I was so excited to review this docufilm about James Bond and the real men across the globe who share the name of the famous 007. I actually have a connection to the real James Bond, which I will share at the end of this review.
The Other Fellow
I don’t think there is a person in this world who hasn’t heard of Bond, James Bond. Can anyone claim in this day and age of having never heard of Ian Fleming and his debonair spy, or watched a film about James Bond? But what do we know about the real James Bond? Yes, my little secret agents…there was a real James Bond.
Matthew Bauer who wrote, produced and directed The Other Fellow explores how Ian Fleming came upon the name for his spy novels. It seems that author Fleming, who was living in Goldeneye, Jamaica in 1952 was an avid bird watcher. Fleming had read a book written by ornithologist and zoologist James Bond. The book was called Birds of the West Indies. James Bond at that time was a longtime curator of the bird collection at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. More on this later.
Fleming, who was preparing to write the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, was looking for a great name for his main character, and decided to use the name of the famous ornithologist. He used the name without permission. Mrs. Bond wrote to Fleming accusing him of stealing her husband’s name. Fleming came clean in a letter to Mary Bond with some humorous solutions added. He even invited the Bonds to visit Goldeneye, which they did. Before the Bonds left, Fleming gave them a first edition of You Only Live Twice and inscribed in the inside: To the real James Bond from the thief of his identity.
Now you would expect that men who were named James Bond would be excited about the recognition, right? Surprisingly, when the Australian filmmaker Matthew Bauer began this documentary, he learned about the struggles of real men named James Bond. It was not the life of martinis, shaken and not stirred. For some men…it was a nightmare.
In this documentary The Other Fellow, which is very well done and definitely holds your attention, Bauer hears many tales of horror with one participant being arrested and blamed for a murder he did not commit. The documentary is a study of male identity and how a name, even a famous name, can have dire consequences.
Some men, like Swedish citizen, Gunner Schafer love playing the part of James Bond so much that they legally change their name to James Bond, while others rue the connection. In this documentary, we also learn how a woman saves her life and that of her son by taking on the famous 007 handle.
The stories and interviews are compelling. The many James Bonds who were interviewed give an insightful look at masculinity, gender and race in the shadow of one of the most famous names known around the world. You need to watch The Other Fellow. I promise you that you will not be bored.
And now…my connection to the real James Bond. I didn’t know him personally, but I did work at the Academy of Natural Sciences. One of my jobs was taking people on tours around the museum. The Academy has a huge collection, with the department of ornithology being one of the favorites of many visitors. They have a picture of the real James Bond hanging in the department, and the visitors loved hearing about the connection between James Bond and Ian Fleming. Within the collection are specimens from the West Indies. The real James Bond did not fight bad guys, but he did travel the world collecting specimens, which are very important today.
If you are ever in Philadelphia, book a tour of the Academy’s collections. And…if your name is James Bond…or not…make it a must to watch The Other Fellow.