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The movie with the midas touch: Goldfinger’s golden anniversary

October 4, 2014

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Going for gold: to sate the growing 007 fans all around the world, Broccoli and Saltzman’s magic factory Eon Productions pulled out all the stops and verily sparked ‘Bondmamia’ with its third spy-fi fantasy epic – a precious-metal movie masterpiece that proved to be less gilt-edged, more 24-carat

On September 17 1964, at the prestigious Odeon Leicester Square cinema in London’s West End, one of the few films that can genuinely be considered an out-and-out cornerstone of post-war pop culture premiered. The film was Goldfinger. And, arguably, the world would never be the same again. Goldfinger, of course, wasn’t the first of Eon Productions’ ‘official’ Bond film series; it was the third, but owing to a wilful adoption of a somewhat lighter, more ironic, even knowingly self-parodying tone, it set the template for every 007 flick that would follow.

It also properly delivered for the first time the ‘box of delights’ offered by so many future efforts – the world-threatening plot; the grandiose larger-than-life villain; his equally larger-than-life, harder-than-nails henchman; Bond’s gadget-laden mode of transportation (the now world-famous Aston Martin DB5, of course); the totally bodacious title song; the witty puns throughout and the outrageous how-will-he-possibly-get-out-of-this? Bond-trap.

Directed by Guy Hamilton, who’d later return for three further consecutive movies (1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, ’73’s Live And Let Die and ’74’s The Man With The Golden Gun), designed by the genius that is Ken Adam (whose cathedral-like Fort Knox set was the result of letting his imagination run wild as he wasn’t allowed a look around the real US federal gold reserve) and scored by the incomparably brilliant John Barry (whom with Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse also wrote arguably maybe still the best Bond title theme, recorded by Shirley Bassey), the movie was graced with a cast including versatile German thesp Gert Fröbe as the eponymous villain Auric Goldfinger, Honor Blackman as his personal pilot Pussy ‘I must be dreaming’ Galore, Shirley Eaton as unforgettably literal ‘golden girl’ Jill Masterson, Tania Mallet as her vengeful sister Tania and Korean judo ace Harold Sakata as the fantastically formidable henchman Oddjob. Oh, and Sean Connery as James Bond, of course, in a performance seemingly more-at-ease than ever before or since.

And it would be with Goldfinger that Connery became an undisputed global superstar; in fact, in the minds of many around the world the character of 007 and the man Sean Connery became synonymous (later in the decade, he signed an autograph only for the recipient to complain it didn’t read ‘James Bond’). Such was the unadulterated anticipation for Goldfinger and Connery’s Bond in autumn ’64 that at that London premiere, the crowd pressure was so great it broke the windows of the Odeon. And the movie too did much breaking of its own – breaking box-office records, that is. In today’s money, it raked in over $1 billion; out of the 23 ‘official’ 007 movies so far, it still ranks third on the all-time (inflation-adjusted) grosser list, behind only 2012’s Skyfall and ’65’s Thunderball).

So, as the unique and still rather magnificent Goldfinger celebrates its golden anniversary this autumn (I was lucky enough to catch it on the big screen in the summer; it still looks and feels fresh as a daisy), do please, peeps, join George’s Journal as it gets in on the act, with this rare images-, videos-, facts- and quotes-boasting post. For, when back in ’64 Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman aimed for a bold change in direction for 007, they verily pulled off an Operation Grand Slam – and then some…

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Golden nugget of knowledge

It’s been said that 70-80% of the world’s population has seen Goldfinger at least once and that sales of the Aston Martin DB5 increased by 50% after its release – sadly for car-buying-punters, though, none of the vehicles sold featured the box of tricks 007’s did

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24-carat quote

You have to walk the line between absolute nonsense and seriousness and a way to cope with it is a little bit of humour~ Guy Hamilton on screenwriter Richard Maibaum’s approach to scripting Goldfinger (BAFTA/ Film4 Summer Screen interview, July 2010)

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Golden nugget of knowledge

Goldfinger was at first banned in Israel because the actor who played the titular villain (Gert Fröbe) was a registered Nazi during the Second World War; sometime later, however, it emerged he had helped hide Jewish families from the Gestapo during the war, and so, rightly, the ban was lifted

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24-carat quote

“[Co-producer] Harry [Saltzman] came from the circus; for him, Bond was a show. And [he was] always looking for something new. He popped in one day and said: ‘There’s a thing called a laser-beam, it’s fantastic; we’ve got to have it in [the film]’. I said: ‘Harry, that’s terrific – how do we use that in the picture?’. He said: ‘I don’t know, that’s your job’. [Scriptwriter] Dick Maibaum was thinking ‘the Perils of Pauline’: ‘Instead of using a circular saw [as used in the famous torture sequence as it is in the original novel], we’ll use the laser-beam’. And I said: ‘Thank you, Harry!’” ~ Guy Hamilton on how the laser-beam effect came to grace Goldfinger (BAFTA/ Film4 Summer Screen interview, July 2010)

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Golden nugget of knowledge

Future Hollywood writer-producer-director (most notably the man behind TV’s Happy Days and The Odd Couple and helmer of 1990’s Pretty Woman) Garry Marshall appears as a hood in the games room scene at Goldfinger’s Kentucky stud farm

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24-carat quote

I got into a situation where I didn’t have anywhere to live for two weeks and John [Barry] said ‘Come and live with me’… [The first night] I went to sleep and I was woken up about an hour later by the piano …. All night long he was on the piano. I thought: ‘I’m going to be here two weeks, my God, I’m never going to get any sleep!’. In the morning I got up, went down to breakfast and he was still on the piano … and [then] he said: “I’ve finished”. I asked: “What were you composing?” … He played me Goldfinger [the song] … and so I was the first person in the world to hear Goldfinger – and I heard it all night!” ~ Michael Caine on the writing of Goldfinger’s title song (John Barry Memorial Concert, Royal Albert Hall, London, June 2011)

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