Goldfinger marks Sean Connery's third outing as Bond, and if he didn't make every move seem cool and effortless before, he has perfected Bond's debonair air here. He seamlessly transitions from blowing up a drug den to lounging by a Miami pool to putting the moves on a gangster's girl without seeming to break a sweat.
Even though this is only the third Bond movie, we already know how he will introduce himself and how he likes his martinis. We don't need to quote him, because even if you've never seen a Bond movie, you know these famous quotes from the franchise.
But what we're starting to learn about Bond in this installment is that he has a surprisingly corny sense of humor. After electrocuting a man in a bathtub, for example, he quips:
BOND: Shocking. Positively shocking.
And after electrocuting Oddjob (seriously, stay away from Bond if any wires are around), he tells Felix:
BOND: He blew a fuse.
Did Q give Bond a Dad Joke Generator in addition to all the gadgets? The jokes help us relate to Bond. If he can tell cheesy jokes like us, we think, then maybe we can defuse a nuclear warhead, too. If you're thinking that, though, we'd suggest sticking to the jokes. We'd rather not get blown up just because you identify with Bond a bit too much. Go buy a sports car instead.
Bond's jokes also help humanize this globe-trotting spy. Basically, to keep from being overwhelmed by all the violence around him, he cracks jokes. That can make Bond seem callous in a way, since he's making a joke about someone's death. But Bond is moved by some deaths—as long as the dead person didn't try and kill him first.
Even though Bond goes through women like he goes through vodka, he is surprisingly upset by Jill Masterson's death, for example. He's so upset, in fact, that M threatens to take him off the mission, worried that his emotions for Jill may overshadow his common sense. Bond, of course, assures M that he can compartmentalize his feelings until the mission is complete.
BOND: I am aware of my shortcomings. But I'm prepared to continue this assignment in the spirit you suggest if I knew what it was about, sir.
And he does, too, demonstrating the level of professionalism needed to be a superspy.
But back to Jill. Why does her death affect Bond so much? Could it be that she died while Bond was so near, and he feels guilty that he didn't stop it? Or could he—gasp—actually have had feelings for her?
Bond sees a lot to admire in Jill. Not only is she drop-dead (too soon?) gorgeous, but she's also headstrong, witty, and sexually aggressive—just like Bond himself. Bond is both romantic and playful with her, flirting like a college boy trying to show off in front of the hottest sorority sister on campus.
BOND: My dear girl, there are some things that just aren't done, such as drinking Dom Pérignon '53 above a temperature of 38° Fahrenheit. That's as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs.
Perhaps Bond was starting to fall for Jill, and her death has affected him because of what it leaves him with—uncertainty. With Jill dead, he has no way of knowing if they might have worked out.
Another way of looking at it is a colder one. It's possible that Bond could be upset simply because Goldfinger got the upper hand on him. Bond stole Jill, but Goldfinger stole her away from Bond—forever—and taunted him by painting her gold. It's Bond's own ego that is bruised in this scenario, not his heart of gold.
Whatever the reasons Bond is upset, we'd bet they wouldn't last long had Jill survived. An agent's work is never done, and Bond is the walking definition of work hard, play hard. He still has over twenty movies to go, so he's not going to settle down just yet.
Goldfinger is a man dressed up all in gold who cheated his way to wealth and wants to nuke the United States economy to benefit his own personal bank account. Sound like a villain? Yep, that's a villain.
An "auric" is the term for an ion of gold, so it appears that Goldfinger was destined to be obsessed with the precious metal from birth. He has amassed a great deal of it, mostly by smuggling it from other countries. Not only has this illegal operation made him wealthy, but it even inspires him to wax poetic on the subject:
GOLDFINGER: This is gold, Mr. Bond. All my life, I've been in love with its color, its brilliance, its divine heaviness. I welcome any enterprise that will increase my stock, which is considerable.
Goldfinger is a simple man motivated by greed. In the real world, he'd just be your average Goldman Sachs employee. But this is Bond-world, so what we get is a supervillain willing to cheat, backstab, and murder to increase his own wealth.
His big plan is Operation Grand Slam, in which he'll break into Fort Knox not to steal the gold, but to nuke it. With the U.S. gold reserves gone, Goldfinger's own wealth will increase. It's the type of diabolical plan Bond villains are known for—over the top, complicated, and much more trouble than they're actually worth.
Another trait that makes Goldfinger an iconic Bond villain is his penchant for torture. It's during an iconic torture scene that Goldfinger utters a classic line from Bond world:
GOLDFINGER: No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!
Goldfinger set a high bar for the Bond torture scene with his classic laser aimed at Bond's sensitive parts. But like Operation Grand Slam, Goldfinger's torture technique is flamboyant and ineffective. Why go through all the pageantry? Just kill the guy.
But that wouldn't be any fun. As menacing as Goldfinger would like to think he is, he is little more than a clown providing a series of dangerous diversions for James Bond for one purpose: to entertain us all in the audience.
Bond girl names don't get more suggestive than this one. It almost makes the Austin Powers parody character Alotta Fagina sound like a Disney princess. But despite her crude-sounding name, Pussy Galore is a character more complex than the villain who gives the film its name.
Pussy is a pilot who owns more pantsuits than Hillary Clinton. An expert flyer, she has trained a band of gorgeous bombshells to fly in her "Flying Circus." All these women look like pin-ups, but they could fly circles around any male bomber. The girls clearly look up to Pussy and respect her as a leader.
So what is Pussy doing working for a sleazy guy like Goldfinger? Well, Pussy has big plans for her cut of the payday loot from Operation Grand Slam. Here's what she says to Goldfinger:
PUSSY: I've spotted a little island in the Bahamas. I'll hang up a sign, "no trespassing," and go back to nature.
Pussy wants to get away from mankind—specifically the man part. In the novel by Ian Fleming, Pussy is actually described as a lesbian. While the film never uses that word, it uses suggestive dialogue—and all those pantsuits—to suggest that Pussy prefers women over men. What could she possibly mean when she says she'll "debrief" her beautiful pilots, hmm?
In addition to the double-entendres, she also speaks bluntly about her aversion to the male sex. As she says to Bond:
PUSSY: You can turn off the charm. I'm immune.
The film uses classic tomboy tropes—like making Pussy "strictly the outdoor type"—to insinuate that Pussy prefers the company of her young Flying Circus members over anything Bond has to offer. No woman has ever turned Bond down, and in some way, that makes Pussy an even bigger opponent for Bond than Goldfinger is.
Ian Fleming described Pussy as a woman who "only needed the right man to come along …to cure her psycho-pathological malady" (source). Uh oh. You read that right—the author of the James Bond novels believed that lesbians had a mental illness that could be "cured" by the right man's touch.
And that happens in the movie, too. Bond forces himself on Pussy in the barn, and what follows is like the opposite of Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl." Pussy kisses a boy and realizes that she likes it. Because the film never explicitly describes Pussy as a lesbian, you could assume that she has never had any sexual attraction to anyone, male or female, until Bond comes along. Or you can take it the way Fleming intended and roll your eyes until they fall out of your head.
Before you give the director the benefit of the doubt, consider this quote from Guy Hamilton: "Anybody who thinks that she's a dyke, terrific, because it's much more fun when Bond, shall we say, turns her around and makes her see the light of day" (source).
Once you pick your eyes off the floor and step away from the Psycho Lesbian trope, you'll see one way Bond has made Pussy see the light. He convinces her to use her pilots against Goldfinger and help capture the villain instead. Her change of heart gives her character a redemptive arc.
Unlike any other character in the movie, Pussy is a dynamic one who is different at the end of the film from the way she was when she made her appearance. But since you know Bond will have a different girl before you can say "Thunderball," we have to wonder if Pussy was able to buy that island after all…
Goldfinger is packed with firsts that would eventually become Bond staples, and one of them is the mysterious henchman who appears to have some sort of supernatural power. In Goldfinger, that henchman is Oddjob, a mute man with insane strength. He can throw a hat so hard that it knocks the head off a statue and kills a girl (not at the same time). And he can crush a golf ball in the palm of his hand.
If Goldfinger is the brains of the operation, Oddjob is clearly the brawn. Although both of them stink at playing golf.
Another solid trait of Oddjob is his loyalty. When locked in the vault with the nuke, Bond, and another henchman, Oddjob thwarts the other henchman's attempt to open the vault: he's willing to die for Goldfinger's plan. Maybe he has a bunch of little Oddjobs running around somewhere who could use the money to go to college and buy a lifetime supply of bowler hats?
Jill Masterson—one half of the Jilly and Tilly sister duo—helps Goldfinger cheat at cards by spying on his opponent's hand and relaying its contents into a wireless radio.
Bond is attracted to Jill from the start because she's a beautiful blonde with a dark streak…but not too dark. Before bringing Jill to his room, he first interrogates her to find out just how close to Goldfinger she really is:
BOND: Is that all he pays you for?
JILL: And for being seen with him.
BOND: Just seen?
JILL: Just seen.
BOND: I'm so glad. You're much too nice to be mixed up in anything like this, don't you know?
Even in the sexually-liberated 1960s, Bond doesn't want any girl "liberated" enough to sleep with Goldfinger.
Bond and Jill have a fun, carefree romp in bed, again representative of the free-lovin' 60s. But to get revenge on Bond, Goldfinger kills Jill by painting her gold, turning her into the infamous "golden girl," and we don't mean Blanche, Dorothy, Rose, or Sophia. Sex and death are potent marketing techniques, and the image of the dead golden girl was a prominent one used to promote Goldfinger.
Ironically, many people thought Shirley Eaton, the actress who played Jill, actually died from being painted gold. She didn't. The filmmakers even left a patch of her skin bare for fear of causing the asphyxiation that killed her character. Not only did she survive filming, Ms. Eaton recreated her golden girl look at age 78. She's a solid-gold dame.
Fast and reckless, Tilly Masterson intrigues Bond. He's not angry when a woman tries to kill him—he's turned on.
Bond first meets Tilly when she honks at him and speeds around him on the narrow, twisty highways of Geneva. Reckless driving: check. Then, when spying on Goldfinger, Bond is almost shot by Tilly's sniper rifle. Attempted murder: check. Bond runs her off the road and takes her to a mechanic, where she lies about her name. Deceit: check.
This woman is a triple threat, and for Bond, that makes her a perfect ten.
Unfortunately for Tilly, she is awful at everything. It turns out she is trying to kill Goldfinger, not Bond—but she's such a terrible shot that she misses the large criminal by half a kilometer. When she's aiming at Goldfinger, he's buying fruit from a roadside stand operated by children. Does she not realize she could have shot a child instead?
Tilly is blindly driven by revenge. Her sister, Jill, was killed by Goldfinger, and she wants the man dead to avenge her sister. Bond too wants to avenge Jill, and that desire brings him and Tilly together in a temporary alliance.
Sadly, Tilly isn't good at running, either. When she runs from Goldfinger's thugs, Oddjob kills her with a well-placed throw of his hat. Yes, his hat. Her sister died after being painted in gold; Tilly herself dies from being whacked by haberdashery. Jill must be flaunting her comparatively glamorous death over her sister in the afterlife.
Felix is James Bond's CIA counterpart. However, he mainly serves to give Bond information and swoop in to round up the bad guys after Bond has already done all the dirty work. While Bond is engaging in high-speed chases, almost being cut in half by a laser, and jumping from a plummeting airplane, Felix's biggest moment is when he pretends to be asleep.
Although the filmmakers appear to be trying to appeal to American audiences by setting significant parts of Goldfinger in the U.S., the fact that it shows CIA agents sitting around eating KFC shows us what they really think of Americans.
Even by the third Bond installment, we know we'll get an appearance from M (Bernard Lee), Bond's boss and Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), his flirty secretary.
M is a stern boss, doing his best to keep Bond, who has a tendency to act like an overgrown child, in check. Moneypenny, on the other hand, encourages Bond's playful side, always flirting with him even though she seems to already realize that she's the one girl Bond will never have. That doesn't stop her from trying.
MONEYPENNY: The only gold I know about is the kind you wear. You know, on the third finger of your left hand.
Also, Moneypenny throws Bond's hat onto a rack all the way across the room. Maybe she'd be a better match for Oddjob?
Goldfinger introduces us to Q (Desmond Llewelyn) the gadget guru of MI6. Although actor Desmond Llewelyn portrayed basically the same character in the previous film From Russia with Love, it is in this film where he is first given the moniker "Q."
Despite getting to play with the coolest gadgets on the planet for a living, Q is serious and snarky with Bond. He demands that Bond not wreck the gadgets, saying:
Q: And incidentally we'd appreciate its return, along with all your other equipment…intact, for once, when you return from the field.
And when Bond tries to crack wise with inspector gadget, Q replies:
Q: I never joke about my work, 007.
We wonder what he had to say after realizing Bond had crashed the Aston Martin into a brick wall. Oh, if only we had super-gadget ears to listen in on that conversation.
Even though Oddjob is basically a one-man army, Goldfinger has other thugs, associates, and henchpersons to help him do his dirty work.
One of Goldfinger's only other named henchmen is Kisch (Michael Mellinger), a man who, if he'd survived, would probably have been fired for being redundant. Anything he can do, Oddjob does better. When Kisch is locked in the vault with the bomb, he attempts to get out and save himself. Oddjob, proving himself more loyal to Goldfinger, kills Kisch to prevent anyone from getting in and disarming the bomb.
Goldfinger also has an unnamed guard who lets Bond drive himself after capturing the spy. That doesn't end well for the guard. Goldfinger employs another unnamed guard who, after Bond ducks behind his cell door, opens the door and is quickly dispatched by Bond. Where did Goldfinger find these people, on Craigslist?
We also have Mei-Lei (Mai Ling) a sexy flight attendant aboard Pussy's jet. We have to wonder who hired her—Pussy or Goldfinger? Both would appreciate the eye candy when flying the friendly skies. Mei-Lei's job is to spy on Bond and to serve him drinks, giving him the opportunity to order his special:
BOND: A Martini, shaken not stirred.
Goldfinger has multiple international associates. Mr. Ling (Burt Kwouk) has provided Goldfinger with the nuclear weapon to blow up Fort Knox's gold supply. China will benefit from the plunge in the U.S. financial market.
In America, multiple gangsters are interested in Goldfinger's plan. He owes them money, but he appeals to their greed by offering them a larger cut of the funds from Operation Grand Slam. However, he tricks them and kills them. The murder serves two purposes—it tests out Delta Nine, the nerve gas, and it eliminates the need for Goldfinger to pay these guys anything. Dead men collect no debts.
One man, Mr. Solo (Martin Benson) gets an award for being the least greedy gangster. He turns down the ten million from Goldfinger, either because he knows it's a scam or because he needs the million right away. Oddjob kills him, anyway, in a crazy sequence in which he shoots the man, then leads the vehicle to a junkyard, where the car is crushed into a cube with the man's body in it. Ouch.
Rounding out this rogue's gallery is a gangster named Jack Strap (Hal Galili), who proves that it's not just Bond girls who get stupidly suggestive names.