Ernst Stavro Blofeld
|Ernst Stavro Blofeld|
|Character from the James Bond series|
|Portrayed by||Anthony Dawson (uncredited)
Eric Pohlmann (voice, uncredited)
John Hollis (uncredited)
Robert Rietty (voice, uncredited)
Max von Sydow
Ernst Stavro Blofeld is a fictional character and a supervillain from the James Bond series of novels and films, who was created by Ian Fleming. An evil genius with aspirations of world domination, he is the archenemy of the British Secret Service agent James Bond. Blofeld is head of the global criminal organisation SPECTRE and is commonly referred to as Number 1, an official numerical position given to members of SPECTRE. The character was originally written by Fleming as a physically massive man, standing around 6 foot 3 and weighing 21.6 stone (about 300 pounds), and very powerfully built.
Blofeld appears or is heard in three novels: Thunderball, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and You Only Live Twice; and six James Bond films from Eon Productions: From Russia with Love (1963), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), and For Your Eyes Only (1981) (the pre-title sequence of which shows an unnamed character resembling him fall to his death). He also appears in Never Say Never Again, the non-EON 1983 remake of Thunderball. He was played on screen by Donald Pleasence, Telly Savalas, Charles Gray, and Max von Sydow, among others. It was initially a convention of the films not to show Blofeld's face, only a closeup of him stroking his white blue-eyed Turkish Angora cat.
Many of Blofeld's characteristics have become trends of supervillains in popular fiction, representing the stock character of the evil genius. In many versions, even the stroking of his white cat has been retained as a parodic allusion to Blofeld's character, as seen in the Austin Powers film series with the character of Dr. Evil and his cat Mr. Bigglesworth; and before Austin Powers there was Inspector Gadget with his arch-enemy Dr. Claw and his pet, Mad Cat.
Ian Fleming includes information about Blofeld's background in his novel Thunderball, though none of his past is ever revealed in the Bond films. According to the novel, Blofeld was born on 28 May 1908 (which is also Fleming's birthday) in Gdingen, Imperial Germany (now Gdynia, Poland); his father was Polish and his mother was Greek, hence the well-known Greek name Stavro. After the First World War, Blofeld became a Polish national. As a young man, Blofeld was well-versed in the social science disciplines, but also in the natural science and technology disciplines. He first graduated from the University of Warsaw with a degree in Political History and Economics, and then from the Warsaw University of Technology with a degree in Engineering and Radionics. He was then hired by the Polish Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs and appointed in a sensitive communication position, which he used for buying and selling stocks at the Warsaw Stock Exchange.
Correctly foreseeing the coming of the Second World War, Blofeld made copies of top-secret wires and sold them for cash to Nazi Germany. Before the German invasion of Poland in 1939, he destroyed all records of his existence, then moved first to Sweden, then to Turkey, where he worked for Turkish Radio and began to set up his own private intelligence organisation. During the war, he sold information to both sides. After the defeat of Erwin Rommel, he decided to back the Allied war effort, and was awarded numerous medals by the Allied powers after the war's end. Blofeld then temporarily moved to South America before founding SPECTRE.
It is commonly believed that the name Blofeld was inspired by the English cricket commentator Henry Blofeld's father, with whom Fleming went to school. Henry Blofeld offered on the BBC Radio 4 series Just a Minute that "Ian took my father's name as the name of the baddie."
Blofeld makes three appearances in Ian Fleming's novels. He first appears in a minor role as the leader of SPECTRE in the 1961 novel Thunderball. The plot that he formulates is carried out by his second-in-command Emilio Largo. Blofeld is described physically as a massive man, weighing roughly 20 stone (280 lb; 130 kg), has black crew-cut hair, black eyes (similar to those of Benito Mussolini), heavy eyelashes, a thin mouth and long pointed hands and feet. He has violet-scented breath from chewing flavoured cachous (breath mints). A meticulous planner of formidable intellect, he seems to be without conscience but not necessarily insane, and is motivated solely by financial gain. Blofeld's lifestyle is described in one chapter in Thunderball: "For the rest, he didn't smoke or drink and he had never been known to sleep with a member of either sex. He didn't even eat very much."
Blofeld is absent from the next book, The Spy Who Loved Me, though its events take place while Bond is battling SPECTRE in North America. In On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963) Bond learns that Blofeld has radically altered his appearance—he is now tall and thin; has reduced his weight to 12 stone (170 lb; 76 kg); sports long silver hair, a syphilitic infection on his nose and no earlobes; he wears dark green tinted contact lenses to hide his distinctive eyes. Perhaps less calculating than previously, he is notably saddled with the exploitable weakness of snobbery about his assumed nobility, indicating that he is losing his sanity. He is hiding in Switzerland in the guise of the Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp and Bond defeats his vindictive plans to destroy Britain's agricultural economy. In the final sequence of the novel, Blofeld gets revenge by murdering Bond's new wife, Tracy.
In You Only Live Twice, published in 1964, Blofeld returns and is found by Bond to be in hiding in Japan under the alias Dr. Guntram Shatterhand. He has once again changed his appearance: He has put on some muscle, and has a gold-capped tooth, a fully healed nose, and a drooping grey mustache. Bond describes Blofeld on their confrontation as being "a big man, perhaps six foot three (190 cm), and powerfully built". It is indicated that Blofeld has by now become a madman, as he all but admits himself when Bond levels the accusation. Bond strangles him to death at the end of the novel. In both On Her Majesty's Secret Service and You Only Live Twice, Blofeld is aided in his schemes by Irma Bunt, who is clearly his lover in the latter and posing as Shatterhand's wife. Bond incapacitates her in their Japanese castle base before it blows up, killing Bunt. The final mention of Blofeld is in the beginning of the next book, The Man with the Golden Gun, published in 1965.
In the film series Blofeld first appears in From Russia with Love, then in Thunderball. In these first two appearances, his face is not seen and only his lower body is visible as he strokes his trademark white cat.
Czech actor Jan Werich was originally cast by producer Harry Saltzman to play Blofeld in You Only Live Twice. Upon arriving at the Pinewood set, both producer Albert R. Broccoli and director Lewis Gilbert felt that he was a bad choice, resembling a "poor, benevolent Santa Claus". Nonetheless, in an attempt to make the casting work, Gilbert continued filming. After five days, both Gilbert and Broccoli determined that Werich was not menacing enough, and recast Donald Pleasence in the role – the official excuse being that Werich was ill. Donald Pleasence appeared to use a German accent to portray Blofeld.
In the third, fourth, and fifth appearances – You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds Are Forever – he is the primary antagonist, meeting Bond face-to-face. During the opening sequence of Diamonds Are Forever, he reveals to Bond that some of his men have undergone plastic surgery to become decoy duplicates of him.
In the film version of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, he is not the actual killer of Tracy Bond. He drives the car from which Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat) fires the fatal shots at Tracy, minutes after she marries Bond.
In a possible sixth appearance – in the pre-credit sequence of For Your Eyes Only – he is an anonymous, bald villain trying to kill Bond once again. Blofeld remains unnamed and unlisted in this film’s end credits. The only clues to his identity are the trademark white cat, similar clothes to his previous onscreen appearances, the dialogue indicating that he and Bond have met before, and the fact that the scene begins with Bond paying his respects to Tracy, often considered by the producers as a means of providing an "immediate continuity link" in the event of a new actor taking the part of Bond (although this was Roger Moore's fifth appearance as Bond). He is in a wheelchair, presumably having been paralyzed by the explosion at the end of Diamonds Are Forever. The anonymity of the villain was due to the legal dispute between Kevin McClory and Eon Productions over the Thunderball copyrights.
Blofeld’s appearance and personality change according to the personifying actor and the production. He has a full head of black hair in From Russia With Love and Thunderball; a facial dueling scar in You Only Live Twice; no scar or earlobes in On Her Majesty's Secret Service; and silver-grey hair in Diamonds Are Forever. This metamorphosing matches Fleming’s literary portrayal of a master criminal who will go to great lengths to preserve his anonymity, including the use of plastic surgery. He often wears a jacket without lapels, based loosely either on the Nehru jacket or on the Mao suit, a feature which is used in spoofs like the Austin Powers series, though in his early two appearances on film he wore a black business suit.
Never Say Never Again
Blofeld's most recent on-screen appearance was outside the Eon Productions series, in Never Say Never Again, the 1983 remake of Thunderball. Here, Blofeld is tall, thin, and bearded, with a European accent more in keeping with the character as presented in From Russia With Love and Thunderball.
Table of film appearances
|Year||Film series||Actor and notes||Status|
|1963||From Russia with Love||Anthony Dawson, person, Eric Pohlmann, voice; both uncredited as only hands and back of head are seen; the end credits list a question mark instead of an actor’s name.||Active/Indirect involvement in the field.|
|1965||Thunderball||Anthony Dawson, person, Eric Pohlmann, voice (though other sources mistakenly claim that it is Joseph Wiseman); both uncredited as only hands and a partially seen face are shown; end credits do not list Blofeld.||Active/Indirect involvement in the field.|
|1967||You Only Live Twice||Donald Pleasence; initially unseen as previously, excepting hands, before a dramatic revelation. Actor Jan Werich originally cast, and some clips show his hands petting cat, and tuft of hair can be seen just above back of chair. Pleasence replaced Werich during filming when it was determined the latter was not suited for the role.||Injured in the hand; Escaped.|
|1969||On Her Majesty’s Secret Service||Telly Savalas; appears with earlobes removed to back up claim to a noble title.||Neck broken; Escaped; Was driver in the drive-by murder of Teresa Bond.|
|1971||Diamonds Are Forever||Charles Gray; appears also as doubles, all created via plastic surgery.||He attempts to escape in his mini-sub, but Bond gains control of it and crashes it into the Control Room.|
|1981||For Your Eyes Only||John Hollis, person, Robert Rietty, voice; Blofeld’s face is not seen close-up.||Dropped into tall chimney stack from a helicopter and died in the fall.|
|1983||Never Say Never Again (non-Eon)||Max von Sydow||Active/Indirect involvement in the field|
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (August 2013)|
Blofeld is one of the main characters in the 2012 video game 007 Legends, featured in the mission based on On Her Majesty's Secret Service, in which the character was an amalgamation of the three actors appeared in the official film series. Throughout the game, he is voiced by Glenn Wrage.
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