8 Apr 2015

Ian Fleming in Istanbul

During the filming of From Russia With Love in 1962, Ian Fleming visited Istanbul as a guest of Director Terence Young. While on location, the film team took quite a few pictures of him in the city as well as in front of the Orient Express. One of the pictures features Fleming in front of a mosque.

This location can be found on a well-known place. The minaret and the windows that are visible behind Fleming belong to the Nuruosmaniye Mosque, right next to the Grand Bazaar. The mosque is visible when Bond arrives at the bazaar in the Rolls Royce, covered here.

Several pictures of Fleming, Robert Shaw and Pedro Armendáriz off camera were taken outside the Grand Bazaar and the mosque. Fleming is standing on the street named Tavuk Pazari in the top picture, which leads up to the entrance gate of the bazaar.

When Bond is driven back to his hotel in the Rolls Royce, followed by Grant in the Citroën, they drive past the very location where Fleming must have stood when the picture was taken. This is still the main entrance to the Grand Bazaar, although there are no parking spaces in front of the mosque anymore and the traffic is restricted.

The first time Fleming arrived in Istanbul was in early September 1955, attending an Interpol conference as a member of Scotland Yard’s delegation. He stayed at the newly opened Istanbul Hilton hotel, which he described as “the most fabulous modern hotel in Europe”. During the filming of Skyfall, the producer Barbara Broccoli claimed that Istanbul was allegedly Ian Fleming's favorite city. However, Fleming's own description of Istanbul does not really support that theory. Almost all nationalities, races and countries, get rough treatment in the novels, with Fleming trusting no one but than the British. And Turkey was no exception.

Fleming describes Istanbul as “a town the centuries had so drenched in blood and violence that, when daylight went out, the ghosts of its dead were its only population”. It was a town Bond, “would be glad to get out of alive”. Unfortunately there is not enough room to further elaborate on the reasons for Fleming's judgement of Istanbul, so let's leave it at that. After all, Cubby Broccoli wrote in his autobiography, that Fleming, when he was in London, revealed very little of himself, but in Istanbul, he was in his element. He was his true self in Turkey, and not the reserved man he was in London -  "He loved the sounds, the spicy smells, the bazaars, the street merchants and the belly dancers. Especially the belly dancers."

From Russia With Love would be the last Bond film seen by Fleming as he died on 12 August 1964, little over a month before the premiere of GoldfingerFrom Russia With Love was also the last film seen by President Kennedy, during a private screening at the White House in late November 1963.

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