Sunday, June 12, 2011

Don't Make a Scene: On Her Majesty's Secret Service

The Story: Here's something ya don't see everyday, Chauncey (What's that, Edgar?*) A marriage proposal from James Bond.

I mean, a real marriage proposal.

And, in this month of June, we're doing this scene from On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  June is traditionally the month of Dads and grads.  Well, we've done those, but we've never done something for another tradition of June-weddings.

Now, Bond had gotten married before in the long-running series: a sham Japanese wedding to a pearl-diver/ninja warrior—aren't they all?—(Mie Hama) working for the Japanese Secret Service in the previous entry, You Only Live Twice.  But this one is the real thing.

It's been a complicated courtship: Bond (George Lazenby, this time, the only time) rescues The Countess Teresa (née "Tracy" Draco) DiVicenzo (Diana Rigg) from a suicidal walk into the sea; rescues her again at the gaming tables when she loses and he gallantly assumes her debt; as a quid pro quo they sleep together (after she draws a gun on him and he man-handles it away) and she disappears; Bond gets car-napped by her father (Gabriele Ferzetti), the head of a European crime syndicate, and the two a business arrangement—Bond will woo the the fragile Tracy and Draco will give Bond vital information as to the whereabouts of his target gone to ground: the head of S.P.E.C.T.R.E.,** Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas, here), who's been in charge of nearly every conspiracy Bond has thwarted since the series began."romantic."

It's surprising that it all goes so well.  Tracy's damaged goods, a wild-child with seriously defiant authority issues, and Bond's "got a bachelor's taste for freedom."  Then, Bond goes hunting for Blofeld using Draco's information, where the magalomaniac has set himself up as an "allergist," treating the eating disorders of several women couped up in his mountain-top laboratory (hey, it beats a volcano!) And, being Ian Fleming's spy with sexual ADD, Bond blows his cover—as a gay herald of the College of Arms—by seducing as many of the women as he can—the most in any of the films.  He might want to bone up on that part of the Service handbook that explains what "undercover work" means.

*sigh* Oh, James...(you whore...)

Lucky in love, unlucky at spy-missions.  He's forced to flee, but can't shake the goons pursuing him...until the the least likely person shows up—Tracy, who bundles him up, gets him to her car, and drives like a maniac, outrunning several cars of bad-guys.

It becomes obvious, even to the commitment-proof Bond that they were made for each other.

In this scene, Lazenby, no great-shakes as an actor (it was his first film, after all), nicely underplays the proposal: he mumbles, he's tired—he has just skied for his life down a mountain...on one ski (show-off!).  But it's Rigg—former Avenger—who does the heavy lifting of this scene.  She was never at her best in love scenes, but she plays this one for sly wit—trying to seduce an exhausted 007, and rolling her eyes when he gets all-abstinence with her.  When he "pops the  question," she hesitates and can't believe it (given his track-record, would you?), but things calm down and the best thing about the Bond-Tracy relationship, their playful-witty banter,*** comes to the fore.  She can match him quip for clever quip (thanks to Simon Raven's tinkering with the script).  It brings out the best in both actors, and you start to want these crazy kids to make a success of it. 

Every time a new actor takes on the mantle of Bond, it seems that the production team goes out of its way to make it that much better a film, and On Her Majesty's Secret Service is no exception.  Certainly the casting of Rigg, who is invaluable to the film, proves the point.  But OHMSS also shows that they were taking risks with their seemingly invulnerable hero—the element that shows up rarely that separates the superior Bond films from the rest of the pack—she saves him.  And in ways beyond the firing of a bullet or a spear.  She makes England's implacable blunt instrument...human. 

The Set-Up:  With the cares of the world (temporarily) behind them (including all sorts of cruel men and women pursuing with nasty ways to kill them), Bond and Tracy have found shelter from a white-out snow-storm (with the partially scattered hail of bullets) in a humble horse-barn, somewhere in the Swiss Alps.  She's just shown up like an Angel of Mercy and rescued him, and after a furious chase, things have gotten blissfully quiet.  Time to rest, reflect, and as they've survived the day...ponder the future.  With all the time in the world.


[wind howling]

[doors creaking]

COUNTESS TRACY DIVICENZO: What really went on up there, James?
JAMES BOND: Mm-mm. Her Majesty´s Secret Service is still my job.

TRACY: But there´s nothing you can do about your job at the moment, is there?

BOND: [grunts tiredly]

TRACY: Then why are you thinking about it now?

BOND: I´m not.

BOND: I´m thinking about us.

BOND: Tracy, an agent shouldn´t be concerned with anything but himself.

TRACY: I understand.

TRACY: We´ll just have to go on the way we are.

BOND: No. I´ll have to find something else to do.

TRACY: Are you sure, James?

BOND: I love you.

BOND: I know I'll never find another girl like you.

BOND: Will you marry me?

TRACY: D´you mean it?

BOND: I mean it.

BOND: Mr. and Mrs. James Bond.
TRACY: ...Of Acacia Avenue, Tunbridge Wells.

BOND: Mm. How about Belgrave Square?
TRACY: Or the Via Veneto, Rome?
BOND: Paris. Convenient for Le Touquet.

TRACY: Monaco. Handy for the Rainiers.

BOND: I wonder how much they´re asking for this place?

[Tracy laughs]

BOND: The proper time for this...

BOND: our wedding night.

BOND: And that´s my New Year´s resolution.

TRACY: Whatever you say, darling.

BOND: And that is yours.

BOND: Good night, Tracy.

TRACY: Good night, James.

[Bond watches Tracy sleeping on the hay-bed, then reaches for a nearby crowbar]

[He kicks out the hay-bed supports sending Tracy tumbling into his arms]


BOND: It´s not New Year yet!

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Words by Richard Maibaum and Simon Raven

Pictures by Michael Reed and Peter Hunt

On Her Majesty's Secret Service is available on M-G-M Home Video.

* That's a line used often in the "Rocky" and "Bullwinkle" shows, also icons of the "Cold" War.

** The Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion—not exactly the most subtle of criminal organization names.

*** Not until I put this together did I realize the full humor in the "picking a neighborhood" exchange here—partially it's my ignorance of the areas mentioned (except for Monaco) and Lazenby's lack of reaction to the Monaco reference.  Tunbridge Wells is a modest middle-class area (and Acacia Avenue the common equivalent of Elm Street in America), then the real estate values escalate to the diplomatic corps, European wonder Bond starts to consider a dilapidated barn.  Marrying a Countess can get spendy.


Frank Abe said...

Good one James.

John Gilpatrick said...

Definitely in my top 5 Bond movies. The proposal scene is perfection.