Explanation of how President Kennedy made James Bond popular. Key words: recent history, politics, news reporting, Ian Fleming, Fidel Castro, fiction, Ron Kurtus, School for Champions. Copyright © Restrictions
Relationship Between John F. Kennedy and James Bond 007 (1960s)
by Ron Kurtus (revised 15 September 2001)
The James Bond 007 series of books written by British author Ian Fleming were mildly successful in the late 1950s and early 1960s. After Fleming met President John F. Kennedy, the books became extremely popular in the United States, resulting in a series of 007 movies.
Questions you may have include:
- What was Fleming's background?
- What was the relationship between Kennedy and Fleming?
- What did Kennedy do to make the books popular?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Ian Fleming served in British Intelligence during World War II. From this experience, he learned the workings of the system of spying and the secret service. He started writing his series of James Bond books around 1951 and wrote a book every year or two until completing 13 books.
Fleming and Kennedy Meet
Fleming was somewhat dashing and had many friends within British government. Thus, he was invited to a party in Washington D.C. held by newly elected American President John F. Kennedy.
Fleming was introduced to President Kennedy, and in their conversation, he told Kennedy that he had a way to get rid of Fidel Castro, the Communist leader of Cuba. This piqued Kennedy's interest, since Castro had been a thorn in the side of Kennedy.
Gave amusing suggestion
Fleming said that Castro's beard was the key. Without the beard, Castro would look like anyone else. It was his trademark. So, Fleming said that the U.S. should announce that they found that beards attract radioactivity. Any person wearing a beard could become radioactive himself as well as sterile!
Castro would immediately shave off his beard and would soon fall from power, when the people saw him as an ordinary person.
Kennedy had a good laugh about this bizarre suggestion.
Kennedy tells about books
John F. Kennedy was a young and fun-loving president. He had a good sense of humor and certainly enjoyed a joke or two. His style and grace caught the Country by storm.
When he found out that Fleming had written some spy stories, Kennedy promised to read one.
Later, in a press conference, a reporter ask President Kennedy what type of books he liked read. He said his favorite books were the James Bond series, by Ian Fleming. Once the public found out about it, the books rose to the best-selling list.
After President Kennedy was given an amusing suggestion of how to get rid of Fidel Castro by author Ian Fleming, he promised to read some of his books. They became favorites of the President, and when this was broadcast in the press, they became national best sellers.
Some lessons learned here are:
- Being charming with a good sense of humor helps in becoming successful
- A promotional plug from the President can be invaluable
- Movies aren't as good as the books
(Note: Although the series of books were popular and well-written in their time, the series of James Bond movies that followed have become the epitome of gadgets, special effects and violence.)
Observe charming people to learn what makes them that way
Resources and references
Biography of John F. Kennedy - from the White House site
007 - high-tech site on Bond movies
MGM James Bond site - action and sound
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Relationship Between John F. Kennedy and James Bond 007