Bond creator got help from real "Moneypenny"

April 11, 2008 6:21:03 PM PDT
It turns out that James Bond creator Ian Fleming got a little help from an unexpected source - a real life Miss Moneypenny to whom he turned for advice on plot points and character development. A series of letters between Fleming and Jean Frampton, a typist-turned-adviser, was sold to an anonymous private collector Friday for more than $28,000, far more than had been expected.

The novelist and the typist never met, but over time she became a trusted aide to Fleming, who was working in London as a newspaper editor in the 1950s when he dreamed up Agent 007.

At first, Frampton limited her advice to spelling mistakes and minor inconsistencies, but over time she took a more assertive role and gave Fleming substantial guidance on plot and character development, said Amy Brenan, as assistant auctioneer at Duke's of Dorchester, which sold the packet of letters.

"I think it's fair to say that Ian Fleming and 007 come across sometimes as misogynistic, but there was none of that in his relationship with Mrs. Frampton," Brenan said. "They had an intellectual relationship on a very literary level and she provided some inspiration, and he put her into the character of Miss Moneypenny. I think actually Miss Moneypenny is quite intelligent."

She said Frampton was primarily a housewife who took on typing jobs in her spare time.

The letters show Fleming to be insecure and uneasy about the early drafts of his novels as he sought Frampton's help. Asking for advice on "Thunderball," for example, he apologizes for giving her such a weak effort.

"I am afraid this is not a good transcript and I would be deeply obliged if you would apply your usual keen mind to any points - absolutely any - that might help the book get into shape," he wrote to Frampton in 1960.

"Anything that your quick eye and mind falls upon, however critical and in whatever aspect of the writing, would be endlessly welcome. I am sorry to have to pass on to you a rather half-baked job."

Frampton replied with a number of complaints about the end of the novel, which was eventually turned into a movie starring Sean Connery. She said he left the reader with too many unanswered questions.

"I still regret the end of Thunderball," she wrote to Fleming. "As my naive and literal mind would like to know what exactly happened to the Disco, and the rest of her crew and the bombs, how Domino escaped, and, of course, what about Blofeld (or does he live to fight another day?)."

Moneypenny was first portrayed in film by the glamorous Canadian-born actress Lois Maxwell.

Brenan said the letters drew a far higher price than expected because of strong interest in Bond and Fleming in a year that marks the 100th anniversary of the author's birth and will also see the release of the next Bond movie, "Quantum of Solace," starring Daniel Craig.

"Everybody knows James Bond," she said. "He's a British classic."