The James Bond Movie Goldfinger was Once Banned in Israel
Today I found out the James Bond movie Goldfinger was once banned in Israel.
Ask most any James Bond fan to name his or her favorite James Bond film and chances are they’ll reply with “Goldfinger”. (Steven Spielberg has even called it his favorite Bond film). Goldfinger is also quite probably the most widely seen of any Bond movie.
It was the start of the modern James Bond films, as we know them, complete with the unusual gadgets Bond was to use in pretty much every succeeding film following Goldfinger. (This was the first Bond film to have the classic Q-Branch gadget testing workshop scene that became a Bond staple.) It also features the quintessential Bond car: the Aston Martin DB-5.
So why was Goldfinger banned in Israel for a time? The title role of the villain Auric Goldfinger was played with unforgettable panache by Karl Gerhart Fröbe, better known as Gert Frobe. Frobe was a former member of the Nazi party before and during World War II. As you might expect, this didn’t exactly sit well with the government and people of Israel and they subsequently banned the movie in that country.
Frobe joined the Nazi Party at the age of 16 hoping that, “Hitler could bring a solution.” This didn’t quite happen the way he’d hoped. Once the theaters were closed down by the Nazis in September of 1944, Frobe was drafted into the German army and served until the end of the war.
But before you go away thinking Frobe was a lockstep evil Nazi and how dare they cast him for the role, you should probably read on. While Frobe was a member of the Nazi Party from a young age, as he became an adult, he didn’t see eye to eye with what the party became and even dared to try to leave the party in 1937.
“The proof is in the pudding”, as they say. So what did Frobe do that when it came out got Goldfinger unbanned in Israel? He risked his life by hiding a Jewish family from the Gestapo during part of the war.
Frobe had actually mentioned this in the original interview that got Goldfinger banned, but the Daily Mail reporter chose to snip that part of the quote out in favor of the more controversial sounding part where he said, “…I was a member of the Nazi Party.” The full quote that was snipped was “During the Third Reich, I had the luck to be able to help two Jewish people, although I was a member of the Nazi party.”
The damage was already done though and many didn’t believe Frobe’s rebuttal. That is, until one of the Jews he hid, Mario Blumenau, showed up at the Israeli Embassy in Vienna. Blumenau informed them that his life and that of his mothers were saved by Frobe when he hid them. They’d heard of how Frobe was being vilified and wanted to set the record straight. Shortly after this, the Israeli ban on Goldfinger was officially lifted and Frobe’s reputation restored.
Bonus Goldfinger Facts:
- As in every James Bond film, there is a knockout Bond girl. In this case it was Honor Blackman- actually the oldest Bond girl in history- a decrepit (for a Bond girl) 37 years of age at the time of filming. The stunning Honor took on the immortal, unforgettable role of “Pussy Galore” (one can only wonder about how hard it must have been to get that one by the 1964 censors!!) The introduction scene between Bond and Pussy was originally written as:
Galore: “I’m Pussy Galore”.
Bond: “I know, but what’s your name?”
This racy dialogue proved too much to be accepted and was changed to:
Galore: “I’m Pussy Galore”.
Bond: “I must be dreaming”.
- Frobe could not speak much English at the time of the filming of Goldfinger. He tried to recite his role phonetically, but it was unacceptable. As a result, the entire speaking role of Goldfinger is dubbed in by an actor named Michael Collins.
- Sales of the Aston Martin DB-5 increased 50% after the release of Goldfinger.
- “Pussy Galore” was actually the name of Bond creator, Ian Fleming’s, pet octopus!
- Take a close look at Galore’s all-girl flying circus in the film- some were actually men wearing wigs.
- The film’s classic theme song was rendered by Shirley Bassey and was the first Bond theme to crack the top ten in the charts (it peaked at #8).
- The unforgettable scene where Bond is tied to a table and a laser beam is slowly going to cut him in half as Goldfinger looks on impassively was the first scene in movie history to feature a laser beam.
- Shirley Eaton gained film immortality as Goldfinger’s loyal girl accomplice who falls for Bond. In her famous scene, Eaton gets painted gold by Goldfinger because of her betrayal. For years untrue rumors persisted that Eaton really died from the gold paint. Like Frobe, Eaton’s dialogue was dubbed in too, hers by Niki Van der Zyl.
- At the time of its original release, Goldfinger became the fastest money-making film in history according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The film made $3M million in its first two weeks of release (about $21M today). The worldwide gross of the film (including a reissue a couple years later) ended up being just shy of $125M or about $870M today- a blockbuster, unprecedented figure for the time. It was particularly amazing considering the movie itself cost just $3M to make.
- On September 17, 1972, Goldfinger had its official television premiere and garnered the highest ratings of any movie in TV history up to that point.
- Goldfinger’s loyal henchman, Oddjob, is played by professional wrestler Harold Sakata. In a fight scene with Sean Connery in the film, Sakata chopped him with a too-real karate chop and Connery walked off the set, claiming real injury. It is rumored that Connery used this work-related injury to get a raise in pay for his next Bond outing Thunderball.
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It’s not that Frobe’s English was “unacceptable.” They knew that from the outset. They HAD him speak it phonetically, and do it fast, so that the dubbing actor could match his lip movements and sound natural.
Dubbing was a common practice for the Bond movies back then. Niki Van der Zyl dubbed lots of the female characters in the first few movies, including every woman with a speaking part except Moneypenny in Dr. No.
Frobe would later appear in another film inspired by an Ian Fleming work: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which was also a Broccoli/Salzman production.
Other fun Goldfinger facts:
Sean Connery learned to play golf for the sake of the golf scenes in Goldfinger–and promptly fell in love with the sport and has played it for the rest of his life.
Sean Connery was never actually in Florida for this movie! All the shots at the Miami hotel without him were filmed on the scene by the second unit, then sets and rear projection were used for all the shots with Connery in them. It’s easy to tell if you look for it.
Set designer Ken Adam, who has probably done more to create the ideal of the iconic supervillain lair than any other single person except possibly Jack Kirby (he worked on most of the Bond films through Moonraker, as well as Dr. Strangelove) was one of only a couple of native German RAF pilots during World War II. He flew with the full knowledge that if he were shot down behind enemy lines, he would be executed as a spy and a traitor by the Germans.
His response to Sean Connery’s “Do you expect me to talk” is an unforgetable “No, Mr Bond I expect you to die”. Brilliant.
I always point to this dialogue as one of the greatest lines in all of movie history.
The damage was already done in large manner and many didn’t believe Frobe’s rebuttal