Monday, February 2, 2015

Strawberry Fields and Blofeld...Day 33 of Bond 365

It’s Day 33. I really wanted to title today’s post “Beauty and the Beast” but honestly, I really admire and respect Donald Pleasence, so it did not seem right….

Gemma Arterton
Born this day in 1986
Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace

Not everyone can say they were born with an extra digit on each hand, but Geema Arterton could. The condition is known as polydactyly and it was corrected at the time of her birth. I’m actually curious if she is the only Bond star to have had that condition?

Arterton attended RADA after being encouraged by her mum to pursue her creative side, in this case, acting. Empire Magazine listed her, along with Channing Tatum, Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, among others, as part of their list of rising stars for the 2010s.

She beat out 1,500 other actresses for the role of Strawberry Fields. According to IMDB, critics said she was not hot enough a Bond girl when her role was solidified. In fact, Arterton agreed with the critics. However, I think back to when we are first introduced to her in Quantum of Solace, she is wearing a trench coat dress and boots. There is the allure that she is not wearing anything underneath – if that isn’t hot, I don’t know what is!

Strawberry Fields...Forever (yeah, I could not resist the Beatles reference)
Donald Pleasence
Passed away this day in 1995
Blofeld in You Only Live Twice

Donald Pleasence did not have an easy road to acting as a young man. He was unable to attend RADA because he failed securing a scholarship. He took up the family occupation of working on the railroads as a clerk and later a stationmaster as his father had done. Pleasence wrote letters to the various theatre companies and eventually he was accepted by the Isle of Jersey group in 1939. Of course this was on the eve of World War II, and very soon his budding career as an actor was sidelined.

In Wikipedia, Pleasence was apparently a “conscientious objector” but changed his position and joined the RAF. His plane was shot down on August 31, 1944, was captured and held in a German POW camp, Stalag Luft I. Funny how art imitates life, since he played Colin Bythe in The Great Escape, alongside Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough in 1963 (an excellent movie, by the way). In fact, he starred in several war time films and worked with several respected British actors in the business over his career.

Donald Pleasence, an enduring icon of evil
For me, as part of the “younger generation” I first introduced to Pleasence in his role as Dr. Loomis in John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), as the President in another Carpenter film, Escape From New York (1980), and as Dr. Jack Seward to Frank Langella’s 1979 Dracula (definitely worth a watch!). For this blog, Pleasence joined with some other fine actors that portrayed Ernst Stavro Blofeld, however his portrayal of the villain was the first time that audiences really got a good look at Blofeld. I think this is a fantastic photo of Pleasence and his cat – I think it’s pretty darn hard to pull off “maniacal arch-villain” when your sidekick kitty has fallen into a contented sleep in your arms – adorable!

Sadly, we lost Pleasence in 1995 due to heart failure. Apparently, he was cremated and has no known grave.

Here’s a link to a lengthy obituary written by Adam Benedick and Anthony Hayward and appeared in  The Independent.

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