No matter how impassioned the debates get among film fans about who is the best James Bond actor — Sean Connery tends to come in at No. 1 — most moviegoers agree that the spy series is one of the best secret-service depictions going. While author Ian Fleming introduced the suave MI6 agent to readers in 1953 with his Casino Royale, Bond didn’t make the leap to the screen until 1962, when Connery brought him to life in Dr. No. Since then, six actors have played the iconic character — Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig — each bringing their own interpretation to the role, for better or for worse.
This summer, Santa Barbarans have the chance to see James Bond through the decades when UCSB’s Arts & Lectures presents its annual free Friday film series at the Courthouse Sunken Gardens — which screen at Campbell Hall on Wednesdays. I recently spoke with Roman Baratiak, A&L’s point person for the screenings, about why James Bond is this year’s theme.
Why did you decide on James Bond this summer? Just to cover something fun. It seems like there are a lot of things that people are wrestling with these days and maybe needing an escape.
How did you decide which ones to show? That was hard; I think there are like 26 of them. I guess when I think of James Bond, I think of Sean Connery … so [there are four] Sean Connerys on the slate but there’s also a George Lazenby, who’s basically a one-hit wonder. And then there’s a Roger Moore film in there, The Spy Who Loved Me. And a Pierce Brosnan and a Daniel Craig.
And the whole thing is free! We just really want people to come and have a good time and enjoy themselves and be friendly to the people around them … This has really become a Santa Barbara tradition — people look forward to what’s playing during the summer and to get together with their friends … The series draws a diverse audience — teenagers up to people in their eighties — and it’s fun.
What was A&L’s first film series? It was called Monsters: Classic Horror Films from Universal Pictures. It was Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, Wolf Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon. And then we did Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance: The Great American Musicals, which featured Top Hat, Swing Time, Singing in the Rain, films like that. Then we did Robots, Space Aliens, and Body Snatchers! classic 1950s sci-fi such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, It Came from Outer Space, War of the Worlds, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Incredible Shrinking Man
The following year, 2013, was our wildly popular Alfred Hitchcock night. That one had a ton of people. We toned it down a bit in 2014 with Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd: Comedy Classics of the Silent Era. That was great because there was live piano accompaniment. Then we did Over the Rainbow: Great American Movie Musicals, with Wizard of Oz, West Side Story, Sound of Music, American in Paris, Cabaret — and it was fun. Then last year we did our Bogie and Bacall series.
How do you come up with these themes? There’s a million themes, but I tend to have a love the older titles, classic titles. I just think there’s something nice about showing those at the courthouse. … I think a lot of [the reason people go] is about the films, but a lot of it really is about just the social aspect of getting together with friends outdoors and watching a movie.
Did A&L originate the idea of the films at the Sunken Gardens? Actually, the County Arts Commission did a series … prior to this, but nothing to the level that [of] the last seven years in terms of excessive crowds attendance. … We were doing summer films at Campbell hall, but we never did them downtown. So I said, “Let’s try this.”
And now, I think it’s given that every summer it’s a tradition now. It is a tradition, yeah. We’re trying to make it no different than Summer Solstice or Fiesta or, you know, the Bowl shows or the Music Academy of the West. Just something that you think about when you think of summer in Santa Barbara.
(1962, starring Sean Connery): Wed., July 5, Campbell Hall; Fri., July 7, Courthouse Sunken Gardens
From Russia with Love
(1963, Sean Connery) Wed., July 12, Campbell Hall; Fri., July 14, Courthouse Sunken Gardens
(1964, Sean Connery) Wed., July 19, Campbell Hall; Fri., July 21, Courthouse Sunken Gardens
You Only Live Twice
(1967, Sean Connery) Wed., July 26, Campbell Hall; Fri., July 28, Courthouse Sunken Gardens
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
(1969, George Lazenby) Wed., Aug. 2, Campbell Hall ONLY
The Spy Who Loved Me
(1977, Roger Moore) Wed., Aug. 9, Campbell Hall; Fri., Aug. 11, Courthouse Sunken Gardens
(1995, Pierce Brosnan) — Wed., Aug. 16, Campbell Hall; Fri., Aug. 18, Courthouse Sunken Gardens
(2012, Daniel Craig) — Wed., Aug. 23, Campbell Hall; Fri., Aug. 25, Courthouse Sunken Gardens
Call 893-3535 or see artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.