Goldfinger was near on twenty years old the first time I saw it. I remember the circumstances clearly.
It was an odd day. It was the weekend, and only my mother and I were at home. My father, who never went anywhere other than work without my mother, and certainly not on the weekend, had gone somewhere other than work without my mother on the weekend. And none of my brothers were home, either, something that would be an oddity for another few years. There was always at least one of them kicking around.
Strangest of all, though, was that the TV was on in the middle of the day.
That never happened. Before I was born, my mother had been hooked on one of the daytime soap operas, and after my brothers had started school, she realized that when they got home, she’d be shushing them until her show was over. So she’d watched until the primary storyline had concluded and then stopped, not just watching that show, but turning the television on during the day at all.
I don’t remember what she had been watching that weekend day. But when the credits on the show ran, the station voiceover announced that Goldfinger was up next. I’d never seen a James Bond movie, and I didn’t expect my mother’s response when I mentioned I’d like to.
“Why don’t you watch it, then?”
I’ll never forget how it felt, as I lay on the floor on my stomach, propped up on my elbows, my eyes locked on the screen. The whole experience felt very taboo. The reason I’d never seen a James Bond movie up ’til then was the unspoken understanding that I wasn’t old enough. My mother controlled my pop culture intake pretty strictly, and the transition from not being allowed, to being allowed, felt like a big step.
On top of that, the second reason the television was never on during the day was that if my father caught you wasting your time watching TV, he’d find something productive for you to do. The last thing I wanted was to be on my father’s radar, so I usually spent my weekends in my room. Being able to watch what I wanted, at a time of day I normally wouldn’t, without having to keep an ear open for my father, was a freedom I rarely felt.
And then there was Sean Connery. My God, was there ever Sean Connery.
I was mesmerized. The voice. That chuckle. Those eyes, that smile, the hands. That body, whether it was in swimsuit or a tuxedo. And all combined with that indefinable something. He was the whole package. He wasn’t my first actor crush. But he was one of my strongest.
I knew immediately that I had to see more of Connery’s films, and once my family got a VCR and the village where I grew up a rental shop, I was able to fill in the James Bond back catalogue. When his movies came on late night TV, I recorded them. (Fortunately, my father enjoyed Connery’s movies as much as I did, and since it was okay for me to watch TV so long as he was, too, I got to watch those recordings a lot.) And years later, I passed another growing up milestone, when I used money I’d earned to treat my brothers to a night out at the movies, instead of them treating me. We saw The Russia House.
I’ve spent many hours of my life watching Sean Connery films, and when I heard of his passing, a weekend movie marathon seemed appropriate. Goldfinger, Entrapment, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Highlander filled my TV screen, followed by the crown jewel, the role I associate with Connery the most. More than Ramirez, or Jim Malone, or Professor Henry Jones, or Draco, or Allan Quartermain, or the Fireman. More, even, than James Bond.
Because for me, Sean Connery is Marko Ramius from The Hunt for Red October. And when I hear his voice in my head, he’s not saying the iconic, “Bond. James Bond.” He’s asking Vasili for …
One of the themes of The Hunt for Red October is revolution, a theme which I’ve I’ve lived more than once in my life. I look back at the kid who furtively watched Goldfinger that weekend day all those years ago, and then at the person who said, “Fuck it, put another movie on,” this past weekend, and realize how much of a counterpoint Connery’s films have provided. Watching his work, I’ve found references that have helped me process my own journey through the stages of life.
The immortals in Highlander were right when they said, “There can be only one.” Because Sean Connery was the only one of his kind. And he will live forever.