The making of the first Bond film – ‘Dr No’ (1962)


In 1961 author Ian Fleming sold a six-month option to all his James Bond novels and short stories (those already penned and future ones), with the exception of Casino Royale, which he had previously sold, to entrepreneur Harry Saltzman. Harry formed Eon Productions with Albert R. ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, and they started looking around for a director and an actor to play Bond.

Ian Fleming, Harry Saltzman &

Cubby Broccoli

Director Terence Young

Terence Young was the fifth director approached when he took on the job of directing the first film Dr No. Irish actor Patrick McGoohan was the first option to play Bond, but he didn’t want it on moral grounds. The man’s piety was becoming almost legendary. Richard Johnson did want the role, but for some reason Eon did not want him. Connery had been on their short list from the beginning. Once he took the role Young introduced him to London’s high life in an endeavour to transform him into a dapper, cool, man of the world. For publicity purposes the company ran a bogus competition to find the perfect man to play Bond. A 28 year-old model named Peter Anthony won, but he was never going to play him because he was not an actor.

Patrick McGoohan said no

Richard Johnson

Model Peter Anthony

Monty Norman wrote the ‘James Bond Theme’ and, contrary to public opinion, the brilliant John Barry only arranged it. Shot in Jamaica and Pinewood Studios, London, the picture was not well-received by Fleming who described it as, ‘Dreadful. Simply dreadful’. He did like Connery’s portrayal of his hero, however, even though he was ‘Scottish and working class’ not ‘English and upper class’. Interestingly, there was a hitch when the day came to create the poster for the film. Someone forgot to bring the Walther PPK to the photo-shoot, so the iconic picture of Bond posing with the gun across his chest actually features the photographer’s old starting pistol substituting for the Walther.

Christopher Lee

Joseph Wiseman as Dr No

Selecting an actor to play the title villain was also not a simple process. Fleming wanted his cousin Christopher Lee, but when he declined, the writer contacted Noel Coward and asked him. Coward replied by telegram – ‘Dr No? No! No! No!’ He was not keen about having to wear metal hands for one thing. Max von Sydow also declined, having accepted the role of Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) and choosing to prepare for that. The wonderfully malevolent Joseph Wiseman ended up being an inspired choice,

Ursula as Honey Ryder

The first ‘Bond Girl’ was a virtual newcomer to movies. Ursula Andress knew so little English that all her dialogue was dubbed by voiceover artist Nikki Van der Zyl, the same woman who would later dub her in She (1965), The Blue Max (1966) and Casino Royale (1967).  In all honesty, the hot-blooded men of the world could not have cared if Ursula (as Honey Ryder) had been dubbed by Minnie Mouse, for when she waded out of the ocean in that white bikini she waded into movie history. And all for a paltry $6,000. All things even out in time, however. In 2001, she sold the white bikini she wore at Christie’s Auctions in London for 41 thousand pounds sterling! Originally, Julie Christie was set to play Honeychile Ryder, but Broccoli allegedly replaced her with Ursula because he considered her breasts were not large enough. Under the same criteria voluptuous Anita Ekberg was a serious contender for a while.

Eunice as Sylvia Trench

‘Bond, James Bond’.

Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny

Eunice Gayson played Sylvia Trench in Dr No and also From Russia with Love. Sylvia has achieved a kind of immortality for being the very first Bond girl, the one he meets at the casino card table and introduces himself, ‘Bond. James Bond’. Oddly enough, she was originally supposed to play Miss Moneypenny until she and Canadian actress Lois Maxwell swapped roles. Lois was not happy about wearing just a man’s shirt in the ‘golfing scene’ in Bond’s suite. The result, of course, was that she continued to play Moneypenny for decades, long after Eunice had dropped out of the franchise.

The scene that Lois did not wish to play

Marguerite LeWars as the photographer

The very first scene to be shot in a James Bond film took place in Jamaica at the Kingston airport. It is the scene where Bond arrives and places his hat over his face as a young woman attempts to take his photograph. Marguerite LeWars was the reigning Miss Jamaica when Terence Young spotted her working behind the ticket counter at the airport and asked her if she would like a part in his movie. She played the photographer, although she was first offered the role of Miss Taro. She politely declined it because of the implied sexual content. Her husband, Kenneth Gordon, became President of the West Indies Cricket Board in 2006.

Zena Marshall as Miss Taro

The young Kenyan-born actress Zena Marshall portrayed Miss Taro, the Eurasian double-agent who is seduced by Bond and then spits in his face when he has her arrested. Zena struggled with the part because she was most uncomfortable about spitting in another person’s face. She went on to rack up 57 screen credits before cancer claimed her in 2009 at the age of 84. The same terrible disease would take the lovely Lois Maxwell too. She passed away in this writer’s home town of Fremantle in Western Australia in 2007 when she was 80. Evidently, she had resided here since taking ill while visiting her son in Perth on a holiday in 2001.

Anthony Dawson as Prodessor Dent

Dawson and Grace Kelly in Dial ‘M’ for Murder

Character actor Anthony Dawson played Professor Dent, the villain who deposits the spider in 007’s bed. In his unpublished memoirs he claimed to have driven Grace Kelly back to her residence at the Chateau Marmont, on Sunset Strip after a dinner party at Perino’s Restaurant in Los Angeles in 1954, and made love to her. Their tryst ended, he said, when Ray Milland arrived at the apartment. He, too, was romantically involved with Grace. All three actors were currently making Dial ‘M’ for Murder with Alfred Hitchcock.


5 October 1962 – an iconic date in entertainment history

Dr No had its World Premiere at the London Pavilion, Piccadilly Circus, on October 5th, 1962. On that same day the Beatles released their very first single for the Parlaphone label – ‘Love Me Do’/ ‘P.S. I Love You’. Amazingly, probably the two most profitable entertainment phenomenon of the 20th century began life at the exact same time! The premiere was attended by Connery, writer Ian Fleming, and Zena Marshall.


  1. Again, hello, Alan:

    If you enter this string “Andress Dr. No $10,000” in Google, you’ll find links to multiple sites that will claim that UA’s salary for her work in “Dr. No” in 1962 was $10,000. I’ve encountered the figure $6,000 only recently on the IMDb website (which is a revision of an earlier statement on the same site), and on your site.

    At the top of page 102 in the unauthorized, French-language biography I referenced in another comment the other day, the $10,000 figure is cited as one of the two main inducements that moved UA to take on the assignment: “… et le cachet de 10 000 dollars pour six semaines de tournage.”

    Six weeks of shooting: $10,000 for a complete unknown who had to be dubbed. Annualized, that comes out to a figure above $80,000 per year in 1962 dollars. Fifty-five years ago, $10,000 was the approximate equivalent of just over $80,000 in 2017’s American dollars (and the ANNUALIZED $80,000, rounded off for convenience, equals about $643,000 in 2017’s American dollars).

    I could live with that kind of “paltry.”

    On the subject of hearing the authentic UA and getting a reading on her persona, there is one film only that does this. It’s John Derek’s project in the Philippines in 1964, “Once Before I Die,” which had other working titles (one being “No Toys for Christmas”). This movie was made as a celebration of UA’s beauty and as an experimental foray into directing by Derek. The camera stays on UA longer than in any other of her movies. She is undubbed. We hear a fragment of her speaking in her native Swiss-German; we see her style of humor in a joke or two she plays on other characters; and she is sometimes uncooperative with the guidance lovingly bestowed on her by the character, a military officer, played by John Derek. In this, Derek and UA are playing out for the camera the nature of their actual relationship, only WITHOUT Derek’s customary ill-tempered, exasperated, high-decibel ranting. (There’s an interesting backstory to this in Derek’s difficulties in getting his wife to do another take when necessary. He had to ease her into it very delicately because she wasn’t confident in her ability to replicate in a second take what she’d done in a first take.) But in this movie, you see the real UA. If one comes to the movie with a sense of her persona, it’s obvious upon seeing the performance; and she herself said as much in the 1965 interview accessed via a link I provided elsewhere.

    There’s another movie from 15 years later that captures another side of her personality. UA is effective at projecting aloofness, cruelty, and a secure, almost contemptuous sense of her sexual magnetism, her power to conquer. An author who once saw her part a crowd of casual afternoon strollers on a street in Rome said it was one of the more-striking things he’d ever seen. Her imperiousness as she advanced and her determination to keep people at a distance were compelling enough to leave a lasting impression and be cited in a book about how people draw others in or, conversely, keep them at bay. To see THAT version of UA, “The Fifth Musketeer” of the late 1970s when she was in her early 40s will do nicely. She plays a scheming, ruthless French courtesan operating at the highest levels of the government, someone who will do whatever it takes to arrive at the place where she wants to go.

    Finally, the way she brutally dismantles through a slow disrobing a hapless, frantic young man 20 years younger than she is in “The Sensuous Nurse” has to be one of the most bizarre seductions, at once pitiless AND unilaterally accommodating, one could ever see. It’s impossible to detect any distance between the real UA from the effect she was having on the young Italian actor in the scene. In her steady gaze at the impact she was having, you could see that she knew precisely what she was doing to the actor whose character she was “taking apart.” We know that we’re seeing the REAL UA at that point for the simple reason that she was too unskilled as an actress to be anything other than what she truly was from time to time in front of a camera. She presented a paradox. She was at her best in front of a camera when she forgot that it was running or was completely unaware that it had been turned on. Once the light was on, she stiffened slightly. Her delivery could become stilted. The problem was pronounced in her very first screen test in 1954 in London. It receded as time went on and she gained experience. But I’m persuaded that she never overcame it completely. The craft of acting simply wasn’t her thing, and getting a presentable performance out of her took some over-compensation on a director’s part. With that said, there’s something else I’m persuaded of — I may be one of the few guys who ever saw UA who cared to overthink the subject of her acting skills.

    • My use of the word ‘paltry’ to describe her compensation for ‘Dr No’ stemmed from being regularly exposed to the quite astronomical fees paid to stars and executives of the industry since the early ‘silents’ days, and comparing their remunerations to hers. I have watched the seduction scene in ‘The Sensuous Nurse’and did not find it either titillating or particularly well done, although I do recall thinking of her as more predatory than anything else. In truth, however, like most hot-blooded males who are enamored by beautiful women, I must admit I have never thought much about her ability as an actress either. Her beauty has always sufficed for me.

      • I’m grateful for your responsiveness. It’s broadened the discovery of this site into a special outlet for a few days.

        I’ve found other subjects you explore here very interesting. But I’m not equipped to offer more than I have, and there isn’t really anything more related to UA that I feel a need to say.

        Her story is where I’ve concentrated a lot of time in the last few years, trying to connect pieces of data and explain features in the life of a famous person who captured my imagination so many years ago. I suppose also that, in a way, I’ve been deconstructing my Id by revisiting my teens.

        I’ve tried also to understand bigger questions, like how the beautiful and idolized can be shaped, even warped, by how others react to them and use them. How someone on a pedestal can also be a slave to a constantly churning search for stability that’s always just out of reach. How someone can live a life in which certain rules and conventions rooted in simple decency toward and sympathy for others can be dismissed so readily, and then the dismissal itself rationalized by a self-justifying catchphrase or two.

        What do the passing years teach the hardheaded, the self-absorbed, the self-seeking?

        There are elements of loss, restless searching, and heightened acquisitiveness, possessiveness, and jealousy wrapped up in the head of that adventurous Swiss-German woman, once described by a French reporter as “La plus belle femme du monde.”

        I don’t expect she’ll be around much longer. She’ll be 81 in another week or so, and her health is not good. I believe she’s no longer traveling or making public appearances.

        The home she held onto for years in Beverly Hills, California, while spending most of her time in Italy, has been on the market for seven months. In the last few weeks, its price has been dropped to a mere $2.28 million “to move it,” as they say. If you’d like to see it, click on this link.

        With apologies to “shrinks” everywhere, the credentialed and those who offer their insights for free from their armchairs, I’ve come to attach more and more explanatory weight to the woman’s experience of losing a father at a young age, a father who disappeared without a trace in the chaos of Germany as World War II was nearing its end. But who knows? Maybe that’s entirely too facile.

        If you’ve never read “Cast of Characters,” a cathartic memoir written by Sean Catherine Derek, the daughter of John Derek, and published in 1982. I’m sure it would hold your attention. There’s no way around it. It’s a horror-and-survival story.

        Again, thanks for being a welcoming, patient, and attentive host.

    • That makes sense to me, Paul. I have not seen ‘The Blue Max’ for a couple of years, but I distinctly recall Ursula speaking in precisely the same voice as in ‘Dr No’. Thanks for clearing that up for me.

  2. Hello, Alan (if I may be so bold):

    Regarding Nikki Van der Zyl’s dubbing of UA… I wish it had never occurred. I think it was unnecessary on the ground of an impenetrable accent. I think the stronger argument for the dubbing was that it resulted in somewhat more-convincing line readings in English. There’s no denying the German-born Ms. Van der Zyl’s remarkable talent. She captured a certain quality in UA’s voice — a very slight hoarseness, the beginnings of what has become a pronounced croak as the years have gone by. And she frequently rolled an “r”, just as UA would have done.

    • I thought Nikki Van der Zyl’s dubbing was perfect for Ursula. Indeed, I was very surprised when I first learned of it. The voice so ‘fitted’ Ursula’s persona that I naturally assumed she was speaking her own lines. It sounded like the same voice in ‘The Blue Max’, but I cannot discover whether that was Ursula’s own or Nikki’s again.

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