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Sexism, xenophobia and a real-life Nazi: The tarnished legacy of Goldfinger at 60

The James Bond franchise has never been more pleasurable than the 1964 Sean Connery classic, writes Geoffrey Macnab. But the film’s myriad controversies have only worsened with age

Friday 19 April 2024 06:00 BST
No country for gold men: Margaret Nolan and Sean Connery in ‘Goldfinger’
No country for gold men: Margaret Nolan and Sean Connery in ‘Goldfinger’ (Danjaq/Eon/UA/Kobal/Shutterstock)

Its main villain was played by a former Nazi. Its sexual politics were dubious – even back in 1964. It was mindlessly macho, snobby, and not to mention xenophobic. And yet, for many, Goldfinger remains the most pleasurable James Bond movie ever made.

The film, which turns 60 this September, marked a significant change in the iconic spy series: it was the point at which 007 embraced the Swinging Sixties. The tone of the storytelling was wittier, looser and more playful than in its predecessors Dr No (1962) and From Russia with Love (1963), with their Cold War dourness. As Nicholas Shakespeare noted in his recent biography of Bond author Ian Fleming: “No day [now] passes without James Bond making a media appearance.” The release of Goldfinger hastened this process. It was the true beginning of Bondmania.

It’s true that none of the early Bond oeuvre holds up well to the scrutiny of modern sexual politics. But there have always been murmurings of dissent and disapproval about Goldfinger. The film’s US release was nearly pulled after censors objected to the name of the main female character, Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). In his autobiography, Bond producer Cubby Broccoli claims that the Motion Picture Association of America only allowed the film to be shown in the States after it was pointed out to them that Prince Philip had seen the film, had met Blackman at the premiere, and that “Pussy” therefore had a royal seal of approval.

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