National Airlines, “Airline of the Stars”

‘National Airlines, “Airline of the Stars”, announces the departure of their flight NA 106 to La Guardia Field, New York. Will all passengers please proceed to gate number seven. All aboard, please.’

Goldfinger, Chapter one

James Bond is in Miami Airport awaiting his Transamerica flight to New York, when he hears the above announcement of a flight from a competing airline.

National Airlines was a major passenger airline which operated from 1934 until 1980 when it was taken over by Pan Am. The slogan “Airline of the Stars” appeared on the planes and was used throughout the 1950’s in reference to Hollywood movie stars flying on the airline. In 1964 they changed the slogan to “Coast to Coast to Coast.”

In 1958, National became the first Airline to fly jets domestically in the United States, first going from New York to Florida, using a Boeing 707.

We’re not told the time that Bond is in the airport, but a look at a 1958 National Airlines flight table tells us that NA Flight 106 left Miami at 10:00PM and arrived in New York at 2:55AM. But as you see, the flight did not go to La Guardia Field, but rather to Idlewild (now JFK).

(It took me a bit to figure out how to read the table.)

Miami Airport

JAMES BOND, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and thought about life and death.

Goldfinger, Chapter One

Goldfinger begins with James Bond at the Miami Airport, drinking bourbon following an unpleasant assignment in Mexico.

There has been an airport on the current site of Miami International Airport since the 1920’s.

It is the largest connection in the United States south to the Caribbean and Latin America, which is how Bond found himself there. Some early airlines which were prominent there included Pan American, Eastern Airlines and National Airlines.

Here is a good look back at the history of Miami International Airport. It has many vintage photos of the era when Bond visited.

Here is some 1960 footage from inside the Miami Airport:

Grumman Amphibian

In Dr No, M is giving James Bond some background on the case in Jamaica which he is turning over to his still-recovering agent.

He has described the private island of Crab Key, and notes:

There’s an airstrip on the island. This Chinaman’s got a Grumman Amphibian for bringing in supplies …

Grumman was a major manufacturer of both civilian and military aircraft during the last century, one line they built was a series of Amphibian aircraft, designed for use on land or water.

Either of these could be representative of the plane that Dr No owned.

Grumman G44-A Widgeon ZK-AVM

 

Grumman Goose

After disposing of Dr No, Bond postulates that some of the remaining men will attempt to flee to Cuba in the plane.

Hôtel Ritz Paris

When James Bond arrives in Paris, after having departed the Orient Express in Dijon, he heads to the luxurious Ritz Hotel.

Bond’s taxi pulls up to the Rue Cambon entrance of the hotel.

Ritz Hotel, Paris. Rue Cambon Street side.

He goes into the hotel, takes a left and goes into the Ritz bar, where he has a double vodka martini.

Bond feels wonderful at the moment. After finishing his martini, he goes to the concierge lodge, is given a pass-key (and a sharp look) on orders from Rene Mathis, and heads to his destination – room 204.

Here are a couple of the suites from the Ritz Paris, which has been under renovation for the last few years. These are from prior to the renovations.

It was a typical Ritz sitting-room, extremely elegant, with good Empire furniture. The walls were white and the curtains and chair covers were of a small patterned chintz of red roses on white. The carpet was wine-red and close-fitted.

In a pool of sunshine, in a low-armed chair beside a Directoire writing desk, a little old woman sat knitting.


The novel From Russia With Love ends inside this room 204 of the Ritz Hotel, Paris.

All Orient Express Stations In From Russia With Love

For the last few months, we’ve been taking a deep-dive into the journey on board the Orient Express during the events of From Russia With Love.

While doing this, I’ve plotted the course on the new Google My Maps feature, and I’m pleased to show it to you here:

The map is interactive – you can zoom in and out, open it full screen, and click on any of the markers for photographs and links to the posts about that station.

Here are the stations in order of the events from the novel:

Istanbul (Turkey)

Uzunkopru (Turkey)

Alexandropolis and Pithion (Greece)

Thessaloniki (Greece)

Idomeni (Greece)

Belgrade (Yugoslavia – Serbia)

Vincovci and Brod  (Yugoslavia – Croatia)

Zagreb (Yugoslavia – Croatia)

Ljubljana (Yugoslavia – Slovenia)

Sezana (Yugoslvia – Slovenia)

Poggioreale (Italy)

Maestre, Venice, Padua, Vicenza and Verona (Italy)

Domodossola (Italy)

Iselle (Italy) and Brig (Switzerland)

Lausanne and Vallorbe (Switzerland)

Dijon (France)

 

 

 

Dijon Railway Station

In From Russia With Love, after James Bond has a disagreement with Captain Nash, he decides to take Tatiana and leave the train at Dijon. (Gare de Dijon-Ville)

At last they were down the steps and on to the hard, wonderful, motionless platform. A blue-smocked porter took their luggage.

The sun was beginning to rise. At that hour of the morning there were very few passengers awake. Only a handful in the third class, who had ridden ‘hard’ through the night, saw a young man help a young girl away from the dusty carriage with the romantic names on its side toward the drab door that said ‘SORTIE’.

They make their own way to Paris.

Platform at Dijon, late 1950’s.

Dijon Station, 1945

The station in Dijon was opened in 1849 and remains in operation to this day. By the way, SORTIE is just a designation for an exit.

Simplon Tunnel

In From Russia With Love, the Simplon Tunnel is the planned killing ground for Red Grant/Captain Nash to do away with James Bond and Tatiana Romanova, completing the SMERSH plan to embarrass the British Secret Service and eliminate Bond, who has been a thorn in their side.

Nash took a quick glance at his wrist watch. ‘In about twenty minutes we go into the Simplon tunnel. That’s where they want it done. More drama for the papers. One bullet for you. As we go into the tunnel. Just one in the heart. The noise of the tunnel will help in case you’re a noisy dier – rattle and so forth. Then one in the back of the neck for here – with your gun- and out the window she goes.

A few moments later, Nash explains the appeal for the press:

Old man, the story’s got everything. Orient Express. Beautiful Russian spy murdered in Simplon tunnel.

Bond then knows that he’s walked right into the trap.

The Simplon Tunnel is 12 miles (20km) long and connects Italy with Switzerland through the Alps. The first tunnel was completed in 1905 and the second in 1921. This allowed the Orient Express to get through to Italy while avoiding pro-German territory.

Italian Side of Simplon Tunnel.

Swiss Side of Simplon Tunnel.

The station on the Italian side of the tunnel is the Stazione di Iselle di Trasquera. After passing through the tunnel, the train arrives in the Brig Railway Station in Switzerland.

Brig Station, 1950.

Maestre, Venice, Padua, Vicenza and Verona

After meeting up with Captain Nash at Trieste, James Bond is relieved to have some help, and an opportunity to eat and spend some time with Tatiana.

After eating dinner in the restaurant car – tagliatelli verdi (Green, narrow ribbons of pasta) and an escalope (slice of meat pounded thin and breaded) they retire to their berth. It is just as they are pulling into Mestre – which is the mainland station of Venice.

After Mestre, they head to Venice, Bond asks Tatiana if she’d like to see the station, but she says it’s just another station, and she has something else she wants to do with Bond at the moment.

Venezia Santa Lucia station. (Venice)

They then fall asleep, continuing to sleep as they pass through Padua (Padova):

La stazione di Padova (Padua)

And then Vicenza:

There was then a “fabulous sunset over Verona.”

Verona

After passing through Verona, Bond awakes as the sun is going down. He looks out over the Lombardy Plain. He’s feeling good.

That is soon to change.

Trieste Centrale station, Italy

After Poggioreale, the Orient Express is fully into Italy, and James Bond is feeling a bit better about things.

We’ve made it, thought Bond. I really think we’ve made it. He thrust the memory of the last three days away from him. Tatiana saw the tense lines in his face relax. She reached over and took his hand. He moved and sat close to her. They looked out at the gay villas on the Corniche* and at the sailing boats and the people water-skiing.

The train clanged across some points and slid quietly into the gleaming station of Trieste.

The station in Trieste opened in 1857, and was in its centennial year when the events of From Russia With Love took place. In the post-WWII years, Trieste was something of a political hotbed, with both Italy and Yugoslavia claiming territorial rights. from 1947-1954 the city was under UN protection, in two zones, one for each nation.

In Bond’s view, things may be looking up, but that will quickly change with the arrival of an unannounced agent.

Fleming notes that “The sun shone through the tall clean windows of the station in golden shafts.”

*A “Corniche” is a cliff-side road, many times overlooking a body of water.

Poggioreale Station, Italy

An interesting passage in From Russia With Love is as the Orient Express leaves the station of Sežana and heads into Italy.

Then Yugoslavia was gone and Poggioreale came and the first smell of the soft like with the happy jabbering of the Italian officials and the carefree upturned faces of the station crowd. The new diesel-electric engine game a slap-happy whistle, the meadow of brown hands fluttered, and they were loping easily down into Venezia, toward the distant sparkle of Trieste and the gay blue of the Adriatic.

When looking at the geography of the area, there is no city of Poggioreale in the area of Trieste. John Griswold makes the following comment in his outstanding book:

NOTE3: The city of Poggioreale, Italy, was mentioned as one of the cities that the Simplon-Orient Express traveled through on its way to Trieste. When researching the path of the Simplon-Orient Express, only two locations in Italy could be found for Poggioreale. One was located on the Italian island of Sicily and the other was in Naples. Neither of these is on the route of the Simplon-Orient Express going to Trieste, Italy.

I was prepared to accept that, and just write it off as creative license being exercised by Fleming, or perhaps even a mistake. But as I studied the route of the Orient Express, there was a station between when they left Yugoslavia in Sežana and before they arrived in Trieste. Nothing I could find however, attached the name of Poggioreale to it.

Then I stumbled across a 1950 article from the Chicago Tribune, in which the writer chronicled his efforts to travel from Rome to Belgrade, mostly via train.

He wrote:

The next afternoon, I rode the stub train 18 miles from Trieste to Poggioreale Campagna, on the border of the free zone.

Board Another Train

At Poggioreale, we left the train and boarded another for Sezana, five miles away, across the boundary in Yugoslavia. At Sezana, we hooked onto the Simplon-Orient Express.

The station that sits five miles across the border from Sezana is Villa Opicina. Further digging ensued. The original name of the town was Opcina – Slavic in origin. During WWII the name was changed to the more Italian Villa Opicina. But then the town was renamed by the Fascists to Poggioreale del Carso.

In 1966, the name was changed back to Villa Opicina. But in 1956 when Fleming was writing From Russia With Love, the town and station name was indeed Poggioreale!

Stazione Poggioreale Campagna was the official name of the train station there which, like the town, is now renamed Villa Opicina.

Original passenger building on left.

So once again, even in the small details, Ian Fleming gets it right, even when it doesn’t appear to be the case at first glance.