OSS117 v 007

edited December 2013 in Literary 007 Posts: 267
Despite being a life long Fleming devotee, it both annoys and amazes me that French author, Jean Bruce's creation, agent OSS117, has not been publicly identified as the absolute template for 007. I think it was disingenuous of Fleming himself never to recognise this and negligent of his biographers not to pick up and acknowledge this fundamental point. The characters are not just similar, they are virtually identical!
However, Jean Bruce created his character four years in advance of Fleming when, in 1949, he published the first OSS117 thriller "Tu paroles dune ingenue: ici OSS117."
Bruce himself, was very honest about the origins of his character, he made no secret of the fact that he had based his fictional creation on a real OOS (Office of Strategic Services) agent, Mr. William Leonard Langer, whom he had met during the second world war. Langer's actual service prefix was OSS117!
Jean Bruce's named his fictional agent Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath and made him an American who's ancestors were aristocrats who had fled France for Louisiana after the French revolution.
Like his real life inspiration, Bruce had Hubert serve with the OSS in the second world war before transitioning to the CIA and ultimately worked for The National Security Council.
La Bath was portrayed as an aristocratic bon viveur, who foiled multiple dastardly international plots at the behest of his respective bosses (Monsieur Smith:OSS and General Stanford:National Security Council - both of whom doubtless served as a huge inspiration for Fleming's 'M').
The parallels between La Bath and Bond were multiple. Both drove fast cars, were extremely elegant, were legendary multi lingual seducers and both were small arms and unarmed combat experts.
The similarities didn't end there, La Bath also had his own Leiter, Enrique Sagarra, a Spanish OSS colleague who had been exiled to Toulouse after fighting for the republicans in the Spanish civil war.
Bruce's books were exciting, violent,erotic and extremely fast moving. He wrote 88 thrillers featuring agent OSS117 between 1949 and his death, in a high speed car crash, in 1963.
His second wife, Jossette Bruce, became his continuity author and published a further 143 adventures between 1966 and 1985.Finally, their children, Francois and Martine took up the mantle and authored a further 24 books between 1987 and 1992.
In total, the 255 books achieved world wide sales of over 75 million. The best of Jean Bruce's original output were translated into English and published by Corgi books in the UK during the '60s. For a while, they were Corgi's principle vehicle to go up against PAN's phenomenally successful Bond paperbacks.
La Bath also came to the big screen well in advance of Bond when,in 1957, "OSS117 nest pas mort" was released starring Ivan Desny. In total, there have been 13 movies featuring agent OSS117. The best being the 4 directed by Andre Hunebelle in the 1960s and the 2 parodies directed by Michel Hazanavicius this century.
I read Bruce's books, translated into English back in the '60s and remember being very thrilled but assumed that they were France's answer to 007. It was only much later in life, when I discovered Fleming and Bruce's respective timelines that the truth dawned. To say I was a little surprised is something of an understatement and I think that it's more than appropriate that all 007 fans salute OSSS117 and thank Monsieur Bruce for the inspiration he gave Mr.Fleming.
Make no mistake, James Bond is GB's answer to Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath - not the reverse!

Comments

  • Interesting. I wouldn't mind taking a look at his work. I can only seem to find the French versions on Amazon. I'm guessing he's long out of print?
  • 4EverBonded4EverBonded the Ballrooms of Mars
    edited December 2013 Posts: 12,459
    I am surprised to read this; I have never heard of the French books. I really want to read some that are translated into English. I am guessing most/all are out of print. Any suggestions where I can get one of these books, @Bentley?

    And how did you find out this info? I'm just curious. It's really interesting.
  • edited December 2013 Posts: 7,653
    I did read some of the OSS117 novels in Dutch, they were released by the same publisher as Fleming & Charteris.
    And did enjoy the books I read as far as I can remember.

    PS found only one OSS117 in English: Trouble in Tokio
  • 4EverBonded4EverBonded the Ballrooms of Mars
    edited December 2013 Posts: 12,459
    Amazon lists one Jean Bruce book but it's out of print; totally unavailable. :(

    I did see on Amazon a Eurospy book. I might get it. It is about the spies in literature and film from the 1960's onward (but I think mainly the 1960's), but not including 007. All (or nearly all) the others.
    The blub about the book reads:

    Eurospy Guide
    Paperback – July 1, 2004
    by Matt Blake and David Deal
    For a brief period in the mid-1960s, the whole world went spy crazy. From Sri Lanka to Poland, from the US to India, cinemas were filled with the exploits of suave secret agents, glamorous femmes fatales and increasingly demented villains. The symbols and images of the genre permeated advertisements, pulp novels and television series as well. No suburban dinner party was complete without a discussion of the latest escapades of a Bond, a Bulldog Drummond or a Harry Palmer. The intention of this book is to examine the more obscure cinematic manifestations of sixties spy mania. Though these films may be almost entirely forgotten today, they were literally everywhere at the time. With the sorry state of the world, what better time than today to delve into the life of a super-slick secret agent? Someone who understands the games that nations are playing, someone who can process incoming information and control—rather than be controlled by—situations. Someone who is backed up by the might of military hardware and brainpower. Someone who can charm the chicks and beat up the bad guys. This is the import of the secret agent: In a world of profound flux, we need the anchor of a hero who is able to do something about the things that we, frankly, have no power over. That, of course, and the fact that the films are bloody good.
    ***

    The customer reviews are a few (I think 9) but 5 and 4 stars. It sounds interesting. I don't know how I could ever watch the films, though, and I want to!

    EDIT: When I scrolled down the Amazon page after reading about this book, it lists dvds and instant videos of films with this character, OSS117! I'll see what I can do about viewing some of these! :) Well, it seems there are only 3 available thru Amazon; instant video or one 1970 film with John Gavin and French actors. The other 2 films are recent: 2010 and 2012. So it is nice the character is still ongoing ... but I'd like to see the old films from the 1960's.
  • Posts: 267
    I am surprised to read this; I have never heard of the French books. I really want to read some that are translated into English. I am guessing most/all are out of print. Any suggestions where I can get one of these books, @Bentley?

    And how did you find out this info? I'm just curious. It's really interesting.

    Two that you might want to look for that I'm pretty sure were translated into English and published by Corgi are "Flash Point" and " Photo Finish".
    As to how did I come about this information - I've pieced it together over time and have known it for a while.
    That said, there is a pretty good French Wikipedia site that will endorse everything I've said.
    Personally, I think that the reason that Bond's true origin has never come out is down to the fact that in the '50s and early '60s (prior to Dr,No) France was a very foreign land. The vast majority of UK citizens that had ever visited France had done so during the war.
    Not many English people spoke French and vice versa.
    OSS117 was a French phenomena well in advance of Bond but the news simply never made it across the channel. By the time Corgi published the books in English, 007 was well established so it looked like Bruce's books were ripping off Fleming and not the reverse.
    Fleming himself, was a fluent French speaker and will doubtless have read Bruce.
    This is more than a co-incidence, n'est-ce- pas?

  • 4EverBonded4EverBonded the Ballrooms of Mars
    edited December 2013 Posts: 12,459
    Bentley said: This is more than a co-incidence, n'est-ce- pas?

    Oui! I think certainement, dear @Bentley. Although Fleming had his own personal experiences to inspire him, too, for sure.

    Where could I buy the Corgi books? I'm going to their website momentarily ... not available from Transworld/Corgi publishers. So I think I would need to resort to EBay. Sigh ...
  • edited December 2013 Posts: 2,598
    Most interesting. Based on what is said, these books sound fascinating and I'd love to get a hold of them.
  • Bounine wrote:
    Most interesting. Based on what is said, these books sound fascinating and I'd love to get a hold of them.
    @Bounine and @4EverBonded, Corgi editions of both "Deep Freeze" & "Live Wire" are up on eBay right now. Prices aren't too unreasonable.
    Other than that, I found some hardback Bruce novels available from sellers in New Zealand.


  • edited December 2013 Posts: 2,598
    @Villiers53 Damn, I wish this thread had have been started and I had found it before my holiday in New Zealand finished! :)

    Are these NZ sellers second hand books shops or online retailers who will post books abroad?
  • Posts: 5,904
    There is indeed (or rther there was) a whole cornucopia of spies in french novels, published from the late 1940s to the late 1980s, mostly by the "Éditions Fleuve Noir", although other publishers went on to do their own spy series in the 60s and 70s. But those novels are not considered "high litterature". Rather, they were labelled as "romans de gare" (station novels), the kind of books you bought in order to pass the time during a train journey. And it all started with OSS117, at the "Fleuve Noir" (although OSS117 got his own series soon afterwards).

    Curiously, if some of those spies were french (Francis Coplan, le Squale) being the most famous), most belonged or were working for american secret services, including, but not limited to, the CIA (OSS117, SAS Malko Linge) the NSA (Matt), the ONI (The Commander Chris Novack, the Conch), or acted independantly (the Force M, Avril, Vic St Val). There was even a spy series for kids (well, teenagers), Langelot, written by Vladimir Volkoff under the alias "Lieutenant X".

    Since the late 1980s, though, the vast majority of those "combattants de l'ombre" (shadow fighters) have disappeared, the only one remaining (although presumably not for long after the death of his creator) is SAS. Fleuve Noir stopped publishing original french novels during the 1990s, concentrating instead on translations of american tie-in novels such as Star Trek or Buffy, and continuing the publications of San Antonio and Perry Rhodan. One can regret it.
  • Posts: 267
    Villiers53 wrote:
    Bounine wrote:
    Most interesting. Based on what is said, these books sound fascinating and I'd love to get a hold of them.
    @Bounine and @4EverBonded, Corgi editions of both "Deep Freeze" & "Live Wire" are up on eBay right now. Prices aren't too unreasonable.
    Other than that, I found some hardback Bruce novels available from sellers in New Zealand.

    Thanks @villieurs53.
    Have you read any OSS117 and are you aware of any connection between Fleming and Bruce?

  • Posts: 267
    Gerard wrote:
    But those novels are not considered "high litterature". Rather, they were labelled as "romans de gare" (station novels), the kind of books you bought in order to pass the time during a train journey. And it all started with OSS117, at the "Fleuve Noir" (although OSS117 got his own series soon afterwards).
    Although I speak French quite fluently, I have only ever read Bruce's work in English and although I'm reluctant to judge him as a writer based on translations (something is always lost) I do think it's fair to say that Fleming was probably a much better scribe. Bruce's prodigious output alone of four books per year would point to that. Albeit we shouldn't forget that Bond was just considered as airport fodder by the intelligentsia. This really only changed after JFK named FRWL as one of his favourites.
    The real point is the absolutely inexplicable similarities. The very prefixes given to their agents - OSS117 v 007 says it all. Why was it that neither of Fleming's biographers picked up on Bruce's heavy influence?
    In my view, doubtless Fleming read Sapper, Buchan, Ambler and Greene but it was undoubtably Bruce that he mimicked!
  • Bentley wrote:
    Villiers53 wrote:
    Bounine wrote:
    Most interesting. Based on what is said, these books sound fascinating and I'd love to get a hold of them.
    @Bounine and @4EverBonded, Corgi editions of both "Deep Freeze" & "Live Wire" are up on eBay right now. Prices aren't too unreasonable.
    Other than that, I found some hardback Bruce novels available from sellers in New Zealand.

    Thanks @villieurs53.
    Have you read any OSS117 and are you aware of any connection between Fleming and Bruce?
    Yes @ Bentley, I have read a couple of these back in the day and found them very entertaining.
    Ironically, as I read them in the mid '60s, at the hight of Bond-mania, I thought they were a French imitation of 007 - not the reverse. I remember the similarities were very marked although, if I remember well, Bruce was quite a light read.
    Frankly, I think you've exposed something really quite important and it would be interesting to learn what other Bondologists think?
    Also Benters, do you know anything about Jean Bruce - did he ever meet Fleming?


  • ggl007ggl007 www.archivo007.com Spain, España
    Posts: 2,541
    Well, we have to put some space here...

    I don´t deny any possible Bruce´s influence on Fleming, but do we know anything concrete?
    It is quite known that Fleming had a huge library, was Bruce there?

    For example: in this interesting Jeremy Duns article, www.spywise.net/pdf/March_10/wheatley_declassified.pdf he exposes Dennis Wheatley as one of the greatest "inspiration" for Fleming. He even writes paragraphs quite "similar" to others of Fleming´s works...

    What I try to expose (in my terrible English %-( )is that Fleming had lots of influences, including his own life. So, we Bondologists must try to be "academic" and put black on white our theories with as many facts as possible.

    All that said, my knowledge of Bruce is zero (only references from films). Sorry about that.
  • ggl007 wrote:
    Well, we have to put some space here...

    I don´t deny any possible Bruce´s influence on Fleming, but do we know anything concrete?
    It is quite known that Fleming had a huge library, was Bruce there?

    For example: in this interesting Jeremy Duns article, www.spywise.net/pdf/March_10/wheatley_declassified.pdf he exposes Dennis Wheatley as one of the greatest "inspiration" for Fleming. He even writes paragraphs quite "similar" to others of Fleming´s works...

    What I try to expose (in my terrible English %-( )is that Fleming had lots of influences, including his own life. So, we Bondologists must try to be "academic" and put black on white our theories with as many facts as possible.

    All that said, my knowledge of Bruce is zero (only references from films). Sorry about that.

    I think Bentley's case is VERY factual.
    Think about it - OSS117 to 007. That alone is more than coincidence.

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