Honor Blackman stars as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger in 1964
Goldfinger had its London world premiere on this day in 1964. Blackman relished the role and her character’s ridiculously rude name, declaring: “It’s very much tongue-in-cheek, isn’t it? I mean, if you’re so po-faced that you have to take that seriously, well, bad luck.” Shocked that studio executives had problems with the name, especially in America, Honor revealed: “I used to quite deliberately say, ‘Oh, you mean Pussy?’ And they used to die.” But she was always serious when it mattered and made sure she was never merely eye candy in any role. A tough upbringing and a TV and film career decades ahead of today’s Hollywood action women, made the actress a truly groundbreaking screen siren, unafraid to speak her mind. This is the woman who said: “Most of the Bond girls have been bimbos. I have never been a bimbo.”
Goldfinger contains one of the most gratuitous uses of the female body on screen, even by Bond standards, when Shirley Eaton was painted gold. It also introduced a revolutionary leading lady who was not there simply to service the leading man and who was more than his match, whether in wits or fighting skills.
In an industry, then and now, when actors regularly have love interests who are considerably younger, Honor was 39 when the film was released – and five years older than Connery. Film posters showed her standing over him holding a gun, clearly in charge.
Honor even laughed at the stunt scenes, having faced far tougher in her breakthrough role in The Avengers. Although that didn’t stop her from sustaining a “disgusting” injury.
James Bond stars Sean Connery and Honor Blackman in Goldfinger
Honor Blackman and Sean Connery on the Goldfinger set
Taught to box as a girl by her father, Honor played action hero Avenger Cathy Gale from 1962-1964 and learned martial arts in a basement dojo under judo practitioners and stuntmen Joe and Doug Robinson.
TV shoots were far less pampered than film ones and so when it came time for the infamous physical tussle between Bond and Pussy in the barn, the actress had faced far tougher tasks.
Honor said ‘When we did the fight – the ‘so-called fight’ – I’d been used to doing judo in the studio on cement. So they had banks and banks of straw and they said ‘Will that be alright? Can you land? Will you be safe?’ I mean, it was luxury for me.”
Even so, fighting with 6’2 Connery took its toll.
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Honor Blackman and Patrick Macnee ion The Avengers
Honor Blackman found the Goldfinger stunts easy
Honor said: “I mean you don’t have to wait until you get to the fighting scenes with Sean. He just says ‘Ah, just a minute’, and gets hold of you, and you’ve got through to the bone, because he really is so tough.
“There’s one scene where he just has to yank me back, and [my] arm was in a disgusting condition for about a week because of the brute force.”
Although she slammed her co-star in later life, Honor happily admitted how attractive she found him.
SCROLL DOWN TO WATCH THE PUSSY GALORE GOLDFINGER BARN FIGHT SCENE
The actress said: “Of course I fancied Sean, he was the sexiest man I’ve ever met. He was Mr Universe, with a body to die for, had those twinkly eyes and was great fun. Yes, if I hadn’t been married, I would have gone there.”
While many have criticised Bond’s character over the years, Honor blasted the actor in 2012 over revelations he had ‘only’ paid £3.9million in taxes in the previous 15 years.
She said: “I disapprove of him strongly now… Because I don’t think you should accept a title from a country and then pay absolutely no tax towards it. He wants it both ways. I don’t think his principles are very high”.
Honor Blackman in 1960
While Connery had accepted his knighthood, Honor declined a CBE in 2002.
Raised by a domineering and disciplinarian father, a World War I veteran who beat Honor and her three siblings with a leather strap, she admitted it took time to be able to speak her own mind.
Honor said: “My parents had Victorian values, and so the man was always right. It took me ages to work out men don’t always make the right decisions. I mean, instinct told me early on it wasn’t the case, but it took me a long time to argue back.”
She said she left home at 18 after her father hit her for wearing lipstick and she hit him back.
Honor Blackman in the Goldinger poster
Honor soon landed small acting roles and worked solidly throughout her life, long after her 1960’s heyday which saw her star in The Avengers, Goldfinger and the movies Jason and the Argonauts (as Hera), and 1968 Western Shalako with Connery and Brigitte Bardot.
From 1990-1996 she starred in the hit ITV comedy The Upper Hand and revelled in appearing in Coronation Street for five episodes in September 2004 as Rula Romanoff, an old friend of Rita Sullivan.
She was less lucky in love, with two short marriages to Bill Sankey and Maurice Kaufman. With the latter she adopted two children Lottie and Barnaby and embraced being a mother and then grandmother.
Honor died of natural causes last year on April 5, 2020, aged 94 and still the greatest Bond girl of all time. But never a bimbo.