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    “I am a Scotsman !” Sean Connery…

    Scotland will certainly mourn Sean Connery for a long long time because before being the very charismatic movie star we’re celebrating all over the world he was first of all a Scot and indeed, one of the most famous and dedicated defenders of the Scottish cause…  some fans of the irresistible London agent 007 might still think he was born in England but  rendons à César ce qui appartient à César, like Conan Doyle whose most famous character, Sherlock Holmes, the Londonian detective is based at 221 B Baker Street and Robert Louis Stevenson whose story Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde takes place in London (with a number of Scottish reminiscences) Sir Sean Connery is definitely a Scotsman…

    Being a Scot Sean Connery and Murray Grigor front cover Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2008

    Being a Scot Sean Connery and Murray Grigor front cover Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2008

    The lyres of time sang softly
    I cared not how I fared.
    For free the strength of ignorance,
    How could I have been impaired?
    My armour bright and virile
    Entombed a passionnate heart,
    That nurtured dreams of fire,
    But to where, to where to start.

    (Sean Connery 1951)

    Let us start by the beginning…the beginning of a long life rich in meetings, anecdotes and events which began in Edinburgh, like that of Stevenson and Conan Doyle who also lived and died far away, never forgetting, always longing for their beloved mother country…

    LIFE AS IN A NOVEL

    I will quote largely Sean Connery himself to give life to my short biography, mostly from his fascinating autobiography : Being a Scot.

    Fountainbridge tenement Edinburgh

    Fountainbridge tenement Edinburgh

    A little bit of Dickens’s stories in Sean’s first years…

    • 1930s :  (25 August) Thomas Connery was born in Fountainbrige, Edinburgh, from his mother Euphemia, « Effie »,  McBain McLean who was a cleaning woman and Joseph Connery who was a factory worker and lorry driver.  When he was young, Thomas was generally referred to as « Tommy ». Tommy had Scottish roots from his mother, his maternal great-grandparents being native Scottish Gaelic speakers from Fife and Uig on Skye. From his father, he had Irish roots, his paternal great-grand parents having emigrated from Wexford, Ireland, in the mid-19th century. Tommy had a younger brother, Neil. In his teen years,Tommy came to be known as « Big Tam » for, at 18, he measured no less than 6 ft 2 (188 cm).

    “We lived at 176 Fountainbridge. There was no hot water and no bathroom. The communal lavatory was outside, four floors down. For years we had only gas lighting (…) We moved three times within the one building and each time was an advancement. We ended up on the second floor with a view on to the street. I remember my excitement at seeing the length of Fountainbridge from the window (…)

    “When I came to form my own Hollywood production company, I named it Fountainbridge Films – an idyllic-sounding name derived from that salubrious district which I stll remember with great affection.”

    “It’s only in retrospect that you know anything about deprivation. As Craigie Veitch, my Fountainbridge neighbour all those years ago, told me recently: Looking back, we were disadvantaged because we grew up in an area of social deprivation. But since we didn’t have social workers to tell us that we were deprived we were all as happy as pigs.”

    “In those days there was no television. Radio was then the big thing. Movies featured the Wild West with goodies and baddies in Westerns and cowboy stars like Tom Mix rode the range.”

    (Being a Scot by Sean Connery 2008)

    • 1940s : Sean Connery’s first job was as a milkman in Edinburgh with St. Cuthbert’s Co-operative Society.

    “During thoses years at Darroch Connery was spending much of his waking life hard at work. Accounts vary as to the age he was when he began earning the money to pay his own way, but we know for sure that within days of leaving school he was working for St Cuthbert’s Dairy for a guinea a week as a barrow boy. And we know that within a few weeks of that star-date, he was promoted to transport duties – driving a horse and carta round the city delivering milk.

    Though the bulk of the money he earned was handed over to Effie* to help out with the rent, Connery was spending less and less time at home. Even when not working, he was out of the house, taking care of his new best friend, Tich – the horse that pulled his milk cart. ‘He was horse daft,’ Effiewould tell a reporter years later. ‘Always taking my dusters to rub down the milk horse.’”

    (Sean Connery, The Measure of a Man – Christopher Bray – 2011)

    In 1946, at the age of 16, Sean Connery joined the Royal Navy, during which time he acquired two tattoos : one reads ‘Mum and Dad’, and the other ‘Scotland Forever’. 😉 He trained in Portsmouth at the naval gunnery school and in an anti-aircraft crew. He was later assigned as an Able Seaman on HMS Formidable.  He was discharged from the navy at the age of 19 on medical grounds because of a duodenal ulcer. Afterwards, he returned to the co-op, then worked as, among other things, a lorry driver, a lifeguard at Portobello swimming baths, a labourer, an artist’s model for the Edinburgh College of Art and a coffin polisher…

    “Joe Connery was doubtless mighty relieved the day the boy came home and announced that he had signed up with the Royal Navy. Certainly he wished him well on his adventure. Effie was rather less happy, says Neil Connery – and not just because she counted on the money Tam brought home every week. (…)

    Alas, though he signed up for twelve years’ service – seven as a sailor, five in the Naval Reserve – Connery no more enjoyed his time as a cadet that he did his years at school. Homesickness was partly to blame. (…) Among the things he did on his first days off was to have two tattoos emblazoned on his right arm. One read ‘Scotland Forever’, the other ‘Mum and Dad’*.”

    *Badly covered in panstick, the tattoos are visible in more than one Bond movie.

    (Sean Connery, The Measure of a Man – Christopher Bray – 2011)

    • 1950s : how good he proved to be at practising bodybuilding or playing football it didn’t take long to the young man to understand the limits of such activities. “I realised” he said one day, “that a top-class footballer could be over the hill by the age of 30, and I was already 23. I decided to become an actor and it turned out to be one of my more intelligent moves”. So, from then on, he began to appear regularly on television, in the theater (Point of Departure, A Witch in Time, Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution and also cinéma. He even got a part in the musical South Pacific (1954)

     

    • James Bond: 1962–1971, 1983
    Sean Connery during the filming of Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

    Sean Connery during the filming of Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

    The turning point of Sean Connery’s film career was his role as 007, the British secret agent James Bond. He was the first actor to portray Iain Fleming’s famous character, and he did it remarkably well, contrary to what had been thought first.  Sean Connery played Bond in six of Eon Productions, beginning with Dr. No in 1962, and made his final appearance in the Jack Schwartzman-produced Never Say Never Again in 1983.

    • Dr. No (1962)  produced by Terence Young
    • From Russia with Love (1963) by Terence Young
    • Goldfinger (1964) by Guy Hamilton
    • Thunderball (1965) by Terence Young
    • You Only Live Twice (1967) by Lewis Gilbert
    • Diamonds Are Forever (1971) by Guy Hamilton
    • Never Say Never Again (1983) a remake of Thunderball produced by Jack Schwartzman’s Taliafilm

    Never Say Never Again Sean Connery James Bond

    The role of James Bond had made Sean Connery famous all over the world but, like Conan Doyle/Sherlock Holmes, the actor grew finally so tired of 007 that he once said :   “[I am] fed up to here with the whole Bond bit”and “I have always hated that damned James Bond. I’d like to kill him”. His friend Michael Caine sympathizes with him: “If you were his friend in these early days you didn’t raise the subject of Bond. He was, and is, a much better actor than just playing James Bond, but he became synonymous with Bond. He’d be walking down the street and people would say, ‘Look, there’s James Bond’. That was particularly upsetting to him”.

    Finally, the future will give Sean Connery something to look forward to… beyond James Bond.

    FILMOGRAPHY

    In the filmography given by Christopher Bray at the end of his very interesting biography of Sean Connery I’ve counted no less than 65 five films where the actor played a part. I’m a fan of Sean Connery but I know only a few of his films. I did watch most of the James Bond films featuring Sean Connery (and Roger Moore) long ago but , in fact, they aren’t my favourite ones.

    Below is a selection of my favourite films and I’ve just realised that, except for Marnie, which was turned in 1964 when the actor was 34, the  films I’ve chosen were turned when Sean Connery was between 50 and 70. The charm of middle age ;-), an age which suited particularly well to Sean Connery. I’m happy to realise how many more films I’ve still to watch!

    My favourite three films are : Finding Forrester, The Hunt for Red October and Entrapment. I also like very much The Name of the Rose… but I find the film a little too bloody…

    • Marnie (1964) – by Hitchcock 
    • The Name of the Rose (1986)
    • Highlander (1986)
    • The Untouchables (1987)
    • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
    • Family Business (1989)
    • The Hunt for Red October (1990)
    • The Russia House (1990)
    • Highlander II : The Quickening (1991)
    • Medicine Man (1992)
    • Entrapment (1999)
    • Finding Forrester (2000)

    LOVE & FRIENDSHIP

    Sean Connery with Diane Cilento at Dr. No premiere

    Sean Connery with Diane Cilento at Dr. No premiere

    • Connery was married to the Australian actress Diane Cilento from 1962 to 1973, though they separated in 1971. They had a son, actor Jason Connery.
    Sean Connery and his son Jason

    Sean Connery and his son Jason

    • Connery was married to Moroccan-French painter Micheline Roquebrune (born 1929) from 1975 until his death in 2020.
    Sean Connery and his second wife Micheline Roquebrune Source Daily Mail

    Sean Connery and his second wife Micheline Roquebrune Source Daily Mail

    • His close friendship with the American actor Robert Henderson led him to improve his literary knowledge and to take elocution lessons to try and get rid of his Scottish accent. Robert Henderson gave him big reading lists which were greeted with much enthusiasm (Ibsen – Proust – Tolstoy – Turgenev – Bernard Shaw – Joyce, Shakespeare). It is during these years, a period rich in events and meetings, that Sean Connery made his beginnings in theatre, television and cinema.
    • Sean Connery first met Michael Caine at a party during the production of South Pacific in 1954, and the two later became close friends. Sir Michael Caine CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire)  is an English actor. Known for his distinctive Cockney accent, he has appeared in more than 130 films during a career spanning over 60 years, and is considered a British film icon. He is ranked at No. 20 on the list of highest-grossing box office stars.
    • Ian Edmund Bannen (29 June 1928 – 3 November 1999) was a Scottish actor. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), as well as two BAFTA Film Awards for his performances in The Offence (1973) and Hope and Glory (1987). Bannen’s other notable roles were in The Hill (1965), Penelope (1966), From Beyond the Grave (1974), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979), Eye of the Needle (1981), Braveheart (1995) and Waking Ned Devine (1998), which earned him a Satellite Award.

    IN MY LIBRARY

    I’ve downloaded on my kindle Sean Connery The Measure of a Man, Christopher Bray’s biography of Sean Connery. I can’t say it’s an easy reading for a French native speaker but it’s quite interesting anyway. I also got from a book sale at our Bordeaux library Sean Connery Vous avez dit James Bond ? the French translation from Feeney Callan’s Sean Connery published in 2011. And last but not least I do have Being a Scot by Sean Connery himself which was offered to me by our son.

     

    Sean Connery The Measure of a Man by Christopher Bray Faber & Faber 2011

    Sean Connery The Measure of a Man by Christopher Bray Faber & Faber 2011

    “Sean Connery’s personification of secret agent James Bond invigorated Britain and its cinema, allowing a cash-strapped, morale-sapped country in decline to fancy itself still a player on the world stage. But while Bond would make Connery the first actor to command a million dollar-plus fee, the man himself was forever pouring scorn on the fantasies audiences found it increasingly hard to separate him from. Spirited, argumentative and sardonically celebratory, Christopher Bray’s Sean Connery is both a biography of a star and an investigation of what can happen to a man when the images he creates take over his life. And it’s an analysis of what it means to be star-struck – a critical tribute to a secular icon who has shaped so many dreams. In this skillfully crafted biography, Christopher Bray challenges the assumptions and rumours prevelent in previous biographies with characteristic wit and skill. His previous book Michael Caine: A Class Act, was described by the Telegraph as ‘an extremely enjoyable interpretation of a fascinating body of work.’ Apart from his notable performances as James Bond in seven Bond films including Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, Sean Connery won an Oscar for The Untouchables and appeared in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Highlander and The Rock. He has also starred in The Man Who Would Be King, Murder on the Orient Express and Zardoz.”

     

    Michael Feeney Callan Virgin Books (10 octobre 2002)

    Sean Connery by Michael Feeney Callan Virgin Books (10 octobre 2002)

    “Sean Connery is reputedly argumentative and tight-fisted; he is also fiercely patriotic (he sports a “Scotland Forever” tattoo), a consummate professional and, now in his 70s, still dashing, charismatic and regarded by some as the world’s sexist man. Born into a poor Edinburgh family, Sean Connery dreamed of being rich enough to own a piano. After time as a choirboy, coffin polisher, nude model and bodybuilder, he decided he wanted to act, and his perseverance finally paid off when he beat better-known competition to play the first James Bond in “Dr No”. His suave and sophisticated 007 became a worldwide cult figure and turned him into a (reluctant) superstar. Yearning to move on from the Bond persona, Connery went on to star in some truly memorable movies, including “The Man Who Would Be King”, “The Name of the Rose”, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, “The Hunt for Red October” and “The Rock”, confirming his status as a genuine star. For his role as Jimmy Malone in “The Untouchables” he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Published to coincide with the 40th anniversary of “Dr No”, this revealing and intimate biography includes in-depth interviews from his family, friends and co-stars.”

    AWARDS

    Below are only a few  of the prestigious film awards won by Sean Connery, not mentioning the many nominations he got all along his career.

    • Golden Globe Awards
      • Henrietta Award 1972 for the World Film Favourite – Male
    • For The Untouchables (1987)
      • Best Supporting Actor
      • Best Supporting Actor Motion Picture

    In 1987, Connery starred in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables, where he played a hard-nosed Irish-American cop alongside Kevin Costner’s Eliot Ness. The film also starred Charles Martin Smith, Patricia Clarkson, Andy Garcia, and Robert De Niro as Al Capone. The film was a critical and box office success. Many critics praised Connery for his performance including Roger Ebert who wrote “The best performance in the movie is Connery … [he] brings a human element to his character; he seems to have had an existence apart from the legend of the Untouchables, and when he’s onscreen we can believe, briefly, that the Prohibition Era was inhabited by people, not caricatures”. For his performance Connery received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

    • For The Name of the Rose (1987)
      • Best Actor
    • Cecil B DeMille Award (1995)
    • BAFTA Felloship (1998)

    Honours

    • 1987: Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters from France (« Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres)
    • 1991 : Sean Connery receives the Freedom of Edinburgh from Lord Provost Eleanor McLaughlin.

    “In 1991 I had the honour of receiving the Freedom of the City, which would have made my hard-working folks very proud. To follow in the footseps of such earlier Edinburgh Freemen as Benjamin Franklin, Charles Dickens and now Nelson Mandela is very humbling indeed. Although I was much reassured to spot, among the other honoured recipients, Greyfriars Bobby, that faithful old dog who never left his master’s grave. It’s that essential quirkiness which endears me so much to Edinburgh”

    (Being a Scot by Sean Connery 2008)

    • 1998: British Academy Film Fellowship
    • 1999: Kennedy Center Honors
    • 2000: Sean Connery is dubbed a Knight Bachelor by the Queen, in the Palace of Holyroodhouse’s long Picture Gallery of Scottish monarchs. He then wore the green-and-black hunting tartan kilt of his mother’s MacLean clan which, I think, suits him wonderfully. 😉
    • 2005: European Film Awards Lifetime Achievement Award
    • 2006: AFI Life Achievement Award

     

    LAST BUT NOT LEAST: SEAN CONNERY’S FILM LOCATIONS IN SCOTLAND

    Highlander (1986)

    Eilean Donan Castle gorse and cinema scaffolding © 2004 Scotiana

    Eilean Donan Castle gorse and cinema scaffolding © 2004 Scotiana

    Some movie must have been turned in the area…

    Eilean Donan Castle North West Highlands Scotland © 2004 Scotiana

    Eilean Donan Castle North West Highlands Scotland © 2004 Scotiana

    YES ! Eilean Donan Castle! THE pilgrimage place for the fans of Highlander and indeed it is very often overcrowded with them.

    Eilean Donan Castle © 2021 Scotiana

    Eilean Donan Castle © 2021 Scotiana

    This picture was taken last January  (January 2, 2020 ). It was icy cold and rainy and the wind was blowing… nobody there… and the mountains and Saltire had disappeared in the mist…

    Morar Beach

    Cuillin Mountains, Isle of Skye

    Loch Shiel, Glenfinnan

    Near Nevis Forest, Glen Nevis, Highland Scotland

     

    Entrapment (1999)

    Duart Castle – Isle of Mull (ferry Oban-Mull) – Clan MacLean

    In 1999 Sean Connery (then aged 69), played in the film Entrapment (a film by Jon Amiel) with Catherine Zeta-Jones. The story begins at Duart Castle, on the Isle of Mull. It is interesting to note that Sean Connery had MacLean ancestry on his mother’s side.

    Duart Castle Isle of Mull Scotland © 2003 Scotiana

    Duart Castle Isle of Mull Scotland © 2003 Scotiana

    Duart Castle Isle of Mull Scotland © 2004 Scotiana

    Duart Castle Isle of Mull Scotland © 2004 Scotiana

    (Haute Voltige)

    I AM A SCOTSMAN

    The last words to the great Scot, Sean Connery…

    Ever since the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England created Great Britain in 1707, England has always considered itself Britain. Where my mother was born in the Highlands, the rail timetables referred to Scotland as North Britain. But was there ever a South Britain? It was only recently that Edinburgh’s North British Hotel was renamed ‘The Balmoral’. Could London ever have named a major hotel ‘The South British’? It’s this inequality of attitude that has always irritated me. (Being a Scot – Sean Connery)

    Iain and Margaret are preparing a post about Robert Burns… below are a few lines written by Sean Connery about the great Scottish poet :

    Robert Burns is one of the world’s greatest songwriters. Bard. Bawd. A poet’s poet. A poet for all seasons. But are we up to the essential genius of the man? For genius he was. Robert Burns lived and loved and wrote in the late eighteenth century, in that glorious period we now call the Scottish Enlightenment. He was an embodiment of that age of reason when Scotland held its intellectual head high, in Europe and the world. He was a poet of the vernacular who still speaks to the hearts of everyone. ‘For my part,’ Burns wrote to his publisher, ‘I never had the least thought or inclination of turning poet till I got once heartily in love, and then rhyme and song were in a manner, the spontaneous language of my heart.’ Burns embodied the virtues of that era of light and learning, when creative ideas flowed between the arts and sciences.

    (Being a Scot – Sean Connery)

     

    Sir Sean Connery quote I am a Scotsman

    Sir Sean Connery quote I am a Scotsman

     

    My three great passions in life, apart of course from Micheline, my wife since 1970, are acting, sport (especially golf) and Scotland. Of the three I would put Scotland and Scottish politics first. For many years I campaigned for the reinstatement of Scotland’s ancient Parliament and put my weight behind the second Scottish referendum of 1997.

    There would be so much more to say about Sean Connery…

    So…  “Farewell Sir”

    Mairiuna.

     

     

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    1 comment to “I am a Scotsman !” Sean Connery…

    • Iain

      Bravo, Marie-Agnes! Thank you for another excellent post, this time in tribute to a great Scot, Sir Sean Connery. And how appropriate it is that you should have published your post on 30 November, St Andrew’s Day, the national day of Scotland!

      Iain.

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