“Sheer magnetism, darling.”
Roger Moore was James Bond for a whole generation of young and old fans. The Bond Girls he starred alongside presented a change in focus, from eye candy to scientists, spies and circus owners. That’s not to say they aren’t also beautiful, though. Let’s take a look.
*Spoilers for all of Roger Moore’s Bond films*
Solitaire is a tarot card reader, and she’s always right, her psychic gifts attributed to her virginity. She works for Dr. Kananga until Bond cozies up to her and rescues her.
Alex: Solitaire is one of my least favorite Bond girls (as Live and Let Die is one of my least favorite Bond movies). She’s very dull, and I think a lot of that has to do with Jane Seymour’s performance. It’s lifeless, and Solitaire feels like a prop rather than a character.
Virginia: Live and Let Die was one of my favorite movies as a kid, but I’ve got to agree about Solitaire. When I re-watched the movie recently she struck me as utterly pointless. She’s really only there to once again reiterate that nobody is immune to James Bond. She’s totally passive in her card reading, her relationship to James and her partnership with Kananga. She really had no personality.
A: That’s it exactly; she exists to inform other characters, specifically Bond and Kananga. She shows Bond’s irresistible charm, like you said, and Kananga’s desire to control his surroundings, as well as his paranoia over losing that control. Beyond that, she’s there to be rescued by and have sex with Bond.
V: I think Solitaire represents a lot of negative stereotypes about Bond women. Better examples came before her and more would come after. I don’t hate Solitaire, but that’s just it. It’s difficult to care for her at all.
A: It’s funny, because it feels like she’s meant to represent a woman being in control of her own sexuality, deciding for herself when and with whom she will have sex, with Kananga being a symbol of patriarchal control, but it doesn’t quite hold water because she isn’t given enough autonomy as a character. You never feel her attraction to Bond beyond “Of course she wants him, he’s James Bond,” and this is a movie where that really needed to be established.
V: Another good point; there’s no real chemistry there. James likes Solitaire because she’s young and beautiful, and she likes him because everybody likes him. If there’s no chemistry between characters, there’s no relationship. And if there’s no relationship, why are they together? What’s the point of their partnership? Just so Solitaire can escape?
A: It seems so. The role is underwritten, but I think it’s also partly Jane Seymour’s performance. She always seems kind of wooden to me, and it stands out even more than usual in a Bond film, where everyone else is so full of life.
V: Honestly, Rosie is more lively and exuberant than Solitaire. Seymour says her lines as though she’s mindlessly reading a teleprompter and any longing glances towards James seem empty and forced.
A: I think Rosie is kind of an interesting character, small though her role is. She’s dopey and afraid of her own shadow, but that fits with Kananga’s method of making his underlings think he’s a supernatural presence.
V: I love when Bond confronts her with the choice of him or Kananga, but instead she runs away and is killed anyway. Solitaire, on paper, has a lot of potential to be an interesting and endearing character. But in the end I think Rosie is more entertaining and displays a wider range of emotions, all in her 20 minutes of screen time.
Mary Goodnight is an agent who has a past with Bond, though the details of this past are never revealed to us. She’s kidnapped by Scaramanga and, much like Tiffany from Diamonds are Forever, she blunders her way through the film.
V: Goodnight isn’t one of my favorites, and she doesn’t help Bond so much as she impedes him. But I do like her. I think she’s endearing for her clumsiness and earnestness in wanting to help. She isn’t very interesting, though.
A: I like Goodnight quite a bit. I really enjoy her relationship with Bond. They aren’t in love with each other or anything, they just share an attraction, but they could never quite get the timing right for an amorous rendezvous. That sort of ships passing in the night quality is different than anything that had come before, and it’s established well in the movie.
V: Yes, I always found it interesting that this is one girl Bond already knew. That sort of presumed relationship avoids a lot of exposition and allows the story to get started. I’m not sure how they knew each other but they clearly know each other pretty well.
A: I think it’s done very effectively. There are several moments in the movie where they almost get together but it doesn’t quite work out, usually resulting in Bond sleeping with someone else. In one scene, she’s even forced to sit in a closet and listen to him have sex with Andrea Anders. And this is all enhanced by the knowledge that it’s happened before for them. It’s smart, economical storytelling.
V: You can really see how salty she is, too. She knows James has no choice but to entertain Andrea, but it still isn’t lining up with her plans for the night. Interestingly, Andrea’s actress, Maud Adams, would later play Octopussy in her namesake film, and an extra in A View to a Kill. In this movie she’s Scaramanga’s kept woman who betrays him to help Bond, only to later be killed by Scaramanga.
A: She’s really good in this one (and even better in Octopussy). I like how Andrea is the one who actually sets everything in motion. She draws Bond into Scaramanga’s plot so he can get rid of her abusive boyfriend once and for all. It’s another example of real strength vs. artificial strength. Andrea knows she’ll never be able to kill Scaramanga on her own, so she manipulates someone better suited to do the job for her.
V: That’s an excellent point. Andrea would be considered a side character, and yet she creates the entire plot of the film. It’s a shame she dies before Scaramanga gets to.
A: Maud Adams does a really good job of communicating just how terrified Andrea is of Scaramanga. The scene where he caresses her seductively with the golden gun is creepy as all hell, and it works because she sells how unnerved Andrea is. She’s in a similar position to Solitaire, but she’s a much better character played by a much better actress.
V: You got it! And yeah, that was really odd. Is he “into” his guns? Maud Adams is one of my favorites overall, and she has that breath of life lacking in Jane Seymour. It’s funny how similar characters are portrayed over a series, and it just shows the quality (or lack thereof) in some actors and writers.
Anya Amasova is James Bond’s counterpart in the KGB, XXX to his 007. She’s on the trail of a stolen Soviet submarine and comes up against Bond, who’s looking for a missing British sub. Their attraction to each other is undeniable, but any possible romance is complicated by their diverging loyalties and a personal conflict that could turn them into bitter enemies.
A: Anya is one of my favorite Bond Girls. I like how they crafted a female counterpart to him but kept her feminine. She’s smart and cold in the field, but she isn’t randomly a super-powered ninja. She finds herself physically outmatched and in need of rescuing, but it isn’t belied by previous bogus attempts at making her macho. The traits of Bond’s that she has feel right, like something any professional in their field could develop.
V: I mean no offense, but I never cared much for this one. I don’t find her to be the worst, but I find her sort of dull. I also found myself sort of personally insulted when she makes reference to Tracy’s death. I know it’s just a movie and she was trying to dig at Bond, but dang. That was harsh! Her anger with Bond is understandable and expected given the circumstances. I just don’t like her all that much.
A: No offense taken. I really love that scene. It shows how cold she is, like Bond, but it also brings out the humanity in him, just like her boyfriend’s death did to her. These two, I think, understand each other better than most of the other Bond/Bond Girl pairings. They’ve both experienced loss because of their work, and they form their own (apologies) bond through it, even though it was 007 himself who killed her boyfriend. I like that, despite how unfeeling she tries to be, she’s jealous when Bond flirts with Naomi. He was able to drag the emotion out of her like she did to him.
V: I do appreciate that she comes around. It was sort of inevitable, but I like things like that. I really like the idea of pairing Bond with an enemy spy, and I love all the drama of him killing her lover. It’s funny how in the beginning they misdirect you to think her lover is agent XXX. Pretty clever!
A: It was very well done. Even that early in the movie, they establish how alike the two of them are. The scene where she discovers Bond was the one who killed her lover is tremendous, and lays out how cruel and unfair the intelligence world is. Her reaction is the same one anybody would have, but Bond is logically right; they all knew what they were getting into.
V: Like every parent tells their child: life isn’t fair. At least she finds some element of healing, since she’s still up to her spy tricks, and with another spy at that.
A: Water under the bridge. I love the fake-out with the champagne cork, if only for Roger Moore’s expression. Also worth noting is that, to my recollection, she is the only character in the series to refer to Q by his real name, Major Boothroyd.
V: I can see why he goes by Q. Just kidding. About Moore’s expression: that’s sort of why I find his naysayers uncalled for. Sure he’s rather comedic, but he’s good at it! He’s a tremendous actor.
A: Agreed, and I always point to this film as an example of how he’s able to shift between his typical light touch and being the ruthless killer Bond is at heart, in the space of a single scene. That makes Anya the perfect match, because she can do the same (although she is, to be sure, more severe than he is in general). Like their final scene, when she’s pointing the gun at him, apparently ready to blow his head off, then when the cork pops, she grins like a kid who was just told a dirty joke. It’s a great mirror to Moore’s Bond.
V: You’re right; it’s a mixture of brutality and childish glee. Nobody does it better, I suppose.
A: Well played.
Holly Goodhead is a CIA operative investigating the theft of a Drax Industries Moonraker space shuttle. James encounters her in Venice, after already having met her at Drax’s base. She’s initially a little standoffish, but this is a Bond movie. You know where that’s going.
V: I’ll get this out of the way. One of my favorite things about Holly is that her name served as inspiration for a character in Pixar’s Cars 2. The height of cinematic achievement, right? I just think that’s a cool fact, though. Overall, I find Holly dull and I tire of the whole shtick of being cold to Bond and disinterested, and then won over. It is cool that she’s a scientist, though.
A: Yeah, Holly isn’t the most interesting of the Bond Girls. She’s fine, she serves a purpose in the plot, she’s intelligent and gorgeous, but she doesn’t stand out in the way some of the better ones do. She packs a wallop, though.
V: You’re right; she certainly isn’t ugly or dumb. I just find myself bored by the girls who don’t have good chemistry with Bond. I don’t find Holly’s personality very vibrant and I don’t sense a great draw between her and Bond, so I find her forgettable.
A: She actually hits a lot of the same points as Anya; she’s a spy, she’s tough and cold, she finds herself resistant to Bond before ultimately succumbing to him. But Anya was written better, and her coldness and distrust made sense in light of her character. Holly seems to be saying “Look how tough I am!” without the character depth of her predecessor.
V: I find it difficult to like characters like Holly. We get it; you’re a woman. You think you’re a badass. Now, could you be a person? Some characters have too much badassery, leaving little room for character.
A: Writers seem to think it’s a substitute for characterization, which is a shame because you don’t have to choose. Holly is fine, but she could’ve been a lot better.
V: Yeah she isn’t the worst; she’s just unsatisfying as the female lead. Bond women should be as interesting as Bond. There should be something that draws him to them, and they should also like him. I just feel like they had a good idea with Holly but squandered it.
A: They never even really got into why Drax trusted her. It would’ve been a good insight into her skills as a spy to see how she had gained his trust as opposed to just letting it stand as, “He trusts her because he has to for the plot to advance.” The care she put into her cover would also have brought her into conflict with Bond, who is very cavalier about his undercover work, always sticking it to the bad guy instead of ingratiating himself with the target. That could’ve been the cause of a lot of their tension.
V: Idiot plot, definitely not my favorite. That sort of reminds me of Camille from Quantum of Solace, but overall I don’t think there’s been a Bond woman quite like what you describe. Maybe you should write a Bond movie. Bond’s antics with his villains are great.
A: I’d be beyond scared to write a Bond movie. And really, I love Moonraker and think it gets a lot of unfair grief, but it’s definitely not perfect and Holly is one of the weaker points.
V: I really like the movie, but for me Holly has to be one of the low points.
Melina Havelock is one of the deadlier women Bond encounters, but she isn’t interested in saving the world or defending Western civilization; Melina is out for revenge. She’s a wealthy Greek heiress who watches as her parents are gunned down by the film’s villains and swears vengeance with nothing more than a look. When she and Bond cross paths, their mutual goal is belied by their conflicting motives, and her thirst for blood starts to rub off on 007.
A: I love Melina. This, in contrast to Holly, is how you build a strong character who’s also a badass. Melina is a lethal weapon and leaves plenty of bodies in her wake, but she doesn’t have a chip on her shoulder (well, not for Bond anyway). She actually likes Bond from the beginning and only argues with him when he tries to dissuade her from avenging her parents’ murders. She doesn’t have to talk about how tough she is because she shows it. It gives her a confidence that is very attractive, and like the best of the Bond Girls, it’s easy to see why 007 is enchanted by her.
V: I agree! I love that she’s a woman in search of vengeance, and this is one movie that doesn’t shame revenge. Revenge is healthy in this case. Bond doesn’t want her to kill them because he doesn’t want her to be haunted by it, but he isn’t judging her for wanting to avenger her family. I think Melina’s a bucket of fun in spite of, and because of, her serious goal.
A: She is, and it’s interesting how she’s able to sort of compartmentalize her grief. She’s obviously hurt and angry because her parents were murdered, but she is also comfortable flirting with and being romanced by Bond. This is the type of thing that was missing from Holly; shorthand gestures that help form a richer character.
V: That’s how you “compartmentalize,” Agents of SHIELD! Take that! I jest, I jest… maybe. Anyway, that’s a great point. Melina is grieving, but she doesn’t allow her personality to be sucked out. Carole Bouquet is also lovely, and her hair is amazing!
A: She’s stunning, and it’s almost too bad she was born too early to play Elektra for Marvel. Her desire for revenge is central to the story as well, and it manages to taint Bond when he gets ahold of Locke, the guy who killed both Ferraro and Countess Lisl. It’s one of Moore’s coolest moments, and, though Melina isn’t present, her fingerprints are all over it.
V: I love when characters can bring forward traits in each other. It’s still very in character; as you say, Moore’s Bond is naturally violent. I don’t know much about Elektra myself, but she definitely has the look! I find revenge to be an underrated plot point altogether, and to have a young lady pursuing it is an added bonus for me. I love you, Melina!
A: I do wish she had gotten her revenge, though. She kills Colonel Gonzalez, the man who literally pulled the trigger on her parents, but she’s robbed of finishing off Kristatos, who ordered it. I suppose it’s meant to show that she’s put revenge behind her, but it’s a bit of a letdown.
V: You’ve got a point there. I don’t think she should be past revenge, anyway. At least somebody killed him. There’s another prominent young lady in this movie, though she doesn’t get involved with Bond. Or rather, he doesn’t get involved with her. Bibi Dahl is Kristatos’ “niece,” who takes a liking to Bond. However, James feels put off by such a young girl, and offers to buy her ice cream instead.
A: That moment makes me laugh out loud every time. I love Bibi, and how she’s the polar opposite of Melina. Melina is very mature and balanced in her emotions, but Bibi is a kid who runs hot and cold. She’s got a very naïve outlook, thinking that Bond will jump into bed with her and that her sponsor is the nicest guy in the world, but when she gets a dose of reality she shatters quickly.
V: The trend of foil Bond women continues! I love how she’s taken with Bond and asks him to come to her show. I think her young and hungry attitude is kind of endearing, if a tad childish.
A: She’s a character that shouldn’t work on paper; bringing a teenage girl into a Bond movie is a ridiculous idea. But in practice, it’s great. Bibi has a new perspective on Bond’s world, as she thinks everything from Bond to Kristatos to the triathlete assassin is just so cool, and she makes Bond as uncomfortable as we are when she tries to seduce him, which makes the scene succeed. Because Bond is so put off, the situation can be played for laughs, and once again, Moore has the perfect reaction to her declaration that she’s not a virgin.
V: That is a hilarious scene, and another great use of Moore’s expressive features. It is kind of funny, Bibi’s like a fangirl inserted into Bond’s adventures. I could imagine a band’s groupie or a superhero team’s fan reacting this way. I don’t think Bibi’s a deep character or anything, but she is fun.
A: Exactly. We’d want Bond to see us ice skate (or whatever it is we’re good at), or just otherwise monopolize his time while he’s trying to save the world.
V: “What’s it like being a spy? What’s the difference between shaken and stirred? Why do you use your real name on your missions?” We would annoy him right away from us.
Octopussy sees the return of Maud Adams. This time she’s the leading lady and the film’s namesake, a circus runner and jewel smuggler entangled in a serious plot. She’s beautiful, smart, and mysterious.
A: Maud Adams is back, and she plays an even better character this time. Octopussy is just fascinating. I love how she’s carved out her own little corner of the world and made it a sort of safe haven for herself and her girls. She flouts the law with her smuggling operation, but she’s more the Han Solo type of smuggler than anyone really evil. And she’s got a great sense of honor and loyalty, which she shows Bond upon first meeting him.
V: I adore Maud Adams. I’m glad she recurs in the series, because she’s just so great. And I agree with you that Octopussy’s really a great person. She sees her actions as victimless crimes, just working to benefit her little crew. This character was also invented for the movie; in the book, Octopussy was just an octopus, right?
A: Yep. Actually, “Octopussy” was a short story, and it’s almost exactly the story she tells Bond about her father. In the story, it was her father’s pet octopus that he named Octopussy. Another short story in that same collection is called “The Property of a Lady,” and the auction scene at Sotheby’s in the beginning of this movie is an adaptation of that. There’s lots of old school Fleming in this one!
V: That’s great. The Eon guys are wonderful about little callbacks like that. I’m glad this change was made, because Octopussy’s definitely one of my favorite Bond ladies of Moore’s set, and overall. The fact that she has all these girls who do whatever she asks shows enterprise, intelligence and good people skills.
A: Me too, and honestly the short story wouldn’t have been enough to sustain a film on its own. I love that scene, because it establishes her character so well. She’s got a real sense of honor, and she’s grateful to Bond even though he was sent to bring her father to justice. It’s a good contrast to Anya, who hated Bond because of how he’d wronged a loved one of hers (till she loved him, of course). Octopussy can see past the immediate pain of her father dying and realize Bond allowed him to save face.
V: That’s a tough position to be in. It reminds me of the movie El Cid, where a woman is in love with the man who killed her father on a matter of honor. In that case she isn’t nearly as forgiving as Octopussy is. It’s really selfless in a way; rather than focusing on her own loss, Octopussy sees only the pain her father was spared.
A: Reasons like that are why I’m glad Octopussy was played by a more mature woman as opposed to someone much younger (that and it wouldn’t be believable that a young woman would put together an operation as elaborate as Octopussy’s). Maud Adams looks like someone who’s lived and learned, and that was necessary for the character. And her chemistry with Roger Moore is unparalleled. They complement each other better than almost any Bond/Bond Girl pairing in the whole series.
V: That may have to do with them working together before, but I’d be more inclined to point out how fantastic they both are. You’ve got quite a point there; Octopussy is an old soul. I just love how she’s serious and determined but not dismissive or cold towards Bond. Sometimes it works, but ‘round about this time I grow tired of the strong independent woman who don’t need no Bond shtick. I think this movie is a prime example of the reputation the Moore films have for being silly. But I actually think it maintains a consistent tone and the chemistry between the leads is great.
A: This is up there with my favorite Bond movies. The tone is definitely on the lighter side, but it’s also just a non-stop adventure story, with Bond careening from one insane set piece to the next. Octopussy herself is one of the best parts, though. It’s funny, they do have the sort of, to borrow your phrase, “don’t need no Bond” theme with Octopussy, but she doesn’t make a big deal out of it; she just goes about her business. She can take care of herself, but like all people who really can, she’s secure enough that she doesn’t have to keep bragging about it or trying to lord herself over Bond (which is good because in the end she does need a good old fashioned rescue).
V: Actually being independent isn’t a bad thing. Acting like you are and talking yourself up is just annoying. It really is a more adventurous story, isn’t it? I have a soft spot for all the Moore installments, but this is one that’s really grown on me. It’s really memorable and a case where the romance builds the movie up, rather than being the weak link.
A: I also like how Octopussy is teased, not revealing herself until 30 or 40 minutes into the movie, with Magda as the warmup act. The air of mystery around her makes her seem that much more dangerous and exciting.
Stacey Sutton is the Paris Hilton of the Bond franchise. She’s rich from family money, but she becomes a state geologist when Zorin buys her company out. She then proceeds to scream and generally be a hindrance throughout the film.
A: Stacey is… not the best. She contributes nothing Bond couldn’t have easily gotten from any other source of information, including a file cabinet. She is only present because there needs to be a girl and she fits the bill lookswise. She’s exactly what detractors think of when they think of a Bond Girl. She’s probably the worst of the series, and at the very least a contender.
V: So, she’s the result of putting Kissy, Tiffany and Solitaire in a blender? Tanya Roberts is gorgeous, but I think Stacey might be my least favorite Bond Girl overall. She’s boring, but she’s also annoying. Until now, we’ve mostly only had to deal with one or the other, if either at all. Stacey manages to be boring and also shriek “JAMES!” when she’s in danger. She’s useless, boring, and honestly, no fun. I actually prefer Zorin’s henchwoman, May Day, overall.
May Day is Zorin’s main squeeze: henchwoman, trainer, valet and apparent lover.
A: May Day is a much better character. With a couple of tweaks to the script, she actually could’ve been the main Bond Girl. She’d have been a Pussy Galore type, starting out working for the villain but switching sides and helping Bond. That’s actually her arc in the movie, but she’s relegated to the background while Stacey (who has no arc, by the way) gets to be the leading lady.
V: You’re right; at least May Day is dynamic. I love betrayals like that. Why is Stacey more important again? Because she’s hot? SNORE! I also love how May Day is vaguely involved with Zorin, but he also uses her as a tool to get to Bond. That’s really weird, in an interesting way.
A: Yeah, there seems to be a certain amount of intimacy between them. When he leaves her to die towards the end, she says to Bond, “I thought that creep loved me!” She’s hurt on a personal level by his betrayal, not just in an angry I-don’t-want-to-blow-up-in-a-mine way. Also, I think it’s fair to point out that, though Tanya Roberts is better looking than Grace Jones, I don’t think she could’ve played May Day were May Day to be the lead. It takes someone with a little hardness to her to embody a character like that. To be fair, I don’t see Grace Jones playing the ditzy weakling either.
V: Somewhere in an alternate reality, Stacey is the one who died and Bond and May Day teamed up to take down Zorin as platonic partners in revenge. I still really like the movie, though.
A: So do I, although it’s on the lower end for me.
Overall, Moore’s Bond Girls are a force to be reckoned with, even if they have a slight attitude problem. Join us next time for Timothy Dalton’s gaggle of girls!