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Martine Beswick, Double Bond Girl Of The '60s, Then And Now

Entertainment | September 26, 2020

Left: Martine Beswick on the set of 'Thunderball' at Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire, 12th March 1965. Right: Beswick in 'Prehistoric Women.' Sources: Photo by Harry Fox/Mirrorpix/Getty Images; IMDB

Martine Beswick is the rare Bond girl who appeared in two 007 movies: From Russia With Love and Thunderball. Add in her performances in the Hammer features One Million Years BC and Dr. Jekyll And Sister Hyde, and Beswick stakes out a place among the elite '60s screen sirens. Yet in those four movies, she only played the female lead once, in Dr. Jekyll And Sister Hyde, taking a backseat to lead Bond girls Daniela Bianchi (From Russia With Love) and Claudine Auger (Thunderball), and fur-bikini icon Raquel Welch (One Million Years BC). 

Martine Beswick Was Born In Jamaica

Source: 007james.com

Beswick was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica in 1941 as Mary Beswick. Her family moved to London when she was thirteen, but she moved back to her homeland in the late ‘50s to pursue modeling and compete in pageants. Her dark features were so striking that after coming across a photo of her, talent agency MCA wrote to Beswick asking her to pay them a visit if she ever returned to London.

Beswick Didn't Get Honey Ryder

Source: Pinterest

Thrilled at the prospect of making movies, Beswick hopped on a plane to the UK to meet the talent agency where she was introduced to 007 director Terence Young. Young explained that she needed more experience, but he had an idea for her in the future if she could develop some acting skills.

Eventually, Young proposed that Beswick to play a role in the first Bond film, Dr. No (1962). Beswick auditioned and was considered for the lead female character Honey Ryder, but Swiss actress Ursula Andress landed the part. It was long rumored that Beswick actually did appear in Dr. No, as one of Maurice Binder’s dancing girls in the opening credits, but the actress told Bond fansite MI6-HQ that the story isn't true. 

Gypsy Girl Cat Fight

Martine Beswick as Zora and Aliza Gur as Vida in 'From Russia With Love.' Source: 007james.com

The next year, Beswick made her acting debut as Zora the gypsy girl in the second Bond film From Russia With Love. This is where viewers witnessed her infamous catfight scene with fellow gypsy rival Vida played by Miss Israel 1960 Aliza Gur. Beswick’s name is misspelled as “Martin Beswick” in the title credits. The next film in the Bond series, Goldfinger (1964), was not directed by Terence Young.

Being An 'Island Girl' Helped Beswick Return As A Bond Girl

Martine Beswick and Sean Connery in 'Thunderball.' Source: Pinterest

For the fourth Bond film, Thunderball, Young returned to the director's chair and desperately wanted Beswick back, but the producers were reluctant to use the same actress in multiple movies. Young fought for her to be in Thunderball, which was set in the Bahamas, and won after stating the obvious: “Don’t be ridiculous, she’s an island girl!” Beswick was cast as Paula Caplan, secret agent and ally of Bond, who is kidnapped by the villain Emilio Largo’s henchmen Vargas and Janni, and ultimately commits suicide. 

Before filming took place, Beswick was not in her best "island girl" form, and was assigned by Young the demanding assignment of laying in the sun all day and eating gobs of food that he would be buying her. Beswick said,

Oh yes! I hadn’t seen the sun in years. I was too busy having fun at night. I was pale and skinny. I was too busy dancing my feet off! When I arrived, I was given strict instructions just to sun myself and eat. For two weeks, that was literally all I had to do. So it was that in the day and parties in the evening. Terence spoiled us all, champagne and caviar for real! It was one of the best jobs I ever had!

Beswick Was A Hammer Horror Screen Siren

Beswick as the evil Mrs. Edwina Hyde in 'Dr. Jekyll And Sister Hyde.; Source: Pinterest

Beswick’s Bond-girl status opened up other opportunities, especially in the horror genre, although she would later say that it's hard to escape the Bond-girl . After another iconic catfight scene, this time against Raquel Welch in the Hammer Film Productions flick One Million Years BC (1966), she continued with Hammer, first landed the role as the attractive antagonist when she played Queen Kari in Hammer’s 1967 film Prehistoric Women. Her spectacular performance as a gorgeous villain directed her to the lead role in Hammer’s 1971 British horror film Dr. Jekyll And Sister Hyde. In this adaptation of the Jekyll-and-Hyde story, Dr. Jekyll creates a serum that transforms him into the beautiful and evil Mrs. Edwina Hyde (played by Beswick) who is responsible for numerous serial murders. Once again, Beswick dazzled on screen with her fusion of beauty and terror.

Martine Beswick Goes To Hollywood

Beswick in 'The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood.' Source: Retro Cinema

After starring in multiple features and even moving to Italy for a time throughout the next decade, Beswick moved to Hollywood to pursue the television scene in the late ‘70s. However, the island girl wasn’t well known when she first reached America and had to essentially start from scratch.

"It was an interesting time," she told VultureHound. "It took me a while to establish myself in LA. No one really knew me so I had to kind of start again. The first thing I did was It Takes a Thief with Robert Wagner, and what happens is that if they like you become part of the family. Throughout my life, through all the work I’ve done, there’s always this sense of family. First family is Bond. The second family is Hammer. And then into all the TV shows, it was always ‘oh, get Martine.’ I call my extended family my tribes, and they’re everywhere. That’s the best part of doing my job, there was always an extended family and a tribe. That certainly happened with a lot of the work I did in LA."

Martine Beswick In The '80s And Beyond

While in Los Angeles, Beswick participated in the television scene appearing in multiple series (Sledge Hammer!, Fantasy Island, The Six Million Dollar Man, Falcon Crest, etc.) up until the early ‘90s. She quit acting after her final performance in Night Of The Scarecrow in 1995 and instead has been proving commentary about her experience in documentaries (including Inside From Russia With Love (2000), Bride Of Monster Mania (2000), Invasion Of The Scream Queens (1992), Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story Of Cannon Films (2014). She also appeared on-screen again as one of the twelve Bond Girl celebrity guests on BBC’s Masterchef in 2013. To this day, Beswick remains a big draw at horror conventions and 007 panels.

Tags: Bond Girls | Hammer Horror | James Bond | Ladies | Martine Beswick | Movies In The 1960s | Then And Now

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Brian Gilmore

Writer

Brian Gilmore has been writing about and studying everything the Internet loves since 2006 and you've probably accidentally read something he's written before, and if you haven't, you're already reading this bio, so that's a good start. He's a culture junkie ranging from Internet culture, to world history, to listening to way more podcasts than the average human being ever should. He's obsessed with the social catalysts that have caused some of the biggest movements of the last few hundred years, including everything from their effect on the pop culture of the time, to where they end up ideologically. The idea that generations have a beginning and an end is fascinating to him, and the fact that their lasting effects at any given point of their evolution can steer the direction of the entire world lead to some interesting questions, and answers, about our current culture at any given time. He also loves retrofuturism, phobias, and the fact that every pop culture icon has at least a few photos of them that make you feel like you might know them. History isn't a collection of stories as much as it is humanity trying its hardest to maintain a grasp on lessons we've learned before as a species, and that is just way too interesting to not look into a few hours a week. Oh and he used to collect Pez dispensers.