Saturday 18 September 2010

Four eyes better than two

Interesting little article in the Daily Telegraph yesterday. The journalist - with the delightfully exotic name of Henry de Quetteville - opines on the possible demise of spectacles not just as a solution to myopia but as a part of everyday life, and popular culture too. In it, he picks up on the image of Michael Caine as Harry Palmer in the three films from the sixties and the iconic status of his tortoiseshell glasses. Though not explicitly referenced in the books, Caine's decision to wear these glasses (he was short-sighted) in the film turned a character into an icon, such that's it's difficult to disassociate the books, the character and the films from the glasses, to a large degree.

What did it signify, back then? This was a spy with imperfections. A man who, after making love to a flighty young dolly bird had to reach across to his bedside table to grab his specs before he could make a cup of coffee (recall the use by director Sidney Furie of shots of the main character shot through his own glasses). Someone who gave the appearance of an upper working class clerical officer who was able to bump off Eastern Bloc's finest. He was an everyman spy to the like the cinema-going public in the sixties; they could be him. Bond, in contrast, was the escapist fantasy, the public school educated hero and action man.

All through what was effectively a simple choice of costume!

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