OBITUARIES

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY MATT SCHUDEL matt.schudel@wash­post.com

Blanche Black­well was the mis­tress and muse of Ian Flem­ing, the au­thor who cre­ated James Bond.

Blanche Black­well’s ro­man­tic life in­spired one of Noël Coward’s plays about an up­per-crust love tri­an­gle, and swash­buck­ling Hol­ly­wood star Er­rol Flynn wanted to marry her. She was a mem­ber of one of Ja­maica’s rich­est fam­i­lies but was best known as the mis­tress and muse of Ian Flem­ing, the rak­ish au­thor who was the cre­ator of James Bond.

Mrs. Black­well died Aug. 8 in Lon­don at 104. Her death was con­firmed by An­drew Lycett, Flem­ing’s bi­og­ra­pher. Other de­tails were not avail­able.

Vi­va­cious and out­doorsy, Mrs. Black­well was known for her bright smile and ca­sual al­lure. She first met Flynn — “a gor­geous god,” in her words — in the 1940s, dur­ing one of his Ja­maican va­ca­tions. He de­scribed her laugh as “like the sounds of wa­ter tin­kling over a wa­ter­fall” and was so en­chanted that he wanted to pro­pose, even though both were mar­ried to other peo­ple.

One of her clos­est friends was Coward, the gay play­wright and en­ter­tainer who based a char­ac­ter on Mrs. Black­well in his 1956 play “Vol­cano,” about the self­ind­ul­gent lives of is­land aris­to­crats. The play was so sex­u­ally charged that it wasn’t per­formed in pub­lic un­til 2012. Mrs. Black­well at­tended the open­ing.

She lived long enough to give busi­ness ad­vice to U2’s Bono, whose ca­reer was launched by her son, Chris Black­well, the founder of Is­land Records.

“She al­ways says, ‘I love men — they make such good pets,’ ” Chris Black­well told the Bri­tish magazine Tatler this year.

Mrs. Black­well had a home on Ja­maica’s north coast, mid­way be­tween Coward’s is­land re­treat and Flem­ing’s es­tate, Gold­en­eye, where Flem­ing wrote his nov­els and sto­ries about Bond, Agent 007.

She was di­vorced and in her 40s by the time she met Flem­ing in the mid-1950s. She had re­cent- ly re­turned to Ja­maica af­ter sev­eral years in Eng­land, where her son was at­tend­ing school.

“I re­mem­ber I sat next to him at din­ner and he said: ‘Why haven’t I seen you be­fore?’ ” she re­called to Lon­don’s Sun­day Ex­press news­pa­per in 2012. “I told him I was just over from Eng­land and he said, ‘Oh good God, you’re not a les­bian, are you?’ ”

In Ja­maica, what be­gan as “a trop­i­cal dal­liance” be­tween the writer and Mrs. Black­well “de­vel­oped into a deep love af­fair,” Lycett wrote in his 1995 bi­ogra- phy of Flem­ing.

Be­gin­ning in 1952, Flem­ing re­turned to Gold­en­eye ev­ery win­ter to write a new book about Bond’s ad­ven­tures as a Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer and se­rial se­ducer of women — a fair sum­mary of Flem­ing’s ear­lier life. His wife, Ann, usu­ally stayed in Eng­land.

Mrs. Black­well left Flem­ing alone to work in the morn­ings, then stopped by at mid­day for snor­kel­ing and lunch. She came back for the cock­tail hour, af­ter his af­ter­noon writ­ing ses­sion. He called her “Birdie.”

“She was re­ally some­body who of­fered him friend­ship,” Lycett said in an in­ter­view. “She made him con­tent and happy at a dif­fi­cult time in his life. She was a woman of great charm and in­tel­li­gence and was ex­traor­di­nar­ily good com­pany.”

In 1956, Mrs. Black­well helped co­or­di­nate Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter An­thony Eden’s visit to Gold­en­eye, plant­ing trop­i­cal flow­ers and bushes in the gar­dens. Flem­ing’s wife, who was hav­ing an af­fair of her own with a Bri­tish politi­cian, Hugh Gaitskell, later tore out what she called the “ugly shrubs.”

It is widely be­lieved that Mrs. Black­well was the in­spi­ra­tion for one of Flem­ing’s most mem­o­rable fe­male char­ac­ters, Pussy Ga­lore, the bi­sex­ual leader of a fe­male crim­i­nal gang in “Goldfin­ger.” An­other char­ac­ter, the Ja­maican-born Hon­ey­chile Rider in “Dr. No” (re­named Honey Ry­der and played by Ur­sula An­dress in the film) was also thought to be mod­eled af­ter Mrs. Black­well.

“She was a sort of ma­cho fe­male,” Chris Black­well told Van­ity Fair in 2012. “The re­la­tion­ship they had, how she and Ian bonded, was that they were both into do­ing things: climb­ing th­ese falls, go­ing into those caves, swim­ming here, snor­kel­ing there.”

One of the gifts Mrs. Black­well gave Flem­ing was a small fish­ing boat, which he named Oc­to­pussy. The ti­tle of the 14th and fi­nal Bond book, “Oc­to­pussy and the Liv­ing Day­lights,” was pub­lished in 1966, two years af­ter Flem­ing’s death at age 56. (He was also the au­thor of the chil­dren’s clas­sic “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.”)

Mrs. Black­well did not at­tend Flem­ing’s fu­neral. After­ward, Ann Flem­ing re­port­edly told the man­ager of Gold­en­eye that he could rent the es­tate to any­one “ex­cept Blanche Black­well.”

“She dis­liked me,” Mrs. Black­well said in 2012, “but I can’t blame her.”

Blanche Lindo was de­scended from a Sephardic Jewish fam­ily that fled per­se­cu­tion in Por­tu­gal and even­tu­ally set­tled in Ja­maica. The Lin­dos were one of about 20 promi­nent fam­i­lies that dom­i­nated much of the is­land’s com­merce through the 19th cen­tury.

Af­ter busi­ness re­ver­sals, sev­eral mem­bers of the fam­ily moved to Costa Rica, where Blanche was born Dec. 9, 1912. Af­ter re­plen­ish­ing their wealth, they re­turned to Ja­maica, where her fa­ther owned prop­erty and a rum dis­tillery. Blanche had pri­vate tu­tors and at­tended a fin­ish­ing school in Eng­land.

In the 1930s, she mar­ried Mid­dle­ton Joseph Black­well, a mil­i­tary of­fi­cer and heir to a Bri­tish food for­tune. They later di­vorced.

Their son, Chris Black­well, was in­ducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 as “the sin­gle per­son most re­spon­si­ble for turn­ing the world on to reg­gae mu­sic.” Mrs. Black­well’s other sur­vivors in­clude two grand­sons.

In 1976, Gold­en­eye was bought by reg­gae star Bob Mar­ley, whose record­ings were pro­duced by Mrs. Black­well’s son. Mar­ley later sold the es­tate to Chris Black­well, who trans­formed Gold­en­eye into a lux­ury re­sort, where his mother had a cot­tage.

Mrs. Black­well spent her fi­nal years in Lon­don, where she was in­ter­viewed in 2008 by writer Ian Thom­son for his book about Ja­maica, “The Dead Yard.” She spoke of her ear­lier ad­mir­ers by their first names.

“Ian was an an­gel,” she re­called. “Er­rol was an­other an­gel. Both lovely men — both ex­cep­tion­ally manly and def­i­nitely not for do­mes­ti­cat­ing!”

At 95 and nearly blind, Mrs. Black­well had lost none of her charm.

“Not that I should com­plain,” she said, reach­ing for a rose. “I’ve had a mar­velous life. Do smell my pink rose.”

DAVE M. BENETT/GETTY IM­AGES

Ac­tress Jenny Sea­grove, left, and Blanche Black­well at­tend an af­ter party cel­e­brat­ing the press night per­for­mance of “Vol­cano” in Lon­don on Aug. 16, 2012.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.