FROM SRI LANKA WITH LOVE-Tribute to Sean Connery (1930-2020)
Posted on November 10th, 2020

Rohan Abeygunawardena,Nugegoda.

The 32 year old six footer who thrilled the youths as well as adults in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in early sixties is no more. His full name is Thomas Sean Connery died on 31 October2020, five days after his 90th birthday.

Sean became an overnight sensation when the English movie Dr. No was screened sometime in 1964 at the Savoy cinema in Wellawatte, Colombo. Young men and women who saw the movie were fascinated by the way James Bond (played by Sean) introduced himself to a pretty lady playing the Baccarat table seated opposite to him at the London club Le Cercle. After losing two rounds Sylvia Trench (played by Eunice Gayson) wants to continue while Bond remarks he admires her courage. Sylvia replies Í admire your luck ….Mr.’

Then came the sensational introduction, while lighting a cigarette with his Ronson Bond….. James Bond.

An article written by my friend and classmate Firoze Sameer, published in ‘The Sunday Times Plus’ on 25 May, 2008, under the title ‘He lit a flame that thrilled audiences through the ages’ which was a tribute to the 100th birth anniversary of Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, the British Secret Service agent, explained the scenario after screening ‘Dr No.’:

Quote We were then grade ten students at Royal College Colombo. Connery in the plush casino answering a beaut across the green baize, Bond, James Bond,” while lighting one of his Morland Specials with a gunmetal Ronson against that famous theme, made an indelible impact in a bizarre way on our sensitive psyches. We switched from reading Chase to Fleming’s Bond books. Although we did not know it then, Ian Fleming had died in the same year on August 12.

Bond’s meeting with beautiful ‘Honey Ryder’ (played by Úrsula Andress’) who rose out of sea at the Crab Island beach off the coast of Jamaica in an ivory hued bikini singing the popular number ‘Underneath the mango tree‘ was another scene from the movie which will be remembered for ever. When James Bond repeated the song astonished Ryder pulled out her diving knife that she was sporting on her hip, challenging the stranger.

Apparently that ivory-coloured two piece is to go under the hammer in Los Angeles on 12th November, where the set is estimated to sell for up to $500,000 according to the auctioneer’s estimate.

James Bond who had a licence to kill, moving from one hotel to another, flirting with beautiful dames, driving flashy cars captured the youthful imagination of many a Sri Lankan youth. They imitated the lighting of cigarettes, style of talking, walking, smoking, eating, drinking and many actions of Double-O-Seven.

Sean Connery was born in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland on 25th August 1930. His mom, Euphemia “Effie” McBain McLean, was a cleaning woman and dad Joseph Connery, was a factory worker and lorry driver. His paternal great-grandparents emigrated to Scotland from Ireland in the mid-19th century. The others in his family were of Scottish origin. He joined the Royal Navy in 1946 at the age of 16. He was trained at the naval gunnery school and in an anti-aircraft crew. He was then assigned as an Able Seaman on HMS Formidable. Sean was discharged from the navy at the age of 19 on medical grounds due to a duodenal ulcer, a condition that affected most of the males in previous generations of his family (Wikipedia).

As a youth Sean had many different jobs such as a milkman, lorry driver, a laborer, artist’s model for the Edinburgh College of Art, coffin polisher. Then he ventured in to body building for a short time and while at a competition held in London in 1953, he had the opportunity to face an audition for the production of the South Pacific musical. He was selected for a minor part as one of the Seabees chorus boys. Due to popular demand the play was staged several times in Edinburgh and by then Sean was given the important role of Lieutenant Buzz Adams at a fee of £14–10s a week. In a real life drama around this time, the Valdor gang, one of the most violent in the city targeted him and tried to grab his jacket at a billiard hall in Edinburgh. Later he launched an attack singlehandedly against the gang members, grabbing one by the throat and another by his biceps and cracked their heads together. From then on, he was treated with great respect by the gang and gained a reputation as a “hard man.

Sean once said he had a choice between becoming a professional footballer or an actor at the age of 23. Even though he showed much promise in the sport, his choice of acting he said, was one of his more intelligent moves.

For some time he played a blend of small stage and minor television roles. Fortunately he got the chance of acting as the aging boxer Mountain McClintock in Requiem for a Heavyweight” on live television for the BBC from March 1957. A reviewer for The Times of London wrote, he had shambling and inarticulate charm.” Soon after, Sean Connery received movie offers.

He was selected for minor roles in a string of movies, including Action of the Tiger” (1957), a thriller starring Van Johnson and Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure” (1959), in which he played a villain out to destroy a village. He also played as a private in Daryll F Zanuk’s all-star D-Day saga The Longest Day” (1962) and a man enchanted into falling in love in Disney’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People” (1959).

Sean’s big breakthrough came when he was selected for the role of British secret agent James Bond in Dr No. He owed a lot to Dana Broccoli, wife of producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, who told her husband that Sean was the right man for the job. Director Terence Young took him under his wing, accompanied him to dinner, showed him how to walk, how to talk, even how to eat and polished him. The tutoring was successful and Dana Broccoli proved correct when Sean Connery received thousands of fan letters a week after Dr No opening, and became a major sex symbol in film.

When The Longest Day” was first screened in Colombo Sean’s name did not appear in billboard or newspaper advertisements, as he appeared only for few second carrying an injured soldier in a stretcher, but when the movie was screened a second time his name appeared along with John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Richard Burton. Such was the impact made by Sean’s James Bond role in Dr No.

As a result of the popularity of Dr No and From Russia With Love (the second Bond film to be screened in Colombo) a Sinhala spy movie Sorungeth Soru (සොරුන්ගෙත් සොරු) was produced starring Gamini Fonseka as secret agent Jamis Banda directed by Mike Wilson, the Englishman who produced and directed the first Sinhala colour movie Ranmuthu Duva.” Other actors included Jeveranee Kurukulasuriya, Robin Fernando, Bandu Munasinghe, Joe Abeywicrama, Piyadasa Gunasekara and Liz Wilson (Mike’s wife). The black and white movie won the best film award and best actor award (Gamini) at the 5th Sarasaviya Awards in 1968.

Next Bond movies which followed, screened in Colombo were From Russia With Love’’ at the Savoy Cinema in 1965 followed by Gold finger” in 1966, Thunderball” in 1967, You Live Only Twice” in 1968, Diamonds are Forever’’ in 1973. Connery acted in all these movies as the dynamic MI6 agent James Bond attached to the Double-0 section with number Seven. Bond movies which followed after his departure, starring with other actors including Roger Moore as the agent 007 were popular among the Sri Lankan fans, but many who saw Dr No, and especially From Russia, With Love which was the favourite of Connery and author Ian Fleming, in their youth consider Sean Connery as the greatest James Bond.  

Rohan Abeygunawardena,


One Response to “FROM SRI LANKA WITH LOVE-Tribute to Sean Connery (1930-2020)”

  1. Nimal Says:

    Never forget the film Dr No,saw that film in Kandy.

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