Study Guide

Goldfinger Behind the Scenes

  • Director

    Guy Hamilton

    Having turned down the opportunity to direct the first Bond film, when approached by Cubby Broccoli to direct Bond's third outing, Hamilton said, "I am not throwing away my shot"—(we're paraphrasing)—and took the helm of Goldfinger.

    It paid off, as Goldfinger is considered by many Bond fans to be the best film in the entire series, and Hamilton gets a lot of credit for perfecting the Bond blend of action, humor, exotic locales, and beautiful dames (source). It's a blend more delicate than Bond's favorite martini.

    Prior to Goldfinger Hamilton worked as John Huston's assistant director on The African Queen. Post-Finger, Hamilton would direct three more Bond films—Diamonds are Forever, Live and Let Die, and The Man with the Golden Gun. And although he directed two Agatha Christie adaptations in the 1980s, Goldfinger appears to be the gold standard among Hamilton's projects (source).

  • Screenwriter

    Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn

    Richard Maibaum wrote almost as much Bond as Ian Fleming did. He wrote thirteen lucky Bond films, from Dr. No in 1962 to License to Kill in 1989. Of course, Goldfinger is included in that number.

    Maibaum is arguably a better writer than Fleming, whose novels, including Goldfinger, often include improbable concepts and plot holes you could drive an Aston Martin through sideways. It was Maibaum who changed Goldfinger's plot from robbing Fort Knox—a virtually impossible task—to nuking it—a much more sinister action (source).

    Paul Dehn, called in to polish Maibaum's screenplay, is credited with penning the explosive opening sequence. In fact, it may have been inspired by a real-life WWII mission in which a secret agent donned a wetsuit to sneak into Nazi-occupied Netherlands. Once inside enemy territory, he stripped off the suit to reveal a tuxedo underneath.

    Dehn, an intelligence officer at that time, likely knew of the mission, and he shared his top-secret intelligence with us by writing it into Goldfinger (source). Maibaum may be top billed, but Dehn is closer to being an actual honest-to-goodness spy.

  • Production Studio

    Eon Productions

    If Eon Productions were MI6, then Albert "Cubby" Broccoli would be its M. The man behind Eon Productions was responsible for making sure Bond's latest missions went off without a hitch.

    But Goldfinger had a major hitch before the mission was even delivered to Bond.

    After a dispute with Eon over salary, Terence Young, who directed the first two Bond films, refused to return for a third. Perhaps Eon was running short on funds, having already promised a heftier salary to Connery in order to convince him to don Bond's tux once again. The producers recruited Guy Hamilton, the dude they wanted to direct Dr. No years before. This time, Hamilton became Dr. Yes and took up residence in the director's chair (source).

    But a producer's job is never done. Even with a major star and a director, Broccoli and his partner Harry Saltzman had to wrangle with the distributor, United Artists, over a major character's name. No, they didn't want to rename Goldfinger Silverfinger. They were wringing their hands over the name Pussy Galore.

    United Artists wanted to rename the character Kitty Galore, so Eon's publicist, Tom Carlile, arranged a meeting with Miss Galore herself, Honor Blackman, and none other than Prince Philip, husband to Queen Elizabeth II. The Daily Mail ran a photo of the two titled "Pussy and the Prince." When no one was outraged over that headline, Eon was able to convince UA to keep Pussy in the picture (source).

    Finally, in an effort to appeal to American audiences, Eon decided to set major scenes in the US of A, thereby allowing Yankees to see Bond in Miami, at Fort Knox, and this close to a KFC (source). Even though Bond himself is never seen chowing down on a bucket of the Colonel's extra crispy, Americans found Goldfinger to be finger-lickin' good.

  • Production Design

    Magic of Film

    Reality is dull. Bond makes it interesting.

    Fort Knox's gold reserves don't take up all that much room, as journalists discovered when they were allowed inside the vault in 1974. Goldfinger's filmmakers weren't actually allowed inside the vault. In fact, they were afraid to get too close to it, for fear of being shot by machine guns mounted on the roof (source). So they used their imagination to jazz it all up for audiences. Set designer Ken Adam created a stunning multi-level set, providing a dramatic backdrop for Bond and Oddjob's climactic showdown.

    Despite being set in the United States, most of the scenes were shot at Pinewood Studios in England. The film's editor, Peter R. Hunt, then composited the actors onto backdrops, like the Miami Beach hotel or Goldfinger's Swiss smelting factory. Through the magic of film, the actors were made to look like they were on location thousands of miles away. It must have been like playing with life-sized action figures.

    When they weren't pasting actors onto other backdrops, the editors were pasting someone else's voice into Goldfinger actor Gert Fröbe's mouth. Because Fröbe barely spoke a word of English, he phonetically recited his dialog to the best of his ability, and was dubbed by another actor, Michael Collins (source).

    Finally, although they didn't have to worry about bleeping out any of Goldfinger's dialogue, the producers grappled with censors on both sides of the pond. Director Guy Hamilton remarked on the difficulty of balancing the film for the taste of both bloodthirsty American prudes and gun-shy Brits: "The American censor, absolutely constipated about sex; the British censor couldn't have cared less about that. The British censor, panic-stricken about violence; the American censor, totally indifferent about that. So one was doing a fairly fine balancing act" (source). Bond may have been jumping out of planes on screen, but the producers were walking a tightrope behind the scenes.

  • Music (Score)

    John Barry

    Goldfinger wouldn't be Goldfinger without "Goldfinger." What we mean by this confusing blend of italics and punctuation is that the movie wouldn't be the same without its iconic theme song, performed by Shirley Bassey. Composed by John Barry, along with the rest of the score, the "Goldfinger" theme is repeated throughout the film for two reasons: 1) To create mood. 2) To sell singles.

    Yes, on a commercial level, the studio wants audiences leaving the theater humming "Goldfinger" incessantly, so they either have to fry their own brains with a laser or buy the soundtrack in order to extract the song from their heads.

    But the repetition also creates a mood within the film. It reminds us of Goldfinger, even when he's not on screen. From off screen, he still influences the action. Also, Barry incorporated parts of the classic Bond theme into the "Goldfinger" song—seriously, go listen again. That technique increases the audience's ability to identify with the song, but it also reminds us that Bond and Goldfinger—the characters, not the tunes—have some similarities.

    For example, take this lyric: "For a golden girl / Knows when he's kissed her / It's the kiss of death." Well, Bond Girls have a disturbing tendency to die shortly after getting busy with James Bond. In Goldfinger, a whole family line is wiped out after sisters Jill and Tilly Masterson both die after becoming entangled in Bond's web.

    The song, of course, emphasizes that the kiss of death is "from Mr. Goldfinger," reminding us that for Goldfinger, the goal is death, like when he paints Jill gold. For Bond, death of the women isn't his goal, but it's still an unfortunate side effect.

    Maybe in the end they got off easy, though: they're not the ones with the song stuck in their heads until the end of time.

  • Fandoms

    Austin Powers paid tribute to the third Bond film with the title of its third film, Goldmember. But that franchise was ready to roll over and die by the time it reached number three. Goldfinger, by contrast, is widely regarded as the defining film of the Bond franchise. In fact, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone named Goldfinger the best Bond film ever.

    So what makes it so good? Well, it defined what makes Bond Bond, and it set the bar high for its key elements—girls, gadgets, and a killer song. Pussy Galore is on Vogue's list of "Top 10 Most Powerful Bond Girls of All Time." Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger" is Rolling Stone's #1 Bond song.

    And as for cars, Goldfinger features the first appearance of Bond's Aston Martin DB5, tricked out with so many gadgets that it's basically the Swiss Army Knife of cars. This car even appeared in more recent Bond films like Skyfall and Spectre.

    Yep, even the new Bond films are fanboys of this one.