After destroying a drug-lab in Latin America, British agent James Bond (Sean Connery), through CIA agent Felix Leiter (Sec Linder), is told by his boss M (Bernard Lee) to check out a gold bullion dealer named Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) who is staying at the same hotel. Bond sees Goldfinger cheating at high stakes gin rummy, his employee Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) reading the opponent’s cards with binoculars and informing Goldfinger with a radio disguised as a hearing aid. Bond interrupts and blackmails Goldfinger into losing a fortune. For her betrayal, Jill is covered in gold and Bond finds her suffocated to death.
In London, M and the governor of the Bank of England (Richard Vernon) want Bond to find out how Goldfinger smuggles gold in large quantities out of England. Q (Desmond Llewelyn) provides Bond with a modified Aston Martin DB5 and tracking devices. Bond meets Goldfinger at his country club and plays a round of golf with him, wagering a bar of recovered Nazi gold. Goldfinger cheats at this too and Bond tricks him into losing the match. Goldfinger tries to warn him to back off by demonstrating the powers of his bodyguard Oddjob (Harold Sakata).
Bond trails Goldfinger to Switzerland and meets Jill’s sister Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet), who fails to assassinate Goldfinger in revenge for her sister’s death. Bond sneaks into Goldfinger’s refinery and overhears him telling a Chinese nuclear physicist named Ling (Burt Kwouk) that he melts the gold into the body of his Rolls-Royce Phantom III to smuggle the stuff out of England, and he hears the name Operation Grand Slam. Tilly tries again to assassinate Goldfinger and she is killed by Oddjob.
Bond is taken and strapped to a golden table while an industrial laser begins to cut him in half. He hints that he knows about Operation Grand Slam and Goldfinger spares his life, at the Chinese agent’s urging, until he can be sure about this matter. Goldfinger’s pilot Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) flies Bond to Goldfinger’s Kentucky stud farm, where Bond escapes his cell and witnesses Goldfinger meeting with the Mafia. He plans to invade the U.S. bullion depository at Fort Knox with the use of Delta-9 nerve gas to kill everyone there.
The mobsters ridicule Goldfinger and he gasses them all. Bond is captured by Pussy Galore. He tries to convince Goldfinger that moving the gold out of Fort Knox is impossible, but the plan is to explode a dirty bomb inside, thus rendering the gold untouchable. His gold will then become the world standard. Bond fights with Pussy Galore and recruits her for his side. Her Flying Circus sprays gas over Fort Knox, but the gas is harmless.
Inside Fort Knox, Bond is handcuffed to the bomb. Goldfinger locks him and Oddjob inside the vault. Pussy Galore has alerted the authorities, but Goldfinger escapes. Bond frees himself from the handcuffs but Oddjob beats him up until Bond electrocutes him. Bond cannot disconnect the timer but the U.S. troops come in and a scientist shuts the timer off at 007 seconds. Bond is flown to the White House but Goldfinger hijacks the plane. Bond and Goldfinger struggle for Goldfinger’s gun. It goes off and shoots out a window and Goldfinger is sucked out. Pussy and Bond parachute to safety. Leiter searches for them but Bond hides with Pussy so they can be alone.
The film was produced by Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and directed by Guy Hamilton, based on Ian Fleming’s 1959 novel. It won an Oscar for sound editing, received positive reviews, and made back its entire budget in the first two weeks. Connery negotiated 5% of the gross of each film he made. Honor Blackman was hired for Pussy Galore because of her fighting skills in the British Avengers series. She quit the role of Cathy Gale on that series and later, Steed received a postcard from Gale in Fort Knox, Kentucky. She enjoyed saying Pussy Galore during interviews as much as she could and making the censors crazy. In U.S. publicity the name was not mentioned and she was called Goldfinger’s pilot. Complaints of sexism and sophomoric humour were voices crying in the wilderness.
Orson Wells wanted too much money to play Goldfinger. Gert Frobe could not play golf and his golfing scenes were played by doubles. He also spoke little English but he was brilliantly dubbed by Michael Collins. He was a member of the Nazi party as a youth and for a while the movie was banned in Israel, until a Jewish family testified that he helped save them. It took an hour and a half to paint Shirley Eaton gold, but the publicity shot was immensely successful and appeared on the cover of Life Magazine. Harold Sakata (Oddjob) was an Olympic silver medalist weightlifter. He never spoke a word in the film but has been called one of the great villains in movies. He was badly burned during the electrocution scene but continued until the scene was finished.
Since no-one was allowed into Fort Knox, the production was allowed to imagine it. The set was so good that letter-writers were angered that a British film-crew had been allowed in. The studio posted guards to stop people from stealing the fake gold. The model made for the movie now resides in Fort Knox. The Goldfinger movie began the series’ obsession with gadgets, particularly the Aston Martin DB5 with the oil-slick, smoke screens, revolving license plate, machine guns and passenger ejection seat. The best-selling toy of 1964 was the tiny plastic replica with the tiny Bond gadgets. In the book, Goldfinger attempted to cut Bond in half with a circular saw, but the movie changed that to the recently invented industrial laser.
Auric Goldfinger is, of course, King Midas, who turned everything he touched to gold. The car is covered in gold, the license plate is AU 1, all his staff are blonde or wear gold colors. The story that people die from being painted is an urban legend, complete with invented historical incidents. It does not happen. Goldfinger featured composer John Barry’s favorite score, and the opening title sequence began another tradition. Steven Spielberg was so impressed with the movie that he bought an Aston Martin DB5. Shirley Bassey nearly passed out holding the last note of her song for the credits she was watching until she removed her bustier. James Coburn’s Our Man Flint and Dean Martin’s Matt Helm movie series were bare-faced Bond copies. Ian Fleming was sued by modernist architect Erno Goldfinger for using his name. The publisher asked the author if he would agree to change it and he suggested Goldprick, so they settled out of court.