The Reichenbach Falls Moment
At the peak of his popularity, Sean Connery walked away from James Bond, and failed to make the best film in the series to date, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’. Instead, the producers opted for ‘Big Fry Man’ George Lazenby, whose personality proved so unpleasant that Diana Rigg ate garlic before having to kiss him. Connery clearly regretted his decision and came back, but it was too late.
He wasn’t the first person to get out on a high and belatedly realise he’d made a mistake. Stars fret about typecasting and flee, although there’s little evidence that typecasting ever hurt anyone. I was told that Christopher Lee once bumped into Patrick Macnee in a lift in Canada and asked him was he was doing. Macnee told him he was shooting ‘The Avengers’. ‘You always are, dear boy,’ said Lee, who hated being known for Dracula and told anyone at the drop of a hat that he’d been in ‘The King & I’.
Authors do it, too. Conan Doyle killed off his creation in what became known as the Great Hiatus (one of the hardest words in English to pronounce correctly) and brought him back for ‘The Adventure of the Empty House’. Georges Simenon didn’t want to be remembered for Maigret but for his stand-alone novels (which were admittedly much better and less formulaic) and Sir Arthur Sullivan hated being loved for ‘The Mikado’, preferring the hymns and sacred music which he felt would outlive the operettas.
Why do creators want to kill their creations? If you love something enough to construct such a work, and it proves successful (a feat in itself) why then try to bury it? The argument is that popularity typecasts the inventor, but actually it immortalises work as well. Everyone recalls Sherlock Holmes before Freeman’s Dr. Thorndyke partly because Conan Doyle wrote more short stories (although there were more Thorndyke novels). But the Holmes stories are entirely devoid of any humour, whereas the Thorndyke books are often amusing. Generally, the public likes its crime played straight.
Obviously I think about such matters because of the Bryant & May novels – although with those I find myself as happy as the public to meet up with the old codgers again.