Goldfinger: the first ‘A-movie’ comic book film?

Goldfinger poster

Goldfinger poster

Here’s a thought as Goldfinger celebrates its 50th anniversary. In a way, the third James Bond film may have been the first “A-movie” comic book film.

Before Goldfinger, comic book films existed as serials. Lewis Wilson, father of Eon Productions co-boss Michael G. Wilson, played Batman in a 1943 serial, for example. Serials would run for weeks in 15-minute or so installments ahead of the main feature.

Goldfinger, of course, was based on Ian Fleming’s novel, not a comic book. Still, some Fleming novels seem to draw their inspiration from pulp adventure stories (also a source of inspiration for comic books).

In Fleming’s novel, Goldfinger’s henchman Oddjob was already over the top. With the film, that increased. A gold bar bounced off his chest without causing Oddjob harm. Harold Sakata’s Oddjob crushed a golf ball to show his displeasure with Sean Connery’s Bond. The henchman used his steel-rimmed hat to kill with precision. Oddjob, for a time in the Fort Knox sequence, bats Bond around like a cat playing wth a mouse.

Nor did the comic book style action end there. Bond’s tricked out Aston Martin became the inspiration for “spy cars,” with far more weaponry that a few extras the novel’s Aston had. The deaths of both Oddjob and later Auric Goldfinger could be described as comic book like. It was as if Jack Kirby of Marvel Comics drew the storyboards.

The difference, of course, was this all occurred in a $3 million A-movie where the audience could see the story all in one night.

Goldfinger’s success certainly was felt in the 007 series. In Thunderball, Bond flew a jet pack and in the climatic underwater fight had an oversized air tank that had additional weapons. You Only Live Twice included a helicopter snatching a car with a giant magnet and Blofeld’s volcano headquarters set that cost more than it took to produce Dr. No.

The success of such movies demonstrated audiences had an appetite for such uber-escapist sequences when executied in an entertaining way. You could make the case that Goldfinger blazed a trail that the likes of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and, yes, movies based directly on comic books, exploited.

The path from Connery’s Bond to, say, Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man may be shorter than it appears.

The most obvious sign: director Christopher Nolan, a self-described 007, adapted Bond bits (the Bond-Q briefing evolved into Bruce Wayne getting new equipment from Lucius Fox) into his three Batman movies. Director Sam Mendes in Skyfall returned the favor, saying Nolan’s 2008 The Dark Knight influenced the 2012 007 film.

Goldfinger’s 50th anniversary: the golden touch

Sean Connery and Honor Blackman projected onto the iconic "Golden Girl."

Sean Connery, Honor Blackman and the “Golden Girl.”

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Goldfinger, the third James Bond film.

Where Dr. No and From Russia With Love were wildly successful, Goldfinger turned 007 into a phenomenon. Where the first two films were escapist, Goldfinger was outlandish — a woman killed with gold paint, a car equipped with an ejector seat, machine guns and other weaponry, a plot to invade Fort Knox and a henchman who killed people by throwing a steel-rimmed hat at them.

Audiences could not get enough. Worldwide, Goldfinger’s box office was 58 percent higher ($124.9 million) than the box office of From Russia With Love ($78.9 million). In the U.S., Goldfinger’s box office more than doubled that of its 007 predecessor ($51.1 million compared with $24.8 million).

Sean Connery had become a star as Bond, his status confirmed by having his name “above the title” in the main credits. In the first two films, it was “Starring Sean Connery” immediately after the name of the movies was shown.

As noted here before, Goldfinger was the tide that lifted all boats of the 1960s spy craze.

In the U.S., The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which had struggled in the ratings early in its run, rallied around the time Goldfinger made its American debut. By the fall of 1965, spy shows would be a major attraction on U.S. television.

In theaters, Bond’s success encouraged both wildly escapist films (the Flint and Matt Helm series) and the occasional serious, “anti-Bond” film (The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and The Ipcress File, the later produced by 007 co-producer Harry Saltzman and having several 007 production crew members aboard.).

Television commercials likewise were inspired by Goldfinger and 007. Harold Sakata, who played henchman Oddjob, starring in a series of spots for cough medicine. Butterfinger candy bars had a spot that utilized the hit John Barry-Leslie Bricusse-Anthony Newley Goldfinger title song.

The movie has been analyzed in many, many places, including five years ago at this blog. It was a difficult film to script, with Richard Maibaum, and later, Paul Dehn tackling storytelling issues in Ian Fleming’s novel. The final script turned Fleming’s longest novel into a tight film that ran below two hours.

In the 21st century, some Bond fans will say Goldfinger isn’t the best 007 movie. Some even say they’ve seen it so many times they’re really not sure they can watch it again.

Still, whatever one’s opinion, Goldfinger changed everything in the 007 universe. For years, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman sought “another” Goldfinger. Richard Maibaum’s first take on Diamonds Are Forever included Goldfinger’s twin brother, an idea that was rejected.

You can make the case that various 007 films are better. Some fans cite From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Casino Royale and Skyfall among them. But Goldfinger, because of its impact not only on the 007 franchise but on other popular entertainment, may be the most important.

Dr. No’s script Part V: Meeting the villain, Bond woman

Not what Dr. No's screenwriters had in mind.

Not what Dr. No’s screenwriters had in mind.

Concluding our look at an early 1962 version of Dr. No’s script provided by Bond collector Gary Firuta.

The first James Bond movie required a top-notch James Bond villain. The screenwriters of Dr. No envisioned an entrance for the title character that was different than what audiences would eventually see.

The January script by Richard Maibaum, Wolf Mankowitz and Johanna Harwood species the scene is “POV” (point of view) of Dr. No.

According to the stage directions, “All we see of DR. NO is the edge of his desk, and a slight shadow cast from a reading lamp as he makes a slight movement. In short, we see this scene entirely from his eyeline.”

This, of course, is the scene in the finished film where Dr. No’s lackey, Professor Dent, rushes out to the villain’s headquarters in broad daylight to tell his superior how Agent 007 refuses to be killed. After Dr. No says, “Good afternoon….Professor,” the stage directions add this detail.

“He makes ‘Professor’ sound like an insult.”

From here on out, the dialogue is similar to the finished movie, until this stage direction:

“DR. NO learns forward, extending one hand, still in silouhette, toward a nearby table, from which he picks up small glass cage. As he holds it out towards DENT we see something black and furry moving inside it. DENT recoils involuntarily.”

At this point, Dr. No says, “Since your attempts at assassination have been so ineffectual….let’s try ‘natural causes’ this time.”

In real life, production manger Ken Adam came up with a set, that maximized his minimal resources. The striking set created a strong visual. Dr. No’s voice is heard, but the audience doesn’t even see a shadow. The tarantula Dr. No provides Dent seems to materialize out of nowhere.

Meanwhile, the writing team also was faced with adapting one of Ian Fleming’s most memorable passages, where Bond meets Honey(chile) Ryder.

Ursula Andress as part of her entrance in Dr. No.

Ursula Andress as part of her entrance in Dr. No.


The sun beats down on BOND as he sleeps. In the distance, as if in his dreams, he can hear a WOMAN SINGING.

(snip)
146. BOND’S EYELINE. DAY

What he sees: HONEY, standing at the water’s edge, her back to him. She is naked except for a wisp os (sic) home-made bikini and a broad leather belt with an undersea knife in a sheath….Her skin is deep honey cooured (sic)….She stretches contentedly like a cat in the warm sun.

147. EXT. BOND’S EYELINE. DAY

BOND – appreciates what he see (sic), in a moment he takes up the calypso refrain.

At the end of the script, as in the finished film, Bond is in a boat with Honey that’s out of fuel. But before the pair can make out very much “we hear the throbbing of an approaching motor launch.” It’s Felix Leiter, of course, spoiling their fun.

LEITER
I’ve brought the Marines….

BOND
(with a sly grin, as he helps HONEY up to her feet)
You picked a helluva time to come to the rescue.

THE END
James Bond will return….

Happy birthday, Sean Connery

Sean Connery, circa 1963

Sean Connery, circa 1963

Aug. 25 is Sean Connery’s 84th birthday.

A recent CBS NEWS POLL of Americans indicates he is still, far and away, the most popular screen James Bond.

In that poll, Connery was the No. 1 choice among 51 percent of those surveyed. The poll was performed July 16 to 20 among 1,024 adults across the Unites States. People were surveyed using both cell phones and land lines. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.

In the second position was Pierce Brosnan at 12 percent, with Roger Moore at No. 3 at 11 percent and Daniel Craig No. 4 at 8 percent.

Some Bond fans, expressing their opinion on social media, question the results, saying it sounds like a poll done before 2006. 

We suspect the results more reflect how Connery blazed the trail that others followed. No matter how well his successors have performed, he remains the original screen 007.

Happy birthday, Sir Sean.

Dr. No’s script Part IV: Killing Professor Dent in triplicate

Anthony Dawson as Professor Dent

Anthony Dawson as Professor Dent

Continuing our look at a January 1962 Dr. No script supplied by collector Gary Firuta.

When Dr. No, the first James Bond movie is discussed, a lot of attention is paid to how Bond (Sean Connery) ruthlessly kills Professor Dent (Anthony Dawson), one of the villain’s lackeys.

Based on the January draft, completed shortly before principal photography began, the crew was still considering exactly how to portray that killing. The script provides three versions.

On page 71, Bond gets the drop on Dent. The dialogue isn’t exactly what would be in the finished movie.

Dent asks if Miss Taro (by now already in police custody) talked. “No,” Bond replies. “You gave yourself away. I was suspicious at the Queen’s Club – but when you told me that Strangways’ radioactive samples were worthless…well…” Bond asks Dent who he is working for

Meanwhile, Dent is “edging impercectable nearer to his gun on the floor. BOND goes on taiing (sic), seemingly oblivious of DENT’s manoeuvering.”

He makes a sudden swift movement toward his gun, picks it up and levels it at BOND. As his finger tightens on the trigger.

DENT (contd.)
(triumphantly)
…Dr. No!

But as in the finished film, Dent’s gun is empty.

“Only six bullets in a Smith and Wesson, Professor…and I counted them…” Bond then shoots Dent, killing him.

The first alternative version starts on page 72, with Dent, proclaiming triumphantly, he’s working for Dr. No.

“But BOND’s inattention has only been assumed,” the stage directions read. “He fires also, but that much faster and just that much more accurately. DENT’S BULLET SMACKS INTO THE WALL BEHIND HIM, AND BOND’S bullet hits DENT in the center of the chest.”

With the second alternative version. Professor Dent never says he’s working for Dr. No.

Instead, “He makes a sudden swift movement toward his gun, but BONDS (sic) inattention has only been assumed. Before DENT can reach his gun, BOND has fired.” There is no mention of the gun being empty as in the first version, but if it is loaded, Dent can’t get off a shot.

The final film uses the first version but tweaks were still made. For example, Bond lies, implying Miss Taro has already talked (“But of course.”) Instead of saying he counted Dent’s shots, Bond says, “It’s a Smith and Wesson and you’ve had your six,” before killing Dent.

Meanwhile, the professor doesn’t actually say he’s working for Dr. No, which was probably an improvement.

By this time in the movie, the audience is well aware of Dent’s allegiance. It’s clear Bond has figured it out. Having Dent yell, “Dr. No!” is unnecessary.

NEXT: Meeting the villain

Dr. No’s script Part III: A friendship is forged

Jack Lord with Ursula Andress and Sean Connery during Dr. No's production.

Jack Lord with Ursula Andress and Sean Connery.

Continuing our look at a January 1962 Dr. No script supplied by collector Gary Firuta.

Dr. No’s screenwriting team of Richard Maibaum, Wolf Mankowitz and Johanna Harwood opted to bring in Ian Fleming’s Felix Leiter character into the film version of Dr. No even though he wasn’t in that novel.

Their challenge: establish the James Bond-Leiter friendship within a few minutes of screen time.

By the time Dr. No was nearing production, Leiter had appeared in the novels Casino Royale, Live And Let Die, Diamonds Are Forever, Goldfinger and Thunderball. Bond and Leiter had shared a number of adventures in the novels, including Leiter providing a major financial assistance in Casino and nearly getting killed in Live And Let Die.

But that back story wasn’t of use for the screenwriters. They would have to invent their own storyline of the forging of the Bond-Leiter friendship.

In the film, it gets off to a rocky start. The audience doesn’t realize it’s Leiter observing Bond at the Kingston airport. Bond gets the best of the encounter, losing Leiter and Quarrel, who are following him. Bond catches up to Quarrel and gets into a fight. Here’s how the script describes what happens next.

Behind him, and unknown to him, LEITER has appeared in the door. He gently takes BOND’S wrist and equally gently shoves a Walther into his kidneys.

LEITER
(softly)
Gently, bud, gently. Let’s not get execited, eh?

BOND stiffens. His position is now untenable and he’s not a bloody fool. LEITER stretches round in front of him and takes his gun. He tooks at two identical weapons with slightly raised eyebrows.

The exchange that takes place is similar to the finished film but there are some interesting stage directions.

Quarrel we’re told is “looking murderous, steps forward and expertly frisks BOND. (Expertly means to start at sock level and run and tap lightly upwards. A favourite place for keeping a second gun or a knife is taped to the inside of the thigh. QUARREL evidently knows this.)”

Leiter is “moving around so he can see BOND CLEARLY.” After Leiter tells Bond his got his gun from “a guy in Washington,” he then “suddenly breaks into a grin, puts his own gun into his shoulder holster, reverses one in his left hand and holds it butt first to BOND, simultaneously holding out now free right hand in greeting.”

The next scene is at the restaurant/night club as in the film. “In the background, FOUR ATTRACTIVE GIRLS, wearing just what they are forced to by law, are going through a particularly Jamaican type of Twist.”

As they discuss how Cape Canaveral rockets are being sabotaged, Bond “chooses his words with irony” when he asks if Leiter had “cased the joint.”

LEITER
I checked…unofficially. You…
(mimics BOND)
“Limeys” can be pretty touch about trespassing.

The TWO MEN grin at each other.

From here on out, the two men are friends, although there’s an occasional edge. Later, Leiter “thoughtfully” asks whether Professor Dent is a bad professor or a bad liar. Bond “grimly” says he intends to find out which.

When Bond finally shows up to head out to Crab Key, Leiter is “growling” when he asks where Bond has been.

When Bond and Quarrel get ready to make their approach to Dr. No’s island, Leiter “softly” says “Let me go with him” to Bond. The British agent replies, “We’ve argued all the way out. Strangways happened to be a friend of mine.”

Bond and Leiter “grin understandingly” after Bond says, “We’ll be back in twelve. If not, it’s your show, and you’d better bring in the Marines.”

NEXT: Killing Professor Dent in triplicate

Dr. No’s script Part II: Bond memes make their debut

Jack Lord and Sean Connery during Dr. No filming

Jack Lord and Sean Connery during Dr. No filming

Continuing our look at a January 1962 Dr. No script provided by collector Gary Firuta.

Bond, having bested Sylvia Trench (or Trenchard, depending on which page of the script you’re reading), gets ready to exit the casino. Bond invites Sylvia for golf and dinner, similar to the finished film with a few differences in dialogue.

On page 13, Bond enters the office. He says, “Hi….Moneypenny….” as he enters. There is no mention of him throwing his hat on the hat rack. The dialogue is again very close to the final version of the movie. Stage directions specify that she “takes in his appearance with mock admiration” as she says, “You never take me out look like that James….” She has a “deep sigh” and says, “You never take me out, period.”

Bond replies, “I’d take you out tomorrow, only I’d have me courtmartialled for illegal use of Government property.”

After Bond enters M’s office, there’s a description. “He is a man in his middle fifties, well-sel up, with some of the Navy about him.” M and Bond discuss the situation in Jamaica before Major Boothroyd enters to give Bond his new gun. Boothroyd “is a short, slim man, with snady (sic) hair.” When Boothroyd produces the Walther PPK he is “producing gun and shoulder holster from case with professional pride.”

As in the finished movie, Bond tries to sneak out his old Beretta from the office but M stops him. “They catch each others’ eyes. They really understand each other perfectly. BOND GOES.”

The intrepid agent goes back to his flat and gets a surprise in the form of Sylvia in Bond’s pajama tops. She is practicing chip shots “into the bowler hat which is laying on the floor by foot of bed.”

The rest of the scene plays out as in the finished film, but there’s an extra. As Bond and Sylvia make out, there’s this stage direction: “CAMERA PANS DOWN to take in his toes curling inside silk evening socks and her bare ones on tiptoe. The golf club drops onto the carpet; as his tie foins it, we….. FADE OUT.” (Note: it says “foins” rather than “joins” in case you’re wondering.)

Bond takes a BOAC flight to Jamaica, rather than PanAm, as in the film. He is met by a chauffeur, who says, “I’m Mistuh Jones, suh…chauffeur from Government House. Ah been sent to get you.” Bond even calls him “Mistuh Jones” in return.

007 calls Government House. Playdell-Smith takes the call. “Put him through, Miss Taro.” After talking with Bond, Playdell-Smith wraps up the call and says “(off-screen to SECRETARY) Thank you, Miss Taro. I’ll call when I want you.”

Meanwhile, at the Kingston airport, another figure takes in the scene: “a tall thin HATCHET-FACED MAN (FELIX LEITER).”

Bond and Jones depart the airport, followed by Leiter and a “humourous-looking, intelligent CAYMAN ISLANDER (QUARREL).”

The British agent, as in the film, loses his pursuers and gets Jones off alone to interrogate him. He still addresses him as “Mistuh Jones.” After Bond bests Jones in a fight, Jones commits suicide rather than reveal who he’s working for. Jones says, “The….hell with you….” before he dies.

With nothing else to do, Bond drives to Government House. “THE CHAUFFEUR’s body is propped up realistically in the back seat.” When he arrives, the agent utters a witticism to A UNIFORMED GUARD similar to the finished movie.

BOND
(indicating CHAUFFEUR)
Watch him. Make sure he doesn’t get away.

GUARD
(briskly)
Yes, sir.

He does a double take as he sees the DEAD MAN.

TO BE CONTINUED

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