The French James Bond

The French James Bond

'The name's de La Bath, Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath.' I thought about suppressing this article and disseminating fake news that better fits our unashamedly Anglocentric narrative. They say everyone else is at it. But truth should not be ignored nor the facts on the ground.
OSS 117 vs. 007
The French version of James Bond — codename 0SS 117 — featured in the films OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006) and OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009). The films are splendid fun, which means we can't ignore them. And if we can't ignore them, we have to admit — painfully — that France's OSS 117 predates 007 by four years.

OSS 117 is a fictional secret agent created by Jean Bruce in the 1948 novel Tu Parles d'une Ingénue (Ici OSS 117). The character is described as an American of French descent working for US intelligence. I haven't read the novels, so perhaps OSS 117 isn't as well-drawn or epochal as the character of Bond. If you fancy reading one of them, you have 88 that Jean wrote, as well as a further 143 written by his wife pseudonymously as J. Bruce following his death; then a further 23 written by their daughter. Talk about a family business. The novel-writing operation ended in 1992.

The Films of 0SS 117

As well as transferring to a successful TV series in the 1960s, an OSS 117 film franchise began in 1956 — four years before Dr No, the first James Bond film — with OSS 117 is Not Dead. After a five year hiatus, following the stunning success of Dr No, the dinner suit of OSS 117 was dusted off for a second film outing in 1963. Several films followed and several actors took the role of OSS 117.
Old OSS 117
Of particular note is the 1966 film Terror in Tokyo, which used a screenplay by James Bond director Terrence Young and starred Frederick Stafford as OSS 117. The tone is serious and very Bond.

Our cinephile friends at Kino Lorber have released a blue-ray DVD collection of five of these films in the OSS 117: Five Film Collection.

New OSS 117
In the recent film reboot of the character, Hubert is played by Jean Dujardin as a quintessential Frenchman. The films are set in the 1950s and 60s. The tone shifts to comic and parodic. Clouseau meets Bond? As I say, great fun.

I don't think you'll mind watching the old and new versions, even back to back. There's certainly always room for Bond and OSS 117 on the schedules of Tweed TV.

The Clothes of 0SS 117

Sticking to the new films — released by Gaumont — Jean was dressed in stylish suits and accessories of the period. For Nest of Spies, the suits were made by Parisian tailor Joseph Kergoat, who's been in the business since 1954 — so he certainly understands the tailoring of that period.

For Lost in Rio, Hubert was dressed by costume designer Charlotte David.

There's been conjecture as to whether the styles are strictly accurate for the periods in which the films were set, but overall Jean looks splendid in both.


  1. I must admit having watched the trailer for the movie, and not understanding fully (ok, ok not much of anything said) how much fun it looks. Makes me think i should dig out the Rosetta Stone language box i bought and have a go again learning French, well just for my pleasure and understand the laughs.


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