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On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) - Illustrated Reference
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was directed by Peter Hunt and premiered on 12th December 1969. Starring George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Gabriele Ferzetti and Ilse Steppat. Screenplay by Richard Maibaum. Music by John Barry. Theme sung by Louis Armstrong. 142mins.
Blofeld is back and planning to unleash a deadly virus upon the world. Meanwhile 007 has fallen in love with Teresa, daughter of crime boss Marc Ange Draco. Draco gives Bond info on the whereabouts of Blofeld, which leads him to a remote allergy clinic in the Swiss Alps.
OHMSS was Ian Flemings 11th Bond novel, it was first published in 1963. The previous Bond book was The Spy Who Loved Me and the next would be You Only Live Twice which preceded this on film.
By the late 60's Sean Connery was bored of playing Bond and left the series. The hunt was on for someone else to play Bond, but who could replace Connery? He was Bond for millions of moviegoers. Some of the actors considered for the role included John Richardson, Timothy Dalton and Roger Moore who was busy playing The Saint on TV.
George Lazenby (1939-) / James Bond
Born in New South Wales, Australia, George Lazenby, was a top male model, who was popular in TV commercials for Big Fry chocolates. His agent advised him to audition for 007, he approached the Bond producers and claimed to be a playboy who raced sports cars for a living. He mentioned having acting experience in Germany and Australia, He was tested for the part, the way he walked and used his fists in a fight won him the part.
His films include - Stoner (1974), The Man from Hong Kong (1975), Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), Saint Jack (1979), Never Too Young to Die (1986) and Gettysburg (1993).
Diana Rigg (1938-) / Contessa Teresa de Vicenzo aka Tracy
Tracy de Vicenzo, the spoiled daughter of Marc Ange Draco. Depressed and suicidal, she tries to end it all by wading into the ocean, Bond saves her and they fall in love.
Born in Doncaster, England, Diana Rigg was popular on TV as Emma Peel in The Avengers (1965-1968), her films include - The Assassination Bureau (1969), Julius Caesar (1970), The Hospital (1971), Theatre of Blood (1973), Evil Under the Sun (1982), A Good Man in Africa (1994) and The Painted Veil (2006).
Telly Savalas (1922-1994) / Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Blofeld is back and now at a Swiss mountain retreat after his volcano base was destroyed in the last film. He is threatening to destroy the worlds agriculture using biological warfare agents if he isn't given amnesty for all past crimes and that he be recognised as the current Count de Bleuchamp.
Born in Long Island, New York to Greek parents, Telly Savalas was Oscar nominated Best Supporting Actor for Birdman of Alcatraz (1962).
His films include - Cape Fear (1962), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965 as Pontius Pilate), Battle of the Bulge (1965), Beau Geste (1966), The Dirty Dozen (1967), The Scalphunters (1968), The Assassination Bureau (1969), Mackenna's Gold (1969), Kelly's Heroes (1970), Horror Express (1972), Capricorn One (1977), Escape to Athena (1979) and Cannonball Run II (1984).
Gabriele Ferzetti (1925-) / Marc Ange Draco
Marc Ange Draco is head of one of the biggest crime syndicates in Europe, he is also Tracy’s father. Draco sees the positive impact Bonds interest in his daughter is having on her. As a thank you he helps Bond find SPECTRE no.1, and at the climax joins Bond on a full scale assault on Blofeld’s mountain fortress.
Born in Rome, Italy, Gabriele Ferzetti's films include - Hannibal (1959), The Bible (1966), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Hitler - The Last Ten Days (1973), The Night Porter (1974) and Inchon (1981).
Ilse Steppat (1917-1969) / Irma Bunt
Born in Barmen, Germany, Ilse Steppat plays Irma Bunt, Blofeld’s personal secretary, the actress was to have reprised her villainous role in the next Bond film but she died of a heart attack a week after the film was released..
George Baker (1931-2011) / Sir Hilary Bray
Born in Varna, Bulgaria, The Dam Busters (1955), The Moonraker (1958), The Curse of the Fly (1965), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), The Thirty Nine Steps (1978), Ffolkes (1979) and Hopscotch (1980).
James Bond falls in love and gets married in OHMSS. It all ends in tears. Ian Fleming couldn’t continue Bonds globe-trotting adventures if he was married with children. Tracy had to be bumped off. After the wedding a drive by shooting by Blofeld and Irma Bunt leaves Tracy dead and Bond grief-stricken. The Bond theme starts up loudly over the end credits, reminding the audience that this a Bond movie and not Love Story and that he would return, less grief-stricken, in Diamonds Are Forever.
The producers toyed with the idea of killing Tracy off at the beginning of the next Bond film and letting OHMSS have a happy ending but thankfully they stayed faithful to the novels tragic finish.
Unfortunately George Lazenby did not get along with the director or the producers and the press were eager to play up a feud between Lazenby and his leading lady, which he claims was blown out of proportion. He admitted later that he became big-headed after his 007 movie experience, got bad advice from people and was bragging to friends that he didn’t care if he never made another Bond movie. The Bond producers cancelled his contract.
Brigitte Bardot was sought to play Tracy but she starred in Shalako alongside Sean Connery instead.
The search for Ernst Stavro Blofeld is code-named Operation Bedlam. One wonders why Blofeld does not instantly recognise Bond when he sees him after their encounter in the previous film. The fact he’s posing as Sir Hilary Bray and dubbed by George Baker who plays Bray in the film isn’t a good enough excuse. Maybe because the characters are played by two different actors lets the screenwriters get away with this mega plot hole?
British TV series The Avengers has strong Bond connections. Honor Blackman (Cathy Gale) played Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964), Diana Rigg (Emma Peel) played Tracy in OHMSS, Patrick Macnee (John Steed) played Sir Godfrey Tibbett in A View to a Kill (1985). Joanna Lumley (Purdey in The New Avengers) is one of the girls Bond meets at Piz Gloria in OHMSS.
One of the best gags in the film is in the pre-credit teaser - Bond saves Tracy from drowning, beats up some thugs and Tracy drives away in her car. Bond looks at the camera and quips “This never happened to the other fella.”. 007 drives a dark green Aston Martin DBS and for the only time in the series Bond wears a kilt.
OHMSS contains another memorable music score by the late John Barry, one of his best. Louis Armstrong sings the romantic ballad “We have all the time in the World” it was to be his last recorded song, the jazz legend died of a heart attack 2 years later. The song was re-released as a single in 2005 and reached #3 in the UK charts.
OHMSS remains a fan favourite, a unique entry in the series with Bond at his most human, falling deeply in love and sobbing in grief at his wife’s death. The action scenes are fast paced, the ski chases are thrilling, there’s plenty of humour, sexy girls abound, the music is fantastic and John Glen’s quick-cut editing keeps things zipping along. At 140mins OHMSS was the longest Bond film at the time.
The film was retitled in some countries -
The Queen's 007 (Japan)
To Her Majesty's Secret Service (Denmark)
007 On Her Queen's Service (Spain)
To Serve Her Majesty (Italy)
007 Seized The Snow Mountain Castle (China & Norway)
The Critics Wrote -
"The direction of Peter Hunt - an editor on earlier Bond films - brought a cutting-room crispness to every set-up, though even he was not able to truncate a film that feels as if it is ending four times before it actually does so." (Alexander Walker)
"Devotees will note that Sean Connery, the virile, suave conqueror of all those dastards and dames in the five previous capers, has given up his 007 Bond credentials to George Lazenby, a 30-year-old Australian newcomer to films. He's tall, dark, handsome and has a dimpled chin. But Mr. Lazenby, if not a spurious Bond, is merely a casual, pleasant, satisfactory replacement." (New York Times)
"As though to compensate for the absent Connery, this is the most action-packed Bond film: the one in which the stunts became all-important. Which is just as well, since the sexual chemistry was signally lacking between Lazenby and his leading lady." (Chris Tookey)
"The producers and director have packed so much break-neck physical action and stunning visual attractions into OHMSS that the initial disappointment of George Lazenby replacing Sean Connery as James Bond is almost forgotten by the film's climax." (Variety)
"The Bond films were bad enough even with the partially ironic performances of Connery. Here, featuring the stunning nonentity Lazenby, there are no redeeming features." (Geoff Andrew, Time Out)