Gloria Hendry to Naomi Harris – The History of Black Women as Bond Girls

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    “Skyfall,” the latest James Bond action thriller and the 23rd James Bond movie, scored an outstanding $88.4 million last weekend, which is a new opening weekend record for the 50-year-old franchise.

    Riding that wave of success is English actress Naomie Harris, the newest Bond girl. This British-born beauty is best known to American filmgoers for her role as Tia Dallam/Calypso in the 2006 “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and reprising her role in the 2007 “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.”

    Harris says like most Brits she grew up a big fan of the Bond films and considers it a “huge” honor to be a part of the Bond legacy. She says when she was first approached she thought it was a joke. But when she got the part she found herself in a very secretive world and had to wait more than three months before she could tell her friends that she was cast in the film. The only person she could tell was her mother, scriptwriter Lisselle Kayla.

    The 36-year-old actress says she trained for some three months to learn how to shoot guns and perform stunts. She says she was very good at shooting guns—stunts not so much. Harris plays Eve, a field agent, who is very sure of herself, so much so that she believes she’s equal to James Bond. But as the movie progresses, she sees she has a lot to learn.

    The other female lead is actress Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine, the Bond adversary turned ally and lover. The 33-year-old French actress is virtually unknown to filmgoers, but after this major break more work will surely come her way. Marlohe’s exotic looks—her mother is French and her father is Cambodian-Chinese—reportedly kept her from getting French roles because she didn’t look French enough.

    I bring all of this up because I noticed a trend when reviewers were discussing the Bond girls, especially some American reviewers. They didn’t refer to Naomie Harris as a Bond girl, just Marlohe, yet their British counterparts do. I thought it would be interesting to see how many, if any Black women also starred in Bond films but were not considered Bond girls by the American press. If you sleep with Bond and have significant screen time, that makes you a Bond girl.

    We all know that Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry was definitely considered a Bond girl when she starred as Jinx Johnson in the 2002 “Die Another Day” with Pierce Brosnan as James Bond.

    But actresses Gloria Hendry and Grace Jones did not fare as well.

    In 1973, Hendry (1974 “Black Belt Jones”) starred as Rosie Carver in the Bond film “Live and Let Die.”

    For my money, that was a ground-breaking role. The role of Bond was played by the very smooth Roger Moore. Hendry made history as the very first romantically involved African American James Bond girl. Hendry starred as a double agent, working for the bad guy Dr. Kananga. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto) used voodoo to cover up his heroin business. Unfortunately, Carver is scared of voodoo and ultimately becomes a victim to it.

    The actress accredited with being called the Bond girl was Jane Seymour.

    Hendry was rarely listed as a Bond girl, but thanks to some savvy journalists her name occasionally pops up on a list.

    And then there is the most lovely and flamboyant Grace Jones, who starred as May Day, in the 1985 Bond thriller “A View to a Kill.” Grace was on the side of the ultimate bad guy, Max Zorin, played by Christopher Walken. She got hers, to say the least, in the end. But she, too, was not generally referred to as a Bond girl, although she had a major role. The actress accredited as being the Bond girl was Tanya Roberts.

    No doubt Naomie Harris’ star is rising, and “Skyfall” is making noise all over the world. Make sure you check it out. It’s so “Choice.”

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