ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (United Artists, 1969)

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


★★★★ The sixth James Bond film produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. US release date: December 18, 1969. Budget: $8 million. Worldwide box office gross: $82.0 million (US domestic gross: $22.8 million; international gross: $59.2 million).[1] Running time: 140 minutes.

The Setup
James Bond (George Lazenby) is on holiday in coastal Portugal when he spies a lady in distress—the stunning Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg). Rescuing her from a possible suicide, and later from beach thugs, Bond ends up holding her shoes as she drives off, uttering, “This never happened to the other fellow.” Later at the local casino, 007 covers Tracy’s losses when she feigns poverty. This time, Bond’s reward is a single night with Tracy. Bond is later held at gunpoint and taken to Tracy’s father, Marc-Ange Draco, the head of a powerful Italian crime organization, the Union Corse. He offers Bond a huge dowry if he’ll marry Tracy, a ridiculous offer that 007 dismisses. Then, suddenly, 007 has an epiphany: If Draco can track down the whereabouts of one Ernst Stavro Blofeld of SPECTRE, he might agree to an arrangement.

Behind the Scenes
If Sean Connery had stuck around for one more Bond film, OHMSS would have been his best. It offers 007 one of his most epic and yet most human stories, giving him the opportunity to finally meet his female match. Fans will always wonder what would have happened if Connery had been the one to fall in love and get married to Diana Rigg.

Instead, Bond was played by ex-model George Lazenby. He was no Sean Connery, but thanks to the careful direction of Peter Hunt and the fabulous script by Richard Maibaum, he comes across extremely well. Lazenby brought his own form of charisma to the role—he was handsome, capable, and light on his feet. He could play the droll humor and the two-fisted machismo. Had he not quit the series after one film, there is every reason to believe that he would have flourished in the role of Bond. OHMSS was his training ground for a continuing part that, unfortunately, never materialized.

The film marked the end of the training period for Peter Hunt, who had edited the first four films and shot second unit on You Only Live Twice, and finally earned his directing spurs. Tasked with adapting one of Fleming’s best books, Hunt worked carefully with Maibaum to create one of the most carefully tuned Bond films. Once again, the set pieces are legendary, but they do not interfere with the story as they did in You Only Live Twice.

Lazenby’s introduction is another classic moment, which takes place on the beach in Portugal with Bond rescuing Tracy from the surf. The fistfight in the water with a Draco henchman is a perfect example of Hunt’s rapid-fire directing style. The Bond series has benefited greatly when its editors have been given the opportunity to direct. Peter Hunt, like John Glen, knew where to place his cameras for maximum effect.

Like From Russia with Love and For Your Eyes Only, OHMSS is filled with mysterious characters and realistic action. Blofeld’s plot involves germ warfare—a very earthbound caper—and his stronghold this time is not a volcano rocket base but a converted Swiss allergy clinic. The action never lets up: ski chases, bobsled chases, car chases, helicopter attacks, fights in the surf, fights in the hotel, fights in the office. As with Dr. No, the producers wanted to keep the focus on movement to keep the audience from noticing any lapses in logic—in this case, the fact that Bond was now a completely different person. They succeeded.

Diana Rigg was an inspired bit of casting. She was a star in both Britain and America, thanks to her role as Emma Peel in the international-hit spy series The Avengers, and audiences were ready to accept her as Bond’s potential mate. Telly Savalas’s Blofeld was fair, though a European actor along the lines of Adolfo Celi would have been better. Gabriele Ferzetti was excellent as Marc-Ange Draco, the mafioso who joins forces with Bond to rescue his daughter, Tracy. And John Barry outdid himself with one of the series’ best musical scores, including his rousing title instrumental.

The film boasted the series’ longest running time to date—a record that would not be beaten until Casino Royale in 2006. Editor John Glen cut nearly 40 minutes of footage before he settled on the 140-minute cut, the length of which was kept a close secret from producers Broccoli and Saltzman. “Eventually,” said director Peter Hunt, “I did have to tell them, and Harry was furious. I think they had told United Artists that the final print would be less than two hours long. Of course, with a longer running time, UA couldn’t get in as many screenings. So there was this big song and dance about how long the film was and that it had to be cut.

“I was eventually saved from a major edit on the film by George Pinches, the booking manager of the Rank Organisation, who came to see the film in the little theater at Audley Square. Harry and Cubby told him to come and see them after the film. When it was over, George was very complimentary about the film’s potential. Before anyone could say a word, I said to him, ‘George, do you think I should cut the film anywhere? Is it too long?’ And he said, ‘Long? Long? How long have I been here, an hour and a half?’ And I told him that he had been in the theater for almost two and a half hours. He told us not to touch a foot. This, of course, was said right in front of the producers, which ended any controversy over whether the film was going to be reedited.”[2]

The running time, however, did create a problem when the film was prepared for its US television debut on ABC. The network considered it too long for a standard two-hour time slot, even with the sorts of cuts that had been standard operating procedure for earlier Bond telecasts. Instead, without consulting Eon Productions or Peter Hunt, ABC decided to break the film in half for a two-night run. To fit the expanded running time, the network actually added footage, running certain sequences twice, once in their proper position and once earlier in the film. In the earlier instances, voiceover narration by a non-Lazenby “James Bond” attempted to explain the out-of-context scenes the viewers were seeing. It was an ill-conceived idea that confused and angered fans throughout the United States.

The Cast
Role
Actor/Actress
James Bond George Lazenby
Tracy Diana Rigg
Ernst Stavro Blofeld Telly Savalas
Irma Bunt Ilse Steppat
Marc Ange Draco Gabriele Ferzetti
Grunther Yuri Borienko
Campbell Bernard Horsfall
Sir Hilary Bray, Baronet George Baker
M Bernard Lee
Q Desmond Llewelyn
Miss Moneypenny Lois Maxwell
Ruby Bartlett Angela Scoular
Nancy Catherine Von Schell
Olympe Virginia North
Piz Gloria Girls
American Girl Dani Sheridan
Scandinavian Girl Julie Ege
English Girl Joanna Lumley
Chinese Girl Mona Chong
Australian Girl Anoushka Hempel
German Girl Ingrid Black
Italian Girl Jenny Hanley
Indian Girl Zara
Jamaican Girl Sylvana Henriques
Israeli Girl Helena Ronee
Draco’s Men
Toussaint Geoffrey Cheshire
Che Che Irvin Allen
Raphael Terry Mountain
Klett Bill Morgan
Driver Richard Graydon
Helicopter Pilot John Crewdson
Blofeld’s Men
Felsen Les Crawford
Braun George Cooper
Driver Reg Harding
Gumpold (Swiss Lawyer) James Bree
Manuel (Portuguese Hotel Manager) Brian Worth
Janitor (Who Whistles “Goldfinger”) Norman McClen
Hall Porter Dudley Jones
Piz Gloria Receptionist Josef Vasa
At the Casino
American Guests Bessie Love
Elliott Sullivan
Greek Tycoon Steve Plytas
Chef de Jeu Robert Rietty
Chef de Jeu Hussier Martin Leyden
The Crew
Role
Crew Member
Director Peter Hunt
Screenplay by Richard Maibaum
Producers Albert R. Broccoli
Harry Saltzman
Associate Producer Stanley Sopel
Director of Photography Michael Reed
Music somposed and sonducted by John Barry
“We Have All the Time in the World” performed by Louis Armstrong
Lyrics by Hal David
Production Designer Syd Cain
Art Director Bob Laing
Construction Manager Ronnie Udell
Set Dresser Peter Lamont
Costume Designer Marjory Cornelius
Production Supervisor David Middlemas
Production Secretary Golda Offenheim
First Assistant Director Frank Ernst
Second Unit Director John Glen
Stock-Car Sequence Director Anthony Squire
Continuity Joan Davis
Camera Operator Alec Mills
Aerial Cameraman Johnny Jordan
Ski Cameramen Willy Bogner Jr.
Alex Barbey
Camera Focus Ron Drinkwater
Stunt Arranger George Leech
Title Designer Maurice Binder
Head Special Effects John Stears
Sound Mixers John Mitchell
Gordon McCallum
Film Editor John Glen


[1] “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969),” The Numbers, accessed June 22, 2020, https://www.the-numbers.com/movie/On-Her-Majestys-Secret-Service

[2] Peter Hunt, interview by the Steven Jay Rubin, London, June 21, 1977.