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This post will eventually contain a key plot spoiler, some distance down the page from here, so if you want to see this 1969 film with virgin eyes, stop reading. But do come back after you’ve seen it. The second “spoiler” is no spoiler at all, no surprise to anyone: Sean Connery is not James Bond in it, and the Bond of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, George Lazenby, is most famous for never having played the role again. That set of facts and how they came about is the main subject of this post, although we will also cover the merits and flaws of the film itself, which some Bond snobs consider one of the best, if not the best, of the entire series. But I can’t tell you why yet, not here at the top of the post, because it will involve the spoiler. You have been warned.
By the time Thunderball (1965) wrapped, Sean Connery was tired of being Bond. Actually, that’s English-style polite understatement that the blunt, Scottish-born Connery would have impatiently penciled out in favor of “thoroughly sick of it”. He felt his character was becoming overshadowed by ingenious gadgets, Ken Adam’s enormous sets, one-liner quips and a growing fantasy element. Connery started the series in 1962 as a relatively unknown actor, quickly became a leading international star, and made an astonishing amount of money. Being a practical Scot, adding to that pile was the only reason he reluctantly stayed aboard for You Only Live Twice (1967). Then he was gone, he swore, for good. So EON Productions, producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli, conducted an ostentatiously well publicized search for the next Bond. Each new actor in the role of James Bond is a multi, multi-million-dollar box office gamble, and from that standpoint this very first replacement would be by far the most ill-fated.