- Tracy: "Why do you persist in rescuing me, Mr. Bond?"
- James Bond: "It's becoming quite a habit, isn't it, Contessa Teresa?"
- Tracy: "Teresa was a Saint; I'm known as Tracy."
- James Bond: "Well, Tracy, next time play it safe and stand on 5."
- Tracy: "People who want to stay *alive* play it safe."
- James Bond: "Please, stay alive! At least for tonight."
- ―James Bond and Contessa [Tracy] Teresa.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service is the sixth film in the James Bond film series, and the only Bond film to star George Lazenby as Bond. It was released in 1969 and was a critical and commercial success but Lazenby felt Bond would soon be outdated so he stepped out of his 7-film contract.
In the film, James Bond woos a mob boss's daughter and goes undercover to uncover the true reason for Blofeld's allergy research in the Swiss Alps that involves beautiful women from around the world.
The cinematic On Her Majesty's Secret Service is a close adaptation of the novel, but adds a few sequences, such as Bond's breaking in to a Swiss lawyer's office in Bern, Tracy's capture and rescue, etc.
The adventure begins one evening, with James Bond driving his Aston Martin DBS on a Portuguese coastal highway. Suddenly, a woman in a red Mercury Cougar convertible roars up behind him and overtakes him. Soon, he comes across the same car parked along the side of the road. Using a telescopic rifle sight, Bond spies her walking into the tall waves of the Atlantic Ocean, appearing utterly lost. Realising she is intending suicide, Bond drives down to the shore, runs into the surf and plucks her from the sea. He brings her back to consciousness and introduces himself as "Bond, James Bond" (simultaneously revealing his face, in the same manner as Sean Connery was revealed in Dr. No). Two men then surprise the pair and separate them - Bond being led away at gunpoint and the woman at knifepoint. In short order, Bond gains the advantage and defeats them — trapping one under a boat, snaring the other in a fishing net. Meanwhile, the woman takes Bond's car, drives it back up to her car, jumps into the Cougar, and speeds away. Bond comments, "This never happened to the other fellow" (the only time the character breaks the fourth wall in the official series, although Connery as Bond does so at the end of the unofficial Bond film, Never Say Never Again), initiating the title credits sequence.
After the title credits, Bond checks into a hotel; in pulling up to the hotel, he spies the mysterious woman's red Cougar parked in front of the hotel. Inquiring about the car's owner, the manager advises him that the car belongs to Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo. Later, Bond encounters her gambling at the casino. She makes a bet she can't back, and when she loses, Bond rescues her by paying it. Tracy invites him to her room to thank him; however, when he arrives at her room, a thug emerges from behind Bond and brawls with him. After defeating him, Bond returns to his room, there finding Tracy awaiting him. After Tracy threatens to kill him for a thrill, Bond disarms Tracy and questions her about the thug in her room. Tracy disavows any knowledge of the thug; an unconvinced Bond slaps her across the face. Bond suggests that the presence of those men indicates she may be in trouble; Tracy has nothing to say, but seduces Bond in payment of the casino rescue.
In the morning, she is gone (leaving full payment for her casino loss and a red carnation); she has checked out of the hotel. Later that morning, as Bond leaves the hotel for a round of golf, he is kidnapped by several men including the thug from Tracy's room and led at gunpoint to an awaiting Rolls-Royce. The men take him to a dockside office building, to the presence of Marc-Ange Draco the head of the Unione Corse, one of the biggest European crime syndicates (second in size only to SPECTRE).
Bond recognizes Draco immediately and provides Draco with a fairly complete profile of himself, but Draco reveals one hidden item: Tracy, the woman Bond rescued is his only daughter. Draco describes Tracy as a problem child; he also thinks Bond can resolve her emotional instability. Though Bond believes Tracy needs a psychiatrist, Draco insists that she needs "a man to dominate her". Draco asks Bond to marry Tracy; in return, Bond will receive a personal dowry of one million pounds sterling in gold on their wedding day. Bond refuses, but agrees to continue romancing Tracy at Draco's birthday party under the agreement that Draco reveal the whereabouts of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE.
Returning to MI6 headquarters, M informs Bond he's been relieved from Operation Bedlam (tracking and killing Blofeld). Angered by the slight Bond impetuously dictates his resignation to Miss Moneypenny and returns to his desk to clear out his keepsakes. Recalled to M's office, he is briskly informed his request is granted. Leaving M's office, he discovers Moneypenny requested a fortnight's leave instead, knowing Bond didn't really want to resign. Realising he can pursue Blofeld on his time off and not quit MI6, he thanks Moneypenny and heads for Draco's birthday party in Portugal.
At the party, Tracy discovers Bond's deal with her father and strong-arms Draco into providing Bond with the information he requested. Draco tells Bond that several of his Unione Corse men recently defected to Blofeld, and that the connection is Gebrüder Gumbold, a law firm in Bern, Switzerland. Distraught, Tracy runs away in tears; Bond catches up with her and wipes away the tears from her eyes. From that moment, they begin a whirlwind romance.
Bond and Tracy, who are falling in love, go to Bern with Draco to investigate Gumbold's connection with Blofeld. Searching the lawyer's office, Bond finds Blofeld's correspondence with the London College of Arms: Blofeld is attempting to lay claim to the title 'Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp' - de Bleuchamp being the French form of the Blofeld surname. His College of Arms correspondent is genealogist Sir Hilary Bray, who confirms Blofeld's pursuit of the title and agrees to co-operate with Bond. The discovery is the solid lead he needs; he visits M at home and is granted permission to chase Blofeld.
Posing as Bray, Bond visits Blofeld, under pretense of verifying the genealogical and physical characteristics of his de Bleuchamp ancestry. Blofeld has established a clinical research institute atop Piz Gloria, an alp in Switzerland. Disguised as the effete, foppish Bray, Bond meets 12 beautiful young women from around the world. They are patients of the institute's clinic, ostensibly undergoing unorthodox psychological and immunological treatments for food allergies and phobias. In fact, the women are unknowingly being brainwashed to distribute, at Blofeld's command, bacteriological warfare agents throughout their parts of the world. They are, in fact, Blofeld's Angels of Death.
James Bond's lasciviousness betrays him to Blofeld right-hand woman Irma Bunt, who captures him during a second visit to the bed of one of the "patients". Blofeld tells Bond his escapades have revealed his true identity; he also reveals a blunder that the real Hilary Bray would not have made (Bond identified the wrong church as the repository of the de Bleuchamp birth records). Bond escapes imprisonment in the cable-car machinery room of Piz Gloria, viciously subdues a guard, then escapes by skiing down Piz Gloria; Bond is spotted escaping and is chased by Blofeld and his henchmen. After two of them crash into the trees and another two are thrown from the cliff to their deaths, Bond reaches the village of Lauterbrunnen during its winter festival and there encounters Tracy, who is in Switzerland looking for Bond (having been told his whereabouts by her father). Tracy acquits herself well in helping Bond escape, greatly impressing Bond, and together they flee in her Cougar. After doubling back to Lauterbrunnen in a failed attempt in fooling their enemies, they finally escape their SPECTRE pursuers in a frantic car chase ending - for their pursuers - at an ice-track auto race. A blizzard forces them to a remote horse barn, where Bond declares his love for Tracy and proposes marriage to her; she happily accepts. Early next morning they ski away, but Blofeld and a few Piz Gloria guards find Tracy's Cougar in the barn and subsequently track the two down. Blofeld creates an avalanche with a flare, deliberately sacrificing some of his own men, to shorten his pursuit of the pair; he succeeds in incapacitating Bond and capturing Tracy.
Meanwhile, Blofeld holds the world at ransom with the threat of destroying its agriculture, using his brainwashed patients to release bacteriological agents which target vital types of livestock and food plants. His price is amnesty for all past crimes and recognition of his 'Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp' title. Despite Bond's pleas, M will not allow Bond to lead an assault on Piz Gloria, as the Prime Minister has deemed such a plan too risky. As Bond realises that without the radio complex at Piz Gloria to signal his patients, Blofeld's plan will fail, Bond contacts Draco to arrange a "demolition job" of Piz Gloria. Bond joins Draco and his Unione Corse henchmen in a mercenary helicopter assault on Piz Gloria, in hopes of destroying the facility and rescuing Tracy.
The raid is successful, and Bond and Blofeld are the last to escape before the institute is detonated by Draco's assault team. Blofeld attempts to escape by fleeing down a nearby skeleton bobled track but Bond follows him, leaping onto Blofeld's bobsled after he knocks Bond out of his own with a hand grenade. In the fistfight aboard the bobsled, a distracted Blofeld is snared by the neck in a broken tree, ripping him out of the bobsled and seemingly killing him. However, the steering wires come loose and detach when Bond attempts to regain control of the bobsled, which flies out of the run. Bond survives unscathed and meets a St. Bernard dog, who he requests brandy from.
Bond and Tracy promptly leave Switzerland and marry in Portugal, attended by Draco, the thug Bond fought in Tracy's room, M, Q and a tearful Miss Moneypenny. (During the best man's toast, Bond wipes the tears from Tracy's eyes in exactly the same manner as he had at Draco's birthday party.) They drive away in the Aston Martin, but they stop on the roadside a few kilometres later so Bond can remove the wedding flower decorations. As Bond and Tracy exchange protestations of love, a black Mercedes sedan driven by Blofeld in a neck brace drives past; Irma Bunt leans out of a rear window with a machine gun and shoots repeatedly. An enraged Bond realises who was in the car and informs Tracy of their assailants, only to realise that she was accidentally shot in the forehead and killed instead of Bond.
Moments later, a motorcycle policeman finds the grieving groom cradling his dead wife; fingering her wedding ring. Bond turns and, in denial, states that everything is fine and that "We have all the time in the world". (The phrase was later used as Tracy's epitaph, as seen in the graveyard pre-credits sequence of For Your Eyes Only in which James Bond finally avenges Tracy's murder by killing Blofeld.)
In 1967, after five successful James Bond films, Sean Connery quit the role to pursue other film roles. In his place Albert R. Broccoli initially chose actor Timothy Dalton, however Dalton declined believing himself too young and Sean Connery too good to replace. Harry Saltzman flirted with casting Roger Moore, but he was ultimately passed on because of his popular association with The Saint. Broccoli later chose Australian George Lazenby after Lazenby arranged an "accidental" encounter with the producer. Lazenby dressed the part, by sporting several sartorial Bond elements, such as a Rolex Submariner wristwatch and a Saville Row suit; Broccoli noticed him as a Bond-type man, because of physique and the character's elements, and offered him an audition.
Diana Rigg, who plays Tracy Bond, was later chosen partly because producers wanted an already established actress to play opposite the inexperienced Lazenby. Rigg, prior to On Her Majesty's Secret Service was popular for starring as Emma Peel in The Avengers.
Although the film was not as successful as previous Bond films at the box office, some aficionados consider this the best film of the James Bond series, with many critics feeling George Lazenby "nailed" the character of James Bond as described in the novels. Some fans of only the movie series, however, were disappointed by his interpretation, as it significantly diverged from Sean Connery's portrayal of the character. Others claim that his wooden acting robbed his screen relationship with Diana Rigg of any romantic chemistry.
There is a persistent belief that this film was a poor performer at the box office, or even that it was an actual flop. This is not true; it was actually the second highest grossing film worldwide of 1969, being outgrossed only by the mega-hit film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The film grossed $87,400,000 (USD worldwide), only $24 million less than Connery's previous offering. With inflation taken into account, the film outgrossed three of Roger Moore's Bond films as well as both of Timothy Dalton's films. It also outgrossed Connery's unofficial 1983 Bond film Never Say Never Again.
Despite Lazenby's efforts to portray James Bond, he would not reprise the role in Diamonds Are Forever. His agent convinced him that the tuxedo-clad secret agent would be archaic in the sexually liberated 1970s. He was offered a seven-film contract, he had signed a letter of intent to star in Diamonds Are Forever, and was even paid an initial installment of his fee (which he refunded).
Cast & characters
- Directed by: Peter R. Hunt
- Produced by: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman
- Written by: Ian Fleming
- Screenplay by: Richard Maibaum
- Music composed by: John Barry
- Cinematography by: Michael Reed
- Film editor and second unit director: John Glen
- Set decoration by: Peter Lamont
- Production design by: Syd Cain
- Main article: On Her Majesty's Secret Service (soundtrack)
Vehicles & gadgets
- Aston Martin DBS — This car is seen in the movie in six scenes: in the pre-credits teaser, outside Bond's hotel, in the parking area at Draco's Birthday celebration, when he arrives at M's home (Quarterdeck), briefly outside a jeweler's shop, and as Bond & Tracy's wedding car. Nothing is known about what kind of gadgets are installed, except for a rifle with a telescopic sight mounted in the glovebox. Obviously, given what happens at the end, it does not have bulletproof glass.
- Radioactive Lint — In the beginning of the story, Q is showing M a homing device made of radioactive lint: "When placed in a person's pocket, the anti-personnel and location fix seems fairly obvious." M is more concerned with a location fix of 007. Reportedly, director Peter Hunt has a disdain for the multiple gadgets of previous films, so the creation of the seemingly silly radioactive lint (coupled with a lack of gadgets in the film otherwise) is seen as his response to this. Ironically, the concept of radioactive lint actually makes it one of the more practical of all James Bond film gadgets.
- Safecracker — An electro-mechanical device consisting of a flexible cable ending in a magnetic grapple meant to be fitted over the dial of a typical safe combination lock. The machine would then randomly spin the dial through thousands of permutations, measuring minute changes in the mechanical resistance of the lock, and would in this way, eventually "think" through the numbers of the combination. Additionally, the safecracker has an integral, early-version photocopier, enabling the agent using the device to replace the documents after copying, keeping any residual presence to a minimum, likely keeping the rightful owner of the safe completely in the dark that his security has been breached.
- Pinewood Studios — London
- Piz Gloria, Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald — Switzerland
- Serra da Arrábida - Setúbal - Portugal
- For insurance reasons Lazenby was not allowed any of the skiing in the film: he did sneak skiing, and once ended skiing underneath the cable car, which was, coincidentally, taking Broccoli up to Piz Gloria.
- Although some scoffed at burly Telly Savalas as a robust Ernst Stavro Blofeld — in sharp contrast with the subdued portrayal of the villain by Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice — Fleming's novels established that Blofeld could substantially alter his appearance and change his demeanor. Therefore, the change in actor for each of Blofeld's appearances in the series, is in keeping with the James Bond literary canon, though the changes in appearance are less drastic than in the novels.
- The Bernese Oberland Railway also makes an appearance.
- The film contains the worst continuity error in the history of the Bond film series, in that Blofeld fails to recognize the lightly-disguised Bond when they meet again. Although both characters are played by different actors, they had met in the previous film, You Only Live Twice. Since the order of the movie adventures is the reverse of the novels, On Her Majesty's Secret Service marks the enemies' first confrontation in the novel series. This error originated in abandoned plans to open On Her Majesty's Secret Service with Bond undergoing plastic surgery to hide from his enemies (his faked death in Japan, in the previous adventure, having been unsuccessful). The intention was to help the audience accept the new actor in the role, and so allow an unrecognizable Bond to infiltrate Blofeld's hideout. With is removed, Blofeld's failure to recognize Bond is unexplained; Bond not immediately recognizing Blofeld is more understandable, as it is established that Blofeld underwent some form of cosmetic alteration (including removal of his earlobes).
- The building used for Blofeld's clinic, Piz Gloria, is a restaurant, atop the Schilthorn in the Bernese Oberland, and the only public access is by cable car (from Mürren or Stechelberg). As the owner had run out of money, it was unfinished when the filmmakers were seeking locations. EON Productions paid to finish it in return for exclusive use of the property during filming.
- The Goldfinger title song sung by Shirley Bassey made a small cameo in On Her Majesty's Secret Service when a janitor whistles the tune in Draco Construction's offices. There are other homages to previous Bond adventures including items and themes used during a scene in which Bond, thinking he'd resigned from MI6, was cleaning out his desk, in addition to clips from the preceding Bond films being shown during the opening credits.
- Originally, there was a scene wherein James Bond chased and killed a SPECTRE agent spying his meeting with Sir Hillary Bray. The scene was cut, reportedly, because it was considered too violent.
- For the portion of the film where Bond impersonates Sir Hillary Bray, Lazenby's voice was dubbed by the actor George Baker, who played the part of Bray.
- In this film we learn the Bond family motto that was also used as the title for The World Is Not Enough. In The World Is Not Enough, when Bond tells Elektra King this line, she replies with "Foolish sentiment", to which Bond then replies "Family motto."
- Since George Lazenby was a virtual unknown, initial teaser advertising for the film emphasized the Bond character rather than the actor playing him. Several ads, in fact, utilized an image of a "faceless" Bond. The production company later admitted that the "faceless" advertising campaign was a mistake, and blamed it for the movie's (relative) commercial failure. When Pan Books published its film tie-in edition of the novel, it showed Lazenby's face clearly.
- Production of OHMSS was delayed twice. It was originally to have followed Goldfinger, and early prints of that film even announced this. Later, it was earmarked to follow Thunderball but ultimately ended up following You Only Live Twice (leading in part to the continuity error described above related to Blofeld not recognizing Bond).
- Diana Rigg was more than a year older than her leading man, one of only a handful of occasions in which a Bond girl was older than Bond (the other occasions involved Honor Blackman being several years older than her Goldfinger co-star, Sean Connery, and Monica Bellucci being older than her Spectre co-star Daniel Craig).
- Adam West, of Batman fame, was offered the role of James Bond, but he turned it down, believing it should be played by a British actor. Another actor considered to replace Connery was Timothy Dalton, who declined as he felt he was too young for the part.
- Although Bond is shown taking his revenge (ultimately unsuccessfully) upon Blofeld in the next Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever, no reference to Tracy's death is actually made in that film, though the Roger Moore films would reference her death in The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only, and a reference to Bond having been married once is made in Licence to Kill.
- A heavily re-edited TV version was broadcast by ABC in 1976, featuring opening narration (performed by an actor who sounds nothing like Lazenby) and split into two halves. This version of the film opens with Bond's escape from Blofeld's lair, with the bulk of the film being presented as a flashback .
- Filming began at Piz Gloria in Switzerland in October 1968 and wrapped up in Portugal in May 1969.
|James Bond films|
Dr. No (1962) • From Russia with Love (1963) • Goldfinger (1964) • Thunderball (1965) • You Only Live Twice (1967) • Diamonds are Forever (1971)
| George Lazenby |
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
Live and Let Die (1973) • The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) • The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) • Moonraker (1979) • For Your Eyes Only (1981) • Octopussy (1983) • A View to a Kill (1985)
The Living Daylights (1987) • Licence to Kill (1989)
GoldenEye (1995) • Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) • The World Is Not Enough (1999) • Die Another Day (2002)
Casino Royale (2006) • Quantum of Solace (2008) • Skyfall (2012) • Spectre (2015) • No Time To Die (2020)
Casino Royale (1954) • Casino Royale (1967) • Never Say Never Again (1983)