Film fans were saddened this month at the news of the death of Honor Blackman, who played the naughtily named Pussy Galore opposite Sean Connery in 1964’s Goldfinger. But the film was threatened with a ban in the United States after stuffy censors turned their noses up at the smutty double entendre.
So a plan was hatched to save Bond, with the publicity team enrolling the help of British royalty.
Honor was sent along to a London gala event – the Royal Film Performance of Doris Day film Move Over Darling in February 1964 – where she was photographed with Prince Philip, with the image appearing in newspapers around the world the following day.
The Daily Express was among those who covered the meeting, revealing how the Duke of Edinburgh had asked her if she could manage all the attention of working on Bond while he gave what was reported as an “expansive wave of the arm”.
Honor misunderstood, momentarily thinking he was apeing the martial arts expertise she had shown in the TV show The Avengers.
She adopted a judo greeting stance saying: “Yes, I certainly can”, leaving the pair and other guests Leslie Phillips, Millicent Martin and Richard Attenborough in stitches.
The headlines published the next day around the world included “The Prince and The Pussy.”
After the publicity coup, Bond producer Cubby Broccoli flew to America armed with a file of newspaper clippings and dropped them on the desk of film censor Geoffrey Shurlock.
Honor, interviewed for Bond film history book Some Kind Of Hero, remembered: “They were taken aback but they took that as permission that it was a decent film and a decent character, otherwise Prince Philip wouldn’t be talking to me.”
Honor then continued to cause a stir on the US chat show circuit. “I discovered they were all so pofaced. They were so puritanical.”
When hosts refused to mention the character’s tongue-in-cheek name Blackman would lean forward and ask, “Oh, You mean Pussy Galore?” Goldfinger went on to become the US blockbuster the producers longed for and Honor’s character entered pop culture folklore.
When the film premiered in London in September 1964, the actress stole the limelight for a second time, wearing a specially designed gold finger jewel on her hand.
Thousands of fans lined the streets outside the Odeon Leicester Square causing the windows of the cinema to cave in.
Eastern Mediterranean Blackman reflected: “It was the most glamorous night of my life.”
Blackman considered the judo-kicking blonde bombshell a feminist icon.
She disapproved of the term “Bond girl” and felt that it should be reserved for the bimbos that appeared in the later Bond films.
007 author Ian Fleming had originally written Pussy Galore as a lesbian gangster.
But for the film, the producers played down her love of women.
The character was now Goldfinger’s personal pilot and the leader of an all-female flying squad.
Blackman felt she won the role for one simple reason: she was the hottest thing on television and film fans saw that her playful tussle in the hay with Connery sizzled with sexuality.
Blackman described the masculine actor, five years her junior, as the “sexiest devil in the world”.
She said there was a great attraction between the two of them.
She joked: “Looking back it’s amazing to me that hay didn’t catch fire.”
The husky-voiced star looks back on her longstanding association with James Bond fondly.
Blackman admitted Goldfinger had made a great difference to her life but was also resigned to the effect Pussy Galore had on her career.
She said: “It’s a terrible bore because nobody remembers anything else one has done because everybody thinks of me in Goldfinger.”
• Some Kind Of Hero: The Remarkable Story Of The James Bond Films (History Press, £20) by Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury.