Bravery, Villains and Beautiful Women: Celebrating 50 years of James Bond in Britain

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James Bond is everywhere this year, even the 2012 Olympic Games in London.  And why not? The Bond movie franchise marks its 50th anniversary this year. Since 1962, when "Dr. No" first hit theaters starring Sean Connery as the suave spy, there have been 22 Bond films. The 23rd, "Skyfall," will be released November 9.

That first film set the tone for the rest, with the dashing spy wooing the world's most beautiful women while running from some of the most devious villains ever invented. It also introduced his boss at the MI6 Secret Intelligence Agency, known only by the initial M. Like Bond himself, M has been played by several actors over the years, with Dame Judi Dench as the most recent incarnation — and the first woman. That's fitting, given that she took over in an era when a woman headed the real-life British intelligence agency MI5.

But the most famous women in the Bond films are the "Bond girls," a series of beautiful women who may be Bond's allies or villains — or both. Ursula Andress set the bar high as Honey Rider in Dr. No, emerging out of the water in an unforgettable teeny bikini. Although some have complained that they're nothing more than eye candy, many Bond girls have gone on to have serious acting careers.

You won't see one of the biggest female performers in "Skyfall": Megastar Adele will be singing the theme song and has said that she's very pleased to become the latest "Bond girl."

Bond's cars are almost as intriguing as his escapades. Not only are they hot rides in their own right, they are often equipped with high-tech gadgets that help Bond escape from, or take out, his enemies. This year, the Beaulieu National Motor Museum in Hampshire, England, is putting on a comprehensive "Bond in Motion" exhibition featuring the Aston Martin DB5, the Lotus Esprit S1 and Goldfinger's 1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III along with the Fairey Huntress Speedboat and Octopussy's Acrostar Jet, among other ingenious modes of transport.

If you can't wait until "Skyfall" for a Bond fix, the new "Bond 50" Blu-ray collection of all 22 classic Bond films is available now.

by Christy Karras

Top: Director Sam Mendes, Naomie Harris, Daniel Craig and Berenice Marlohe mark the filming of the 23rd Bond Film "Skyfall." (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

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