From cold showers to gold painted girls – James Bond and naturopathy

This article is by guest writer Edward Biddulph.

It is clear from the words given to M, and the description of James Bond reading the book, that, rather than simply referencing the title, Ian Fleming read in detail Alan Moyle’s guide on naturopathy, Nature Cure Explained (1950), before he wrote Thunderball (1961), the adventure in which Moyle is mentioned.

However, there are hints in other novels that Fleming read the book earlier. What is more, his reading may have influenced an aspect of Bond’s character and, in one case, a plot detail that would result in one of the most iconic images in cinema.

Chapter 11 of Nature Cure Explained concerns hydrotherapy, the use of water in curative treatments. One of Moyle’s rules is that cold water should be applied after any treatment using hot water. For instance, there is the alternative hot and cold sitz bath, and if having a hot full bath, a cold shower must follow. The reason?

According to Moyle, the aim of water treatment is to achieve action and reaction of the blood. Heat draws the blood to the surface, whereas the cold water returns the blood from the skin to the deeper blood-vessels. The result, it is claimed, is increased and better blood circulation (Moyle 1950, 124).

Does this remind you of anyone?

In his first adventure, Casino Royale (1953, chapter 8), Bond ‘took a long hot bath followed by an ice-cold shower’. Bond does something similar in From Russia, with Love (1957, chapter 11): he ‘stood in the glass shower cabinet under very hot and then cold hissing water’. Incidentally, that was after he did twenty press-ups and touched his toes twenty times, among other exercises, all while naked. And we know from Moyle (1950, 157) that naked exercise is recommended in Nature Cure.

Returning to water treatments, in Diamonds are Forever (1956, chapter 22), Bond takes ‘a “Hot Salt” bath followed by a “Cold Domestic” shower’ while sailing the Atlantic on the Queen Elizabeth. For all I know, the Queen Elizabeth was indeed fitted with such facilities, but it nevertheless recalls the ‘Epsom Salt Bath’ described by Moyle (1950, 130).

Let us turn to another aspect of Fleming’s earlier writing that recalls Moyle, in this case the idea or meme that being covered in gold paint causes death, which appears in Goldfinger (1959, chapter 14). Goldfinger kills his companion Jill Masterton in revenge for Bond taking her away from him by painting her from head to foot in gold. Without a portion of the skin unpainted, she dies by skin asphyxiation.

The meme spread with the release in 1964 of the film of the book, helped not least by the enormous popularity of the film, the iconic image of Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson lying dead on a bed covered with gold, and Shirley Eaton’s reprise of the ‘golden girl’ role for the cover of Life magazine.

Like Bond’s ablutions, the plot detail may not have been original to Fleming, but may have come from the pages of Moyle. Discussing the need, in his view, for the skin to be exposed allowing it to breath and be invigorated by the elements, Alan Moyle (1950, 22) reminds us of ‘the story of the little boy who was painted with gold paint and died’. It is possible that Fleming read the book before he wrote Goldfinger and was taken with Moyle’s warning as a potential villainous means of murder.

If Fleming had read Nature Cure Explained even before Bond’s first appearance in Casino Royale, then does that make Bond a disciple of Nature Cure? Well, no. His 70-a day smoking habit suggests otherwise (though curiously Moyle does not mention smoking), and a philosophy that Bond’s secretary attributes to Bond in his ‘obituary’ (You Only Live Twice (1964), chapter 21: ‘ “I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time” ’) does not bring to mind the naturopathic lifestyle of joyless diets, regular fasts, herbal remedies, and general abstention from any activity that could induce illness.

Edward Biddulph is the author of Double-O Dining: a James Bond Cookbook. He also runs the blog James Bond Food.
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