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Young Ursula Andress: Original Bond Girl Honey Ryder, Then And Now

Entertainment | May 6, 2019

Left: Ursula Andress at an event for Dr. No (1962). Right: Andress on the set of Dr. No. Source: IMDB

Securing her place in film history as Dr. No's Honey Ryder, Ursula Andress was the original Bond Girl in the 007 film franchise. Following her turn opposite Sean Connery in the 1962 spy flick, the Swiss bombshell continued to be an in-demand actress throughout the '60s and into the '70s. Andress, a classic blonde beauty, remained a sex symbol for decades, appearing in What's New Pussycat (1965), She (1965) and Clash Of The Titans (1981), even though she never duplicated the appeal of Honey Ryder. Playboy ranked her number 17 of the 100 sexiest stars of the 20th century. 

The Pride Of Ostermundigen

Left: Ursula Andress as Vesper Lynd in 'Casino Royale', 1967. Right: Andress as Honey Ryder in 'Dr. No. Sources: Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images; IMDB

Her first break came when she met an Italian producer at a party, leading to a part in the The Sins of Casanova. From there an American producer convinced her to try her luck in Hollywood. Unfortunately, the glitz and glamour of show business belied a difficult road for Ms. Andress. However, through perseverance and many star-studded associations, she made it big.

Andress was born in Ostermundigen, Switzerland, and her early life did not portend fame and fortune. Her mother worked as a landscaper and her father, a diplomat, although not for long. Switzerland expelled Andress’s father from the country for political reasons.

Read on to learn Ursula Andress’s wild story. 

A Rocky Beginning

Ursula Andress and Peter O'Toole in What's New Pussycat (1965). Source: IMDB

While her arrival in Los Angeles started with a seven-year $287 a week contract, that was the lone highlight. She spoke French, German and Italian fluently, but her English didn’t inspire much enthusiasm for the big screen. From 1955 to 1957 she floundered, but in way that only a truly irresistibly beautiful woman could. She dated James Dean shortly before his death and won Miss World Trade of 1956. If only we could all flounder so spectacularly! 

Star-Studded Crossings

The Original Bond Girl In All Her Glory. Source: (elviswomen.greggers.net)

Despite not making it big initially, Andress kept her spirits up, "I was so happy, the money never really meant very much to me. Freedom is my greatest extravagance. Money brings you happiness, I don't deny it. But I think we should not abandon values. I can't be a slave to anything - except perhaps a little bit to a man."

Her upbeat attitude and devastating beauty proved a formidable combination. In 1957, She met and eventually married the director, John Derek. For the next decade, Derek helped make her into a star, in the same way, he did for Bo Derek years later. Over the years she worked with the murderer’s row of Marcello Mastroianni, Dean Martin, and Elvis Presley!

Her Big Break

Halle Berry's Inspiration. Source: (catwalkyourself.com)

Before Halle Berry came lithely out of the ocean dripping sex in Die Another Day, Ursula Andress did it first in 1962, leaving Sean Connery (momentarily) speechless and pushing about a 20 million young boys into puberty. The bikini heard around the world in that famous Dr. No scene was made by Andress herself. Apparently, the offerings on set did not impress our Swiss beauty. Years later she sold the bikini for nearly $60,000 -- now that’s a solid investment.

Breaking Barriers

Sean Connery And Ursula Andress Taking In Some Sun. Source: (metaflix.com)

The quintessential Bond girl gave a lot of credit to that unforgettable bikini. Andress, told BBC its role in her career, “This bikini made me into a success. As a result of starring in Dr. No as the first Bond girl, I was given the freedom to take my pick of future roles and to become financially independent." That image of a flawless figure coming out of the water ingrained itself in the minds of many men.

In 2003, that appearance ranked #1 in "The 100 Greatest Sexy Moments" in a UK survey. That moment is also considered by many as a shift for women in movies. Prior to that, women were more demure and soft-spoken. Ursula Andress opened the door for women to be strong, bold, and desirable.

Not Afraid To Bare It All

Ursula Andress in 'Clash Of The Titans' (1981) and on the poster art for 'She' (1965). Source: IMDB

After Dr. No, Andress steadily acted for many years, headlining alongside huge stars. However, she never reached the same heights as she did in Dr. No. Despite her acting career not exploding, she maintained her status as a Hollywood starlet. She also continued to push the limits of the sexual revolution, paving the way for many women. She appeared naked in Playboy magazine several times, with her first shoot taken by her husband John Derek. When asked why she did it, she responded, “Because I'm beautiful."

Ursula Andress Today

Andress in package art for her most recent film, and photographed at Cannes in 2010. Source: IMDB, Wikimedia Commons

Ursula Andress hasn't acted in over a decade -- her last credited role being as Madonna in Die Vogelpredigt (The Bird Preachers, 2005). In 2000, she was diagnosed with osteoporosis, and in 2008 said that the disease had taken an immense toll on her bones, describing them as "like glass." It seems unlikely we will ever see her on the big screen again, but her glamorous moments from her heyday are forever etched in celluloid history.

Tags: Bond Girls | Dr. No | Then And Now | Ursula Andress

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Kellar Ellsworth

Writer

Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!