KERIM BEY, ALI

Entry Source: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin


Head of Station T–Turkey and right arm to Bond (Sean Connery) in Istanbul, portrayed by actor Pedro Armendariz in From Russia with Love. Kerim Bey is one of those wonderfully mysterious supporting characters, in the tradition of those played by Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, that populate the best spy stories. His moments on screen are unforgettable: the spying on the Russian consulate through a British periscope hidden in a Byzantine reservoir; an assignation with a ravishing brunette that is cut short by a limpet mine explosion; his assassination of Krilencu; the evening at the gypsy camp; and his expert movements on the Orient Express, where he helps Bond prepare for his escape across the border.

As to his background, the only thing we ever learn is that Kerim Bey started out in the circus as a strongman who broke chains and bent bars for a living. His cover in Istanbul is that of a Persian rug merchant.

Interestingly, a key scene involving Kerim Bey was cut out of From Russia with Love, according to director Terence Young. It would have occurred just before Bond meets Tania on the Bosphorus ferryboat. Young could not save the sequence in postproduction, for a very good reason. Said Young, “We had a scene where everywhere Bond went, he was followed by this Bulgar, the man with the big mustache, the black beret, and the Citroën. In the scene, Bond has to go onto the ferry to meet the girl, and he has to shake off the opposition.

“He’s in a taxi being followed by the Bulgar, when Bond suddenly leans across in front of the taxi driver and pumps the brakes. The taxi comes screeching to a halt, the Bulgar piles in behind, and he, in turn, is struck by a third car. Out of car number one steps James Bond; out of car number two steps the Bulgar, who’s protesting that this is not protocol and this is not the way we behave, that such an act is unfair and dishonest. And out of the third car steps Kerim Bey.

“We ended up shooting ten takes. Pedro wanted an ash on the end of his cigar, and every time the Bulgarian expressed his shock, an ash would fall away from his cigar. On take ten, Pedro came out with his cigar with a long ash, and this Bulgarian turned on him, saying, ‘You’re the one responsible for this. This is an outrage. What am I going to do? Tell me, what am I going to do?’ And Pedro took his cigar and tapped it, saying, ‘My friend, this is life.’ At that very moment, the big British embassy Rolls-Royce drove up, and Bond got in and drove away to his rendezvous with Tania. With his car locked between bumpers, the Bugarian could not follow 007 to the ferryboat. It was a perfect deception and certainly Armendariz’s best scene.”[1]

At some point, the entire ferryboat sequence was apparently moved later in the film than originally scripted, which brought about the Kerim Bey scene’s fatal flaw. “We were running the picture later,” said Young. “We had our final cut and our married print. United Artists had seen it and loved it. Everybody was happy. And my son, who was then age twelve, came and saw the picture at a private showing a week before the film came out. When it came time for the sequence with Pedro, my son turned to me and said, ‘Daddy, that man with the beret was already killed. Robert Shaw killed him in St. Sophia Mosque behind the pillar.’ And, of course, we all said, ‘Yes, he did, didn’t he?’ So that was the end of that sequence.”

Young recalled that when he later found out that actor Pedro Armendariz was dying of cancer, he went to his hotel and tried to say something dignified and meaningful, but could only stare at the walls. Once more, Armendariz had a cigar in his mouth. He leaned across, looked Young right in the eye, tapped an ash on the carpet, and said, “That, my friend, is life.”


[1] Terence Young, interview by Steven Jay Rubin, London, June 25, 1977.