FROM extra-marital affairs and hating America to the naming of Bond girls and the bird-watching real-life James Bond: we take a look at the extraordinary Ian Fleming on the 50th anniversary of his death
His name was Fleming, Ian Fleming.
Sorry, we couldn’t resist.
The son of a Conservative MP for Henley, he was educated at Eton and Sandhurst before pursuing careers as as a journalist and naval intelligence officer.
He wrote his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, at the age of 44 and went on to sell over 100 million books worldwide.
Eleven more Bond novels and a very famous children’s book cemented his position as one of the best-selling and best-loved authors of the 20th Century.
The first Bond film, Dr. No was released in 1962 and began one of the greatest franchises in film history – a franchise that would bring us the likes of Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig as the leading man, surrounded by a host of famous beauties like Ursula Andress, Jane Seymour, Honor Blackman, Halle Berry and Eva Green.
Life often imitated art and Fleming’s privileged background and increasing fame meant that he mixed with the highest levels of society, politics and celebrity – and seemingly made the most of every moment.
Sadly, he only enjoyed a few short years of international success before he died suddenly of a heart attack in the early hours of August 12, 1964 – the day of his son, Caspar’s, 12th birthday.
Matthew Parker’s new book Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming’s Jamaica takes a look at Fleming’s extraordinary life and the creation of his most famous fictional character.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the legendary author’s passing, Parker has put together his ten favourite facts about Ian Fleming.
KEEP SCROLLING FOR OUR TOP TEN FACTS ABOUT IAN FLEMING
MATTHEW PARKER’S TOP TEN FACTS ABOUT IAN FLEMING
1. GOLDENEYE IS A HOUSE
All the James Bond novels and stories were written at Goldeneye, the house he built on Jamaica’s north coast where he spent two months of every year from the end of the war until his death fifty years ago.
In 1976 the estate was purchased by Bob Marley who sold it on to Island Records founder Chris Blackwell the following year.
Blackwell has developed the estate and surrounding lands into a luxury resort.
Fleming’s gardener, Ramsey, although retired, still lives on the property.
2. HE HAD RATHER ECLECTIC MUSIC TASTES
The Bond books are filled with virile, overtly macho fights, both with fists and guns – but, as a child, Fleming wanted no part in his upper class family’s hunting, shooting and fishing exploits.
Instead, he preferred to stay in and listen to Hawaiian guitar music.
3. WOMEN WERE NOT ALWAYS ON HIS MIND
Despite his reputation for being obsessed with beautiful women in his books and his own life, his first brush with expulsion from Eton was not because of womanizing, but because he bunked off to visit the Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1925 aged 17.
- VESPER WAS NOT NAMED AFTER A MOTORBIKE
The first ever ‘Bond girl’, Vesper (Lynd) of Casino Royale, was actually named after a cocktail – a mix of frozen rum, fruit and herbs – Ian had been given at an old Great House in Jamaica.
Two others of his famous heroines – Solitaire from Live and Let Die, and Domino from Thunderball – are named after rare Jamaican birds.
5. HE WAS TOTALLY ANGLOCENTRIC ( A POLITE WAY OF SAYING HE HAD LITTLE TIME FOR THE US)
The very British agent OO7 seemed to constantly and single-handedly save the world.
So it’s not a great surprise to discover that Fleming had little regard for the United States, calling it,
“A society that fails to establish a clear moral definition of right and wrong.’
In case that wasn’t clear enough, he also believed that Americans were,
“Totally unprepared to rule the world that is now theirs.”
6. HIS FIRST BRUSH WITH FAME
He first became front-page news not because of his books, but because the Prime Minister Antony Eden stayed at his house in Jamaica when his health failed during the Suez Crisis of 1956.
7. AFFAIRS OF THE HEART
Ian Fleming fell in love with his wife Ann Charteris while she was still married to the second Viscount Rothermere.
The pattern repeated and she did not remain faithful to her new husband – Charteris also had a life-long affair with Hugh Gaitskell, the leader of the Labour Party.
The Fleming’s had one son, Caspar, who lived a short and rather tragic life.
His father died on his 12th birthday and then Caspar committed suicide in 1975 – when he was just 23.
Not many people realize that Fleming also wrote the books that inspired the Dick Van Dyke film.
Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car was written for Fleming’s son Caspar and published in three volumes, the first in 1964.
- THE REAL JAMES BOND
Fleming was a keen bird-watcher and appropriated the name for his most famous creation from a leading American ornithologist.
He wrote to the real Bond’s wife, explaining his choice,
“It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born.”
The real James Bond turned up with his wife at Goldeneye in 1964.
Fleming said he was ‘terribly amused by the whole thing’
10. SOLVING THE CUBAN CRISIS
At a dinner in Washington, Fleming told JFK that the best way to deal with Castro was to suggest that American nuclear tests had made men with beards sexually impotent.
It’s unclear whether Kennedy took his advice.