Sunday, 5 February 2012

I've been expecting you, Mr Bond

The February 2nd edition of Metro, London's free newspaper, published an officially-released image from Skyfall under the heading, 'We've been waiting for you, Mr Bond...'. This is obviously a variant of the phrase, 'I've been expecting you, Mr Bond', which has been used in one form or another in James Bond films, but has been taken up more widely in popular culture. Typically, the phrase is used to conjure up an image of a Blofeld-style villain, or more generally allude to a villainous character who is aware of, or even controlling, counter actions, and views his criminal activities as part of a game.

The phrase is itself a variant, and joins 'Play it again, Sam' as a phrase attributed to a film or series, but not actually used in that exact form. In Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Bond drops into Willard Whyte's penthouse suite and, having been observed by Blofeld, is greeted by Willard Whyte (actually Blofeld with a disguised voice) with the words, 'Howdy. Welcome, son. We've been expecting you'. Then, in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Bond arrives at Atlantis, villain Stromberg's sea-based lair, in order to rescue Anya Amasova before Atlantis is blown up. Again, Bond's entrance is noticed. 'Good evening, Mr Bond', says Stromberg, 'I've been expecting you.'

Phrase variants appear in two other Bond films, though are not used by the villains. In Octopussy (1983), Bond introduces himself at the reception of an Indian hotel and is told, 'We've been expecting you'. While the phrase has no sinister overtones – indeed it is a perfectly reasonable phrase at the hotel, since Bond made a reservation – it is possible that it serves as a knowing wink to the audience in reference to its general association with Bond films.

This cannot be said of the use of the phrase in Dr No (1962), since the film is the first in the series and so establishes Bond convention and structure, rather than replicates it. Bond, Quarrel and Honey Ryder dive behind a dune on the beach of Crab Key as a boat crewed by Dr No's henchmen motors round the bay. One of the men shouts out, 'Come on out. We know you're there. We've been expecting you'. In this case the phrase is unlikely to carry the connotation that it does in later films, as it is an adaptation of Fleming's writing. In the book, the henchman says, 'Come on out and you won't get hurt... We've seen where you came ashore. We've spotted the boat under the driftwood' (Chapter 9). The 'we've been expecting you' phrase is simply a more economical way of conveying what Fleming wrote.

The phrase does appear in the Bond novels, but not in the sense meant by its use in, say, The Spy Who Loved Me. In Chapter 7 of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963), Sable Basilisk of the College of Arms greets Bond with, 'Commander Bond... I'd been expecting you'. In Moonraker, Drax's 'Ah, my dear fellow... So we meet again' (Chapter 11) is certainly of the same tradition as the filmic 'I've been expecting you', but is a separate meme and has a currency of its own.

The phrase or its variants have spread into wider popular culture, and appear from time to time in newspapers and films, especially in connection with reviews of new Bond novels or films. For instance, a review for Raymond Benson's novels by the Independent on Sunday included the words, 'Welcome back, Mr Bond. We've been waiting for you'.

6 comments:

  1. Surprisingly interesting, (as Im not that interested in Bond) whole memes thing is interesting really. Lets have another blog sooner rather than later. If domestic duties allow that is!
    Best Clarrycrafts.

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  2. Thanks! I've got my next blog in mind, though it probably won't be up before Saturday.

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  3. Very interesting history of the use of that phrase there, Edward! Well done again!

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    1. Thanks, much appreciated. I'm sure a version of the phrase existed before Bond, but it's the films, and to a lesser extent the books, that have been responsible for popularising the phrase and ensuring that the phrase and Bond are indelibly associated, just as. It occurs to me too that in a way (dare I say), Bond joins Shakespeare and the Bible (not to the same scale, I admit) as a source of phrases that have entered the language.

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    2. Quite a lot of the Bond formula was taken by Fleming from Francis Durbridge's long-running radio thriller series Paul Temple. "I've been expecting you" is no exception: in Paul Temple Intervenes, broadcast on the BBC in 1942, the detective arrives at the home of Sir Felix Raybourn, a famous Egyptologist suspected of three murders. He's admiring a library of leather-bound detective novels when suddenly Raybourn appears, all unctuous charm. "Oh Mr Temple please, please, there's no reason to offer an excuse for this visit! I'm only too delighted to see you and to make your acquaintance. As a matter of fact, Mr Temple, I've, er, I've been expecting you! [More sinister voice] I've been expecting you!"

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    3. Very interesting. Great evidence that the phrase pre-dates Bond. Thanks very much for the information.

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