Ursula Andress

The first “Bond girl” was Swiss

“I was supposed to be coming out of the water, like Ursula Andress in Dr. No… How do you relive a moment that is probably one of the most remembered and loved in any Bond film? That kind of scared me.” — Halle Berry, speaking about her role in Die Another Day (2002)

The iconic image of Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder in the first James Bond film, Dr. No (1962). The beach scenes were filmed in Jamaica. PHOTO: EON/Danjaq

The German-Swiss actress Ursula Andress has appeared in over 40 films and television productions, but it is her role in her first English-language movie that remains the most memorable. Ironically, moviegoers did not hear her real voice in that legendary appearance as the bikini-clad Honey Ryder in Dr. No, the first James Bond movie, but they certainly saw the real Ursula Andress.

The filmmakers for Dr. No decided that when Andress spoke her lines in English, her thick Swiss-German accent was a problem. Her speaking voice was dubbed by the German-British voice actress Nikki van der Zyl (1935- ), who is also heard in other Bond films and was Gert Fröbe’s English coach for Goldfinger. When Andress sings the calypso number “Underneath the Mango Tree,” the voice we hear is that of British actress Diana Coupland (1932-2006). Neither voice role is credited on screen.

Ursula Andress was born in the Swiss town of Ostermundigen (pop. 14,800 in 2007) near the Swiss capital city of Bern on March 19, 1936. Her mother Anna was Swiss-Italian. Her German father, Rolf Andress, was a diplomatic official who disappeared without a trace during World War II. Ursula was one of six children in her family.

Ursula Andress as Hony Ryder

Dr. No, the first 007 film, is now available in the Blu-ray format. On the cover: Sean Connery and Ursula Andress.

After graduating from high school, Andress went to Paris to study art and dance. Later she worked in Rome as an art and photo model. There she added Italian to the languages she could speak (English, French, German). Her first film roles were in Italian pictures in 1954 and 1955.

In the late 1950s, Andress went to Hollywood for a standard “starlet” contract with Paramount, which seemed to lead nowhere. In 1957 she married actor John Dereck. (The marriage ended in 1966.) During a trip to Greece, her husband took some photographs of her, one of which later appeared in a magazine. The story goes that Harry Saltzman, the co-producer of Dr. No, was still looking for his lead “Bond girl” and saw that photo. He offered Andress the part of Honey Ryder (“Honeychile Rider” in the Ian Fleming novel).

Andress did something that is fairly rare in the James Bond series: She appeared as a Bond girl in more than one James Bond film — although the 1967 Casino Royale, in which Andress played Vesper Lynd, is not an “official” Bond film.

Her choices of movie roles after Dr. No did not help her career. Nude pictures in Playboy (taken by her husband) were also detrimental publicity. She ended up being typecast for the most part as a sexy but cold blonde bombshell, with not a lot to say. In the 1970s, she starred or appeared in several (mostly forgettable) European film productions. In the 1980s, with the exception of Clash of the Titans, she worked mostly in television, including two episodes of The Love Boat and three episodes of the American prime-time soap Falcon Crest. Her last film role was a cameo in a Swiss comic satire of moviemaking entitled Die Vogelpredigt (2005).

In 1980 she had a son (Dimitri Alexandre Hamlin) with her Clash of the Titans co-star, the American actor Harry Hamlin. She was 44 and the father was 28 at the time. She and Hamlin lived together for about four years, and they are still friends.

Now in her seventies, the former actress has become a spokesperson for the prevention of osteoporosis: “This is a really important cause, and it can affect anyone — one in three women and one in five men. I know because eight or ten years ago I found out that I too had it.” (from Mature Times, Oct. 2008)

Today Andress maintains homes in Europe and in the US.

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