I remember the first Bond movie I ever watched. It was Moonraker, and I enjoyed it. But a few weeks later, I saw Goldfinger, and I was utterly hooked – for life. A movie with an uncomplicated plot, straightforward villain, and an awesome car, Goldfinger is arguably the best Bond movie of them all (vying with a handful of others including From Rusia With Love).
But there’s something a bit odd about Goldfinger. If you’ve ever it and noticed some unusual lip syncing from the villain, there is a reason for it.
I love daft facts like this.
Distinguished German actor Gert Frobe stars as Auric Goldfinger, and arguably steals the movie from underneath Sean Connery (although in fairness, so does Honor Blackman… oh, and Harold Sakata for that matter). But every word uttered on screen by Frobe as Goldfinger isn’t him.
Instead, Bond’s most memorable (I shudder at the word “iconic” for all but actual icons) villain was voiced by Michael Collins, a character actor who appeared to work regularly throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
Of course, this isn’t the only occasion in which thick accents were dubbed in Bond movies. Arguably a more famous incident came in Dr No. Here, Ursula Andress’ Swiss accent was softened by Nikki van der Zyl, who passed away earlier this year.
A German voice-over artist based in the UK, she also replaced the voice of Eunice Gayson (Sylvia Trench), and provided some English coaching to Frobe (who spoke no English) – presumably making it easier for Collins further down the line. (She also replaced the voices of Shirley Eaton, Claudine Auger in Thunderball, Mie Hama in You Only Live Twice, some of Jane Seymour’s dialogue in Live and Let Die, and Corinne Cléry and Leila Shenna in Moonraker, among many others. Busy lady!)
What is interesting about this – Gayson and other minor girls aside – is that early on, van der Zyl was employed to work with Germanic speakers. Did director Guy Hamilton have a concern that German speaking characters might be upsetting for a post-war audience? That seems unlikely, but what on Earth prompted the decision – in particularly – to replace Frobe’s voice with Collins?
It is believed Frobe’s voice makes an appearance in the cinematic trailer for Goldfinger. Here’s a comparison video:
That example (“Choose your next witticism carefully Mr Bond, it may be your last.”) is all we have of Frobe’s performance. But based on that clip, “smoothing” away the German seems like a terrible mistake. His voice is wonderfully deep and menacing – moreso, I would say, than Collins’.
Perhaps we’ll never know for sure, but there is presumably a version of Goldfinger in the archives without Michael Collins’ uncredited impersonation. It would be great to see it one day, perhaps as a Blu-ray extra…