The words “Bond Girl” aren’t that welcome in today’s society. However, when it comes to Barbara Jefford, there’s a more interesting backstory than most.
For starters, you never saw her. She provided the voices for some classic female characters in 007’s macho universe. Read on to find out about this respected actress, who became a small but important part of James Bond’s cinematic history.
Which Bond Girls did Barbara Jefford play?
Jefford lent her vocal talents to From Russia With Love’s Tatiana Romanova. She was a Soviet agent and seducer who encountered Sean Connery’s 007 in the 1963 movie.
Romanova was portrayed onscreen by Daniela Bianchi. As stated in producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli’s autobiography, Bond creator Ian Fleming based the character on real-life figure Anna Kutusova. Jefford went uncredited for her performance.
A couple of years later, she could be heard again. This time she played physiotherapist Patricia Fearing in another Connery outing, Thunderball. Molly Peters appeared in front of the camera.
Finally, she dubbed scream queen Caroline Munro as the villainous pilot Naomi in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. Roger Moore had taken over as Bond by that stage – the move quite literally raised eyebrows.
Who is Barbara Jefford?
Mary Barbara Jefford came from Devon, England. Born in Plymstock in 1930, her father Percival Francis Jefford was a bank manager, according to a 1967 interview piece by Dave Lanning. Her mother was Elizabeth Mary Ellen.
Training as an actress at the legendary RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), she achieved success early. Her first stage performance was in her late teens, playing Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
Soon she was working with such acclaimed figures as Peter Brook and Sir John Gielgud.
License to act
James Bond turned out to be a minor but noteworthy part of Jefford’s career on stage and screen. Her most well-known movie role was as Molly Bloom in the film version of James Joyce’s Ulysses (1967).
The stage was arguably where Jefford was most at home. She performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company, among other hallowed institutions. Lanning described her as “one of Britain’s leading Shakespearian actresses.”
Her highlights playing the Bard include Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra (a role she inhabited three times), Desdemona in Othello, and Volumnia in Coriolanus. She worked with some of the greatest male stars of the age – Richard Burton, Albert Finney, and Derek Jacobi.
In addition to Shakespeare, Jefford also had a fondness for Oscar Wilde. “These immortal words seem to flow,” she told Lanning, in reference to the text of Lady Windermere’s Fan. “They are certainly easier to remember. They have a rhythm.”
She appeared in the ITV Playhouse adaptation of the play as Mrs. Erlynne. Jennie Linden took the title role, with Ian Ogilvy as Lord Windermere.
Barbara Jefford kept working throughout her life, though was more selective as she entered old age. “When you get to 77 it’s kind of limited as to what you can do,” she said in an Oxford Mail interview from 2007. “You’ve got to be believable, haven’t you?”
Jefford passed away in 2020, aged 90. She left behind her second husband – and fellow actor – John Turner.
There was another brush with the world of James Bond. In 2000, her performance as Volumnia saw Jefford play mother to title character Coriolanus. Starring as her son was Ralph Fiennes, who years later took up the mantle of 007’s boss “M.”
Fiennes talked about Jefford to The Guardian following her death. Mentioning the change between the person and the performer, he said: “she really shook the air as she spoke.” Fiennes “felt the room change when she was acting.” He added: “Her vocal technique was almost alarming in its brilliance.”
Barbara Jefford’s vocals entertained Bond fans and lovers of great acting all over the world.