Contributed by: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin

(February 15, 1951–     ; birth name: Joyce Penelope Frankenberg): Lovely British actress, the heroine of many films and miniseries, who portrayed the mystical Solitaire in Live and Let Die. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman originally spotted her in a popular British television series entitled The Onedin Line, a drama about the British shipping industry in the 1870s. On the set of the Bond film, Roger Moore referred to her as “Baby Bernhardt,” a reference to the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt. She was an intelligent actress—perhaps too intelligent for the role.

She quickly found that the producers wanted a psychic sex object who could escape the clutches of Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto) by grabbing at Roger Moore’s coattails. To fight such a one-dimensional characterization, she gave director Guy Hamilton a performance laced with forcefulness and sheer bravado, delivered in a straightforward tone of voice drawn from her years on the British stage and British radio. After a few weeks, the producers were threatening to redub all of her lines unless she adjusted her portrayal. She ultimately acceded, making the character more breathlessly sexy.

Once they succeeded in altering her performance, they also began to make her up like a living doll. “In one sequence,” she recalled, “when I’m introduced at Mr. Big’s headquarters in Harlem, they covered me with glitter, false eyelashes, and they gave me an exotic hairdo. That was their way of bringing in the occult. I was far more interested in the voodoo element in the story, because I had actually attended a ceremony in Jamaica with Geoffrey Holder [who played Baron Samedi], who knew a great deal about the supernatural. The Solitaire character could have been much more interesting if this voodoo element was brought out. After all, she was respected by everyone as having the power of second sight like her mother before her, and she lived all alone in that house on the cliff. It had fascinating possibilities.”[1]

Despite her frustrations with the character, Seymour had the time of her life during filming, taking her acting career to places it had never been before. Terrified of gunshots, she was forced to undergo a strafing attack. Frightened of snakes, she was asked to stand perfectly still while someone shoved a fanged reptile right in her face. A nervous passenger, she actually sat calmly in the back of an imported double-decker bus while London busman Maurice Patchett rammed it under a low-clearance trestle bridge. Not one to perform readily at extreme heights, she still consented to be hoisted over the center of a Pinewood Studios soundstage, above a pool filled with sharks. To her credit, Baby Bernhardt survived all without a scratch.

Born in Hayes and Harlington, Middlesex, England, Seymour appeared on the big screen in films including Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), Young Winston (1972), The Best Pair of Legs in the Business (1973), Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), Somewhere in Time (1980), The New Swiss Family Robinson (1998), Wedding Crashers (2005), After Sex (2007), The Velveteen Rabbit (2009), and Fifty Shades of Black (2016). She’s appeared frequently on television, in TV movies such as Frankenstein: The True Story (1973) and The Four Feathers (1978); miniseries such as Captains and the Kings (1976), East of Eden (1981), and War and Remembrance (1988–1989); and series such as the original Battlestar Galactica (3 episodes, 1978), Smallville (6 episodes, 2004–2005), Modern Men (7 episodes, 2006), Franklin & Bash (4 episodes, 2012–2014), and Jane the Virgin (3 episodes, 2015–2016). She also starred in the hit western series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (149 episodes, 1993–1998), for which she received two Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress, as well as two TV movie sequels in 1999 and 2001.

[1] Jane Seymour, interview by Steven Jay Rubin, Los Angeles, April 16, 1979.


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