Following the smash success of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, Sean Connery decided he’d finally had enough of playing 007. The Bond producers began a massive search for the right actor to fill the most famous role in movie history, finally selecting a young unknown Australian by the name of George Lazenby.
ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE would become one of the very best films in the franchise, following Bond as he hunts down SPECTRE head Blofeld and falls in love with a likable gangster’s beautiful daughter. Lazenby was basically hired to play Sean Connery, and many critics have been pretty hard on his performance. He handles himself well, however, and boasts the best fight scenes of the entire run. When Lazenby throws a punch, he throws his whole body into it! Not until the rough-and-tumble style of Daniel Craig would there be another Bond this physical.
To play the woman who finally tied down 007, the producers cast Avengers starlet Diana Rigg (who very recently passed away, as of this writing). Telly Savalis plays a physically imposing Blofeld, out to destroy the world with a gaggle of glamorous girls armed with poison Christmas presents and under hypnotic suggestion to unleash a new strain of plague if SPECTRE’s ransom is not met. Unfortunately for George and the producers, his agent fed him some bad advice. Basically, George was instructed to go after counter-culture roles and leave such a square role as Bond to others. Before the film had even been finished, Lazenby made it known that this would be his only assignment as 007. As result, Lazenby quickly plummeted from one of the most famous actors in the world to one of the most obscure. (Interestingly, Neil Connery was suggested as a replacement for Sean, but EON felt a bit ill toward OPERATION KID BROTHER, which the company saw as competition.) The producers paid Sean Connery an enormous sum to return for DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, which Connery subsequently donated to a charity he’d founded. George Lazenby would later make a semi-career out of spoofing his James Bond image, such as his turn as “J.B.” in THE RETURN OF THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.: THE FIFTEEN YEARS LATER AFFAIR, which, sadly, I haven’t seen yet.