Tonight: Sean Connery, Gert Frobe and Honor Blackman as “Pussy Galore” in Goldfinger—the third, and many consider the best, of the James Bond films.
Sean Connery was the first of six actors to portray 007 in the series, but he wasn’t the first choice. Co-producer Cubby Broccoli had originally wanted Cary Grant, who was a friend. In fact, he had been the best man at Cubby’s wedding in 1959.
When Broccoli finally chose Connery, United Artists executives in New York wired, “Think we can do better.”
Director Terrence Young’s reaction to the casting of Connery: “Oh, disaster! Disaster! Disaster!”
But the first film, Dr. No, with Connery as 007, released in 1962, was a blockbuster, earning $59 million. And the sequel, From Russia with Love, released the following year, was even bigger, earning $78 million.
By the time they got around to Goldfinger, Connery had become the Bond to whom all others would be compared.
By 1965, Connery would be the biggest box-office draw in the country, followed by John Wayne, Doris Day, Julie Andrews and Jack Lemmon.
Goldfinger was the seventh of fourteen Bond novels by Ian Fleming, published between 1953 and 1966, and the longest. The working title was The Richest Man in the World.
The character’s name was taken from a Hungarian architect, Erno Goldfinger, who Fleming disliked intensely. The architect threatened to sue the author, who toyed with the notion of changing the name to Goldprick.
Fleming’s villain was parodied in 2002 by Mike Myers in Austin Powers in Goldmember. Both Connery and Blackman were approached to play Myers’ parents in the spoof, but they declined.
MGM-UA filed a complaint that the film infringed on its use of a name inspired by a Bond character.
The first choice to play the title role in Goldfinger was Orson Welles, but he wanted too much money. The producers found their Goldfinger in Gert Frobe, after screening a 1958 German thriller, in which he played a psychopathic serial killer. He spoke almost no English, so Frobe’s voice was dubbed. There was a lot of dubbing in Bond films.
Goldfinger was banned in Israel for many years because Frobe had been a Nazi—but one of the nicer Nazis.
The film was finally cleared for exhibition in Israel when a Jewish family revealed that Frobe had protected them from persecution during the war.
During the filming, Frobe objected to the scene showing Goldfinger using nerve gas to dispose of his enemies, because it was too close to what the master race did so often in its concentration camps.
Blackman left her starring role in the British TV series The Avengers to take on the role of “Pussy Galore” in Goldfinger. At 37, she was the oldest actress to ever play a Bond Girl, and the first one with any bona fide acting experience.
Worried United Artist executives thought about changing the character’s name to Kitty Galore.
In her first introduction to Bond as “Pussy Galore,” he says, “I must be dreaming!”
The original script called for him to say, “I know you are, but what’s your name?
The character’s name was inspired by Fleming’s pet octopus, “Octopussy,” which also served as the title of his last Bond tale, published in Playboy in 1966.
In the novel, Pussy Galore is a lesbian, which explains why she originally resists Bond’s advances.
Pussy Galore’s all-female flying circus was actually made up of men wearing blonde wigs in the movie.
Fleming borrowed the idea of suffocating someone with gold paint from the 1946 horror film Bedlam, starring Boris Karloff.
Shirley Eaton underwent two hours of makeup to give her a gold coat.
There is apparently no real medical basis for the idea of “skin suffocation” in the film.
Professional wrestler and weight lifter “Tosh Togo” (aka Harold Sakata) portrayed the character of “Oddjob.” It was his first acting role.
He burned his hand during the Fort Knox gold bars and fireworks sequence. Director Guy Hamilton didn’t call “cut,” so “Oddjob” kept acting through the pain.
The steel-brimmed bowler worn by the Korean assassin was auctioned off in L.A. in 2006 for $33,600.
The 3-D model of Fort Knox, used by Goldfinger in planning his “Operation Grand Slam,” is now on display at the real Fort Knox.
Goldfinger was shot all over England and Switzerland, with some scenes shot in Miami and Fort Knox as well, but Connery never left Europe.
Filming took place from January 20 through July 21, 1964.
This is the first time that a laser beam is used in a movie.
You’ll see 62 actors killed on screen in Goldfinger.
The Production Code initially refused to approve the film for U.S. distribution, not because of the violence, but because of the name “Pussy Galore.”
But when Goldfinger was released in London on September 17, 1964, Broccoli invited the royal family. When the Prince met Blackman, the British press had a field day with photo captions reading “PRINCE MEETS PUSSY” and “PRINCE LOVES PUSSY.”
Broccoli argued that if the British could accept the name of a fictional character in a British film, the Americans could too. Ultimately, the Production Code relented.
The U.S. premiere was December 27, 1964 in New York, at the De Mille Theater, where the picture broke house records.
Goldfinger cost $3.5 million and earned $125 million—almost the gross of the first two Bond films combined.
By one report, Goldfinger was the fastest grossing film in movie history and is so reported in the Guinness Book of Records.
In addition, the soundtrack was number one for three weeks beginning December 12, 1963. And Shirley Bassey’s title song went to number eight on the Top 40.
Miss Bassey was asked back to perform the title songs for Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and Moonraker (1979).
An Oscar was awarded for Best Sound. Cubby Broccoli got the Thalberg Award in 1982.
The popularity of James Bond and Playboy are clearly connected.
Fleming’s first Bond novel was published in 1953, the same year I started the magazine. Playboy published its first James Bond story, “The Hildebrand Rarity,” in 1960.
Playboy pre-published condensed versions of the last four Bond novels (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, You Only Live Twice, The Man With the Golden Gun and Octopussy) before they appeared in book form.
Playboy also featured pictorials on the most popular Bond Girls throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
Fleming was a big Playboy fan. In the Playboy Interview, he said that Bond would most certainly have been a Playboy reader and member of the Playboy Club. And indeed, in the film version of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond is seen reading the magazine and removing the Centerfold. And in You Only Live Twice, Bond is identified as a member of the London Playboy Club.
The James Bond phenomenon produced a remarkable number of imitations and parodies in the 1960s, including Secret Agent, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Avengers and Get Smart on TV. And James Coburn as Our Man Flint and In Like Flint. Plus, Dean Martin in the Matt Helm films.
As Matt Helm, Dean Martin played a spy who posed as a Playboy-style magazine photographer. He slept in a round bed, and his models were called “Slaymates.”
There were a great many imitations and variations on the theme, but only one 007.
So now—from 1964—Sean Connery as the original James Bond in Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger.