July 17, 2013 1:43 pm
James Bond’s ingenius gadgets inspired not only fans but the real-life CIA, too, researchers write. A trove of declassified letters and interviews reveal that both Goldfinger and From Russia With Love served as the impetus for devices like poison-tipped dagger shoes. The James Bond novels also encouraged the CIA to improve its public image, the researchers say.
When British author Ian Fleming first wrote the James Bond books in the 1950s and 60s, the U.S. media was not in the habit of openly discussing the CIA. CIA director Allen Dulles admired Fleming, however, and began using the the Bond character to the CIA’s advantage. Declassified letters between Dulles and Fleming reveal the pair’s close ties. Fleming, for example, told Dulles that the CIA needed to add more “special devices” to its arsenal, and in 1963, Dulles helped persuade Fleming not to do away with the Bond character.
Dulles pressured the CIA to replicate Bond devices, which led to the creation of a real-life spring-loaded poison knife show, first depicted in From Russia with Love. The agency never mastered the homing beacon that tracks the bad guy’s car in Goldfinger, however.
Fleming gave the CIA various hat-tips in his novels by sprinkling in favorable references, while Dulles spoke highly of the author to the American press. But still, the researchers point out, Fleming never left any doubt of the superiority of the British intelligence services.
More from Smithsonian.com: