Bond bikini babe turns 70

The bikini that made Ursula Andress unforgettable Keystone

Actress Ursula Andress, Switzerland's most illustrious export to Hollywood, and famous for "that" bikini scene in the first ever Bond film, has turned 70.

This content was published on March 20, 2006 - 11:30

But the celebrations will have to wait until May: that's when the Swiss government is throwing "Ursi National" a party on a swanky yacht moored near the Scottish capital, Edinburgh.

Dieter Borer from co-organiser Presence Switzerland, the public agency charged with promoting Switzerland's image abroad, called the actress a national institution.

"We are celebrating the birthday of our biggest Hollywood star; we don't have that many of them," he told swissinfo.

He added that the party was timed to coincide with the opening of Switzerland's first general consulate in Scotland.

"This is politically significant but we realise that the media are generally not interested in such openings," Borer said.

Hence the decision to combine both events, which Presence Switzerland's chief executive Johannes Matyassy said was an easy choice.

"Ursula Andress has been an ambassador for Switzerland for many years. The country might not give out any orders or Oscars but it will act as if it is honouring her for her lifetime's work," said Matyassy.

The venue is none other than the luxury Britannia yacht, which used to belong to the British Royal family.

And Andress's manager Claudio Righetti told swissinfo that those close to the artiste were on the guest list.

Bernese beginnings

Andress was born in 1936 in the Bern suburb of Ostermundigen, to which she still has close ties.

"She visits Switzerland from time to time. Two of her sisters still live in Ostermundigen," said Righetti.

She is not currently working on any films but is spending time on personal projects.

"She is putting together a photo album of her life and also works very hard on looking after her large garden in Rome," her manager said.

She also has a home in Monaco.

In her late teens, Andress decided to spread her wings and leave her six siblings and conservative parents behind in Ostermundigen.

At the age of 17, she fled with an actor lover to Italy but was soon persuaded to return to the parental fold.

The film industry in Italy, Switzerland's southern neighbour, first cast the beauty in minor roles. But it wasn't until meeting Hollywood heavyweight Marlon Brando, who reportedly became her lover, that the golden gates to cinema heaven opened.

She moved to the United States after signing a contract with Columbia Pictures but, before making a single film with them, she met and married a young actor named John Derek in 1957.

Making history

Five years later, Andress made cinema history as Honey Ryder by emerging from the waves in a cream-coloured bikini, a sheathed knife hanging from a belt below her hips.

The year was 1962. The film, Dr No, was the first part of the long-running Bond series revolving around the high jinks of author Ian Fleming's super smooth spy, James Bond.

Andress was the first Bond girl and, for many, the only. The scene – frequently voted as one of the best cinematic moments in history – is said to evoke Sandro Botticelli's painting, Birth of Venus, painted in the 15th century.

This could explain its attraction, although many cinema-goers might not have had Renaissance painting in mind when they watched the bikini-clad siren rise from the waters.

After that, Andress went on to have a Hollywood career, which peaked in the 1960s, acting alongside stars such as Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Peter Sellers.

Her filmography in later years included projects, many of them Italian, where she frequently displayed her buxom charms, earning her the sobriquet "Ursula Undressed".

However, 44 years later, it's still Honey Ryder who evokes a sigh from men across the world.

And in 2001, the infamous cream swimsuit was sold at auction for more than £35, 000 ($85,050), unfortunately well below its estimate.

swissinfo, Faryal Mirza

Key facts

A Google search on Ursula Andress brings up nearly one million web pages.
She was born on March 19, 1936 in Ostermundigen, on the outskirts of the Swiss capital, Bern.
Andress has been married once to actor/director John Derek.
She has a son, Dimitri, with actor Harry Hamlin.
Her last film role was a cameo in a low-budget Swiss film, where she played the Madonna.

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