Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Goldfinger (1964) | Women

Goldfinger is especially notorious for the way it treats women. Forgetting for a second about Felix's wink-wink-nudge-nudging up the joint, none of the women Bond hangs out with are great characters. That starts with Bonita (Nadja Regin), the dancer in Mexico who betrays Bond. She has an interesting role to play, but the movie says nothing about why she does what she does. Is she committed to the drug dealers' cause? Is she just being paid? Is she afraid? The movie neither knows nor cares.

Dink (Margaret Nolan), the woman Bond's hooked up with in Miami, is even worse. Or rather, Bond is worse around her with his dismissing her for "man talk" and smacking her on the butt. The one thing that makes her kind of special is when Bond tells Felix that "the girl is dead" and Felix assumes he's talking about Dink. It's a natural reaction, but somehow seems like a victory that Felix hasn't forgotten about Dink as quickly as Bond has.

Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) - or rather, Masterton, as Fleming wrote it - is my favorite of the women in the book. She's not as crucial to the plot as Pussy, but she's a better character with a realistic and healthy view of who Bond is and what she and he mean to each other. That makes what happens to her even more tragic.

The movie version spends much less time with Bond, so her death is only memorable for the spectacle of how it happens. It doesn't affect anything except to show that Goldfinger is deadly and also weird.

Jill's sister Tilly (Tania Mallet) is a better character in the movie than in the novel, but she's still a silly girl who's obviously out of her depth and ought to be leaving the Man's Work of killing Goldfinger to Bond. The movie does a nicer job with her than with Jill though and we get to know Tilly better. She loves her sister, is the kind of woman who'll take the law into her own hands, and even shows a sense of humor about some of the Aston Martin's tricks. Her death is pitiful, but at least I felt something about it.

Pussy Galore is a terrible character at first look. Honor Blackman is awesome and tough, but it's difficult to get around her apparently changing sides when Bond forces himself on her. I think there's another way of reading her transformation that's not quite as hideous, but it's still difficult.

The problem is that Bond's forcing himself on Pussy is horrible and inexcusable and makes him a really bad person. Beyond that, it's also repulsive and dangerous for the movie to depict Pussy as rejecting Bond at first, but eventually getting into it. What's even sadder about that scene though is that it isn't necessary to the plot at all. The movie doesn't need it to explain why Pussy betrays Goldfinger.

Before Bond and Pussy go into the barn and fight, they have a brief conversation outside. Bond realizes that Pussy's only helping Goldfinger for the money and he warns her against the villain. "He really is mad, you know." And there's a look that crosses Pussy's face that says that she does know, but has been ignoring it.

One of the things I'm looking at with each movie is where the main female character goes stupid. It inevitably happens that strong, independent women in Bond movies turn to butter around him. Conventional wisdom is that this happens for Pussy when Bond forces her to kiss him, but I think it actually happens a few minutes earlier when Bond appeals to her reason.

Because of that, I don't think Bond's as ineffective in Goldfinger as he's made out to be. Yes, he spends half the movie in Goldfinger's custody and doesn't do much "spying." But the literary Bond never does a lot of spying, either. It's that whole Blunt Instrument approach and he's playing it by the numbers. He may not get captured on purpose, but once he does he makes a conscious decision to stay there - making himself too dangerous to kill - and to do as much damage as he can from inside. Converting Pussy is a major part of that and as awful as he treats her in the barn, I argue that that's not the reason she switches sides. She doesn't "go stupid" at Bond's embrace, but because she's actually more human than she lets on and Bond appeals to that.

My Favorite Bond Women 

1. Tatiana Romanova (From Russia With Love)
2. Honey Rider (Dr. No)
3. Sylvia Trench (Dr. No and From Russia With Love)
4. Pussy Galore (Goldfinger)
5. Tilly Masterson (Goldfinger)
6. Jill Masterson (Goldfinger)
7. The Photographer (Dr No)
8. Bonita (Goldfinger)
9. Miss Taro (Dr. No)
10. Dink (Goldfinger)

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