Guy Hamilton, an appreciation

Goldfinger poster

Goldfinger poster

James Bond was never the same after Goldfinger and director Guy Hamilton got done with it.

The first two 007 films, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, were solid successes at the box office. Goldfinger was a spectacular one.

The first two movies contained humor. Goldfinger expanded it.

Dr. No had elements of stories found in pulp magazines and From Russia With Love was grounded in the Cold War. Goldfinger was outlandish, including a henchman with a deadly hat, a tricked out car with an ejector seat among other gadgets and a villain who planned to explode an atomic bomb inside of Fort Knox.

In short, Goldfinger was 1964’s equivalent to today’s comic book-based movies. And Guy Hamilton, who died this week at age 93, was the ringmaster of the show.

Hamilton, in interviews he granted in his later years, made clear Goldfinger was never intended to be anything other than escapist entertainment. Audiences couldn’t get enough.

From that point forward, Bond had to be spectacular. Thunderball, helmed by original 007 director Terence Young, advertised itself as “the biggest Bond of all.” You Only Live Twice tried to be even bigger than that, including a villain’s lair hidden inside a volcano.

The series tried to reel things back a bit with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, with George Lazenby succeeding Sean Connery as Bond. Director Peter Hunt insisted on a faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1963 novel, unlike how You Only Live Twice jettisoned most of the author’s 1964 book. But Majesty’s was still huge and escapist, not a Cold War thriller like From Russia With Love.

When Majesty’s box office fell off from You Only Live Twice (which in turn earned less than Thunderball), the production team opted for “another Goldfinger.” That included bringing Guy Hamilton back as director for Diamonds Are Forever.

Guy Hamilton (1922-2016)

Guy Hamilton (1922-2016)

Diamonds also was helped by the return of Connery (a United Artists move). But the movie also reflected a clear change in tone from its predecessor to something much lighter and fluffy.

Diamond smuggler Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) is aware of the existence of Bond (“You’ve just killed James Bond!” she says after 007 switches wallets with deceased thug Peter Franks.) Blofeld at one point dresses in drag as part of a getaway. Some sequences (a chase involving a moon buggy and plant security cars comes to mind) contain a lot of slapstick.

Bond again was a success at the box office. Hamilton was retained to help introduce Roger Moore as the new 007 after Connery again departed the series.

The lighter tone continued, even intensifying, including a long boat chase in Live And Let Die and a ditzy Mary Goodnight in The Man With the Golden Gun. The former was a big hit worldwide, becoming the first Bond to exceed Thunderball at the box office. Golden Gun, however, fell off from that.

Hamilton was hired to direct his fifth Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me, but changed his mind and bowed out. In the 1990s, Hamilton told writer Adrian Turner that he probably had stayed too long with the series.

Perhaps so. Nevertheless, Hamilton had an enormous impact on the film Bond. Goldfinger let a genie out of the bottle. It wasn’t until the 21st century with the 007 films of Daniel Craig that there was a sustained, concerted effort to dial back humor. For Your Eyes Only and Licence to Kill were one-off attempts to do so. Even so, the former included an ending with slapstick involving a Margaret Thatcher lookalike and the latter had an over-the-top Wayne Newton and an ending featuring a blinking fish.

Even the Craig films, though, reflect the Hamilton-directed Bond movies.

Skyfall and SPECTRE include the tricked out Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger. (Casino Royale had a different, left-hand drive DB5 without gadgets.) A car chase in SPECTRE contains Goldfinger-style lightness. Quantum of Solace had a Goldfinger homage — a woman dipped in oil, rather than a woman painted in gold paint.

Goldfinger’s impact on the series lingers today. Guy Hamilton was one of the major reasons.

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5 Responses

  1. Guy Hamilton didn’t really ‘ changed his mind ‘ about directing TSWLM . He simply could stay long enough in England – due to his Tax exile status . He had started to work on pre-production of the movie though – and envisioned the new movie as more of a return of Bond in the Military universe – with lots of scene shot in Naval surroundings …

  2. Kevin’s perfectly right. Guy Hamilton was picked to direct Superman the movie in the 70s era. but because of his tax issues in England he had to decline from the job.

  3. I remember when I was ten Goldfinger was the first James Bond movie I watched oh what memories the Aston Martin, Miss Galore, Mr Goldfinger, Oddjob and that rip Guy Hamilton you will be missed sir

  4. Even the Craig films, though, reflect the Hamilton-directed Bond movies.

    I never really got that impression, except for “SKYFALL”.

    Also, my favorite Guy Hamilton movie was “EVIL UNDER THE SUN”.

  5. Goldfinger:

    Quantum of Solace:

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