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Honor Blackman

 

HER SWINGIN' '60s CREDENTIALS: This formidable film femme played Pussy Galore and flung Bond to the ground in Goldfinger before succumbing to his charms; before that, she played Mrs. Catherine Gale, partner to John Steed, on pre-Diana Rigg "The Avengers" from '62 to '64.

 

CATEGORIES OF SWINGIN' CHICK: Bond Beauty, Movie Star, and TV Star

 

BIRTH: As near as we can tell, Honor was born in 1926, making her 37 -- and two years older than Connery -- when she tumbled for Bond (sources differ on her birth year). Her exotic birthplace: London, England.

 

IMPACT ON THE '60s: She was impressive, but she was not even the most stunning Bond Beauty in her own Bond movie (see Shirley Eaton). However, so popular were her years on "The Avengers," she and Patrick Macnee, who played John Steed, recorded a single for Decca! The two sides were "Kinky Boots" and "Let's Keep It Friendly" and the record stiffed in '64, but 25 years later it astonished everybody by resurfacing as a top-ten hit in the U.K.

 

CAREER IN THE '60s: British audiences knew Honor as Mrs. Catherine Gale, karate-chopping leather-wearing partner to John Steed, on the pre-Diana Rigg "The Avengers" TV series from '62 to '64. After recording "Kinky Boots," Honor recorded an album, Everything I’ve Got, but it barely caused a ripple on the music seismograph. It didn’t matter, though — she’d already decided to let her "Avengers" contract run out and go for the gold. Goldfinger, that is. Easily one of the top-three Bond movies ever, Goldfinger presented Honor at her peak as a sexy, assured aviatrix in command of five female pilots. Interestingly, she was 37 in that '64 movie, four years older than Connery, which was quite a departure from the usual pairings that matched Bond with someone younger (sometimes much younger). She made another film with Connery in the '60s, Shalako in '68 (which also starred another Swingin’ Chick of the '60s, Brigitte Bardot). Among the dozen other movie and TV roles she played during the decade was Hera, Queen of the Gods, in Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Argonauts ('63).

 

CAREER OUTSIDE THE '60s: Long before Goldfinger was even a gleam in Cubby Broccoli’s eye, Honor was appearing in dozens of movies in the ‘40s and ‘50s, among them A Night to Remember in '58. After the ‘60s, Honor had roles in various screen projects through the ‘90s, most notably an uncredited appearance in The Three Musketeers (’74), the female lead in The Age of Innocence (’74), a regular role in the British TV series "The Upper Hand" (‘90-’93), and the part of Joy Adamson in To Walk with Lions (’93). She also performed a one-woman show called Dishonorable Ladies. Versatile and durable, Honor Blackman is today something of an English national treasure.

 

TALENT: She was athletic, glamorous, beautiful, smart, able to roughhouse with Bond and play an assured aviatrix in command of five female pilots in Goldfinger. And who knew she could sing?

 

HER '60s LOOK: She looked and acted like an athlete or a judo champion, though she dressed a little more provocatively in the film. Ya gotta love Honor’s great riding outfit and jump suits, all of which managed to expose her ample chestal assets (her measurements in the early '60s were listed as 36-24-37). But her real fashion influence was felt when she played Cathy Gale on "The Avengers." Honor was probably the first TV star to wear black leather clothes (usually tight suits, but also a long leather dress), often accessorizing the look with long leather boots (hence the record she made with Macnee). Said Patrick of his sexy co-star: "We had Honor Blackman in black leather, partly because it was better than wearing skirts when she was doing lots of violent action. It was an idea before its time to show women in the positive sense and not in the repressive, submissive sense, and I found that exciting and interesting. We used a lot of sexual fetishes — leather, bondage, whatever — in a very very light way. In other words, we titillated." Indeed.

 

LIFESTYLE: From '61 to '75 Honor was married to an actor named Maurice Kauffman; she's got a son and a daughter, and as of the new millennium she's still single. With nothing else to go on, let’s concentrate on her character in Goldfinger: In Ian Fleming's original novel, Pussy Galore is more clearly a lesbian who gets "cured" by Bond. The character’s name is one of the most famous from all the Bond films, but the producers were nervous about using it; had the press reacted negatively to the moniker, the studio was ready to change it to Kitty Galore. Fortunately, after the London premiere of the film, a congratulatory photo of Honor being presented to Prince Philip ran in all the English papers. The name became a non-issue — the British Empire, and the producers, were saved. When Bond hears her name for the first time, he smiles and says, "I must be dreaming," but this was not what was originally written for the film. The first version was, "I know you are, but what's your name?" And unlike most Bond Beauties, Honor’s character beds 007 twice in one movie, and she lives to tell about it; many do him once, and then die.

 

EXTRAS: As a teen Honor worked during the war as a messenger for the Home Office ... "Avengers" alums Honor, Diana Rigg, and Patrick Macnee all starred in Bond films -- Rigg in On Her Majesty's Secret Service in '69 and Macnee in A View to a Kill in '85 ... after Honor left "The Avengers," there was one episode where Steed’s partner was played by an actress named Elizabeth Shepherd, but Diana Rigg quickly replaced her, taking the show to whole new levels of popularity.