Sean Connery was charismatic, contradictory – and more than just James Bond

Geoffrey Macnab in The Independent:

Sean Connery grew up in an overcrowded tenement flat in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh. He left school at the age of 13 and worked as a bricklayer and cement mixer, steel bender, lorry driver and coffin polisher. He was invalided out of the navy with duodenal ulcers. It’s worth bearing this background in mind when you consider that he became not only one of the biggest stars in post-war UK cinema but also one of the most accomplished screen actors. The working-class Scot wasn’t the most likely casting as Ian Fleming’s urbane spy hero James Bond, but Connery brought an edge, a hint of ironic humour, sadism and darkness to the character that stopped the early Bond pictures descending into camp.

In later years, that sadism became increasingly problematic. Connery’s first wife Diane Cilento accused him of abusing her. He caused consternation when he said it wasn’t the “worst thing to slap a woman” and then stood by the remark in a later interview. He eventually changed his perspective , commenting in 2006 that he didn’t believe “any level of abuse against women is justified” but, by then, the damage had been done. From today’s perspective, it appears beyond jarring and bizarre that one of the world’s biggest movie stars should have used such misogynistic language. That is why a certain wariness remains when discussing Connery’s monumental achievements as an actor.

“It has never been hard to tell the difference between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine,” PG Wodehouse famously wrote.  You half suspect that he may have been thinking of Connery when he made the observation. Connery seemed driven in his private and professional life by his grudges and pet feuds. It sometimes appeared he felt everyone, whether Bond producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli or the Scottish press or the Hollywood system, was determined to cheat against him in exactly the same way as Auric Goldfinger had done against Bond on the golf course in Goldfinger. Of course, Connery was always far too canny to let this happen.

More here.