When the “James Bond” franchise kicked off in 1962 with “Dr. No,” all of the action and travel we’d come to love and know from our favorite secret agent just wasn’t in it. “Dr. No” was essentially focused on Jamaica after starting in London for 007. The itinerary expanded with the second Bond effort, “From Russia With Love” as 007 goes to Turkey and then on the Orient Express. However, it wasn’t until “Goldfinger” in 1964 that Bond began his continent hopping as an integral part of each film’s plot. In “Goldfinger,” Bond flits from London to stops in Europe to finally crossing the Atlantic and winding up in good ol’ Kentucky in the U.S. It’s always neat to see the evolution of something we know so well now. “Goldfinger” is a good film above and beyond it being in the Bond franchise. It’s easy to find and fun to watch – and doesn’t insult your intelligence.
(1964; 110 minutes; rated “Approved;” directed by Guy Hamilton and starring Sean Connery, Gert Fröbe and Honor Blackman)
I EXPECT YOU TO DIE, Mr. BOND … BUT HE DOESN’T
(NOTE: I expanded this review with some additional opinion, more trivia and the updating of links on July 12, 2017.)
You may not remember or recognize it, but the early James Bond films were actually really good spy movies. Sure there were a few gadgets in “Goldfinger,” such as his tricked-up Aston Martin D85 sports car (but they really took off with “Thunderball” in 1965 – click here for my review). However, there was also a lot of good spycraft going around in “Goldfinger” as actor Sean Connery again brought the world’s most famous secret agent to life – and possibly the best golf match in cinematic history.
Even as it just notched its 50th anniversary (“Goldfinger” debuted in the U.S. with a New York premiere on Dec. 20, 1964) the film continues to entertain and is considered, no pun intended, one of the gold standards of the franchise. Connery does his signature “Bond, James Bond” introduction as well as ordering his vodka martini shaken, not stirred.
In “Goldfinger,” Connery first crosses paths with “Auric Goldfinger,” played by Gert Fröbe, on Miami Beach. The British want him under surveillance because of suspected criminal activities. Connery thwarts a card scheme Fröbe has going but loses the next battle when the criminal has his girl killed (she’s completely painted in gold). From that point on, it’s a matter of honor for Connery in squaring off against Fröbe.
From outside London, where they play a sensational golf match that Connery engineers to his advantage playing “strict rules” (a term still joked about at many courses across the globe each year) he follows him to Europe where he’s captured while following Fröbe and ultimately taken to the criminal’s stud farm in Kentucky in the U.S. (probably pun intended with the stud farm and Bond by the filmmakers). The scheme to contaminate the U.S. gold supply by Fröbe, with some help from Chinese Communists, is uncovered and ultimately thwarted before a signature showdown between good and evil. I guess we all know who wins.
Here’s a look at some of “Goldfinger’s” outstanding cast:
- Oscar winner (not for this one) Connery is at his smooth, suave and sophisticated best here. He’s in complete command at all times and there’s no surprise why his character is so popular and that Connery is the main reason for the attraction (just ask George Lazenby if the actor makes a difference). I’d rank “Goldfinger” second for Connery as Bond after “Thunderball” and just ahead of “Diamonds are Forever” (click here for my review). Connery won his Oscar for “The Untouchables” with Kevin Costner and has also been in “The Hunt for Red October” (click here for my review) and “Rising Sun.” He was especially good as “Indiana Jones’” father in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” in that especially sensational franchise.
- Fröbe was the second choice behind Orson Welles to play “Goldfinger” (producers couldn’t meet Welles’ financial demands). However, he is pitch-perfect as the cold, calculating villain. He’s more an evil businessman than just an evil person than shown in the traditional Bond villain “Ernst Stavros Blofeld.” Fröbe knows how to act and he, too, is smooth here. Fröbe was also in the war classic “The Longest Day” as well as “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” He died in 1988 at the age of 75 of a heart attack.
- As the outlandishly named “Pussy Galore” (this was downright scandalous in 1964 cinema), Honor Blackman is the female foil to Connery, but she doesn’t manage to keep up her defenses to his charms. She does a great job in a role that gives her more time than many women (outside of co-star Barbara Bach in “The Spy Who Loved Me” – click here for my review) in Bond films. Blackman quit TV’s “The Avengers” to do “Goldfinger” (Diana Riggs’ “Emma Peel” succeeded Blackman’s “Catherine Gale”) and she was in “Bridget Jones’ Diary.” Blackman has 113 credits in movies and television over her career of eight decades and has her most recent TV credit for “You, Me & Them” from 2015 (at the writing of the update of this review).
- Outside of Bond, Harold Sakata, who plays bodyguard “Oddjob,” has the most iconic role in the film. Sakata, who is of Japanese descent and was born in Hawaii, has only one spoken word (“A-ha!”) in the film. His steel-banded hat remains a staple of trivia questions even today. Sakata notched a number of TV roles, including on “Hawaii Five-O” before his death from liver cancer in 1982 at the age of 62.
- Cec Linder plays Connery’s CIA liaison “Felix Leiter.” Linder is the second actor to play the character as Jack Lord played him in “ No” (the character was not in “From Russia With Love.” Linder was also in “Lolita” and “A Touch of Class.” He died at 71 in 1992 of a heart attack.
- Margaret Nolan was only 21 when “Goldfinger” was released and she had the brief part of “Dink,” the girl who gets her bottom smacked by Connery. She would go on to films such as in some of the “Carry On” franchise as well as “Three Rooms in Manhattan.” She also posed for Playboy magazine and has a somewhat prolific resume of 75 credits beginning in 1962 and ending with a film credit in 2011.
“Goldfinger” certainly shows its age in some ways. Its common-for-the-day chauvinism is on display early as Connery dismisses Nolan, who was giving him a massage, by demanding she leave because of “man talk” and then gives her that sharp slap on the backside. Otherwise, the scenery from Europe to Miami Beach to Kentucky is great (kind of looking back a somewhat barren Las Vegas Strip in “Diamonds are Forever”) as well as the more sophisticated manners in public by all concerned – a bit refreshing in this more casual day and age.
OK, here’s my boilerplate explanation about the “approved” rating of “Goldfinger.” I’ve used it before: The film’s “approved” rating comes from Hollywood’s rating system known as the “Hays Code” from the name of its chief censor, according to Wiki. From 1938 through 1968 films were evaluated and either deemed approved or disapproved (“moral” or “immoral”). Although officially abandoned in 1968 in favor of the start of the rating system you see today, the “Hays Code” had pretty much disappeared in the 1960s due to the influence of television, edgy directors and U.S. Supreme Court rulings, according to Wiki.
“Goldfinger” was the No. 1 film at the U.S. box office for 1964 films with $124.9 million in ticket sales, according to Wiki, and it was made on a $3 million budget. It did $22 million better in ticket sales than the No. 2 film “Mary Poppins” with $102.2 million. The difference between No. 1 and No. 2 would have placed that amount in the top 10 for the year. The only other film from 1964 that I’ve reviewed is the Cary Grant WWII vehicle “Father Goose” – click here for my review.
Assorted cast notes (via IMDb.com):
- Blackman was the oldest of the so-called “Bond girls” – women in the 007 films known for their beauty. She was 39 and had a better character to work with than other women in the 007 franchise.
- Directly from IMDb.com: “Goldfinger wears yellow or a golden item of clothing in virtually every scene. In the one that he appears not to – in which he wears a U.S. Army Colonel’s uniform – he carries a golden revolver.”
- Because “Goldfinger” and the 007 franchise is such a big hit, IMDb.com has an extensive trivia page. Click here to see all the entries.
- Some credit the film as the debut of a laser beam shown in a movie. The script (taken from Ian Fleming’s novel) originally had a buzzsaw. I’m glad that someone had the foresight to stay away from the hackneyed visual.
- Directly from IMDb.com: “Sean Connery never traveled to the United States to film this movie. Every scene in which he appears to be in the USA was filmed in Pinewood Studios outside London. This explains why Bond flips a light switch down to discover the golden corpse of Jill, as English light switches are generally turned on by flicking them down instead of up.”
- Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “Ian Fleming partially based the title character of his original 1959 novel ‘Goldfinger’ on the controversial Modernist architect Erno Goldfinger. When he learned that Fleming was naming the villain of his new James Bond novel ‘Goldfinger,’ the architect threatened to file a lawsuit against Fleming’s publisher in an effort to stop the book’s publication. Fleming’s publisher then contacted the author to inquire whether Fleming might consider renaming the character, and the novel. Fleming replied that he’d be delighted to alter the name…if he could change the name of the character–and the novel–to ‘Goldprick.’ Fleming’s publisher quietly settled the architect’s lawsuit out of court.”
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