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November 19, 2012

From Connery to Craig, 007 style mirrored the times

The 007 movie franchise has turned 50 with the release of "Skyfall," one of the best in the series that's already breaking box-office records overseas.

The previous 22 Bond films have grossed around $5 billion, a sum even Ernst Stavro Blofeld wouldn't dismiss.

Daniel Craig, in his third outing, is as craggy as ever but he's also more three-dimensional, thanks to a Scottish-orphan backstory and a Freudian flourish involving Judi Dench's matriarchal M.

Sean Connery, for me and just everybody else, remains the best of the babe-magnet Bonds. He had style to burn. The only time Craig dresses up is when he has to infiltrate bad-boy billionaire soirees. (There's a lot of Bourne in this Bond).

Connery liked to swank it up because his James had a snobby sense of entitlement and he knew how good he looked in a tux.

Beginning in 1962 with "Dr. No" followed by "From Russia With Love," "Goldfinger," "You Only Live Twice" and "Thunderball" — before he got a bit long in the tooth — Connery had just the right curdling cruel mix of suavity and menace. Bond, he never let us forget, is licensed to kill.

Connery grew in stature as an actor outside of the series but he was never so brazenly priapic as he is in these films. Who else, grappling with crime-ring queen Pussy Galore in "Goldfinger" could deliver a line like "You're a woman of many parts, Pussy" with a (sort of) straight face?

Still, the series was never dependent on Connery for its success. After Connery and before Craig, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan all had a go at it. The formula, always loopier than the Ian Fleming novels, has continually adjusted to the zeitgeist.

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