Fifty years (and five billion dollars in ticket sales) ago, the dashing Scottish actor Sean Connery declared suavely that he was "Bond, James Bond." Thus began a cinematic series unlike any other. In November 2012, Skyfall, the 23rd movie in what is seen as the authorized line of Bond films, will be released, with Daniel Craig (the sixth Bond) again in the lead role. The world will once more stream to the theaters for another dose of Bond. LIFE was on the scene in the swinging '60s when James Bond became a cultural icon (in fact, when we put the gold-painted actress Shirley Eaton on the cover in 1964, we helped him along), and now LIFE tells the whole story in this commemorative book. Ian Fleming, a high-ranking officer in British Naval Intelligence of World War II, dreamt up his MI6 spy, code number 007, in 1953, and a decade later, with Dr. No, From Russia With Love and then the smash Goldfinger, saw his creation take on a life entirely his own. All the fun of Bond is here: The movies; the reminiscences by the stars; the LIFE photo shoots; the knockoffs and spoofs ("The Man from U.N.C.L.E.;" "Get Smart;" "I Spy;" the first Casino Royale); the artifacts (a model of Bond's Aston Martin DB5 was one of the best-selling toy of 1965); the trivia and inside information on M, Q and Moneypenny-anything a Bond fan would want, packed into one book and then shaken, not stirred. James Bond was, back in the day, one of those cultural phenomena tailor-made for LIFE: It was bright and colorful and vibrant. Today, it still is. Happy birthday, and welcome back, Commander Bond.