Baccarat, a Game of Baccarat: How It All Began

07 Dec 2023

Trench, Sylvia Trench: You Can Never Plan Such Stuff

Just like you can’t plan for your next cute cat or silly prank video to go viral, we can hardly imagine any of the original filmmakers behind the legendary James Bond film series had intended to create a catchphrase as famous as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “I’ll be back.”

“Bond, James Bond.” Agent 007 gives out his name in this peculiar manner in the very first instance we see his face in the very first Bond movie, Dr. No, 1962, and the phrase is soon to become a trademark of the iconic British Secret Service character and an indispensable part of his manly charisma.

Unlike the hen and egg mystery, however, in Bond’s debut scene, the gentleman’s now famous name sequence comes after the lady’s, and he is, in fact, mimicking, or even mocking, the female character’s introduction of herself as “Trench, Sylvia Trench”:

James Bond: “I admire your courage, Miss…?”

Sylvia Trench: “Trench. Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck, Mr…?”

James Bond: “Bond. James Bond.”

The verbal exchange leads to a flirt, allowing the viewer to see James Bond as the essence of a true gentleman: a man who moves smoothly in high society, knows his way around classy gambling and women, and casually gives away generous tips.

To achieve this, Dr. No’s director, Terence Young, and the film’s three screenwrights have decided to present their character in a plush casino setting at London’s Les Ambassadeurs hotel, playing no other game, but baccarat Chemin de Fer.

Why Baccarat, and Not Poker or Roulette?

Interestingly, nothing from this iconic scene is included in the original Dr. No book by Ian Flemming, who wrote the first 12 Bond novels and two collections of short stories – neither the casino, the game of baccarat, nor the lady.

The idea to introduce the Bond character through a casino scene is taken from Flemming’s first Bond novel – Casino Royale, but seemingly any game would have done the job, so why did the filmmakers choose baccarat out of all possibilities?

Baccarat is a classic card-comparing game with at least five centuries of history behind it. Still, it is far from being the only classic casino game with a rich background, and reportedly, Bond film crews used to play poker between takes, and not baccarat.

A story circulated in movie-making circles not a while ago: a certain TV series crew had to shoot a casino scene where the main character was winning big on a bet containing the number “7”. They did several takes with roulette, attempting to land a “7” on the wheel, but soon gave up on their luck as budget, and therefore time, was very tight.

The crew ended up shooting how the main character “won” on a slot machine, revealing only his face and the back of the gambling machine, and no actual reels or symbols were shown.

As Dr. No was also on a tight budget, choosing a card game easy to rig for the screenplay is easily explainable. As the scene unfolds, Trench loses, and Bond wins several times in a row, a sequence of outcomes that is too difficult to come by in a normal game of chance.

From a filmmaker’s point of view, any card game would have served the director’s intent, but it is the rules of baccarat that allow the Bond character to play the Banker and give reason for the verbal exchange with Silvia Trench to take place.

The Chemin de Fer game scene was a success, and the character has continued to deliver his “Bond, James Bond” line in numerous Hollywood blockbusters ever since.