Continuing with the 60th anniversary celebrations of ‘Diamonds are Forever’, we bring you the latest offering to the Bond temple with Gerry Wadsworth‘s homage to the great novel.
Iconic Ian Lancaster Fleming at his best, Diamonds are Forever is one of those stories that suck you into the pages of the book and don’t let you go until Bond is either reveling in a secluded location with his Bond Girl du Jour, or wrapping up the assignment with yet another license to kill notch in his 007 belt. In this case, he gets both – Tiffany Case and “Bofor’ing” ABC’s helicopter out of the French Guinea desert air, thus closing down the pipeline and putting an end to the global smuggling operation.
With a story as iconic as Diamonds are Forever, comes the added responsibility of the artist to provide a visual interpretation that does the story justice; give the viewer a new perspective on characters, events and subplots; or fill in the lacunae of the readers’ imagination – all inspired by the text and the author’s skill at creative myth-making.
Diamonds are Forever is a difficult task-master to visually recreate. The story leaps and bounds across the globe, from the deserts of Africa, to the posh purveyors of Luxe goods in London and New York, from the monied Aristocracy and the purebreds of the racing set at Saratoga, to the mob-run casinos of Las Vegas and back again. It’s a dizzying flight of imagination, colored by Fleming’s prose and acerbic wit.
I wrote earlier for ALR about Fleming’s line by Bond vis-a-vis the Mob: “There’s nothing so extraordinary about American gangsters. They’re not Americans. Mostly a lot of Italian bums with monogrammed shirts who spend the day eating spaghetti and meat balls and squirting scent over themselves.”
Or, Bond reading about Saratoga through the eyes of Post sport’s columnist, Jimmy Cannon. “The Saratoga…of the twentieth century looked out at him from that piece of newsprint and bared its teeth in a sneer.” There were the usual “hicks and hoodlums” running the show, and the article ends with “It was a stinking town…but all gambling towns are.”
The book has so many opportunities for Fleming to exercise his wit and writing skills to capture our imagination, that finding a line or scene to encompass the collective attributes of the story is one of the hardest I have encountered to date.
Despite the “globe-trotting” aspects of Diamonds are Forever, and the constant flux of characters and cast, I found myself focusing upon just one member of the tale: Tiffany Case.
Moviegoers will, of course, see Jill St. John in their mind’s eye. I personally think she was miscast, but perhaps it’s an ”age-thing” and in 1971 when the movie was made, she was an in-demand hot item. But pandering to the box office of the time, the movie lass had too much of a wrong hairdo and, perhaps, in a nod to “wimmin’s lib” – an overly aggressive attitude. The Tiffany Case of the book had neither the 69-70’s coif nor the liberal vibe, and her reticence and lack of confidence made her a vulnerable victim to Bond’s suave sophistication and assurance. What she did provide to the story line, however, was a constant character, from beginning to end, and her introduction to Bond (and the reader) was a goldmine of visuals that gave me inspiration for the painting.
In her intro chapter, Feuilles Mortes, Tiffany greets Bond with her back turned to him, sitting half naked astride a chair, and staring into a mirror. “The black string of her brassiére across the naked back, the tight black lace pants and the splay of the legs whipped at Bond’s senses.”
I’ll bet they did!
There was a record playing in the room – “Echoes of Paris” by George Feyer, with rhythm accompaniment – a Vox 500 recording. Bond takes it all in…they discuss how he will smuggle diamonds into the US – $100,000 worth. How his payment will be made for his efforts. The crew of mobsters that he will be dealing and working with. And some cautionary admonitions about the retribution he might face if he tries any “funny business” on his own. In typical Bond fashion, he hits her up and asks her out to dinner – once they successfully get to New York City.
Tiffany dresses to go out, wearing a “heavy gold chain bracelet” – presumably from Tiffany’s of New York. She reveals how she was named after the store, and after settling on the details of their caper, leaves to make contact with her mob controllers.
Devotees of the books will recognize the album by George Feyer in the painting. I found it in perfect condition, and another by the same pianist, on Ebay…truly serendipitous to say the least! Bond’s golf balls – Dunlop 65’s – were there as well in profusion. Most incredibly, a 6” long Pandinus Imperator scorpion – that features in Chapter One, The Pipeline Opens – was available online: dried out and mounted in an insect display case. I was able to rehydrate it, and by using pins, manipulate the insect into an attack position – all by following an instructional YouTube video on the very subject…go figure!
Fleming mentions beds of “forced gladioli” – twice – in his Saratoga chapters, so a neighbors garden provided the flowers for the setting. Tiffany boxes were found by querying neighbors in our local social network. The blade of my Fairbairn-Sykes commando knife gave me the visual for the mobsters throwing blade that was used to prise the smuggled diamonds out of Bond’s Dunlop 65 golf balls. The chapter “Acme Mud and Sulphur” describes the mauve paper ticket Bond received for his $1.50 treatment in the baths…so a little artistic license was required there. A few cigarettes were tossed into the flower beds, and fake diamonds rounded out the imagery. Then it was on to the composition, and finally the painting.
Lest I forget, a fly – in a nod to the master Bond book illustrator, Richard Chopping – perches upon a Dunlop 65 golf ball…
Thank you Richard!
The Hidden Gems in ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ by Gerry Wadsworth