Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Thunderball (1965) | Women

For the most part, the women of Thunderball are served much better than those from Goldfinger. There's not much to the first one we meet though. In fact, the movie never reveals her name. According to IMDB, it's Madame LaPorte, a French spy played by French-Japanese actress Mitsouko. We get no sense of who she is or what she's like; she's just there for Bond to explain things to so the audience isn't lost.

Pat Fearing, Bond's physical therapist at Shrublands, gets more to do, though he doesn't treat her very well. When he's injured by a piece of equipment on her watch (though not due to any fault of hers), he blackmails her into having sex with him. It's a creepy move on his part, but besides giving into that she seems more or less like the kind of woman who can take care of herself. She's strong-willed, but only up to a point, which I imagine Bond finds very attractive.

I'm going to talk more about Fiona Volpe tomorrow when we cover villains, but she deserves a couple of thoughts here too. Like Pat, Fiona is also strong-willed, but she takes it much further and that's what I like about her. She's probably the smartest bad guy in the movie and is Bond's biggest rival in most ways.

The literary Domino is one of my favorite women in the novels and the movie version does a nice job of capturing her. Mostly. Claudine Auger has a hard time balancing the confidence and vulnerability of the book's version, so she seems awesomely unaffected by Bond one minute and then the next she's moaning about the way he holds her.

One of the things I'm tracking in these movies is when the female lead turns totally stupid, because it happens a lot in the series. But I'm learning that that's a later development. It doesn't happen with Honey, Tatiana, or even Pussy, and it doesn't happen with Domino either. Once she knows who the good guys and bad guys are, Domino is very brave and agrees to help Bond even though she's in way over her head. A stronger actress would have made her a better character, but I very much like the way she's written.

My favorite woman in Thunderball though is Paula Caplan. She's Bond's assistant in Nassau and I'll get to why I like her in a second. But first, it's worth noting that she's played by Jamaican actress Martine Beswick, who also appeared in two other Bond films. She was one of the Romani women in the death match during From Russia With Love, but she was also one of the silhouette dancers in the opening credits of Dr. No. Terrance Young, who directed all three movies, apparently liked her a lot. She'd go on to appear in various Hammer films like One Million Years BC, Prehistoric Women, and Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde.

What makes the character so cool though is that she's a beautiful woman, but there's absolutely no hint of sexual anything between her and Bond. No flirting, no nothing. It's all completely professional and knowing Bond, I'm giving her the credit for that. And as much as I hate to see her go, I also love the way she dies. Not by being roughed up by Largo's men (though she is), but by her own choice via cyanide capsule. It's a tragic death, but it's an heroic one too. Absolutely love her.

My Favorite Bond Women

1. Paula Caplan (Thunderball)
2. Tatiana Romanova (From Russia With Love)
3. Fiona Volpe (Thunderball)
4. Domino Derval (Thunderball)
5. Honey Rider (Dr. No)
6. Sylvia Trench (Dr. No and From Russia With Love)
7. Pussy Galore (Goldfinger)
8. Tilly Masterson (Goldfinger)
9. Jill Masterson (Goldfinger)
10. The Photographer (Dr. No)

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