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Based on Ian Flemming’s Mi-6 secret agent book of the same name, Goldfinger is the third Bond film with Sean Connery in the lead and the one that put all the now familiar Bond tropes into play. Arguably the most iconic in the long-running series, this 1964 classic pits the British super spy against criminal mastermind Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) who plans to attack the Fort Knox gold bullion depository in the United States and with an atomic device, contaminate it, making his gold more valuable. The film became famous for the era-defining, nefarious bad guy and his unique torture method (no, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die), a female villain with the first (and perhaps best) double entendre name, and of course, Bond girl Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) who meets her end with painted-on gold. Critically acclaimed and among the highest rated films in the franchise, Goldfinger successfully combines all the elements that would define the character and the series for decades to come with intense action, amazing gadgets, seemingly inescapable situations, beautiful women, and a perfect blend of suave sophistication and charming humor.
A lot about the film was marketable and much of it was. The Aston Martin DB5 become the signature Bond car and was promoted at the World’s Fair as “the most famous car in the world” with a line of toys that would be the best selling of the year. Clothing, games, action figures, lunch boxes and more would all use the Goldfinger license and sell well beyond expectations. But none would remain as indelible or as oft-remembered as the slain golden girl. So who is she?
Shirley Eaton was already a star in the UK by 1964 having been a singer and variety show host throughout the 50s. She had been acting in films for eleven years and starred in mostly B films but a few with such leading men as Peter Sellers and Mickey Spillane. Yet it would be her role as Jill Masterson in Goldfinger that would change everything and make her an international star. Cast in a minor role as a spy working with Goldfinger, Bond catches her in Miami as she is helping the titular bad guy cheat at a card game by spying from a hotel balcony and relaying the information via radio. Bond being Bond, he quickly seduces the young attractive blonde and for her transgression, Goldfinger coats her in gold where she dies of “skin suffocation,” a thing that isn’t real but sounds frightening.
Make-up artists Basil Newall and Paul Rabiger had the honor of painting Ms Eaton for the film and while skin suffocation sounds silly to us now, there were some actual concerns (years earlier on the set of The Wizard of Oz, actor Buddy Epson was hospitalized and later dropped out of the role of the Tin Man after a lethal allergic reaction to the aluminum dust painted on his skin). For Eaton, they used regular gold-tinted make-up but there were physicians in the room just in case. They also left her belly untouched. David Hurn was hired to photograph the model and recorded the now iconic image of Eaton prostrate on the bed, glimmering in the soft light.
For the poster, artist Robert Brownjohn was commissioned to create the next Bond one-sheet. Brownjohn became inspired by the image of a film still playing as it is projected on people as they stream out of a theater. He built around this concept for the poster. The model on the poster is not Eaton though, instead actress Margaret Nolan, who had a small but wildly popular part in Goldfinger playing Dink, Bond’s masseuse, but is perhaps better remembered for this shot, which would end up being the first film poster displayed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Not surprisingly, Nolan was a hit.
Nolan is a voluptuous model known for her buxom figure. She not only posed for Brownjohn’s one sheet, but is also the golden girl in the film’s title sequences, which playfully used the woman’s curves to great effect (watch the golf ball seemingly follow along her arm and fall into her cleavage). All of this is done by projecting film sequences onto the Nolan’s painted body, a signature style of Brownjohn. The same was done for the poster:
That’s Bond of course, and with him is Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), the first female Bond villain and ranked among the most memorable of all the “Bond Girls.” The poster is deceptively alluring and a real masterwork of art. It’s easy to focus on Nolan’s intriguing visage and the tone of her skin, but notice how (or rather where) Brownjohn projects Blackman onto Nolan. Blackman is in profile and the contours of Nolan’s waist suggest the curves of Blackman’s back and legs, subtly merging the two women. This shadowed effect gives Pussy Galore a long sleek look that conceals her own clothes, giving her an appearance of nudity. Note too how the shadows of Bond’s jacket right shoulder perfectly emphasizes Nolan’s cleavage giving a fuller shape to her chest. Also look how his body runs a near perfect line down the center of her abdomen and right between her hidden legs. Nolan herself is lifeless, her expression blank, eyes closed with hair pulled to one side. She looks almost cadaverous with her ams limp at her sides. And yet, she is still sexually attractive, made so by the sheen of her bronzed skinned and the lure of her amble curves, which sit dead center. There is nothing random about this image.
The poster is pure tease and works on many levels. Nothing is truly revealed about the plot in the image and nothing in the poster is actually in the film, but, what it does is create anticipation, and remarkably so. The publicity shot of Connery and Blackman projected on Nolan suggests they are in partnership, which is only half true. But the golden girl and the link to the title are the strongest lure, which all involved understood very well. Of note also is that this is the UK poster used everywhere except the United States, where censors were a little different (even replacing “Pussy” in much of the marketing with “Miss”). A decidedly less sexy approach, (see below) the bland one sheet lacked any of the allure seen in the UK version.