Goldfinger’s 45th anniversary (conclusion): the film’s legacy

This week marks the 45th anniversry of Goldfinger’s U.K. premier. What’s the film’s legacy? Try these on for size:

1. Most obvious, it was the first 007 mega-hit.

Dr. No and From Russia With Love had been successful, but Goldfinger turned 007 into a worldwide phenomenon. It set a record at the time for recouping its costs and spurred massive promotional tie-ins.

2. It was the tide that lifted all boats for 1960s spy entertainment.

Columbia, which had passed on 007 before United Artists snapped him up, and 20th Century-Fox commissioned projects with the idea of creating an “american James Bond.” The result would be four Matt Helm movies with Dean Martin and two Derek Flint films with James Coburn.

On television, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. premiered the same month as Goldfinger’s U.K. premier. The show got off to a slow start in the ratings but NBC kept it on the air and the show caught on, especially after a mid-season change in day and time slot. U.N.C.L.E., in turn, spurred network executives to commission other spy series, such as I Spy and The Wild, Wild West in 1965 and Mission: Impossible in 1966.

Goldfinger’s success also created demand for “anti-Bonds,” or serious spy stories contrasted with Goldfinger’s escapism. Within a year, John Le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in From The Cold and Len Deighton’s The Ipcress File were made into movies.

Interestingly, both utilized creative personnel from Goldfinger. One of the screenwriters who adapted Le Carre was none other than Paul Dehn, who wrote the critical later drafts of Goldfinger. The Ipcress File was produced by Harry Saltzman, co-producer of the Bond series. For the film, Saltzman hired composer John Barry, production designer Ken Adam and editor Peter Hunt.

3. It changed the Bond film series, not necessarily for the better.

After Goldfinger, Saltzman and partner Albert R. Broccoli went through a period of trying to top their 1964 hit. With Thunderball, they scored an even bigger hit, but the movie was at least faithful to Ian Fleming’s novel (which in turn was based on an earlier movie project that never got off the ground). So for You Only Live Twice, the producers threw out that novel’s plot altogether, kept a few characters and made yet another film relying on spectacle.

After an attempt to bring things back to Fleming with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the producers again were looking for “another Goldfinger.” When Richard Maibaum was hired to adapt Diamonds Are Forever, the screenwriter obliged with a first draft featuring Auric Goldfinger’s twin brother. That approach was rejected, but it reflects how Goldfinger remained on the minds of Broccoli and Saltzman. The producers later hired Goldfinger’s director, Guy Hamilton, to work on Diamonds and again had Shirley Bassey sing the title song.

Over at the I Expect You to Die blog, the case is made that Goldfinger is only the 7th best 007 film, trailing movies such as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, From Russia With Love and even GoldenEye. In terms of influence and impact, though, Goldfinger remains at the top of the 007 heap.

More nominations for harebrained 007 movie ideas

Consider casting John Gavin as James Bond

After George Lazenby abruptly quit (or was fired, depending on which version of the story you believe), producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and studio chieftains at United Artists gave a lot of thought to Americanizing Bond. Gavin was signed but UA wasn’t quite sold. So, the studio made another run at supposedly-retired 007 Sean Connery. A $1.25 million offer changed the Scotsman’s mind and he agreed to do Diamonds Are Forever. American actor Gavin was paid off.

(Reader nomination) Having Goldfinger’s twin brother be the villain of Diamonds Are Forever.

During the early stages of pre-production of Diamonds Are Forever, Broccoli, Saltzman and United Artists apparently kept saying something like, “We need another Goldfinger.” So, 007 resident screenwriter Richard Maibaum obliged, coming up with a script featuring Goldfinger’s twin brother as the villain.

Broccoli apparently felt this was taking things too far. This resulted in the hiring of Tom Mankiewicz to revamp Maibaum’s draft. While Goldfinger’s twin brother bit the dust in favor of another outing with Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Goldfinger was still on the mind of the producers. They hired Hamilton (who had directed Goldinger) as well as Shirley Bassey to sing the theme song.

Considering casting Burt Reynolds to play James Bond in Live And Let Die

By 1972, Connery had retired yet again as 007. Guy Hamilton, hired to direct his third 007 outing, was keen on American Burt Reynolds. According to the documentary Inside Live And Let Die, Broccoli wasn’t, feeling Reynolds was too short and…well, not English. (Although that hadn’t prevented the producers from hiring John Gavin only two years earlier). This opened the door for Roger Moore, who’d hang on to the role for a dozen years.