How the ‘Goldfinger’ alpine sequence gave rise to Bondmania

Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

A supervillain, an assassin, a mountain car chase and an Aston Martin equipped with contraptions – the alpine scenes in 1964’s “Goldfinger” set a new benchmark for the James Bond archetypal sequence. And besides being, without a doubt, the most iconic six minutes and 37 seconds in the history of the franchise, it is also one of the best documented.

In an advertising movement unprecedented at the time, journalists and photographers were invited to the Swiss Alps for the seven-day photo shoot, where they mingled with the cast and crew members. The strategy seemed to work – “Goldfinger” became, at the time, one of the highest grossing films of all time.

“Almost every day there was a press conference,” said Peter Waelty, co-author of the new book “The Goldfinger Files”, in a video call. “The idea was to get to the newspapers before the film was even made.” Reporters also received detailed information about the plot, although the film was still months away from release, he added. “They knew exactly who was going to die, who was going to win, what was going to happen. It is unimaginable that it could happen today.”

This full access approach has resulted in a rich archive of backstage photographs. Waelty gathers more than 200 of them in his book, alongside call sheets, annotated scripts and production documents.

One of the first images shows the late Sean Connery arriving at Zurich airport with a head of surprisingly thin hair (he wore a wig like James Bond). Subsequent photos capture the crew preparing the shots and the actors relaxing during the downtime on the set. Among the best-known photos are those of an improvised fashion shoot with actress Tania Mallet, who is depicted brandishing an AR-7 rifle – real, not a replica.

‘Too much drink’

The famous sequence revolves around Bond’s encounter with Mallet’s character, Tilly Masterson, as they pursue the rich villain Auric Goldfinger. After Masterson’s unsuccessful assassination attempt against Goldfinger nearly brought Bond down, the British agent chases her and forces his car off the road before casually introducing himself and taking her to the nearest garage.

Director Guy Hamilton, along with his production designer and location manager, chose Passo Furka, which crosses the Urseren Valley in central Switzerland, for filming. The week-long production saw a team of 50 people settling in the small village of Andermatt in the mountains.

Rehearsals for the scene in which Tilly Masterson tries to assassinate Bond's enemy, Auric Goldfinger.

Rehearsals for the scene in which Tilly Masterson tries to assassinate Bond’s enemy, Auric Goldfinger. Credit: EON Produções / promotional photo by Arthur Evans

“Surprisingly, the Swiss government gave the approval, which is really surprising,” said Waelty, explaining that the locations were close to several military sites. “But they always had to have two soldiers and two policemen there (during filming). The police were installed to contain traffic and the soldiers were there to make sure they didn’t shoot anything classified.”

Waelty interviewed several people involved in the shooting, from the doctor on the set to a bartender at the team’s hotel. And while the photograph captures what happened on the set, the anecdotes tell what happened outside of it.

They paint a picture of a very festive production, with many dawns. “You drank a lot and drank a lot,” said Waelty. In the book, a member of the hotel band, Arthur Dänzer, recalls Harold Sakata, the Japanese-American actor who played Goldfinger’s henchman Oddjob, being a “big attraction”.

“On the club’s dance floor, he stacked all kinds of wooden boards and bricks every night. He cut everything in half,” said Dänzer of Sakata, who was also an Olympic fighter and weightlifter.

Dänzer’s memories of Connery, who died in October at 90, are a little more lascivious: “(He) slept almost nothing all week. He went to bed at three in the morning and had to get up at seven . ”

Although Connery was married at the time, Waelty’s book says that every journalist he spoke with during the research received “a more or less clear proposition” from the actor. Tom Carlile, then press officer for the film’s distributor, United Artists, reportedly said that, to secure an interview with Connery, “all a newspaper needs to do is send a girl.”

Signature images

Despite his notorious charm, not everyone was in love with Connery. The Swiss magazine Schweizer Illustrierte published its story about the essay under the title “James Bond – ein humorloser langweiler” (or “James Bond – a boring without humor”).

Andermatt’s residents also seemed indifferent to the whole affair.

Before the trip, the film’s producer struggled to secure hotel rooms in the area, with local owners who were unaware of the Bond franchise and had “doubts about the solvency of the British,” according to Waelty’s book.

“They really didn’t care,” said Waelty. “Can you imagine nowadays, there is a James Bond film crew coming in? Any town, any town would go totally crazy. But not these guys.”

Sean Connery photographed alongside Tania Mallet's stunt double, Phillys Cornell (left), and director Guy Hamilton's wife, Miriam Charrière (right).

Sean Connery photographed alongside Tania Mallet’s stunt double, Phillys Cornell (left), and director Guy Hamilton’s wife, Miriam Charrière (right). Credit: EON Produções / promotional photo by Arthur Evans

However, Bondmania did not reach its peak until the film’s release later that year. While its predecessors, “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love”, performed reasonably well, “Goldfinger” received a significantly larger budget of $ 3 million, which he recovered many times, raising $ 46 million worldwide during your home office rush box.

According to Waelty, this is partly due to the Alpine sequel, which not only helped generate buzz, but also defined a visual project for Bond’s upcoming films.

“When Sean Connery died, a lot of pictures were published of him standing in Passo Furka with his Aston Martin,” he said. “This seems to be the characteristic image of James Bond.”

The Goldfinger Files: The Making of the Iconic Alpine Sequence in the James Bond Movie ‘Goldfinger,’“published by Steidl, is now available.