Hoagy Carmichael

Hoagland Howard Carmichael was an American composer, singer and actor who is referenced in two James Bond novels as a good representation of what agent 007 looks like.

In Casino Royale, it is Vesper Lynd who first makes this connection.

‘He is very good-looking. He reminds me rather of Hoagy Carmichael, but there is something cold and ruthless in his …’

Bond is told of this, and later muses:

As he tied his thin, double-ended, black satin tie, he paused for a moment and examined himself levelly in the mirror. His grey-blue eyes looked calmly back with a hint of ironical inquiry and the short lock of black hair which would never stay in place slowly subsided to form a thick comma above his right eyebrow. With the thin vertical scar down his right cheek the general effect was faintly piratical. Not much of Hoagy Carmichael there, thought Bond, as he filled a flat, light gunmetal box with fifty of the Morland cigarettes with the triple gold band.

In Moonraker, Gala Brand also makes the connection:

Rather like Hoagy Carmichael in a way. That black hair falling down over the right eyebrow. Much the same bones. But there was something a bit cruel in the mouth, and the eyes were cold.

These are the only mentions of Carmichael, but the description of Bond stays pretty consistent throughout the series.

hoagy-carmichael-james-bond

Fleming himself had a drawing of James Bond commissioned for a comic strip artist to use for a series in the Daily Express.

original-james-bond-sketch

 

I would quibble slightly with the receding hairline, but this is Fleming’s own interpretation, so we’ll have to accept it.

 

6 Replies to “Hoagy Carmichael”

  1. Fleming’s drawing always reminds me of what actor Peter Cushing might have looked like in the 1940’s or ’50’s.
    Looking at the picture now, I keep thinking of Michael Fassbender or Tom Hiddleston as Bond when Daniel Craig hangs up the PPK.
    Hoagy Carmichael had a pleasant, workman-like face. Certainly not ugly, but not leading man material either. If you’ve seen the first episode of “Mad Men”, when we first see Don Draper in a bar with a drink and cigarette, he looks like 1950s Book Bond.
    I know your blog deals primarily with the Fleming novels, but having read and re-read them so many times, I find it healthy to picture Bond looking different to Carmichael or Connery from time to time.
    Just my take.

    1. It DOES look like Cushing. As a big Mad Men fan as well, I thought the same thing when Draper made his first appearance.

      I don’t actually picture Carmichael, Connery or anyone when reading Bond. I guess I have my own, vague image of what he looks like.

  2. I have found a photo of Carmichael when he was about Bond’s age when the description is given. I don’t see a way to attach it.

  3. I always believed that Bond was not a mirror of Fleming, but more a fusion of Fleming and his brother Peter, who he was jealous of, for Peter was an actual agent and adventurer and he thought a better writer. He gave Bond his own personal likes and dislikes. When he physically described Bond, he was thinking of Peter, but since his readers would not know what Peter looked like, he came up with the idea of Hoagy Carmichael, because his brother resembled HC to a degree and he knew the public was aware of what HC looked like.

    1. I could see that. If you take a look at the photo on Peter Fleming’s Wikipedia page you can definitely see the resemblance.

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