Jerusalem Cinematheque celebrates the movies of Sean Connery

Connery famously fought and even hated being identified with James Bond, so only one Bond film will be shown. The rest show the multifaceted actor Connery wanted the world to see.

 ‘GOLDFINGER’ (photo credit: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Studios)
(photo credit: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Studios)

If it hadn’t been for the roguish way he introduced himself in Dr. No in 1962, when he said, “Bond, James Bond,” we might not have had six decades of 007 films, and we might not have even known the name Sean Connery, whose films are being celebrated with a tribute at the Jerusalem Cinematheque this month.

Connery famously fought and even hated being identified with that iconic role, leaving and then returning to the franchise, and the programmers of this tribute have shown respect for Connery by including only one Bond flick in the series, Goldfinger (1964). Considered to be the wittiest Bond film, it features Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) and the girl who gets painted gold (Shirley Eaton).

What other non-James Bond movies with Sean Connery are showing?

The rest of the movies in the series show Connery as the multifaceted actor he wanted the world to see. In Marnie, the 1964 movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Connery played a widowed CEO opposite Tippi Hedren (the mother of Melanie Griffith and the grandmother of Dakota Johnson), as a frigid kleptomaniac secretary stealing from his company. 

The film is oddly cold, even for a Hitchcock movie, and features a still-controversial rape scene and a lot of dated psychoanalytic shenanigans. But what it is really remembered for is its backstory. In a widely reported rumor, confirmed by Hedren in her memoir, Hitchcock sexually harassed her repeatedly on the set, threatening to ruin her career if she did not comply. She claims she refused him, telling him, “Do what you have to do,” and in fact, she was never cast again in such a high-profile role. 

While some critics have hailed Marnie as a masterpiece, others contend Hitchcock deliberately sabotaged the film to take Hedren’s career down with it. See it and judge for yourself. 

 ‘THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER’  (credit: Courtesy of Park Circus Paramount)
‘THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER’ (credit: Courtesy of Park Circus Paramount)

Connery won one Oscar, Best Supporting Actor for Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables in 1988 (one of a handful of actors who won for their only nomination), in which he played an Irish-American police officer who helped Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) bring down Al Capone (Robert De Niro). With a screenplay by David Mamet, The Untouchables is a thrilling true-crime story that combines gore with wit and social criticism, and Connery gives one of his best performances in it.

Connery is the best thing about The Rock, Michael Bay’s Alcatraz action-thriller co-starring Nicolas Cage, from 1996. The same can be said about the 1990 movie The Hunt for Red October, in which Connery plays the captain of a Soviet submarine who may be planning to defect. This was the first adaptation of one of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels, and it co-stars Alec Baldwin as Ryan. 

Jean-Jacques Annaud directed the showy 1986 adaptation of The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco’s unlikely intellectual bestseller about a murder investigation in a medieval abbey, and Connery plays William of Baskerville, the friar leading the inquiry. This gripping film holds up better than you might expect. 

The rarest film in the series is The Offence, a 1973 movie by Sidney Lumet about a British police detective who begins to lose his mind while he is investigating a pedophile. It co-stars Trevor Howard and Vivien Merchant, and while it was one of both Connery and Lumet’s least celebrated films, it does give Connery a chance to play an angry, brutal character, light years removed from the unflappable James Bond image that he longed to shake. 

If the cinematheque ever decides to do a second part to this Connery tribute, or if reading about him has you yearning to see more of his films, I would suggest The Man Who Would Be King, the 1975 classic adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s story, directed by John Huston, in which Connery and Michael Caine play former British soldiers turned con men in India, who travel to a fabled kingdom. It’s got action, adventure, humor, suspense, and a critique of war and imperialism (although it celebrates them, too). 

Connery said in many interviews that it was his favorite among his films. If you’re in that Indiana Jones mood, see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in which Connery plays Indy’s father. Both of these movies are available in Israel on Apple TV+.