Sean Connery turns 90 on 25th August. As we can’t send him our personalized birthday book to commemorate him becoming a nonagenarian Historic Newspapers takes a look back at the life of this unique man. Connery is arguably one of the 20th century’s greatest actors on screen and one of the most controversial characters off it.
Connery as James Bond
Named for his grandfather, Thomas Sean Connery, was born in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland. Connery was given humble beginnings; his Mother, Euphemia, was a laundress and his father Joe worked as both a factory worker and lorry driver to make ends meet.
When Connery was eight his younger brother, Neil was born and the two of them were described as inseparable; often finding mischief together. When he began primary school, Tommy Connery was small for his age, but by the time he turned 18 he was 6’2” (188 cm) earning him the nickname Big Tam. He dropped out of school at the age of 13 and worked delivering milk for a few years before enrolling in the Navy at 16.
It was while serving he got his two tattoos, reading Mum and Dad and Scotland Forever. Though the tattoos (and Scotland) are forever, his Navy career was not. Hereditary stomach ulcers earned him a medical discharge and so Connery returned home and earned a wage however he could. His list of jobs included coffin polisher, coal deliverer, pool lifeguard, and modelling for the Edinburgh College of Art where he earned around 15 shillings an hour.
Finding time to play football for Bonnyrigg Rose, Connery saved his shillings and joined the Dunedin Weightlifting Club, mainly to impress women. Connery also impressed the club and was put forward for Mr Universe. Competing as Mr Scotland, Connery placed third in the Tall Man division in 1953. It was while competing that Connery caught the eye of a casting director and he was offered the part of a Seabees chorus boy in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific. He gave his billing name as Sean Connery. During the tour he was given the role of Marine Cpl Hamilton Steeves. The next year’s tour saw him return as the role of Lieutenant Buzz Adams.
It was over the next few years that Connery was cast in small roles for both TV and film productions, though he sometimes supplemented his income with other odd jobs. It was in August ‘57 when he met Australian actress, Diane Cilento whom he married in 1962. Together they had a son, Jason Connery born in 1963.
Connery in 1971
Image credit: Wikimedia
Producers Harry Saltzman and Albert “Cubby” Broccoli cast Connery as the lead in an up-and-coming spy movie based on a book by Ian Fleming. Thus James Bond was launched onto the silver screen. Dr. No showcased in 1962 and was a spectacular hit, launching sequels From Russia with Love and Goldfinger.
After starring in six official Bond films Connery was worried about being typecast and handed over the mantle to Roger Moore, who starred in Live and Let Die in 1973; though Connery reprised his role in unofficial Bond film Never say Never again in ’83.
Connery and Cilento divorced in 1973, though they separated in 1971. It was then that a previous interview given by Connery for Playboy in ’65 came back to haunt him. His comments regarding hitting women added fuel to tabloid reports that his marriage had broken up due to domestic violence. Connery denied the allegations of abuse and moved on to marry French-Moroccan artist Micheline Roquebrune in 1975.
He continued acting and though some of his choices of roles, such as Highlander in 1986, were a little questionable he was awarded a British Film Academy award for The Name of the Rose the same year. The biggest award of his career came in ’87 when at the 59th Academy Awards he took home the gong for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Untouchables.
After that the roles kept coming and he starred in hit films such as Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Hunt for Red October, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. In ’89 Connery proved that he should not be written off at age of 60, as he was named People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive. In ’99, at the age of 70, he received a Kennedy Center Honor for Lifetime Achievement, the same year he starred in and produced romantic thriller Entrapment. The film saw a large amount of press due to the 40-year gap between him and his love interest, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones.
In the year of the new millennium he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II despite being deemed ineligible for the Honors List in 1998 due to his active support for the Scottish Nationalist Party. At the knighting ceremony he wore traditional Highland attire.
Following the flop of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen after its release 2003, Connery decided to retire from acting and producing rather than face the stress of another film. The American Film Institute honored Sean Connery with their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 and he briefly paused his retirement to voice the titular character of Sir Billi in 2013.
In the 2014 referendum Connery fervently supported Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom, and continues to make donations to the Scottish Nationalist Party, despite having lived in Marbella for 20 years and the Bahamas since 2015.