Tania Mallet, Goldfinger actress, dies

Tania Mallet in a Goldfinger publicity still.

Tania Mallet, who had a small but key role in Goldfinger, has died at 77.

Her death was reported on Twitter on Sunday by the MI6 James Bond website. Later, the official Eon Productions 007 feed on Twitter also posted about her passing.

In 1964’s Goldfinger, Mallet played Tilly Masterson, sister to Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton), who had been killed by being “painted gold,” causing skin suffocation.

Tilly seeks to avenge her sister’s death and is tailing Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) in Switzerland. She takes a rifle shot at Goldfinger but almost hits Bond (Sean Connery).

The Tilly part was shortened compared with Ian Fleming’s 1959 novel. In the film, after the botched killing attempt, Bond follows Tilly (driving a Ford Mustang, the first movie to feature the model).

This provides the filmmakers the first opportunity to show off some of the gadgets of Bond’s Aston Martin DB5. The DB5 disables the Mustang. Bond gives Tilly a lift in the DB5 and deduces she’s lying about her case that supposedly contains ice skates.

Later, Bond is conducting surveillance of Goldfinger’s Swiss factory. He returns to his perch but sees a figure with a rifle. It turns out to be Tilly and Bond finalizes realizes she is Jill’s sister. Just then, the duo have to make a run for it from Goldfinger’s thugs.

The following sequence gives Bond a chance to put the DB5 through its paces, including a smoke screen and oil slick. Mallet’s Tilly acts as a surrogate for the audience, smiling as the miracle car shows off its stuff.

The joy, however, is short lived. Bond is forced to stop the DB5 and he instructs Tilly to make a run for it. By this time, Oddjob (Harold Sakata) arrives. He kills Tilly by throwing his armored hat at her, breaking her neck.

The mood suddenly turns serious and dramatic, turning an over-the-top prop into something serious. The scene is helped by John Barry’s music. It’s arguably one of the most dramatic moments in the movie.

As a result, Mallet made an impact in the film, from being the first screen character to drive an iconic car to being one of the movie’s “sacrificial lambs.”

Here’s the tweet from the official Eon site on Twitter:

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UPDATE: The Hollywood Reporter posted an obit for Mallet that noted she was a cousin of actress Helen Mirren.

HMSS’s favorite character actors: Victor Buono

Victor Buono's character meets his demise in the pilot to The Wild, Wild West

Victor Buono’s character meets his demise in the pilot to The Wild, Wild West

One in an occasional series

Victor Buono was hard to miss. Heavy-set and 6-foot-3, and often delivering his lines in a very theatrical way, Buono made an impression on viewers of television and movies.

Buono was screenwriter Richard Maibaum’s choice for the title role in Goldfinger. “He’s been called a combination of Charles Laughton and Laird Cregar,” Maibaum wrote in a detailed letter to producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman about how to turn the Ian Fleming novel into the film. (The letter was quoted in the 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger.)

Buono didn’t get that part, which went to Gert Frobe. But as the 1960s spy entertainment boom took hold, he got plenty of work in the genre.

Victor Buono and Bill Cosby in an I Spy episode

Victor Buono and Bill Cosby in an I Spy episode

Producer Irving Allen, Broccoli’s ex-partner, hired Buono as the lead villain in the first Dean Martin Matt Helm movie, The Silencers. Buono was made up to be the Asian head of BIGO, a group not found in Donald Hamilton’s serious novels. It was the Helm equivalent of SPECTRE. Buono’s Tung-Tze didn’t survive his encounter with Dino’s Helm.

Buono also appeared as the main villain in the pilot episode of The Wild, Wild West, though that wasn’t revealed until the last act. Buono’s character was a Mexican made up to look Chinese as part of a plot to start a revolution in the 1870s southwestern United States. Buono later came back in two more episodes of the series as Count Manzeppi, intended to be a second recurring villain in addition to Dr. Loveless. The actor also made one-shot appearances in I Spy, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.

During this same general period, he also became part of the Rogues Gallery of Villains as King Tut on the 1966-68 Batman television series. Buono’s IMDB.com bio page uses a still of him in that role.

Even as the spy boom faded, Buono’s career didn’t as he continued to get cast in other roles. The actor even appeared in the 1980 television movie More Wild, Wild West as a pompous U.S. government official modeled on Henry Kissinger. He died, of a heart attack, on Jan. 1, 1982, at the age of 43.

Recalling the 007-Mary Poppins collaboration

Songwriter Robert B. Sherman died this week at age 86 and, understandably, much of the attention has focused on the many songs he did with his brother Richard for Walt Disney. But Sherman’s passing also reminds us of producer Albert R. Broccoli’s attempt to combine the best available talent from Disney’s Mary Poppins movie and the James Bond film series.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming

To adapt Ian Fleming's children novel to the screen, producer Albert R. Broccoli enlisted the best available talent from 007 films and Disney's Mary Poppins


That would, of course, be Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the 1968 film that would be Broccoli’s final non-007 project, based on Ian Fleming’s children novel.

Officially, Chitty wasn’t made by Eon Productions, which produced by Bond movies. Harry Saltzman, Broccoli’s Eon partner at the time, wasn’t involved with Chitty. So another company, Warfield, was the production company of record.

Broccoli looked to Mary Poppins for key personnel, bringing on board the Sherman brothers, who had written the songs for Mary Poppins, to do the same for Chitty as well as Irwin Kostal (composer/conductor/music director) and Dee Dee Wood (choreographer) not to mention actor Dick Van Dyke to play the lead character, Caractacus Potts.

From the 007 films, the producer hired actors Gert Frobe and Desmond Llewelyn. Behind the camera, Broccoli had even more 007 film veterans: screenwriters Roald Dahl and Richard Maibaum; Peter Hunt (billed as a production associate); production designer Ken Adam; associate producer Stanley Sopel; art director Harry Pottle; production supervisor David Middlemas; assistant director Gus Agosti; assistant art directors Peter Lamont and Michael White; special effects guru John Stears….well, you get the idea. (To see the complete cast and crew CLICK HERE; some crew members on Chitty would end up working on later Bond films.)

Financially, Chitty wasn’t a big success. The film had an estimated budget of $10 million, with U.S. ticket sales of only $7.12 million, not the kind of return that studio United Artists was used to seeing from Broccoli productions. With worldwide tickets sales and later home video sales, UA (and its successors) probably did just fine. But it wasn’t the breakout hit that Mary Poppins was for Disney.

Still, Chitty seems to be mostly well remembered today. Here’s a sample of the work that Robert and Richard Sherman did the for the film:

New York compares Rupert Murdoch to 007 villains

New York magazine’s editor, Adam Moss, and its star essayist, Frank Rich, engaged in a dialogue on the publication’s Web site about the unfolding phone hacking scandal involving News Corp. and its chief executive, 80-year-old Rupert Murdoch. Inevitably, there were comparisons between the media mogul and the adversaries of a certain gentleman agent.

Here’s the key excerpt:

Adam: There really is no one like Murdoch in the world — and no company like his, which manages to be both a rogue operation and a hugely successful corporate behemoth at the same time. That’s a neat trick to pull off. (snip) And News Corp. — what a name! Could have been coined by Ian Fleming (or a whole host of more conspiratorial fantasists). In fact, Murdoch has always seemed to me more like a James Bond villain** — with their placid exteriors and raging interiors — than any other corporate executive I know. He revels in it. Most corporate cultures are bland as a matter of strategy. But not his.

Frank: To me, the Rosebud** that animates Murdoch is the “me-against-the-world” chip on his shoulder — he is indeed a Bond villain to the core.

To further make the point, the Web site includes a still of Gert Frobe playing the title character of Goldfinger, the third James Bond film. New York, though, passed up the chance to include an image of Elliott Carver (Jonathan Pryce) from 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, a character who was a media baron. This clip begins with a scene of Carver addressing his underlings, one of whom was played by Eon Productions co-boss Michael G. Wilson.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car up for sale, AOL Autos says

Oh you Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, we love you — to see how much of a sales price you’ll fetch.

According to a post on AOL Autos (which you can read BY CLICKING HERE), the original car from the 1968 movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is up for sales on eBay. (To look at the eBay listing, you can CLICK HERE.)

As we type this, the highest bid was $1 million and the reserve price had not been met, according to the eBay listing. It also has 44 miles on it. Not bad for a 43-year-old vehicle.

The movie was based on an Ian Fleming children’s novel, and was the last non-James Bond film produced by Albert R. Broccoli. The 007 producer talked Walt Disney into permitting the Sherman brothers song writing team (which had written the songs for 1964’s Mary Poppins, among other Disney productions) to work on his film adaptation.

Broccoli also enlisted the talents of various members of his 007 film crews, including Roald Dahl, Richard Maibaum, Ken Adam and Peter Hunt, on the musical. (Hunt in an interview for the documentary Inside On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, says he and Maibaum were already doing work on that Bond film during the filming of CCBB.) The producer also cast Gert Frobe, who had played Goldfinger, and Desmond Llewelyn, who played Q, for parts in CCBB.

A brief excerpt from the AOL Autos post:

To that end, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang sports a 3.0-liter Ford V6 and automatic transmission, mounted in a one-off ladder frame. The body features a handmade aluminum hood and red and white cedar boattail rear. Unfortunately, none of Chitty’s magical powers made it to the road car, meaning this thing won’t fly.

Countdown to Goldfinger’s 45th anniversary part II

The 45th anniversary of Goldfinger’s world premier is next month. With that in mind, here’s a list of 10 major decisions that helped shape the movie.

1. Selecting Goldfinger as the third Ian Fleming novel in the series to be filmed. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman weren’t going by the order the novels appeared. So they could have chosen from the likes of Diamonds Are Forever or Live And Let Die. But they didn’t.

2. Dumping the buzz saw of the novel in favor of a laser beam to menace Bond. This was one of screenwriter Richard Maibaum’s first recommendations to the producers.

3. Casting Gert Frobe, despite his inability to speak English, to play the title role. Theodore Bikel had been screen tested and writer Maibaum had recommended Victor Buono.

4. The decision to hire Paul Dehn to rewrite the early drafts by Maibuam.

5. Cutting the Bond-Goldfinger golf game to two holes. Ian Fleming’s novel described all 18 holes of the match. The film tells us it’s all even with two holes to go and we then see the two opponents try to outcheat each other. This move is one reason why Fleming’s longest novel was turned into the shortest 007 movie until 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

6. The decision to recast the role of Felix Leiter. Jack Lord, who created the film Leither in Dr. No, wanted equal billing with Sean Connery. Broccoli and Saltzman weren’t going to go for that. For better or worse, a tradition was started that would last until 1989 of a different actor playing Leiter each time.

7. Broccoli wanting the film to take the audience inside Fort Knox. The initial drafts mirrored Fleming’s novel and never made it inside the gold-storage facility. This decision enabled Ken Adam to create yet another spectacular set.

8. The decision to let composer John Barry collaborate on the title song. Barry had composed the background music for From Russia With Love but Lionel Bart did the title song.

9. The decision to keep the character name Pussy Galore. There had been talk of changing it to Kitty Galore. Somehow, it just wouldn’t have been the same.

10. The decision to have a tight production schedule. John Barry has quoted Saltzman as saying if the producers had had more time, they’d have scrapped the now-famous Goldfinger title song in favor of something else. In this instance, less time meant more.

HMSS nominations for best lines from James Bond movies

What’s the best line from a James Bond movie? Here are a few for consideration:

“Bond, James Bond.” Sean Connery (James Bond, natch) from Dr. No.
Analysis: Perhaps a cliche now, but Connery established a classic introduction line.

“She should have kept her mouth shut.” Sean Connery (Bond), capping off a tense sequence in the movie From Russia With Love that was mostly a faithful adaption from a memorable chapter of the Ian Fleming novel of the same name. Connery had delivered a number of quips in Dr. No, but this one reflected perfect timing and Connery’s growth in the role of 007.

“No, I expect you to die!” Comeback by Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe dubbed by Michael Collins) to Bond’s witticisms from Goldfinger.

“Somebody’s probably lost a dog.” Bond (Connery again) skeptical that about the emergency for which he has been summoned in Thunderball. Often overlooked among 007 witticisms, it’s a perfect example of Connery at his peak in the Bond role.

“Wait till you get to my teeth.” Bond (Connery) muttering to himself following his first encounter with Domino in Thunderball. The line isn’t as memorable as Connery’s delivery, a perfect example of what was the actor’s polished confidence in the role.

“Mr. Osato believes in healthy chests!” Helga (Karin Dor) to Bond in You Only Live Twice. An early sign of how the series was starting to parody itself.

“But darling we have all the time in the world.” Bond (George Lazenby) to his soon-to-be-deceased bride Tracy (Diana Rigg) in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. A line based on Ian Fleming prose, something that would soon be rare in the film series.

“Look after, Mr. Bond. See that some harm comes to him.” Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) to his manservant Chang in Moonraker. An example of subtle humor and menance in an otherwise over-the-top film.

“I’m glad I insisted you brought that cello!” Bond (Timothy Dalton) to Kara in The Living Daylights. For most of a key sequence, Dalton/Bond had been more than a little annoyed that Kara had insisted on bringing the cello. The instrument turns out to be both a clue and a means to a getaway from Cold War-era Czech troops.

“He disagreed with something that ate him.” A note attached to Felix Leiter (David Hedison) in Licence to Kill, which took the idea from Fleming’s Live And Let Die novel.

“The bitch is dead.” Bond (Daniel Craig), referring to double agent Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Once again, going to the Fleming source material.