Note: We will examine various aspects of the route of the Orient Express, stations, cars, tunnels, etc in future posts.
The Dénouement of From Russia With Love takes place aboard the famous Orient Express train. James Bond and Tatiana Romanova board this train in Istanbul, and take it all the way to Dijon. There were several actual trains operating on the route.
The historic and famous Orient Express was not a brand of train, but rather a route that stretched from Istanbul to Paris. It was famous for the great luxury put into many of the carriages in a time when railway travel was the most common method of covering great distances.
Even by the time of the events of From Russia With Love, rail travel was dying out, as Fleming even noted in the opening of the chapter. He says though that “three times a week” the Orient Express was still offering the service from Istanbul to Paris.
Through Bond’s eyes, Fleming gives us some detail of the train as the waits for Tatiania.
The heavy bronze cipher on the side of the dark blue coach said, COMPAGNIE INTERNATIONALE DES WAGON-LITS ET DES GRANDS EXPRESS EUROPEENS.
Translated, that is the International Sleeping-Car Company or literally, The International Company sleepers (and European Grands Express) This was the company with produced the sleeping cars used on many of the most luxurious trains around the world. Fleming notes another detail of the exterior of the train car.
Another details on the side of the car is the destination sign:
Above the cipher, fitted into metal slots, was a flat iron sign that announced, in black capitals on white, ORIENT EXPRESS, and underneath, in three lines:
James Bond gazed vaguely at one of the most romantic signs in the world.
I couldn’t find a match for the sign that Fleming describes ( you can see above that this sign says “Milano” not Milan.) but you get the idea of the format of the sign here.
For some more helpful information and photos, you can look at these links. We’ll have much more on the Orient Express in the coming weeks.
While in Istanbul during From Russia With Love, James Bond stays “at the Kristal Palas on the heights of Pera.”
He arrives, noting the “entrance hall with the fly-blown palms in copper pots, and the floor and walls of discoloured Moorish tiles.”
Bond admits that having a “perverse liking for the sleazy romance that clings to old-fashioned Continental hotels, had decided him to stay and he had signed in and followed the man up to the third floor in the old rope-and-gravity lift.”
As with many Fleming creations in the Bond novels, the Kristal Palas was based on a real hotel. According to Steve Turner:
This was a thin disguise for the Pera Palas Hotel, which did have a run-down air to it in the Fifties. Built in 1892 to accommodate passengers arriving on the Orient Express, it was Istanbul’s first top-class hotel and stood close to the British French, German, Russian and American consulates. Its bar became a natural watering hole for diplomats, and a hub of gossip, scandal and intrigue.
The Pera Palas still exists, and went through a recent renovation to restore it to its pre-James Bond glory.
While Bond is initially unhappy with the hotel, after waking up the next morning, his choice is rewarded when he opens the curtain and sees the view of the Golden Horn from his balcony.
Ultimately, Bond is moved to room 12, which is the Honeymoon Suite. That was part of the plan for the opposition, which wanted Bond where they could watch him. Literally.
The Palas is a solid base for Bond while on assignment here, and while he doesn’t actually spend much time there, it adds nicely to the atmosphere and setting of the book.
After his briefing with M in From Russia With Love, James Bond is sent to Istanbul aboard B.E.A. Flight 130 to Rome, Athens and Istanbul.
The four small, square-ended propellers turned slowly, one by one, and became four whizzing pools. The low hum of the turbo-jets rose to a shrill smooth whine. The quality of the noise, and the complete absence of vibration, were different from the stuttering roar and straining horsepower of all other aircraft Bond had flown in. As the Viscount wheeled easily out to the shimmering east-west runway of London Airport, Bond felt as if he was sitting in an expensive mechanical toy.
The Vickers Viscount by Vickers-Armstrongs was a very important plane in the history of passenger air travel. It was the first gas-powered turboprop airliner, and the short to medium range plane featured much improved cabin comforts such as pressurisation, and reductions in vibration and noise – as noted by Fleming above.
Most of the flight went smoothly, though there was a rough patch which had Bond slightly nervous.
Bond smelt the smell of danger. It is a real smell, something like the mixture of sweat and electricity you get in an amusement arcade. Again the lightning flung its hands across the windows. Crash! It felt as if they were the centre of the thunder clap. Suddenly the plane seemed incredibly small and frail. Thirteen passengers! Friday the Thirteenth! Bond thought of Loelia Ponsonby’s words and his hands on the arms of his chair felt wet. How old is this plane, he wondered? How many flying hours has it done? Had the deathwatch beetle of metal fatigue got into the wings? How much of their strength had it eaten away? Perhaps he wouldn’t get to Istanbul after all. Perhaps a plummeting crash into the Gulf of Corinth was going to be the destiny he had been scanning philosophically only an hour before.
Ironically, about a year after this was written, (Fleming’s author’s note is March, 1956) on March 14, 1957, a B.E.A. Viscount crashed at Wythenshawe on approach to Manchester, England, killing all 20 on board. It also killed two people on the ground. The aircraft had logged a total time of 6,900 hours and 4,553 landings, and part of the reason for the crash was cited as metal fatigue.
Among other routes, this aircraft had done the London>Rome>Athens>Istanbul one. Could this have been the very plane Bond was worried about?
While not as luxurious inside as some of the long-haul aircraft Bond has flown on, such as the Super-Constellation or the Stratocruiser, the Viscount was very comfortable for the shorter flights across Europe. It was certainly a step up from the Ilyushin 12 which Donovan Grant had flown to Moscow not many weeks before.
A few other shots of the B.E.A. Viscount in action:
And a look at B.E.A. introducing the new aircraft:
In From Russia With Love, when Red Grant is hustled out of his villa straight to Moscow for a meeting with his SMERSH superiors, he is taken to the airport in Simferopol.
As they are driving across the runway, the control tower orders them to stop.
As the driver jammed on his brakes, there sounded a deafening scream above their heads. Both men instinctively ducked as a flight of four MIG 17s came out of the setting sun and skimmed over them, their squat wind-brakes right down for the landing.
The MIG 17s were the fighter jet of choice for the Soviet Air Force in the 1950s. Once the car is given the go-ahead to proceed they arrive at Grant’s transport.
A hundred yards further on they came to a plane with the recognition letters V-BO. It was a two-engined Ilyushin 12. A small aluminium ladder hung down from the cabin door and the car stopped beside it.
The Ilyushin 12 was a Soviet twin-engined cargo plane developed in the 1940’s, and some were also adopted for passenger use. These remained in use through the 1960’s.
Here is a great video on the plane, including some interior shots where we can see where Grant was sitting.
There were 20 seats on Grant’s plane, and he chose the one nearest to the hatch.
The climax of Diamonds are Forever takes place on the cruiseliner RMS Queen Elizabeth. Built as a passenger cruise ship and launched in 1938, the ship was used during World War II as a troop transport before being refitted as an Ocean Liner following the war. This accounts for Bond’s thought:
Bond remembered the days when her course had been different, when she had zig-zagged deep into the South Atlantic as she played her game of hide-and-seek with the U-boat wolfpacks, en route for the flames of Europe.
Some other references in the narrative include:
But, as first Tiffany Case and then James Bond went into the mouth of the gangway, a dockhand from Anatasia’s Longshoremen’s Union had walked quickly to a phone booth in the customs shed.
I liked this reference, never really having considered the ramifications of it before. Anatasia was Albert Anastasia, who was one of the century’s most famous mob bosses. He also for a time had six local union chapters of the International Longshoremen’s Association in Brooklyn under his control. In the 1950’s the Waterfront Commission was set up to combat labor racketeering. It was said that the Gambino crime family, of which Anastasia was then the boss, controlled the New York waterfront.
It was a nice little touch by Fleming to include that detail, suggesting that the mob connections of the by then late (and fictional) Jack Spang had reached to the NY waterfront and that the boys of (real-life) Albert Anastasia were on the case.
The Queen Elizabeth was likely docked at Pier 90 of the Manhattan port, on what was known as Luxury Liner Row.
The scene that morning when Bond and Tiffany get on, might’ve looked similar to this.
Once the ship was ready to leave, they needed to navigate out of New York Harbor.
There would be a pause to drop the pilot at the Ambrose Light
After reflection on the wartime activity, Bond continues.
It was still an adventure, but now the Queen, in her cocoon of protective radio impulses-her radar; her Loran, her echo-sounder-moved with the precautions of an oriental potentate among his bodyguards and outriders, and, so far as Bond was concerned, boredom and indigestion would be the only hazards of the voyage.
We get a peek into the radio room, where signals are being composed and sent.
As the iron town loped easily along the broad Atlantic swell and the soft night wind thrummed and moaned in the masthead, the radio aerials were already transmitting the morse of the duty operator to the listening ear of Portishead.
We’ve already put up a post on the Metal Mike. (see below)
Other facts that we are given – Bond and Tiffany’s cabin were on M (Main) deck. W. Winter and B. Kitteridge had their shared cabin on A deck and they had an outside cabin as they had a window. Cabin number A49. Their cabin was First Class, as were Bond and Tiffany’s as well.
Bond’s cabin was conveniently located directly above the cabin of Mr. Winter and Mr. Kitteridge.
An eagle-eyed observer might figure out that cabin A49 on the Queen Elizabeth was actually an interior cabin, meaning no window.
John Griswold notes that the original manuscript of the novel had them in cabin B49 of the Queen Mary and the change in the ships may account for the seeming discrepancy.
James Bond makes a memorable entrance into the room of Wint and Kidd, surprising them by bursting through their open porthole
Following their dinner at the Veranda(h) grill James Bond and Tiffany Case head out for a little entertainment.
They got into the lift for the Promenade Deck. “And now what, James?” said Tiffany. “I’d like some more coffee, and a Stinger made with white Crème de Menthe, while we listen to the Auction Pool. I’ve heard so much about it and we might make a fortune.”
“All right,” said Bond. “Anything you say.” He held her arm close to him as they sauntered through the big lounge where Bingo was still being played and through the waiting ballroom where the musicians were trying out a few chords. “But don’t make me buy a number. It’s a pure gamble and five per cent goes to charity. Nearly as bad as Las Vegas odds. But it’s fun if there’s a good auctioneer, and they tell me there’s plenty of money on board this trip.”
The smoking-room was almost empty and they chose a small table away from the platform where the Chief Steward was laying out the auctioneer’s paraphernalia, the box for the numbered slips, the hammer, the carafe of water.
Their path takes them through two other rooms as noted in the passage above. First the big lounge:
and then through the ballroom:
before arriving in the main first class smoking room.
A look at the deck plan below shows that once again, Fleming got the details right.
At the far right you can see the lifts, then they would’ve moved to the left in the diagram, going through the main lounge, then the ballroom, and finally into the smoke room, where the auction was being set up.
The auction pool scene, where they sell off numbers based on the Captain’s estimate of how far the ship will travel in the next 24 hours is really a fascinating bit of storytelling.
You have to wonder if Fleming was inspired by his friend Roald Dahl, who, in the January 19th, 1952 edition of The New Yorker, had published the short story Dip In The Pool. That story also involves an auction pool aboard a cruiseliner and a passenger betting on the “low” field and hoping to maneuver events to win the prize. The New Yorker was apparently a regular read for Fleming. He also got information on The Inspectoscope from the magazine.
The story also became an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, and if you watch it, the room in which that auction is held looks very much like this shot here of the Queen Elizabeth main smoking room.
Note the square pattern on the wall to the right and you’ll see the same thing in the AHP episode. The story could’ve been set on the RMS Queen Elizabeth.
Once again, I want to give credit for the awesome interior photos of the Queen Elizabeth to the rmsqueenelizabeth.com website. Worth a visit!
Three days into the voyage, James Bond and Tiffany Case make plans to have a drink in the Observation Lounge.
They were thirsty for each other’s company after the three days’ separation, but Tiffany’s defences were up when she joined him at the obscure corner table he had chosen in the gleaming semi-circular cocktail bar in the bows.
I think I can see the corner table.
The Observation lounge was on the Promenade deck, at the very tip of the ship, and after Bond made a remark that upset Tiffany, she left the bar, and was “half way down the Promenade Deck” before Bond could catch up with her.
The deck was the white space along the outside edges of the boat. Tiffany was out of there pretty fast!
In Diamonds Are Forever, James Bond and Tiffany Case are returning to New York from Los Angeles. They say farewell as Felix Leiter drops them off at the airport.
There was the glint of moonlight on the steel hook as Leiter waved a last goodbye and then there was the dust settling on the road and the iron voice of the loudspeakers saying “Trans-World Airlines, Flight 93, now loading at Gate No5 for Chicago and New York. All aboard, please,” and they pushed their way through the glass doors and took the first steps of their long journey half way across the world to London.
The new Super-G Constellation roared over the darkened continent and Bond lay in his comfortable bunk waiting for sleep to carry away his aching body and thinking of Tiffany, asleep in the bunk below, and of where he stood with his assignment.
Trans World Airlines (TWA) under the direction of Howard Hughes, first coined the phrase Super-G for the Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation which began flight in 1954.
The Super-G was, like the Stratocruiser, built for comfort and style – a far cry from the airlines of today.
The flight from Los Angeles to New York went through Chicago, and took “just ten hours,” getting into LaGuardia at eight o’clock on a Sunday morning.
The sixty-eight tons deadweight of the Super-Constellation hurtled high above the green and brown chequerboard of Cuba and, with only another hundred miles to go, started its slow declining flight towards Jamaica.
Did you know that Ian Fleming briefly sent James Bond to Venezuela in Goldfinger?
You might’ve missed this one paragraph from the beginning of the novel, as Bond is reflecting on his recent mission and departure from Mexico.
At dawn Bond had got up and shaved and driven to the airport where he took the first plane out of Mexico. It happened to be going to Caracas. Bond flew to Caracas and hung about in the transit lounge until there was a plane to Miami, a Transamerica Constellation that would take him on that same evening to New York.
In Caracas, Bond would’ve most likely flown into Aeropuerto Internacional de Maiquetía (now Simón Bolívar International Airport). Service to New York on Constellation planes were done at the time (one crashed in 1956)
Here is what the airport terminal in Caracas looked like within a few years of Bond’s visit. Here it was preparing to welcome John F Kennedy, thus the crowds.
On a bit of a sidenote – While in Miami Bond is delayed:
Again the Tannoy buzzed and echoed.’ Transamerica regrets to announce a delay on their flight TR 618 to New York due to a mechanical defect. The new departure time will be at eight am. Will all passengers please report to the Transamerica ticket counter where arrangements for their overnight accommodation will be made. Thank you.’
Interesting note – there was no airline called Transamerica at the time that Fleming wrote this. (or was there?) Los Angeles Air Service became Trans International Airlines in 1960, which became Transamerica in 1979. The airline was shut down in 1986. Also, Tannoy is a Scotland-based manufacturer of loudspeakers and public-address systems.