Goldfinger was the third film in the James Bond franchise but the film, starring Sean Connery, is the gold standard for all Bond films.
Ask anybody who their favorite Bond is and the answers will vary. The same will probably go for the films, too. I would wager to say that the large majority of people will tell you Goldfinger. Producers had a budget twice the size of Dr. No and From Russia With Love. They would go on to make $125 million against a $3 million production budget. This is the only Bond film AFI would honor among its most thrilling films in 2001. The film would also become the first Bond film to earn an Oscar when Norman Wanstall won for Best Sound Effects Editing.
While this film would mark Sean Connery’s third outing as the iconic Agent 007, it would be Guy Hamilton’s first of four times in the director’s chair. Hamilton certainly put his mark on the franchise and gave us one of the best cinematic villains of all time in Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe). Austin Powers’ Felicity Shagwell is no doubt an homage to the similarly named Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). This is a name that they could only get away with in the 1960s. The Production Code did not have the same power on script approvals by this time. However, they would not let the full name appear in promotional materials.
Hamilton’s mark on the film would see a number of franchise introductions. Bond becomes the familiar James Bond in Goldfinger. This is where Bond uses a number of gadgets and other technology for the first time. With Hamilton’s direction, Q (Desmond Llewelyn) features humor in the character for the first time. Moreover, the film also has a pre-credits cold open that has nothing to do with the rest of the film. Unlike previous films, Shirley Bassey’s title song is featured during the opening credit title sequence. There would also be a number of locations featured in the film while Bond chases the villain across the globe.
Anyone wanting to write for Bond needs to study Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn’s script. In utilizing their approach, the film has a nice balance of both action and comedy. All you need to do is study subsequent films and see how close they are in similarities with characters, traits, etc. The franchise has survived for so long because they stick with the template.
Bond sees himself investigating Goldfinger at the start of the film. An appropriate name for a gold magnate if there ever was one! Well, after Bond’s Miami Beach vacation gets disrupted. Anyway, Bond learns the villain plans to go after the depository at Fort Knox. Goldfinger is assisted by Pussy Galore and her Flying Circus. And then you have the Masterson sisters, Jill (Shirley Eaton) and Tilly (Tania Mallet). Both Pussy and Jill are the Bond girls in this film.
Being a Kentucky native, it’s always nice to see my home state on screen. I’m talking legitimately on screen rather than inserting stock footage and filming in another state. And of course, you can’t film in Kentucky without having a shot of KFC. To be fair, this scenes are using footage shot by the second unit and edited into the scenes shot at Pinewood. Because nobody can film or take photos inside Fort Knox. production designer Ken Adam gets very creative.
Fun fact: Israel once banned the film because of Gert Fröbe had been a member of Nazi Party. However, this ban would eventually be lifted when the Israeli Embassy in Vienna learned that he saved the lives of two Jews. I do have some complicated feelings on the matter because he did serve in the German Army. For more, check out his obituary.
In another world, perhaps Orson Welles could have been the villain. Theodore Bikel, best known for Fiddler on the Roof productions, also auditioned. How different this film could be! After watching the German-born Fröbe, it’s hard imagining anybody else in the role.
While the special effects might not hold up for someone coming of age in this generation, Goldfinger is the film that would truly come to define James Bond on screen. I want stress that I have no problem with the effects because I realize that this film is a product of the 1960s.
DIRECTOR: Guy Hamilton
SCREENWRITERS: Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn
CAST: Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Fröbe, with Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet, Harold Sakata, Bernard Lee, and Martin Benson Cec Linder, Austin Willis, Lois Maxwell, Bill Nagy