Great Drinker: Ian Fleming 1908-1964

Words by: Theodora Sutcliffe

15:57 GMT // 30 Oct 2012

Skyfall premiered last week and this month is also the 50th anniversary of the premier of Doctor No, the first ever Bond movie - so what better time to profile his debonair, gin-swilling creator?

So who was Ian Fleming?
Creator of James Bond, Ian Fleming's life almost rivalled his creation's life for spycraft, womanising and poshness. Eton-educated, he briefly attended Sandhurst military academy, then worked as a stockbroker and journalist before joining Military Intelligence during World War II.

Although deskbound, he created a number of daring missions, among them one called Goldeneye, a name he would give to his house in Jamaica. Fleming did not live to see the huge success of his creation in films, or, for that matter, the success of the book he wrote for his son, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Where did he drink?
A golf fanatic, Fleming's last drink was at the St. George's Golf Club in Canterbury, on the day of his fatal heart attack. In London, he enjoyed the stalwarts, among them Duke's, the Dorchester, the Savoy and, like his hero, Scott's. He was a member of posh chaps' club Boodle's and once lived at the St. James's Club. Like Bond, he was a fan of casinos, gambling at Le Touquet and Aspinall's Clermont Club.

What did he drink?
Gin was a favourite. At one point Fleming consumed a bottle a day, until his doctor suggested he switch to Bourbon as it might be better for him. Duke's Hotel claims to have created Martinis for Fleming, and he relied on whisky when in shock.

Any famous drinking buddies?
In Jamaica, Ian Fleming was close to Noel Coward, who would depict him as a womaniser in his play Volcano. He mixed with celebrities including Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, John Gielgud, Errol Flynn and Katharine Hepburn.

The actress Celia Johnson, most famous for her brittle Britishness in Brief Encounter was his sister-in-law, while the roster of wealthy women who fell for his charms included the Duke of Westminster's wife.

Sean Connery was not a friend: Fleming considered him too working class to play his creation (Connery would describe him as a "snob"). Bizarrely, Test Match Special's Henry "Blowers" Blofeld was the son of a schoolfriend, for whom Fleming named Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

How did drink change his life?
Most consider Fleming's heroic cigarette consumption - he is estimated to have smoked over 70 a day - to have been even worse for his health than alcohol. "I've always had one foot not wanting to leave the cradle, and the other in a hurry to get to the grave," he once said.

Fleming packed a lot of living into his lifetime, yet at least one lover considered him depressed, and his only son would commit suicide once he was gone.

Any drinking stories?
Fleming's sexual appetite was at least as impressive as James Bond's - he had an extensive collection of S&M porn and enjoyed beating his wife with whips, slippers and hairbrushes. He once dismissed an unwanted mistress by throwing an octopus at her: history does not record whether he was sober.


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