The Deceptive Life of Professor Dent in Dr. No
In the thrilling world of James Bond, characters are often not what they seem. Professor Dent is no exception, as this geologist-turned-henchman plays a pivotal role in the first Bond movie, Dr. No.
Anthony Dawson, who also played uncredited and minor roles in 2 other Bond films as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, is undeniably one of the key figures who helped lay the foundation for the Bond franchise’s enduring success.
In Dr. No, Dent Professor serves as the secondary antagonist, and his deception and secret allegiance to the nefarious Dr. Julius No keeps audiences on the edge of their seats. He’s a professional but complex character, leading a double life and the deadly consequences of his actions set the standard for Bond villains and henchmen for the Bond franchise.
Professor Dent is a British geologist, working in a Kingston, Jamaica lab. Secretly, he also serves as a henchman for SPECTRE operative Dr. Julius No, who is attempting to sabotage missile launch programs from his private island, Crab Key.
Professor Dent appears to be an honorable man with an unblemished record, but he secretly does all of Dr. Julius No’s dirty work, enjoying widespread respect on the island.
John Strangways, a British Secret Service field operative, gathers samples from Crab Key and sends them to Dent for analysis. Concerned at this, the professor notifies Dr. No, who then has Strangways and his secretary Mary Trueblood assassinated by The Three Blind Mice.
When James Bond arrives in Jamaica to investigate Strangways’ disappearance, he first encounters Professor Dent at Queen’s Club, where Strangways often played cards with Pleydell Smith and General Potter.
Bond notices that Dent is the only person to have seen Trueblood and suspects his involvement in the assassinations. Later, Bond interviews the professor about a receipt from his practice found in Strangways’ office.
Bond also questions Dent about the samples Strangways had sent for analysis, but Dent discards them, insisting they’re not from Crab Key.
Growing suspicious, Bond tests Quarrel’s boat for radiation using a Geiger counter. He detects abnormally high radiation levels where Strangways had loaded the rocks, confirming Dent’s dishonesty.
Meanwhile, Professor Dent visits Crab Key during the day, against Dr. No’s orders, to warn him about Bond’s discovery. Dr. No warns Dent that he will be held responsible if Bond reaches the island and gives him a tarantula to assassinate Bond. That night, Bond awakens to the spider and narrowly escapes death by killing it with his shoe.
The next day, Miss Taro, also working for Dr. No, invites Bond to her house, attempting to lure him into a trap with the Three Blind Mice. As Bond is driving to Miss Taro’s in his Sunbeam Alpine, the Three Blind Mice try to assassinate him, but he runs them off the cliff.
Surprised at Bond turning up, Taro invites Bond in and takes a call from Professor Dent, who tells her to keep Bond there, so he can come and kill him. Bond and Miss Taro make love, and afterwards he suggests going out to dinner and calls for a cab, but in reality, he contacts Government House, resulting in Taro’s arrest.
Bond then awaits Professor Dent, placing pillows under the bed sheets to create a decoy. Dent enters and shoots six bullets at the bed, only to find Bond sitting in a chair with a silenced weapon aimed at him.
Dent reveals Dr. No’s involvement in the master plan and attempts to retrieve his gun from the floor with his leg. He fires the weapon but realizes too late that it’s empty. Bond casually remarks, “That’s a Smith and Wesson. And you’ve had your six.”
Bond shoots Professor Dent without emotion, and as he’s lying on the floor, Bond fires again, ending his life.
British-born actor Anthony Dawson, best known for his role as henchman Professor Dent in the first James Bond movie, Dr. No (1962), was born in Surrey in 1909. With a long and distinguished career that began on stage, Dawson soon expanded his repertoire to include both film and television roles.
As well as starring in Dr. No, Dawson also played Ernst Stavro Blofeld in From Russia with Love (1963) and Thunderball (1965), albeit uncredited, his face never shown, and his voice being dubbed over by Eric Pohlmann.
In addition to the Bond films, Dawson starred in several other films directed by Terence Young, such as They Were Not Divided (1950), Valley of Eagles (1951), The Amorous Adventures of Triple Cross (1966), Red Sun (1971), Inchon (1982), and The Jigsaw Man (1983).
Other notable British films include The Way to the Stars (1945), The Queen of Spades (1948), and The Wooden Horse (1950), before Dawson relocated to the United States, where he was known for performing in the Broadway play Dial M for Murder. This experience led to his role as C.A. Swann/Captain Lesgate in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film adaptation of the same name.
Anthony Dawson passed away at the age of 75 in Sussex in January 1992.