Top Ten Sean Connery Sub-Genres

November 1, 2020
In tribute to the passing of the great man, Stephen Vagg has drawn up a top ten list of Sean Connery sub-genres that weren’t James Bond.
  1. Connery as an Irishman – he played these a LOT early in his career, like a bewilderingly large number of times (Brit producers were more comfortable with Irish than Scots maybe?)… Ironically some films were among the best he ever made (Darby O’Gill and the Little People, Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure, The Longest Day, and The Frightened City are all fantastic), others not so much (On the Fiddle). He returned to the brogue for another excellent film, The Molly Maguires (1970).

Watch him sing in Darby here, one of the most charming movies he ever made.

  1. Connery in super classy British TV – he’s not known as a classical actor, but on British TV in the late 1950s and earlt 1960s Connery got to appear in works by Shakespeare, Terence Rattigan, Tolstoy, Rod Serling… it was really super high brow stuff, mysteriously ignored by lazy critics who only looked at his feature credits and went “d’uh jeez he just came out of nowhere d’uh I’m a dumb film critic d’uh”

Here’s a trailer of him going Russian years before The Hunt for Red October in BBC Anna Karenina (1961)

  1. Connery as Scandinavians – he played a few of these, randomly: Roland “I-use-sleds” Amundsen in the enjoyable epic The Red Tent (1971) and a counter terrorism official in Ransom (1974, not the Ron Howard film, but a ’70s Europudding).

  1. Connery as Arabic leaders – most of you would know his turn as the Arab chief in The Wind and the Lion (1975), but he also plays a Saudi Minister (!) in the less-well-known The Next Man (1976). Because Sean Connery was very very serious about not being typecast.

  1. Connery in films where the actors who played his kids seemed slightly miscast as his offspring – Meg Ryan in The Presidio (1988). Dustin Hoffman in Family Business (1989). Scarlett Johansson in Just Cause (1994). The glorious exception: Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).

I gotta say it’s great fun to see him be the dad of party girl Meg Ryan in the late ‘80s Peter Hyams classic The Presidio.

  1. Connery in films from great directors which were huge flops on release (some of which have become cult movies… but not all)Marnie (1964). Zardoz (1974). Wrong is Right (1982). The Molly Maguires (1970). Cuba (1979). A Good Man in Africa (1994), Five Days One Summer (1982).

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Zardoz; you may have been happy, but you haven’t lived.

  1. Connery knight-sploitation – Sometimes this worked well: Robin and Marian (1976), Highlander (1986), Robin Hood (1992). Other times not so much: First Knight (1994), Highlander 2 (1988), Sword of the Valiant (1984).

Sword of the Valiant, proof that every actor has his price, and if he’s Sean Connery, that price is probably not that high, but higher than Trevor Howard.

  1. Connery Aussie connections – His first wife, Diane Cilento, was an Aussie and he worked with Aussie directors, sometimes profitably (The Russia House), other times not so much (A Good Man in Africa).

  1. Connery bucking against a franchise – I don’t think any actor ever went into counter-casting as much as Connery when in a blockbuster franchise. While playing Bond, Connery was in: a thriller playing a man turned on by a kleptomaniac (Marnie), a murdering-an-old-man for money thriller (Woman of Straw), a gritty slice of British army life (The Hill), a wacky comedy (A Fine Madness), a Western (Shalako), a historical epic (The Red Tent), a crime drama (The Anderson Tapes). The variety is astounding.

Some of these movies turned out to be bona fide classics, but let’s shine a line on the less beloved.

  1. The Connery role I wish he’d played – Dirk Struan in Tai Pan. George MacDonald Fraser wrote a script based on James Clavell’s novel in the late 1970s and said he and Clavell assumed Connery would play it but the actor was considered box office poison at the time… so they went with Steve McQueen, then Roger Moore, then the project fell over, and it wasn’t filmed until 1986 with…. Bryan Brown as Struan (it was in that phase of Brown’s career when he was keen on accents).

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