Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Legend Never Dies: Sean Connery and the Inevitability of Change

Some of my favourite memories of my grandfather involve sitting around basking in the warm glow of the TV screen. Whether it was at family functions or those times when I and maybe one of my siblings was visiting for the summer, there was something special about going through stacks of movies and TV shows on VHS, making a bag of microwave popcorn, and then settling in, preparing ourselves to enter an entirely new world. I remember my grandfather had a particular fondness for James Bond, and so it was my grandfather who introduced me to the franchise (at least according to the hazy depths of my own memory, which I will grant is only as reliable as the next man's and subject to the same imperfections). Maybe it was just a coincidence of time and space, with the James Bond films originally having become a part of the cultural zeitgeist when my grandfather was still young enough to identify with the James Bond fantasy of the witty and charming secret agent who oozed confidence from every pore and crackled with sexual energy and old enough to need that kind of escape from the drudgeries of everyday life.

It was through films like Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger that I was originally introduced to the talents of Sean Connery, sitting in front of a tiny TV/VCR combo in my grandparents' basement. Maybe it's because of this strong connection that I still draw between James Bond (especially those earlier films) and my grandfather that news of Sean Connery's death today seems to be hanging heavily on my mind. I remember clearly an old picture of my grandfather displayed at his funeral with him in a white suit coat and his hair slicked back, and how my cousin commented how in that picture he looked every inch like Sean Connery straight off the set of a James Bond film. Maybe it was the grief talking, but I'll be god damned if he wasn't one hundred percent right. Looking at that image captured decades before I even existed, I couldn't help but wish to have known the man in his younger days, if only for a few hours. In my mind I imaged my grandfather exuding the same charisma and self-assuredness that Sean Connery embodied in his performance as James Bond, pulsing with the same dangerous energy of a man on a mission and the conviction of a someone for whom danger was a familiar bedfellow.

That's how I imagine both my grandfather and Sean Connery, anyway. The truth of the matter is that for as much of an influence as each of them had on me in their own way, that my perception of them both is coloured by my own experiences and motivations. They were both men, flawed and imperfect men with complicated legacies. As are we all.

Maybe that's why Sean Connery's death feels like such a loss to me. Because I had so closely associated my grandfather with Sean Connery, it feels like another piece of my grandfather has faded out of this world. Someone that had meant so much to him is gone now, and as tenuous as that connection was in terms of the relationship between fan and celebrity, it was still something. But that connection is gone now.

Gone too is the man who gave us not only an iconic turn as everybody's favourite fictional British secret agent, but unforgettable turns in movies such as The Untouchables, The Rock, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and countless others. As an avid movie watcher of a certain age, I saw Sean Connery as a man from another time, a true Movie Star born of an era when that moniker actually meant something, who left an indelible mark in movie history - and in turn, history itself - in a way that few ever have or ever will. In many ways, the death of Sean Connery represents the end of an era - for better or worse - but one that, like the man himself, won't be forgotten any time soon. 


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