From Russia With Love was the first Bond film to feature a villainess. Rosa Klebb and her poisonous dagger hidden in her shoe became a totem to the Bond franchise. Tatiana Romanova was a beautiful cipher clerk who was a pawn in SPECTRE’s plans. Both women have specific roles in the progression of this movie. In my Dr. No post, I didn’t touch on women’s rights in 1962. This was due to the fact that there was only a year between Dr. No and From Russia With Love’s release dates. 1963 was a big year in the feminist movie which coincided with From Russia with Love’s release. For my From Russia with Love Women of Bond series, I will discuss the Bond women and major moments for women’s rights in 1963.
Rosa Klebb was played by Austrian-American actress Lotte Lenya. Lenya was a classically trained dancer and had experience performing in Opera. (1) Lenya later in her life won a Tony Award for her role in The Threepenny Opera. (1) Lenya won her Tony before she began filming From Russia With Love (FRWL) After the release of FRWL, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the movie, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. (1) Lenya lived an incredible life with her natural talents as a dancer, singing in various opera performances, and as a badass female villain who almost took Bond out with a shoe.
Tatiana Romanova was played by Italian actress, Daniela Bianchi. Bianchi was a model winning the Miss Rome pageant in 1960. (2) Bianchi was in numerous Italian films before appearing in FRWL. (2) For her audition, she was too sick to leave her bed, so director Terence Young came to see her and have her perform her audition at her home. (2) After filming FRWL, Bianchi retired from acting to raise her son. Bianchi’s role in FRWL is timeless.
As far as the misogyny in Bond films, Romanova deserved better. Bond slaps Romanova because he thinks she’s hiding information from him only to be proven incorrect. He doesn’t apologize to her. It’s uncomfortable re-watching this scene. It shows how Bond treats women and establishes how he is seen as the dominant world spy who can get away with whatever he wants.
While FRWL had some icky moments for the female characters, 1963 was a big year for women’s rights. Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique which discussed women and their unhappiness being in the home. (3) This was unheard of at the time and it was assumed women liked being at home. Friedan’s book led to the creation of the National Organisation of Women. (3) All Friedan did was write about experiences women were having during this time including the research supporting her statements. I think about my grandma and the expectations she had versus what I have for myself today. I’m happy to be a woman during this time, and Friedan is one to thank for that.
If I can summarize the Connery era thus far, I find these Bond films are more difficult to watch. I’m trying to separate them from the period they were made, but I find Bond’s misogyny comes out more in these films. That’s why I find this portion of my Bond series crucial. The women have helped make the Bond films as memorable as they are although I find the men portraying Bond get most of the credit. If I thought FRWL was bad for women, Goldfinger will take the cake, I mean who names a female character Pussy? Ian Fleming thought it was fine.