietnam War. With other entertainers, he formed an anti-war wing of the party, which promoted Eugene McCarthy for president.

It was John F. Kennedy who inspired political interests in Vaughn. He remained involved after JFK was killed. But with the death of Robert Kennedy, Vaughn—like many of his contemporaries—lost heart for politics.

 

Robert Vaughn
Read this profile of Robert Vaughn from the pages of the June 19, 1965 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.

 

News of the Week: Label Reading, Bond Betting, and Retro Typing

Food for Thought

If I could choose one thing that I hate about the current nutrition labels, it’s that it’s not easy to figure out exactly how much you’re eating. Right now I’m looking at a bag of mini Kit Kats. According to the label, in a serving size of five pieces there are 11 grams of fat, and there are seven servings per bag. Wouldn’t it be easier just to tell me the amount of fat, calories, and so on in one piece, and then let me multiply the number by how many pieces I eat — which will probably around 20? (Side note: If you’re eating 20 mini Kit Kats in one sitting, the nutrition label is probably unimportant to you.) Other than that, I don’t think the labels are too confusing.

But the FDA is changing them. They’ve introduced a new nutrition label that is not only easier to read but has more information for you, including info on how much sugar is added to the product. But they’ve gotten rid of one or two things too. The Washington Post has a complete rundown on what’s new.

Here’s The Boston Globe’s side-by-side comparison of the old and new labels:

 

Will There Be a New James Bond?

I’m not sure of a lot of things. I can’t swim, I don’t know how to fold a dress shirt, and I’m still not certain how the stock market works. But there is one thing I do know for sure: Gillian Anderson is not going to be the next James Bond.

That’s one of the names being floated around by … well, people who float names around. They know it’s just a silly “wish.” She’s not actually going to be the next 007. You can be sure that the next Bond is going to be what all the other Bonds have been: a man.

But according to rumors and comments he made after SPECTRE was released last year, Daniel Craig might have already quit as the secret agent. Since these types of rumors always come up after an actor does a few Bond movies and is getting a little exhausted from making them, this whole story could be completely untrue.

But if it does turn out to be true, what names actually are being bandied for the role? At the top of the list is Tom Hiddleston, who is currently starring in AMC’s The Night Manager. He’s such a popular choice that bookmakers had to actually stop people from betting on him (yes, apparently you can bet on who the next Bond will be in England). Other people mentioned include Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell (he supposedly has met with the producers); Poldark star Aidan Turner; Damian Lewis, from Billions and Homeland; and Idris Elba, who a lot of people on social media have wanted to be Bond for quite some time. And for good measure let’s throw in all the names that were mentioned just before Craig got the role, such as Eric Bana, Goran Visnjic, Tom Hardy, and Henry Cavill.

Keep in mind that a lot of these “such and such is the new contender for the role of James Bond!” stories could just be rumors created by the publicists and managers of certain actors or something spread by fans on social media. We’ll find out more officially in the next few months if Craig is going to stay or not.

RIP Alan Young and Beth Howland

Young is probably best known as the human star of the classic sitcom Mr. Ed, but he had quite an interesting career beyond having conversations with a horse.

He was the voice of Scrooge McDuck in many Disney cartoons and appeared in such movies as The Time Machine (the original and the 2002 remake), Aaron Slick From Punkin Crick, Androcles and the Lion, and Tom Thumb. He also appeared in many TV shows, from The Alan Young Show and Studio 57 to Murder, She Wrote and The Love Boat. And before all that, he was a radio star. He had his own show when he was 17 years old, and it was rather influential, even if a lot of people don’t remember that part of his career.

Young passed away last week in Woodland Hills, California, at the age of 96. Some might not know that his real name was Angus Young or that he was born in England and raised in Scotland and Canada.

Beth Howland passed away from lung cancer on December 31, but her death is just now being announced, per her wishes. She played ditsy but kind waitress Vera on Alice. I didn’t realize that she was married to Charles Kimbrough, who played anchor Jim Dial on Murphy Brown.

Own a Piece of Mad Men

Mad Men is my favorite drama of all time, and my birthday is coming up. That’s the perfect combo at the perfect time because Screenbid and AMC are teaming up for another auction of official props from the show! It starts on June 1, and you can bid on such items as Roger’s Ray-Ban sunglasses, Pete’s globe-shaped bar, Don’s office chairs, and even Don’s 1964 Chrysler Imperial.

I’d love to have Peggy Olsen’s Royal typewriter. I would type these columns on it and then snail-mail them to my editor, who would then have to scan them to post them online. But it would be worth it! [Editor’s note: No, it wouldn’t.]

A Documentary About Rose Marie

If Mad Men is my favorite drama of all time, then The Dick Van Dyke Show is my favorite comedy. It’s like TV comfort food for me. One of the show’s stars, Rose Marie, is still going strong at the age of 92. She even has a strong presence online, with a web site and Twitter and Facebook accounts.

She’s also on Kickstarter! They want to put together a documentary on her life, so please give whatever you can (you’ll get gifts, depending on how much you donate). She’s had a long career (starting out as a child singer and actress), and I’m sure the documentary will be fascinating. She’s one cool lady.

The Qwerkywriter

I guess if I can’t get that typewriter from the set of Mad Men, this might be the next best thing. It’s the Qwerkywriter, a computer keyboard that looks like a manual typewriter keyboard. It looks well-made and has some really nice features. It even sounds like a typewriter when you tap the keys. It works with iPads, Macbooks, iPhones, Windows tablets, and all Android devices. Writer John Scalzi isn’t really a typewriter guy, but he likes it.

It costs $350, which is a little pricey, but it’s really sharp-looking and might be just the thing for the person who wants to have a little bit of the manual typewriter experience without losing access to their Facebook and email.

National Biscuit Day

I’ve never made biscuits before, and I have no idea what White Lily flour is, but if you’re going to make biscuits for National Biscuit Day — it’s this Sunday — then this recipe for the buttermilk version from Food 52 might be the way to go.

Or, if you don’t want to make a mess of your kitchen, you could wait 24 hours and celebrate National Mint Julep Day. Sounds like the perfect drink for a Memorial Day Monday.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

100th running of the Indy 500 (May 29)

The first Indy 500 was in 1911, but no races were run in 1917 or 1918 (because of WWI) or between 1942 and 1945 (because of WWII). This year’s race is sold out, which means Hoosiers get to watch the race on live TV for the first time since 1950.

Memorial Day (May 30)

Saturday Evening Post Archive Director Jeff Nilsson wrote about the history of Memorial Day, which was once called Decoration Day.

Lincoln Memorial dedicated (May 30, 1922)

The memorial is part of the National Park Service, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

Johnstown Flood occurs (May 31, 1889)

The Pennsylvania disaster killed 2,209 people and caused over $17 million worth of damage.

Brigham Young born (June 1, 1801)

The religious leader became the second head of the Mormon church after founder Joseph Smith was murdered.

Ken Jennings begins Jeopardy! streak (June 2, 2004)

Since his historic run of 74 wins, Jennings has written several books, became a columnist for Parade, and has an active Twitter feed.

Battle of Midway starts (June 4, 1942)

Did a science fiction writer predict many events of World War II, including Midway, two years before Pearl Harbor?

News of the Week: Christmas Wars, Computer Concerns, and the Case of the Confusing Yam

Starbucks cup
Phonlawat_51 / Shutterstock.com

Starbucks and the War on Christmas

Ah, the Christmas season. That time of year when bells jingle, choirs sing, snow falls, and people argue about paper cups.

It seems that the War on Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year. This year’s battle centers on Starbucks. This year the coffee shop chain decided to go with a plain red cup with their green and white logo, instead of something featuring Santa or reindeer or snowflakes, and some people are rather upset by that decision.

Here’s the thing: As E! Online illustrates, the company’s cups are always rather minimalist, and if they do have something on them it’s usually a drawing of snowflakes or a reindeer or ornaments and trees. And is there even any religious aspect to snowflakes and reindeer and candy canes we’re missing by having a bare cup this year?

To be clear, Starbucks says there is no directive for employees not to say merry Christmas to their customers, and they do sell coffee labeled Christmas Blend, a Merry Christmas gift card, an Advent calendar, and many other festive things. While I do think that there have been examples of companies and towns being overly politically correct during the Christmas season in the past, this isn’t one of those times. As even The National Review says, viewing plain coffee cups as an attack on religion is embarrassing.

Of course, presidential contender Donald Trump has weighed in on the controversy. While Trump said, “Seriously, I don’t care,” he also hinted he might end the Starbucks lease at Trump Tower, adding “maybe we should boycott Starbucks. … If I become president, we’re all going to be saying merry Christmas again — that I can tell you.”

And millions of people around the country are waiting to see just how he’s going to enforce that.

 

Computer in a trash bin
denisgo / Shutterstock

The End of the Personal Computer?

In an interview with The Telegraph Apple CEO Tim Cook asks the question, “I think if you’re looking at a PC, why would you buy a PC anymore? No really, why would you buy one?” And to answer that I would say, “Because I like them, that’s why!”

If he wanted me to expand on my answer, I’d say it’s because a laptop (or desktop) is the natural tech to use for producing content like writing. I haven’t used tablets or smartphones that much, but I can’t imagine working on them for an extended period of time. Movies? Games? Surfing the Web? Sure. But for real work I’ll go the traditional route (and there’s no way I’m going to start doing everything on a watch).

It’s a little disconcerting to hear the CEO of the company that makes the MacBook laptops say that the personal computer is going away because a MacBook is what I’m typing on right now. But I’m going to predict that we’re still going to have desktops and laptops for many years to come, so don’t worry about it.

 

Daniel Craig
Piotr Zajac / Shutterstock.com

Ranking the Bonds

Whenever a new James Bond movie opens, people love to rank all the movies and the people who have played 007. With SPECTRE in theaters now — and don’t listen to the critics, it’s a good flick — I thought I’d rank the Bonds.

The way it usually works is that you like the Bond you grew up with. I didn’t see any of the Sean Connery movies in the theaters — I saw all the Roger Moore ones there though — but I watched Connery’s Bond countless times on TV and he will always be number one to me.

  1. Sean Connery
  2. Daniel Craig
  3. Timothy Dalton
  4. Pierce Brosnan
  5. George Lazenby
  6. Roger Moore
  7. Barry Nelson (played Bond in a 1954 episode of the anthology series Climax!)
  8. Everyone who played Bond in the awful 1967 version of Casino Royale

Who’s your favorite Bond?

 

The Blackout of 1965

Where were you when the lights went out in the Northeast in 1965? I was around 5 months old so I was probably in my mother’s arms or, knowing me, crying because the TV just went out. The blackout, caused by human error, affected many states, including New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and even Ontario, Canada. While not everyone in those places lost power, the outage did hit 30 million people, and they didn’t have power anywhere from just a few hours to over 13 hours. Imagine this happening today, and people couldn’t post on Facebook for 13 hours. Oh the humanity!

This week marked the 50th anniversary of the event. Here’s NBC’s breaking news coverage:

 

The Return of MST3K

In the not-too-distant future, probably 2016 AD, we’re going to see the return of the original Mystery Science Theater 3000. After 15 years and the straightening out of some legal issues, creator and original host of the make-fun-of-movies show Joel Hodgson is bringing it back.

They’ve set up a Kickstarter and it has already reached $1 million, and there’s still almost a month to go in the campaign. The gang hopes to reach at least $2 million, so they can do three episodes on DVD/online. If they reach $3.3 million, they’ll do 6. $4.4 million will get us 9 episodes, and $5.5 million will mean a full 12-episode season.

Fa la la!

 

IBM WatsonBy Clockready (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
IBM Watson
By Clockready (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Watson, The IBM Chef

Sure, IBM’s Watson computer can beat Jeopardy! champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, but can it make beef stroganoff?

I don’t really know. I would love to explore the IBM Chef Watson site more thoroughly, but you have to register with either a Facebook or IBM account. I have neither so what I can see on the site is rather limited. Apparently you can use the site — a joint effort between IBM and Bon Appetit — to create recipes and share them with your friends.

The recipes I’ve seen on the site include a Tomato Tart, Party Bourbon Punch, Salmon Tacos, and a Russian Celery Parsley Bread Lemon Juice Sandwich (yes), created by engineer and chef Florian Pinel for his TED Talk about food waste.

 

Potatoes and Yams
Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock

Sweet Potatoes Are Yams

I wonder if Watson knows the difference between sweet potatoes and yams? It will soon be Thanksgiving so I thought I’d investigate.

According to The Kitchn, there really isn’t any difference. The yams we eat here in North America are sweet potatoes, even if they’re labeled “yams.” A real yam is native to Africa and Asia and you’re probably not going to find one, unless you go to a specialty supermarket. And to confuse things more, there are two types of sweet potatoes, firm and soft. The yams you find at the supermarket are the soft, sweet potatoes and are labeled yams because they kinda look like real yams. Got that? Good. Maybe you can explain it to me.

I’ve been eating canned yams, the ones in sweet syrup, for many years, while at the same time refusing to eat the sweet potatoes at the Thanksgiving table. I guess it’s time to revisit sweet potatoes, as long as they’re covered in enough stuff like cinnamon and marshmallows to mask the taste. When you reach a certain age, it’s hard to change your eating habits. I yam what I yam.

 

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

Suez Canal opens (November 17, 1869)

The 101-mile waterway connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.

President Nixon’s “I am not a crook” press conference (November 17, 1973)

Nixon made the comments while meeting with 400 Associated Press editors in Orlando, Florida.

The “Heidi Game” (November 18, 1968)

The New York Jets vs. Oakland Raiders game had a really exciting ending. Too bad NBC interrupted it with a showing of the movie Heidi.

President Lincoln delivers Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863)

Here’s the full transcript of Lincoln’s speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Nuremberg trials begin (November 20, 1945)

The post-World War II military tribunals prosecuted military and political leaders of Nazi Germany.

News of the Week: Baseball, Bond, and the Brig Bazaar

Leave Baseball Alone!

Sleepy Inning by Earl Mayan
Sleepy Inning
Earl Mayan
April 23, 1955

Several years ago, there was talk about improving baseball and making it enjoyable and accessible to more people. Several ideas were thrown around — some serious, some less so — but I remember two of the suggestions being 1) reduce the number of innings to seven or eight, and 2) have a foul ball count as a third strike. Apparently what is ruining baseball is that it’s just too damn long. Starting this year, baseball is going to institute a new series of rules designed to move the game along, including time limits on how long batters take to get into the batter’s box and on how long pitchers take to throw their last warm-up pitch and their first pitch to the batter, and a new rule that states the batter has to keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times. There’s also a new rule involving the use of instant replay: Managers can now demand replay from the dugout, meaning they no longer have to walk up to an umpire to challenge a play. In the past 10 years, the average time for a baseball game has gone up 20 minutes, lasting around 3 hours. The theory is if you speed baseball up more fans (and younger ones, whom I guess Major League Baseball wants to live-tweet games) will like it.

Mother of Honus Wagner, this is a bad idea. OMG, baseball is 20 minutes longer than it used to be! Yeah, well, baseball is supposed to be long and drawn out. You know why? It’s the same reason they shouldn’t tamper with tennis (another sport where they’re trying to speed things up). It’s a summer sport! Like tennis and golf, baseball is supposed to be slow and long and relaxing. I don’t care if the batters step out of the box or pitchers throw to first base a lot or the relief pitchers get a lot of warm-up throws. Baseball isn’t basketball and it’s not football and it’s not hockey. There are plenty of sports that are faster if you want that sort of thing, and I don’t hear any hardcore baseball fans complaining the sport is too slow. Actually, I think football and basketball move too slow, especially the last couple of minutes of a game when there are a gazillion time-outs, stopped clocks, reviews, and commercial breaks.

You know what makes baseball baseball? There is no clock.

Maybe one idea that could work is simply reducing the number of games played during the baseball season. Not counting the playoffs and the All-Star Game and the World Series, every team plays 162 games. Isn’t that a lot? Maybe it would be better if baseball wasn’t played until late October, when football and basketball and hockey have already started and our kids have already picked out their Halloween costumes.

James Bond Has a New Car

July 17, 1965 Post Cover
Sean Connery as James Bond
The Saturday Evening Post
July 17, 1965

If you remember the ending of the last James Bond movie, Skyfall, you’ll recall that 007’s classic, beloved Aston Martin DB5 blew up, destroyed in a heap of fire and twisted metal. It was sad, but much like killing off (spoiler alert!) Judi Dench’s M character, it gives the filmmakers the opportunity to start things fresh with the next movie, SPECTRE, which will be in theaters this November 6.

Esquire has photos of Bond’s new car. It’s still an Aston Martin, but it’s a modern Aston Martin. The DB10, a two-door with weird side windows, looks like it goes 300 miles per hour. Actually, it looks like it’s from the future. The car was made especially for the film.

And it’s not the only new car we’ll see. Bond has a car chase with someone in a Jaguar C-X75, one of five prototypes Jaguar made before stopping production a few years ago.

Lost Sherlock Holmes Story Found (or Was It?)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1870
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1870

2015 seems to be the Year of Finding Lost Things. First we discovered the long-lost Harper Lee novel, Go Set A Watchman . Then came word that a new Dr. Seuss story, What Pet Should I Get?, had turned up. Now there’s news that a lost Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had been discovered in a pile of books. Doyle wrote the story (with the cumbersome name “Sherlock Holmes: Discover the Border Burghs, and, By Deduction, the Brig Bazaar”) for a fundraiser to fix a damaged bridge in Selkirk, Scotland. An 80-year-old historian who lives in the town found the 1,300-word story in an anthology published in December 1903.

But wait! Now comes breaking news that some Sherlock Holmes experts doubt the story was really written by Doyle! Some scholars think the story was actually written by someone else because there is no mention of Doyle in any of the programs of the event or newspaper articles. This sounds like a case for Sherlock Holmes to solve.

Whatever the truth is, you can read the story online for free at The Telegraph .

And The Razzie Goes To…

By now you probably heard who won all the Academy Awards last weekend — and you also know what host Neil Patrick Harris looks like in his underwear — but did you hear who won the night before, during that other awards ceremony? I’m talking about the Razzies, the awards that celebrate, well, the worst in cinema. This year’s big winner (ahem) was … Kirk Cameron! The former Growing Pains star and his film Saving Christmas received four Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay, Worst Actor, and Worst Screen Combo, an award he shared with “his ego,” as the award explained it.

Other winners include Worst Supporting Actress Megan Fox for Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles, and Worst Actress Cameron Diaz, who was lucky enough to be singled out for her performance in two different movies, Sex Tape and The Other Woman. And Worst Supporting Actor Kelsey Grammer was called on for four: The Expendables 3, Legends of Oz, Think Like a Man Too, and Transformers 4: Age of Extinction.

There was one award at the ceremony that was actually worth winning. Ben Affleck won the Redeemer Award for going from Gigli to this year’s Gone Girl. He beat out Jennifer Aniston, Mike Myers, Kristen Stewart, and Keanu Reeves. I hope Affleck keeps this award on his mantel, next to his Oscars and Golden Globes and Director’s Guild awards.

National Strawberry Day

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

It seems odd to celebrate strawberries in February, but I’m sure many people are dreaming of them right now as they shovel out their driveways and knock down giant icicles that have formed on the edges of their roofs.

We have a lot of strawberry recipes, including Frozen Strawberry Pie, Curtis Stone’s Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Pankcakes with Strawberry-Maple Syrup, and even Strawberry Lassi Ice Pops.

And if you’re looking for another way to celebrate National Strawberry Day, well, they’re also great for whitening your teeth.

Upcoming Anniversaries

Lindbergh baby kidnapped (March 1, 1932)
Learn about the man who tracked down the kidnapper.

Dr. Seuss born (March 2, 1904)

Here’s a detailed biography of the acclaimed author Theodor Geisel.

Michelangelo Buonarroti born (March 6, 1475)

The artist, whose full name was Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, has his own web site, and yes it’s Michelangelo.com.

Alexander Graham Bell gets patent for telephone (March 7, 1872)

Read why the phone is one of 12 innovations that changed our world.

3 Questions for Sir Roger Moore

Roger Moore
Roger Moore, known for his seven James Bond flicks, as well as the TV series The Saint and a raft of other roles, recently published his third book, One Lucky Bastard — Tales from Tinseltown. (Photo by Terry O’Neill)

At 86, Roger Moore is as elegant and suave as ever. Time hasn’t dimmed his piercing deep blue eyes or his sly wit. The actor, known for his seven James Bond flicks, as well as the TV series The Saint and a raft of other roles, was knighted in 2003 by Queen Elizabeth for his work with UNICEF. These days, he kicks back at homes in Monaco and Switzerland with his fourth wife, Kristina Tholstrup — they’ve been together for 21 years — but you can’t exactly say he’s retired. Having recently published his third book, One Lucky Bastard — Tales from Tinseltown, now he’s taking his show on the road with An Evening with Sir Roger Moore. “I talk about the early days and the interesting stuff that happened to me. I even sometimes sing. Well, not actually. I make a noise that I call singing.”

Moore is the first to admit that his years as James Bond have never left him. But he’d like to set the record straight on one thing. “I never said ‘a martini should be shaken not stirred.’ I was nervous enough about having to say, ‘Bond, the name is James Bond,’ because I was afraid it would sound like I was doing an impression of Sean.”

Jeanne Wolf: You’ve had such an eventful life. Do you feel like a lucky bastard?

Roger Moore: Oh, absolutely. I can remember being told when I started out in the business that you needed 33 percent talent, 33 percent personality and looks, and 33 percent luck. I say it’s 99.9 percent luck. I’ve had a number of friends who were very talented, but luck didn’t come their way.

JW: You’ve been married four times. Are you wiser about women at this point in your life?

RM: The secret is that the man always will have the last word, which is “yes-dear.” When it comes to the ladies I’ve shared sets with, I credit Lana Turner for teaching me about kissing. In Diane when the king dies, I say to Lana, “You made me a prince, now make me a king,” and I’m supposed to throw myself on her and kiss her throat. In the first take she fell backward choking and said, “Cut, cut! Roger you are a wonderful kisser but when a lady gets to 35 she has to be careful about the neck. So do it again with the same amount of passion but less pressure.” As for love scenes, usually it’s 8 o’clock on a Monday morning, the studio has been shut over the weekend, the heat hasn’t been on, you’re freezing cold, it’s the middle of winter, and you have to sort of leap into bed with a lady who drops her towel or is wrapped modestly under the sheets and then the romance should start. There is no romance. I remember at the beginning of the first Bond film that I ever did I was in bed with an actress who was very well developed. And I had to have my arm over her rather voluptuous breasts to show that I was wearing a Pulsar watch because they’d paid a lot to get the publicity.

JW: You’ve changed a lot over the years and so has the Bond franchise. What do you think of the new guy, Daniel Craig?

RM: The 007 films have become far more action-oriented, a little more spectacular, and I think that Daniel is the right man for the time. Actually, I think he would have been the right man for any time because he really looks like James Bond should look — like a killer as Sean Connery did. Some people labeled me the most gentlemanly Bond. I think I said, “I could never kill anybody so I’d either bore them to death or hug them to death.” I was a part of some action scenes but I was always thinking “Am I quick enough on my feet to get out of the way of that?” That’s when the ego steps in and you say, “Oh, yes. I can do that. I’m a hero.” But inside I was quivering like mad.

James Bond Turns 50

Bond. James Bond.

The first time a 32-year-old Scottish actor uttered those words was in a small film that opened in London 50 years ago. Based on a popular pulp novel by Ian Fleming, Dr. No cost slightly over $1 million and featured a group of not-yet stars including Sean Connery, Jack Lord (“Hawaii Five-O”), and Ursula Andress alongside an established character actor, Joseph Wiseman, as the movie’s villain.

It was a film that debuted with no expectations whatsoever. Months later, when Dr. No opened in the U.S., The New York Times called it “lively” and “amusing,” a “spoof of science fiction and sex.” Translation: a cute, entertaining trifle.

Yet, lo and behold, Dr. No grossed nearly $60 million worldwide—fantastic box office for that time—and spawned a film franchise that has produced 22 feature films (the 23rd, Skyfall, is due out in October) with global earnings of more than $5 billion.

In an era when big budget extravaganzas such as Lawrence of Arabia and The Longest Day attracted the largest audiences, Dr. No’s success seemed to come out of nowhere. Yet the reasons why it succeeded were easily discernable. “The formula was simple,” says film critic and author Irv Slifkin of moviefanfare.com. “A good-looking guy who was lethal yet likable, gorgeous women, nasty villains, nifty gadgets, nice locations, and cool music—all presented in first class fashion with a dollop of violence and sex and, in some cases, politics.”

“Bond tapped into a full range of male fantasies and desires that were simultaneously being exploited by popular media and international advertising at the height of post-war consumerism,” adds Christoph Lindner, editor of The James Bond Phenomenon: A Critical Reader. “There is a great study of the interrelations—both commercial and artistic—between Bond and Playboy magazine in the early 1960s, showing that both developments shared many values and perspectives, not just on sex and women, but also on conspicuous consumption and the fetishism of technology.”

In other words, gorgeous women and cool gadgets—not to mention Cold War paranoia and wackadoodle plot lines far removed from the dour and more realistic spy flicks of the era—were some of the keys to the films’ success. And if you were female, well, you might not have liked the casual sexism of the Bond series, but there was always Sean Connery, about as studly as they come, to satisfy your fantasies. As Slifkin puts it: “The women came for James, and the men came for everything else.” [Not everyone was buying 007. For a contemporary, critical view of Bond and his movies, read William K. Zinsser’s 1965 article “The Big Bond Bonanza” —ed.]

Sean Connery on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post
Sean Connery graces the cover of The Saturday Evening Post.

And they kept coming back for more. When Sean Connery bowed out of the series, they came for George Lazenby, and then Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and now Daniel Craig. The villains changed, the women came and went, the plots sometimes became utterly ridiculous—like in 1979’s Moonraker, which involved a master race, a plot to exterminate all human life, and a battle on a space station—but none of that seemed to matter. Bond was part of the culture. Which meant it became hard to find people who didn’t know who Q, M, and Miss Moneypenny were; who weren’t familiar with Odd Job and Jaws; and who didn’t know that Bond liked his martinis “shaken, not stirred.”

In fact, this familiarity worked in the series’ favor. One of the reasons 007 managed to survive from the Cold War era into the post-9/11 world is that the more things changed, the more Bond tended to stay the same. According to Glenn Yeffeth, editor of James Bond in the 21st Century, Bond is “good at what he does, and he is an openly heterosexual male, unashamed of his own manhood. Those characteristics seem to be as relevant as they ever were. If you look at Jack Bauer in the TV show “24,” I think what people like about that character are the same characteristics.”

There’s also Bond’s relationship with his bosses, which remains highly volatile. 007 is an insider who acts like an outsider, and that tension has been constant throughout the series. “At one level he represents a fantasy of government control in a geopolitical world that has lost its grip on western security,” says Lindner, “but at another level he also represents a fantasy of escape from the excessive authority and surveillance of government. This tension between control and escape is an important part of Bond’s success over the decades.”

And then there’s the most obvious way in which the series stays current—when it comes to enemies, Bond is always after the villain du jour. “The films have always reflected the times in which they were made,” says Yefeth. “In the ’60s, it was Cold War espionage and the beginnings of the sexual revolution. In the ’70s and ’80s, they became more comedic and fantastical in the era of overindulgence. But the fundamental principles of Bond haven’t changed. He is intent on trying to preserve world order. For each era, Bond has found his way.”

Which means that in the latest reboot of the series, Daniel Craig’s 007 has been fighting a gaggle of very contemporary bad seeds who finance international terrorism (Casino Royale) or are out to control an entire nation’s water supply (Quantum of Solace).

And there is one more significant way in which Bond has kept up with the times. Even though he’s as tough as ever, he has become more emotionally open. “Fleming’s original Bond from the novels was a deeply flawed and emotionally damaged character,” says Lindner. “Over the years, the films gradually turned Bond into a teflon spy. But now, in the post-9/11 era—and thanks in part to other spy franchises like the Jason Bourne trilogy—Bond has rediscovered his emotions and his imperfections.”

So what’s not to like? He’s macho. He’s emotional. He’s even become, if the most recent films are any indication, almost—but not quite—monogamous. And in a world that seems even more chaotic and dangerous than the one in which he first appeared, we all know that when evil rears its ugly head, there’s one secret agent we can always count on.

Bond. James Bond.


Best of Bond
There have been 22 Bond films so far. In chronological order, here are my picks for the five best. —L.B.

From Russia With Love (1963)

Daniela Bianchi and Sean Connery in From Russia with Love
Daniela Bianchi and Sean Connery. © Bettmann/CORBIS

Why It’s Great: A Cold War spy caper with superbad villains intent on world domination. Bonus: A top-notch supporting cast including Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya.
Main Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the consummately evil head of SPECTRE shown only from the neck down as he strokes his white cat. Equally freaky and fearsome—Rosa Klebb (Lenya), the killer with poison-tipped blades concealed in the toes of her shoes.
Bond Babe: Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), Russian agent turned Bond ally.
Cool Gadget: A special briefcase including a rifle and ammunition plus 50 gold sovereigns, a knife, and a tear gas cartridge disguised as talcum powder.
Memorable Dialogue: Tatiana, trying on dresses – “I will wear this one in Picadilly.” Bond – “You won’t. They’ve just passed some new laws there. ”

Goldfinger (1964)

Honor Blackman and Sean Connery in Goldfinger.
Shirley Eaton and Sean Connery. © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

Why It’s Great: A daring robbery plan, nasty supervillain, and that smiling henchman Oddjob (Harold Sakata). Mix that with a female flying corps, one of the best Bond title songs (sung by Shirley Bassey), and a terrific final action sequence and you get perhaps the greatest Bond ever.
Main Villain: Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe), master criminal who wants to rob Fort Knox.
Bond Babe: Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), Bond enemy turned ally.
Cool Gadget: Awesome Aston Martin with passenger ejection seat, forward machine guns, hubcaps doubling as tire slashers, and other goodies.
Memorable Dialogue: Stewardess – “Can I do anything for you?” Bond – “Just a drink. A martini, shaken, not stirred.”

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Diana Rigg and George Lazenby in On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Diana Rigg and George Lazenby. MGM.

Why It’s Great: George Lazenby is no Sean Connery, but he’s okay as Bond, and the film is tight, smart, and extremely well directed with killer action sequences. Bonus: We find 007 in love.
Main Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas), doing some strange allergy research involving beautiful women.
Bond Babe: Teresa di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg), who marries Bond, but is murdered on their wedding day.
Cool Gadget: Radioactive lint, which acts as a homing device.
Memorable Dialogue: Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti) – “My apologies for the way you were brought here. I wasn’t sure you’d accept a ‘formal’ invitation.” Bond – “There’s always something formal about the point of a pistol.”

Licence To Kill (1989)

Timothy Dalton and Carey Lowell in Licence to Kill
Timothy Dalton and Carey Lowell. Columbia Pictures.

Why It’s Great: Criminally underrated at the time, this is an exciting action film with Timothy Dalton as a nasty, driven Bond out to stop a drug lord and avenge a near-fatal attack on his friend Felix Leiter (David Hedison).
Main Villain: Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi), South American drug kingpin based on Pablo Escobar.
Bond Babe: Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), CIA informant posing as a drug courier who falls for Bond.
Cool Gadget: A camera that can be converted into a rifle and programmed so only one person can fire it.
Memorable Dialogue: Bond, when asked to cut a wedding cake – “I’ll do anything for a woman with a knife.”

Casino Royale (2006)

Why It’s Great:Grade A reboot of the series featuring a macho but sensitive Daniel Craig as 007 and smashing action sequences.

Casino Royale
Eva Green and Daniel Craig. PhotoFest.

Main Villain: Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a banker for terrorist organizations.
Bond Babe: Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), double agent supposedly monitoring Bond’s expenses but also working for a terrorist organization. She soon falls for our hero.
Cool Gadgets: Film is low on futuristic gadgetry because it is about the start of Bond’s career as a “00.” Still, his Aston Martin has a glove compartment with antidotes to various poisons and a portable defibrillator. Most laughable is his Sony Ericsson cellphone with (get this!) GPS and a 3.2 megapixel digital camera!
Memorable Dialogue: Lynd – “It doesn’t bother you? Killing all those people?” Bond – “Well, I wouldn’t be very good at my job if it did.”

What’s your favorite Bond movie?