Thursday, October 3, 2013

Cary Grant IS James Bond in "Goldfinger"

Bond using a gold phone.
In his third outing as Ian Fleming's debonair James Bond, Cary Grant has made the role his own. Goldfinger, which opened yesterday at the Bijou, provides Grant's secret agent with a meatier story and the series' best villain yet in the guise of Sydney Greenstreet.

Greenstreet plays Auric Goldfinger, a European gold smuggler targeted by British intelligence. Assigned to maintain surveillance on Goldfinger, Bond quickly earns the villain's ire by causing him to lose a bet. It doesn't help that Bond then sleeps with Jill Masterson (Veronica Lake), Goldfinger's paid companion. In retaliation for Bond's meddling, Goldfinger has Jill gruesomely murdered--from asphyxiation after being covered in gold paint.

Veronica Lake as Jill Masterson and Jane Greer as sister Tilly.
In his vengeful pursuit of Goldfinger, Bond encounters and ultimately pairs up with Jill's sister, Tilly (Jane Greer). They discover that Goldfinger and his cronies are working on a major heist known only as Operation Grand Slam. But before they can learn more, Goldfinger's henchman Oddjob (Rondo Hatton) kills Tilly and Bond is taken prisoner. Can 007 escape from Goldfinger's clutches and thwart the evil mastermind's devious plan to control the world's gold?

A little beefcake?
Grant's strong performance grounds the screenplay's more outrageous elements, such as a key plot development hinging on his romancing of an airplane pilot called Pussy Galore (Eleanor Parker). He may be suave, but his steely gaze also convinces us that he's not afraid to use his fists or his Walther PPK. The Bond character also provides Grant with a great opportunity to move away from the more refined heroes he played in films like North By Northwest. And, naturally, there's a beefcake element to the Bond films that's sure to please Grant's female fans.

Yet, aside from the eye candy for both male and female viewers, Goldfinger offers a pair of quality villains. Sydney Greenstreet hits all the right notes as the gold-obsessed criminal mastermind. When a helpless, captured Bond tells Goldfinger that he won't talk, Greenstreet's villain gleefully retorts: "I don't want you to talk, Mr. Bond. I want you to die!" As his deadly henchman, Rondo Hatton has no dialogue as Oddjob, but he certainly captures the menace as no other actor could.

Eleanor Parker looking tough,
but lovely, as Ms. Galore!
The most difficult role, though, comes down to Eleanor Parker. First, she's saddled with one of the most outrageous character names in recent memory. Second, she has to come across as strong and independent--despite being incredibly attracted to Grant's secret agent. All things considered, she pulls the part off, which is a testament to her thespian skills.

Director Michael Curtiz keeps the action moving along at a fast clip. The production values are first-rate. And the big, brassy title tune warbled by Ella Fitzgerald is sure to be a hit on the pop charts. In short, this third entry in the James Bond series is just what it should be: Golden.

This fictional review is part of The Great Imaginary Film Blogathon hosted by Silver Scenes.


  1. You have just turned me from a casual Bond viewer to the series biggest fan. Of course, only in my imagination.

  2. Rick, whether he's shaken or stirred, Cary Grant as James Bond is an inspired choice for Bond, as well as the choices of Veronica Lake, Jane Greer, Eleanor Parker, and Greenstreet and Hatton as villains! I could swear I'd heard some movie producer back in the day pitching Cary Grant as James Bond, and your post is the next best thing to having it come true!

  3. I LOVE IT! Perfect casting -- wow. Lake AND Parker AND Grant? I'd pay good money to see this!

  4. Rick, I love that you approached this "imaginary film" via a review. Completely enjoyable and entertaining. If I were to imagine Cary Grant as Bond (yum! and I know he was first choice) in Goldfinger, it would've been adapted the same year the book was published (1959) and the Bond girls might've been selected from among that era's beauties - the likes of Kim Novak, Jill St. John and Lee Remick. Cary Grant, of course, was eternally gorgeous onscreen - he never seemed to really age much, did he?

  5. May I take the part of "Wet Blanket" here?

    What year are we talking about?
    Because if it's after Cary Grant made North By Northwest, Sidney Greenstreet and Rondo Hatton couldn't be in it, having rather inconsiderately died years before (in Mr. Hatton's case many years before).
    And besides, by 1963 Mr. Greenstreet would have been in his mid-80s, which would have been pushing it the action sequences.
    Look, if we're disregarding standard mortality here, wouldn't Laird Cregar be a better choice for Goldfinger, given his comparative youth (sort of) and agility? (Allowing for the fact that he even predeceased Greenstreet, and almost everybody we're talking about here predeceased the publication of Goldfinger.)
    In the realm of the possible, how about Peter Lorre?
    With Tor Johnson as Oddjob (admitting that classical acting skills aren't at the top of the requirement list)?

    The Lady Eve was on target with her choices of Kim Novak, Jill St.John, and Lee Remick for the femmes fatale.
    And how about Martin Kosleck as the sinister Mr. Solo, who gets mashed up in his car?
    And as 'M' - James Robertson Justice (with a young(ish) Angela Lansbury as Moneypenny)?
    And Alistair Sim as 'Q'?

    Sorry to be a stick-in-the-mud about this, but if I'm recasting classic films I like to stay in the realm of the likely, or at least the possible.
    Spiffy idea, though ...

    1. Mike, I think you've taken the concept too literally! When I recast films, I take the best stars for the roles from any era. I can't see any of the actresses you mentioned as Ms. Galore. None of them have the appropriate edge. Now James Robertson Justice as M...I like that!

  6. Great idea--I'm not a Bond fan at all, but I would be if Cary Grant played the role!

  7. Who couldn't love Cary as Bond? I even appreciated the photo of him clad in a towel! I think you must have had oodles of fun hand picking this cast, without regard to time. I also think Greenstreet would had a grand time as the title villain. Awesome job, Rick!

  8. What CW said! Count me in as a huge Fleming fan with Cary in the lead.
    So funny and clever you are.

    Have a nice weekend kids!

  9. Rick - a great review, but better yet - I think you should have been a director. This film I would have loved to have seen, as well as all the other Grant/Bond sequels. But who would the other Bond girls have been?

  10. Ella Fitzgerald singing the theme AND Eleanor Parker as the Bond girl? Fantastic! We love your re-imagining of this classic.

  11. As you so neatly demonstrate, the early Bonds like Goldfinger (or even Daniel Craig's Casino Royale for that matter) are natural fits for the classic star treatment. The cartoon Bonds of the Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan eras-- not so much.

    Love the pick of Rondo Hatton for Oddjob! My only reservation-- killing off the lovely Veronica Lake so early. Perhaps that part should have gone to a starlet instead of a star-- Acquanetta perhaps? :)

  12. There you go proving my point - any film is better with Cary Grant! Actually, your entire case is perfect and nobody could ever out-suave Mr. G in my book. Great post, Rick.

  13. There is no doubt that, if Cary Grant could have made a Bond movie, he would be everybody's favorite 007. But you made this Goldfinger just perfect. Greenstreet as the villain and Veronica Lake covered with gold were good choices, but what I loved the most was Eleanor Parker as Pussy Galore. She would be remarkable.
    Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)