When Sean Connery departed the Bond series after five films, the studio decided to cast an utter unknown in the role, since the formula had worked in 1962 with Connery.
George Lazenby wasn’t even really an actor in 1963, having one small role on the soap opera General Hospital under his belt and not much else.
But he had the right look and athleticism to pull the role off. There’s an excellent documentary from this year called Becoming Bond that details the bizarre circumstances that allowed an Australian car mechanic to step into the biggest role in cinema at the time, albeit briefly.
And if you’ve ever wondered exactly where the super-swinging aesthetic spoofed in the Austin Powers movies came from, it was this movie. You won’t find Sean Connery wearing a pirate shirt with his tuxedo…and just check out the groovy movie poster above.
In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the new Bond rescues a woman from drowning and discovers she is linked to a European crime syndicate that might lead him to his nemesis Ernst Starvro Blofeld, played by Telly Savalas this time. But the movie is actually what we’d call today, a reboot, telling the story of Bond’s early missions as a secret agent, much the way Casino Royale does decades later. It also finally gives Bond some motivation for his lifestyle of booze, interchangeable women treated as objects, and violence—we see a woman Bond truly loves, and marries, murdered in front of him, thus setting him on his path.
After Lazenby’s turn in the tux, Connery returned for Diamonds Are Forever.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Even though it’s an origin story, this movie doesn’t retcon any of the Connery films, as they technically start en media res, with “Dr. No” being the sixth Bond novel published.
Her Majesty was actually Ian Fleming’s second book in the so-called Blofeld trilogy set between Thunderball and You Only Live Twice. But, since the movies were made in a different order, the stories were altered for the screen.
Lazenby carries the familiar Walther PPK in .380 ACP as his sidearm throughout the movie. Tracy (Diana Rigg) briefly takes the gun from Bond’s holster and points it at him before he takes it back.
AR-7 Survival Rifle
Early in the film, we see another familiar Bond firearm: an AR-7 survival rifle, disassembled in the glove compartment of Bond’s car. The character, when played by Connery, used a similar .22LR rifle in From Russia With Love. In addition to the stock and barrel, there’s also a scope and suppressor.
While in reality the AR-7 is a rimfire rifle meant to be used for subsistence hunting of small animals in a survival situation, in Bond movies and other films, it’s often depicted as a more powerful sniper-type rifle, simple because watching it get assembled is plain cool and all the components fit in the rifle’s hollow stock making it easy to conceal, for a rifle anyway.
Sterling L2A3 SMG
In the film’s final act, Bond and Marc Ange Draco’s men use Sterling L2A3 submachine guns during the raid on Piz Gloria, which was based on a real-life Nazi mountain stronghold.
And that was it for George. The fame of being Bond was too much for him, and he broke his contract and disappeared for a while. This let Sean Connery step back into Bond’s tux for Diamonds Are Forever in 1971 before turning the reins over to Roger Moore, almost permanently.