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Designing 007: Exhibition marks 50 years of James Bond

By Nick Thompson, CNN
July 7, 2012 -- Updated 1717 GMT (0117 HKT)
A replica of the character Jill Masterson, suffocated when she was painted with gold in "Goldfinger," is a centerpiece of the newly-opened James Bond exhibition in London. A replica of the character Jill Masterson, suffocated when she was painted with gold in "Goldfinger," is a centerpiece of the newly-opened James Bond exhibition in London.
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Fifty years of James Bond
Fifty years of James Bond
Fifty years of James Bond
Fifty years of James Bond
Fifty years of James Bond
Fifty years of James Bond
Fifty years of James Bond
Fifty years of James Bond
Fifty years of James Bond
Fifty years of James Bond
Fifty years of James Bond
Fifty years of James Bond
Fifty years of James Bond
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Designing 007: 50 years of Bond Style" opens at London gallery
  • Exhibition, with over 400 Bond archive items, explores design behind 007 films
  • Showcase includes bikini of first Bond Girl, the golden gun and Bond's 1964 Aston Martin

(CNN) -- For 50 years one spy has outfoxed, outgunned, and outdressed every villain thrown his way. His name? Bond ... James Bond.

Now a new 007 exhibition in London is celebrating the half century since the world's most famous secret agent first appeared on screen.

It was 1962 when Sean Connery's Bond defeated Dr. No and floated off into the sunset with Honey Ryder. Today the first Bond Girl's bikini is one of more than 400 items on display in an exhibition tracing the design of the one of the world's most profitable film franchises.

From Scaramanga's golden gun to Daniel Craig's tiny trunks in the 2006 remake of "Casino Royale," the Barbican Centre exhibition in London allows fans to follow in 007's footsteps on a journey from 1962 up through Bond's golden anniversary ahead of "Skyfall", which is due to be released in October.

"Adventure films have come and gone, but James Bond has remained a huge box office draw throughout," exhibition co-curator Bronwyn Cosgrave told CNN. "And he's also the best-dressed man in cinema history."

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Fans are greeted at the gallery's exhibition by a waxwork of Sean Connery leaning against a replica of Bond's famous 1964 Aston Martin DB5 car.

From there, a bullet-shaped entry way leads through to the Gold Room, which features a life-sized recreation of character Jill Masterson's death by gold paint from the 1964 film "Goldfinger."

"Shirley Eaton's golden body is one of the most iconic Bond images, and we went to great lengths to cast a form -- not just a mannequin -- to painstakingly make a body that resembled her nubile proportions from Goldfinger," Cosgrave said.

The exhibition's narrative arc is formulated much like a Bond film: visitors pass through M's office, where Britain's top spy received his mission orders, to Q Branch, where he picked up his latest gadgets.

A montage of the casino scenes from every Bond film play on the walls of the casino room before visitors take a trip through the "real, fictional, and otherworldly" exotic locations of 007's many adventures.

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The exhibition also traces the evolution of Bond's formidable wardrobe, from Connery's Savile Row-made tuxedos to Pierce Brosnan's Brioni suits, and showcases a number of Bond Girl dresses, including Halle Berry's Versace dress from "Die Another Day."

Cosgrave and her colleagues dug deep into the 007 archive in order to find pieces that evoke design in Bond films.

"This is the only exhibition where Bond is a supporting character -- equally iconic are the sets, the gadgets, and the costumes," she said.

The costumes are remarkable, but at the end of the day Bond is a man of action -- which is why the exhibition's grand finale culminates in the Ice Palace from "Die Another Day," where visitors are surrounded with footage of 007's many chase scenes in the snow.

The exhibition ends where many of the spy's adventures began: at the bar with a martini -- shaken, not stirred, obviously -- in classic Bond fashion.

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