It Seems Like Yesterday

I was photographing the Beatles in Miami with Cassius Clay (who soon changed his name to Mohammed Ali after his world championship heavyweight title fight with Sonny Liston). Clay completely overwhelmed the Beatles, saying, “Who’s the most beautiful,” etc., and making them reply over and over, “You are.” The Beatles blamed me, but I didn’t mind, as the following day I was off to Jamaica to photograph the author of the hugely successful James Bond novels, Ian Fleming, at his home in Oracabessa, Jamaica.

By then Dr. No (1962) and From Russia with Love (1963) had been turned into films, both starring Sean Connery, and were raging box-office successes.

Fleming had worked for British Naval Intelligence during World War II; therefore, it seemed logical that he base the Bond character on his own experiences. It gave his books a fair amount of realism, while he added a huge helping of imagination for good measure.

I found my way to Fleming’s home by the sea, which he had named Goldeneye. When I arrived, he was typing away on his manual typewriter in a sparely furnished bedroom with three friendly mongrel dogs in close proximity.

Ian Fleming at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica, February 1964.

The elegant author greeted me warmly, gold cigarette holder clenched in his teeth. As we chatted away, Fleming told me he thought Scottish-born Sean Connery was too coarse to portray 007. Fleming had envisioned David Niven in the role. That made sense, since Fleming and Niven had similar demeanors—that of charmingly debonair British aristocrats. To me, the sophisticated, self-assured Fleming was James Bond—his nonchalant, throw-away elegance with golden cigarette holder in hand, belt casually looped over the buckle.

Actually, David Niven did star as an older, retired Sir James Bond in the 1967 spoof Casino Royale, with Peter Sellars as a bungling 007 and Orson Wells happily playing the villain.

Although Fleming was a good sport, it was hard for him to walk to the water’s edge for the photograph. The last thing he said to me as I left was, “Drop in anytime you pass this way again.” I’m sorry I didn’t have the chance. Six months later he was gone.