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Monday, September 21, 2020

The name’s Bond, Tracy Bond — the legacy of James Bond’s wife, and the actor who played her

James Bond married only once. Diana Rigg, 82, the actor who played his wife, Tracy, died on Thursday. A look at the legacy of the two women, individually and together

Written by Kabir Firaque , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: September 13, 2020 11:13:28 am
Tracy DiVicenzo (Diana Rigg) with James Bond (George Lazenby) at their wedding in 1969's 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service'.

A little over 50 years ago, James Bond married for the only time in the film series. Diana Rigg, 82, the actor who played his bride, Tracy, died on Thursday. Rigg and Tracy Bond set up milestones in the evolution of the series.

Why is it a big deal if Bond marries?

For most of the series, Bond has been depicted as a bachelor in relationships with multiple women. He has been described as sexist and misogynist by film scholars and even his boss M in ‘GodenEye’ (1995). It is, therefore, out of character for Bond to feel deeply enough about a woman to get married.

Further, until Daniel Craig took up the role in 2006, four of the five previous actors — Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan — have portrayed an emotionally detached Bond. The one exception has been George Lazenby, who falls in love with Tracy and marries her in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ (OHMSS). The film, released in 1969, is Lazenby’s only appearance as Bond.

So, who was Bond’s wife, Tracy?

The Contessa Teresa DiVicenzo, also known as Teresa ‘Tracy’ Draco, was born in 1943. That would make her 26 when the film released. She is the daughter of Marc-Ange Draco, head of the crime syndicate Union Corse.

Bond meets Tracy at the beginning of OHMSS, and marries her towards the end. Still in her bridal gown, she is shot dead by Ernst Stavro Blofeld (head of the crime syndicate SPECTRE) and his aide Irma Bunt. The film ends with a tearful Bond’s now classic line, “We have all the time in the world.”

Why is Tracy important?

“Tracy DiVicenzo/Bond is an iconic figure in the world of James Bond. She is the only woman to marry the perennial bachelor but her standing in the series goes well beyond that,” Bond scholar Lisa Funnell said, by email.

Dr Funnell, Associate Professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Oklahoma, is co-author of Geographies, Genders, and Geopolitics of James Bond, and editor of the anthology For His Eyes Only: The Women of James Bond.

“Given her acting credentials and widespread popularity on the television series ‘The Avengers’ (1965-68), Rigg served as a familiar face in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ that audiences could connect with as the series cast a new actor in the role of Bond,” she said.

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Why was that connection necessary?

Before OHMSS, the first five films in the series had all featured Connery, the only face audiences associated with Bond until then. Lazenby was a largely unknown Australian actor playing the British spy in his first film.

“The critical debate surrounding Australian George Lazenby’s brief tenure as James Bond… can be condensed into one issue; namely, how well does he compare to Sean Connery?” researcher Stephanie Jones wrote in the ‘International Journal of James Bond Studies’ in 2017.

Today, OHMSS is recognised as one of the most important films in the series — cult followers consider it the very best. On its release, the critical response was mixed, particularly to Lazenby, but Rigg was widely appreciated.

“It is Rigg who plays a far more compelling character. Not only does Bond fall in love with her across the course of the film but we the audience do so as well. We watch her challenge Bond intellectually and emotionally, rescue him from peril using some impressive driving skills, and develop as a character,” Dr Funnell said. “This is why the death of Tracy Bond in the film, as well as the passing of Diana Rigg now, impacts us greatly. We have grown to know and love this complex woman embodied by such a talented actor.”

What has been Rigg’s other work?

In the hugely successful ‘The Avengers’ series, Rigg played the British spy Emma Peel. Much of her work has been on TV, including as Olenna Tyrell in ‘Game of Thrones’ (2011-19). Her film roles include the horror classic ‘Theater of Blood’ (1973) and the Hercule Poirot mystery ‘Evil Under the Sun’ (1982).

Her legacy as Tracy Bond runs long into the 007 series, which is otherwise notorious for lacking continuity in the films before Craig arrived. Bond’s dead wife is mentioned in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ (1977, Moore) and ‘Licence to Kill’ (1989, Dalton). In ‘For Your Eyes Only’ (1981), Moore’s Bond visits her grave, where the headstone reads: “TERESA BOND, 1943-1969, Beloved Wife of JAMES BOND. We have all the time in the World”.

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