When Bob Holness played James Bond

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The late Bob Holness became a household name off the back of the classic TV show, Blockbusters. Revived in fairly recent times with Simon Mayo hosting, the show in Holness’ reign was something of a teatime institution. Not least for the army of students who turned up to appear on the show always grinning when they asked Bob for a P. Chortle.

Holness hosted Blockbusters from 1983 to 1995, and it’s the programme and work for which he remains best remembered. His easy charm and welcoming hosting a welcome contrast to the more brutish approach favoured by the likes of The Weakest Link.

Yet you may not know this, but Bob Holness’ CV has another major entry on it, something that might just win you a pub quiz one day. For even before Sean Connery took on the mantle, Bob Holness was one of the first people ever to play Ian Fleming’s secret agent, James Bond 007. We are not making this up.

He wasn’t the first. That honour goes to Barry Nelson, who took the role of Bond in an hour-long take on Casino Royale, that was shown as part of the CBS’ Climax! Mystery Theatre television programme in the United States. That particular production dates back to 1954, and is believed to be the first ever 007 adaptation. But our Bob wasn’t far behind. He became what’s thought to be the second man to officially play James Bond, this time in a radio adaptation of Fleming’s book, Moonraker. The same Moonraker that would turn into a not-much-loved Roger Moore movie, two decades later.

Holness’ Moonraker was instead a 1956 South African radio adaptation of the book (although some sources suggest it was actually broadcast for the first time in 1957), and because it was broadcast live, no known recording of Holness’ performance was ever kept. His take on Bond is forever consigned to a mix of history and the imagination. That said, Holness recalled that his Moonraker ran for under an hour and a half.

We’re betting too that it came across just a little more realistically than the eventual Moonraker film, which starred Roger Moore.

Bob Holness was the last man to play Bond before the 007 movie series as we know it now began (although there was the ‘unofficial’ adaptation of Casino Royale too, that starred David Niven as 007). The Bond movies officially kicked off with 1962’s Dr No. That’s when Sean Connery took on the part of James Bond – but even then, not before stuntman Bob Simmons shot the infamous gun barrel opening, that has since become synonymous with James Bond movies. Check out the Bet3Bet365 Mobile App, by the way, if you fancy having a bet like Mr Bond.

Bob Holness died in 2012, at the age of 83. Here he is at work on Blockbusters…

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