'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' 40th anniversary: Life.com unearths rare James Bond photos

Forty years ago, the producers of the James Bond film franchise had a doozy of a dilemma on their hands : Who would replace the indelible Sean Connery as 007 in their next chapter, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? Connery had already appeared in five Bond films and it wasn’t exactly news to anyone that the Scottish star was chafing at the restrictions of the role and his contract. So when he walked, the producers scrambled to find their replacement. It was no easy feat, to say the least.

The Bond brain trust screen-tested a bunch of suave, ’60s British leading men to play the super-spy. And Life magazine photographer Loomis Dean was on hand during the process, capturing it all on film. Now, 40 years after the fact, Life.com has opened its vaults from that session, providing a rare glimpse at The Men Who Would Be Bond — the five finalists to star in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.¬†Among them were John Richardson, Anthony Rogers, Robert Campbell, Hans de Vries (whose name, honestly, sounds more like a Bond villain), and, of course, the man who got the part, George Lazenby (pictured, bottom-right).

While Lazenby and his one Bond outing tend to get a bum rap in some circles, we happen to think that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of the most underrated — and flat-out best — films in the series. Not just because of Telly Savalas’ turn as uber-villain Ernst Blofeld, the presence of the easy-on-the-eyes Diana Rigg as Bond’s true love, and the skiing scenes at Piz Gloria, but also because the film has a depth of character and emotional richness that so many of the Connery and Roger Moore films never bothered to explore because they were so busy with gadgets and cheeky one-liners.

If you’re a fan of the film, 007, or just film history, check out two additional images below, and then be sure to head over to Life.com to flip through their entire gallery.

(TOP PHOTO: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service director Peter R. Hunt with John Richardson and an unnamed actress; BOTTOM PHOTO: Lazenby with potential Bond girl Marie-France Boye)

Photo Credit: Loomis Dean

Comments (21 total) Add your comment
  • darclyte

    Bond got married in OHMSS, and his wife was killed at the end. I don’t think that it was mentioned again except in one of the Tim Dalton Bond movies. It is a highly underrated Bond movie, but I think that it fits in better with the 2 most recent Bond flicks than the others.

    • homerox13

      I believe Bond’s marriae also gets mentioned in either “The Spy Who Loved Me” or “For Your Eyes Only”, which opens with a scene of Roger Moore laying flowers at his wife’s gravestone. A very nice touch, I thought.

    • Steve

      Actually they first show Roger Moore at the grave site at the beginning of Live and Let Die

      • Vanity Feral

        No, it’s “For Your Eyes Only”.

      • crispy

        No, it’s Moonraker… he shoots her remains into space.

      • caliban821

        Actually there is refernce to his late wife in Spy Who Loved Me. The moment is brief but loaded with impact. It’s a rare chance in his Bond films that Moore is allowed to show some dramatic range

    • claudenorth

      There’s also an implied reference to his wife’s death in “Diamonds are Forever”, which starts out with several quick scenes of Bond roughing up various bad guys while intoning, “WHERE IS BLOFELD?”

      I’m a huge OHMSS fan, and am always pleasantly surprised to discover other fans.

  • Shasta

    I thought I was the only one who liked Lazenby and OHMSS! Not many Bond feels can make you tear up. These pictures are fabulous, thanks!

  • Shasta

    *films. whoops.

  • PJ

    It was also mentioned in The Spy Who Loved Me when Bond (Roger Moore) meets Major Amasova (Barbera Bach) at the Mujaba Club for a cocktail, as they are exchanging dosiers on each other, she mentions that his wife was killed and is abruptly cut off by a shaken 007… Also in For Your Eyes Only opens with Bond (Moore) placing roses at Tracy’s grave.

  • crispy

    George Lazenby is a terrible bore. And the bum rap for OHMSS is justified. It’s an interesting footnote in the Bond pantheon, but certainly not one of the better entries.

    • John Bender

      Opinions are free and a given, but none of that helps you from being just so dead-on wrong about George and OHMSS. It was, still is, and maybe always will be the best Bond film (and with best Bond girl, the best Blofeld, the best score, the best Binder credits). The only thing bad about Lazenby was his career judgment. He made a glorious 007; so much better than Moore.

  • Peggy

    I think the reason why OHMSS got such a bad rap was because it was a complete departure from the Bond norm. You either really like or really don’t. I really didn’t like it for years.. then watched it again like 2 yrs ago and saw it in a different light.. do i love it??no.. but i now ‘see’ it for what it was .. a complete departure of “Bond”

  • caliban821

    I agree the problem was the departure from the film norm at the time. OHMSS is actually the most faithful adaptation of any Bond film. While Connery captured perfect James Bond the spy, OHMSS played up the human being. Fleming wrote Bond very much a fully fleshed out character not a cartoon hero. It’s only in the recent films that they have once again tried that

  • Ronald Payne

    GEORGE LAZENBY stands ‘head-and-shoulders’ alongside SIR SEAN CONNERY, as “one of the greatest 007’s of all time…His bravura performance as ‘double-0-seven’ is one of the outstanding achievements in the series. George Lazenby IS ‘Ian Fleming’s 007,’ in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” perhaps, “one of the greatest adventure films ever made.”

  • Lady Orange Peel

    I completely agree with your assessment, save for one area: Diana Rigg is far more than easy-on-the-eyes; she is exquisitely, divinely gorgeous!

  • dancerindc

    I also agree wholeheartedly – Lazenby and OHMSS is an excellent and under-rated Bond flick!

  • Carolyn Beasley

    I think Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the best Bond movie until Brosnan after Connery. I never liked Roger Moore. He was too old and fat!!

  • Rob J.E.

    As a huge Bond fan, I reckon OHMSS is way up there. Its the closest film version of any of the Fleming novels. People complain that it’s too different from other films… Hello!? If they didn’t try new things from time to time then the series would’ve probably died out long ago! OHMSS rules.

  • Merryweather

    George Lazenby was by far and away the best 007 and nothing has come close to OHMSS in the James Bond film series. Director Peter Hunt certainly knew how to do a Fleming novel properly.

  • Nathan

    Always annoys me watching this great film because of Lazenby’s poor advised career choice. I’ve always wished he would’ve done at least one more film. Where’s a damn time machine when you need one?!.

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