James Bond; roving womanizer, man of mystery and secret agent supreme. But what’s he got to do with Gdynia?
Absolutely nothing, to be precise. His nemesis does, however. Swivelling in his leather armchair, and never without his trademark Persian pussycat, the evil Blofeld will need no introduction to fans of classic Bond. Fictitious he might be, but don’t let that ruin a good yarn. First appearing in Ian Fleming’s 1964 novel Thunderball it is revealed that Blofeld was born in Gdynia on May 28, 1908 – sharing the same birth date as his creator. The son of a Polish father and a Greek mother the young Blofeld attended the University of Warsaw, studying economics and political history, before enrolling in Warsaw Polytechnic to read engineering. He was later employed in the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs and dabbled in the Warsaw Stock Exchange. With WWII looming on the horizon he sold Polish military secrets to the Nazis, before destroying all records of his life and fleeing to Turkey.
It was while working for Turkish radio that he set up his own intelligence service, and proved what a thoroughly nasty piece of work he was by selling classified information to the highest bidder. With Rommel vanquished on the plains of Africa Blofeld chose to back the Allies, and his sterling work was recognised in the form of several decorations. With the war over he founded SPECTRE, a criminal organisation with designs on world domination. Blofeld failed to appear in Fleming’s follow-up book, The Spy Who Loved Me, but made a return in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Here Bond discovers Blofeld living in Switzerland under the pseudonym of Comte de Bleuville. His wicked plan to destroy Britain’s agricultural economy is foiled by Bond, but Blofeld has the last laugh by murdering the agent’s wife at the end. You Only Live Twice sees 007 reunited with his arch-enemy, this time in Japan where Blofeld is plotting a World War. Bond saves the day, and also takes the ultimate revenge for the death of his spouse by throttling Blofeld.
On the silver screen Blofeld first materializes in From Russia With Love, and then in Thunderball. His appearance is kept a mystery however, and viewers are only treated to a shot of his face in his third cinematic outing, the 1967 flick You Only Live Twice. Memorably portrayed by Donald Pleasance the megalomaniac carries a facial scar attributed to a fencing injury, and boasts a piranha infested pond used to despatch his enemies. Unlike the book Blofeld survives the ending, and makes a return in the 1969 version of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Played by a sinister looking Telly Savalas Bond’s arch-enemy mimics his literary exploits by killing Bond’s missus at the end. He returns two years later, this time played by the rather benign looking Charles Gray in Diamonds are Forever, and then ten years later in the opening sequence of For Your Eyes Only. Played by John Hollis, with a voice supplied by Robert Rietty, Bond finally finishes off his adversary by dropping the wheelchair-bound baddie down a factory chimney. But Blofeld returns, and Bond fans can see him played by a rather bland Max von Sydow in Never Say Never Again, a rather rubbish 1983 remake of ‘Thunderball’. Since then Bond films have been a dime-a-dozen, with villain and rogues aplenty including a re-boot of a Blofeld character in Spectre (in this Christoph Waltz plays a character called Blofeld who is James Bond's foster brother); none however come close to achieving the cult status of Gdynia’s most sinister son.