M (Bernard Lee)
M played by Bernard Lee
Born in London, England on 10th January 1908
Died 16th January 1981
Starred In Dr No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979).
In Dr No, M establishes his superiority over Bond that would last for the next seventeen years. He appears slightly more forgiving of Bonds ways in From Russia With Love, especially when he orders him to seduce Tatiana Romanova in a bid to gain a Russian LEKTOR decoding machine. Bond isn't so lucky in Goldfinger however when M chastises him for his lack of control at the Miami Beach hotel. They also attend a rather posh elegant dinner with Colonel Smithers from the Bank of England to talk business.
After arriving late at an emergency meeting in Thunderball, M publicly criticises Bonds tardiness in front of various officials and other 00 agents. However shortly afterward M defends Bonds actions, and in another instance amusingly tells him that Dominique 'Domino' Derval is 'worth going after', to which Bond wryly comments "I wouldn't have put it quite that way sir".
You Only Live Twice sees M 'in the field' in his naval uniform, where he briefs Bond aboard the M1 submarine. Sadly the scenes between them are far too brief, and even Bond is surprised when he is quickly dismissed after the briefing.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service sees Bond visit M's home where he is enjoying his pastime of lepidopterology. After M removes Bond from the case of tracking down Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Miss Moneypenny saves the day when she changes Bond request to resign, for two weeks leave.
M has to put up with Bond demonstrating his superior knowledge of Sherry to impress Sir Donald Munger in Diamonds Are Forever. However, M does still manage to suitably criticise Bond saying MI6 does still function in his absence and expects some proper work done now Blofeld is dead.
Very unusually M drops in on Bond at his apartment, in the early hours of the morning in Live And Let Die to inform him of a new assignment. Helped by Miss Moneypenny, Bond tries to avoid M from seeing a scantily clad Miss Caruso who leaves Bond's bed and hides in the wardrobe.
The Man With The Golden Gun sees M in a particularly bad mood with Bond who gets the brunt of his impatience, although M clearly becomes annoyed when other officials take too long to say their piece to Bond. However at the end of the briefing M very unusually lightens up and gives Bond a smile, but then dismisses him and returns to normal.
The Spy Who Loved Me sees M in a much better mood, perhaps because of the partnership with General Gogol, pooling their resources to help find the submarine tracking system. Shortly afterward M even unusually praises Bond after identifying details about Karl Stromberg.
Moonraker sadly marks the last film where Bernard Lee plays M. He is slightly more relaxed in the film when he sarcastically thanks Bond after he fires a dart from Q's wrist dart gun into one of M's paintings during their briefing. Later M and other officials are made to look like fools when they enter the secret laboratory in Venice, only to find any trace of it has been removed. Once Bond shows M the vial of poison from Drax's globes, he grants Bond's request to travel to travel to Rio and investigate further. Amusingly at the end of the film M adverts his gaze when NASA goes live to his space shuttle finding Bond and Dr Holly Goodhead underneath the sheets weightless.
Always at the start of the mission Bond would, after his welcome flirt with Miss Moneypenny, be told the mission by M. He would usually ask Bond how much he knew about a certain subject, and then find himself being caught out by the agents wealth of knowledge.
Bernard Lee's portrayal of M is one of formality. The briefing scenes with M are more formal in these early years compared to modern Bond films. M always referred to Bond as 007 as he deemed it more formal. He was quite short-tempered in the fact that he wouldn't like anyone to talk for too long about a subject before he had to interrupt. This would happen quite often when Q would take too long to explain a gadget, or mention some retort to Bond. However towards the later films starring Bernard Lee as M, the character became slightly less informal in places, although always remaining dignified and upstanding.
Sadly Bernard Lee died shortly before production started on For Your Eyes Only, leaving James Villiers to play the role of Bill Tanner, Chief of Staff. He gives Bond his orders, leaving the role of M unfulfilled as a sign of respect, telling Bond that M was on leave. §