Countdown to ‘Skyfall’: Day 006 – ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’

One of the more underrated and under appreciated films in the series, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ featured a first in Bond history: a brand new actor playing 007.

Australian model George Lazenby was selected after being seen by producers in a candy bar advertisement. Lazenby was also chosen for his physical presence, as ‘OHMSS’ featured a more aggressive characterization of James Bond.

Since Lazenby was new to the acting profession, the producers set out to fill the rest of the cast with experienced and recognizable actors. The role of Blofeld was filled by Telly Savalas and Diana Rigg was cast as Tracy di Vicenzo, the woman Bond falls in love with an eventually marries.

Rigg was known to audiences as Emma Peel from the popular TV show, ‘The Avengers’. Honor Blackman, the actress who portrayed Pussy Galore in ‘Goldfinger’, was hired for her work on the same show, as well.

The film’s plot had 007 continuing his search for SPECTRE’s head man, Blofeld. It’s eventually revealed that Blofeld is running an allergy clinic in the Swiss Alps. The clinic is a front for Blofeld’s next ingenious plan: threatening to sterilize the world’s animal and plant population, while demanding amnesty for all the criminal acts he committed in previous Bond films.

With the switch in actors, ‘OHMSS’ failed to reach the levels of success seen in the Sean Connery Bond films. Critics at the time of the movie’s 1969 release overwhelmingly discounted the film and/or Lazenby’s performance. However, as time went on, opinion of the movie began to improve. In fact, critic James Berardinelli calls in the best in the series.

Still, critics continue to be divided on Lazenby’s turn as 007. Leonard Maltin felt that ‘OHMSS’ would have been the best Bond movie in the series, had Connery continued in the main role.

Lazenby was offered a seven-picture deal, but on the advice of his agent, he turned it down and made only the one film. Connery retook the role for ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, and again stepped aside for Roger Moore to take over in 1973.

‘OHMSS’ took Bond to more serious and intense level. Action and excitement was still at the front and center, but the love story aspect of the film was brand new to the series.

While contemporary audiences didn’t seem to appreciate the movie at the time of its release, the film’s reputation has greatly improved as the years went by.

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