Music that frames characters of famous Bond girls

WHEN actress Honor Blackman died recently, aged 94, obituaries focussed on the highest-profile part in her long career – Pussy Galore in Goldfinger.

Bond movies are noted for their scores as much as their action sequences and glamorous locations, and a University of Huddersfield academic – a expert on film music – has conducted a detailed examination of how composer John Barry’s Goldfinger soundtrack reflects the role of Pussy Galore and the other female characters in the 1964 blockbuster – Sean Connery’s third outing as 007.

Senior lecturer Dr Catherine Haworth contributes a chapter on women and music in Goldfinger to the book For His Eyes Only: The women of James Bond, edited by Lisa Funnell.

Dr Haworth begins by arguing that music is a core component of any James Bond film and that John Barry’s musical universe is designed primarily to reinforce Bond’s own supremacy. Aspects of the soundtrack associated with female characters “most commonly align themselves with Bond’s own view of women as potential conquests or adversaries,” she writes.

Both Bond and his opponent Auric Goldfinger “consume” women in a way that serves to highlight their characterisation as strong, powerful and selfish men, she continues.

“But while Bond’s voracious sexual appetite is used to valorise his masculinity as a virile and irresistibly attractive ‘ladies’ man’, Goldfinger’s attitude towards women is seen as a perverse extension of his warped personality.”

Three women occupy significant roles in the plot of Goldfinger, but Pussy Galore is the most significant.

“She is witty and charismatic rather than withdrawn and surly; a powerful and favoured employee of Goldfinger instead of a lone wolf intent on revenge, and she enjoys exerting control over Bond as her prisoner,” writes Dr Haworth, who then provides a detailed analysis of how the music soundtrack mirrors the shifting relationship between Galore and Bond.

The music that frames the characters of the famous Bond girls - by Dr Catherine HaworthSean Connery as James Bond with Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore

Galore’s rejection of 007 is reflected in the fact that the ubiquitous Goldfinger theme is notably absent from the score when the two first meet.

But then “Pussy Galore’s sonic and sexual independence is brutally removed inside one of Goldfinger’s barns, where, after a wrestling match that results in a literal roll in the hay she capitulates to Bond’s forceful advances. Despite the best efforts of the soundtrack to remain light-hearted in the first half of this sequence, mirroring Bond and Galore’s scrimmage with wind and string flourishes, music can do little to obfuscate the clarity of Galore’s repeated refusals to let Bond kiss her.

“But, as her strength gives out, she is shown to relax and seemingly to enjoy Bond’s embrace, and perhaps not unexpectedly, Goldfinger strings enter languorously at this point, and the music becomes complicit in positioning this sequence as one of willing, rather than forced, submission.”

Dr Haworth’s analysis of the music of Goldfinger and how it illuminates the film’s themes and gender relationships includes an appraisal of the contribution made by Shirley Bassey, who sang the film’s famous theme song, as she went on to do for later Bond films Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker.

“Celebrated now as a powerfully-voiced, occasionally tempestuous and always fabulously glamorous establishment figure, Bassey’s emergence into 1950s British cultural life was a rags to riches story that pitted burgeoning talent and tenacity against the hardships of life as a mixed-race teenage mother from Cardiff’s dockland,” writes Dr Haworth.

“Her Bond performances bring into play the diva’s complex, feminised (and sexualised) mix of despair, tragedy, celebration and survival.”

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