Hemsidan senast uppdaterad: 2024-03-21

Steve Oxenrider minns skådespelerskan Yvonne Shima (1935-2023)

Av: Steve Oxenrider
Yvonne Shima, Doctor No
I recently learned the sad news that my dear friend Yvonne Shima passed away in British Columbia, Canada, September 1st of 2023. Yvonne was 88 and had cancer. She was a Canadian-Japanese actress and singer who appeared in the films The Savage Innocents, The World of Suzie Wong, The Road to Hong Kong, Genghis Khan, The Avengers tv series and many others. But, for us 007 fans, she is most famous as Sister Lily, one of the villain’s receptionists, in the first James Bond film Dr. No (1962).

I located and interviewed Yvonne Shima in 2012 for a Dr. No special edition issue of Cinema Retro magazine. Over the course of two hours we discussed her early career when she moved to London from Canada to pursue acting in the late 1950s. She first appeared on stage in the Teahouse of the August Moon and then moved on to several film roles. Of course, most of our interview focused on Dr. No.

She recalled shooting her Dr. No scenes at Pinewood Studios for about three weeks. “Terence Young worked very fast and didn’t give me that much direction. According to the script, I have seven scenes. Sean Connery and Ursula Andress came through this humongous steel door with big wheels that you have to unscrew. I had to open one of these to release them from the decontamination chamber.”

Yvonne still had her 5th draft screenplay of Dr. No and read all her lines of dialog to me. “’Don’t hesitate to ring if there’s anything else you want. Anything at all.’ When Bond says, ‘Two tickets to London? I kind of snickered. I added that.”

Michel, Mok, Yvonne Shima, Doctor No
Yvonne Shima (right) with Michel Mok (Sister Rose in Dr. No) in a publicity photo for the film.

As she continues reading, Yvonne pauses, then remarks, “I’m really a chatty young lady!” She also described a dramatic scene in the finale as Bond is searching desperately for Honey. He encounters Sisters Rose and Lily at the reception desk about to escape. He grabs Lily by the hair, she claws at his face and he smacks her down. Yvonne told me, “I don’t think this happened! I think it ended up on the cutting room floor.”

In the late 1960s Yvonne suffered a bad car accident in England and decided not to continue acting. “That was an episode in my life and I enjoyed it. I only had a little part in Dr. No. I feel very insignificant.”

Others think differently, including Graham Rye of 007 Magazine. “Her delivery and perfectly-pitched performance in Dr. No further successfully convinced audiences that Bond and Honey were truly incarcerated in a mink-lined prison.”

I first met Yvonne in person at the Designing 007 exhibition in Toronto in December 2012. She was petit, very charming and witty. Imagine the emotional high of touring this fascinating tribute to Bond style accompanied by Sister Lily! Afterward we had wine and dined together with her fiancée at a nearby restaurant and by the end of the day had become close friends.

Steve Oxenrider, Yvonne Shima, Doctor No, Designing 007
Steve Oxenrider with Yvonne Shima in Toronto in December 2012.

Shortly after our Canada meeting, I arranged for Yvonne to attend an Autographica in Birmingham, England in September 2013. In preparation for her debut at the upcoming event, Yvonne telephoned me in Arlington, Virginia several times with questions. In addition to her paid flight to the UK and lodging, she wanted to know if perhaps Autographica would reimburse her for wardrobes for her 3-day appearances. I assured her most definitely not and we often joked about it afterward. This was also the first signing appearance of another close acquaintance, Pat Gill, one of the Shady Tree Acorns from Diamonds Are Forever (1971). The two ‘Bond veterans’ became good friends. Yvonne told me weeks later she said she had abandoned her showbiz career but was enthralled with the reception she received from the Bond fans and admirers she met. She was even considering returning to acting.

It’s not often you have the privilege to meet an actress as fascinating or iconic as Yvonne was and become such good friends. There are few surviving cast of Dr. No and Yvonne was always a delight, talking about her movie days with Anthony Quinn, Sean Connery, William Holden, Bob Hope, Omar Sharif. Early last year we disclosed our mutual diagnoses of cancer to each other. As each of us began gruelling treatment, we spoke less often but still had an occasional chat. Yvonne was a very private person but always energetic with a great sense of humor, and I cherished every moment we talked. The last thing she said to me was, “It appears we are both on borrowed time. Keep in touch with me and keep your pecker up!” I will miss her but her legacy is forever captured on film for all of us to enjoy.

My sincere condolences to Yvonne's family.

Text written by Steve Oxenrider. Copyright © 2024 From Sweden with Love. All rights reserved.



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