Honor Blackman set a blueprint for strong Bond women

Former Bond girl Honor Blackman (above right, in a 2009 photograph) also played Catherine Gale in the 1960s hit television series, The Avengers.
Former Bond girl Honor Blackman (above right, in a 2009 photograph) also played Catherine Gale in the 1960s hit television series, The Avengers. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • British actress Honor Blackman, whose portrayal of sultry heroine Pussy Galore captivated filmgoers in the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger, has died. She was 94.

Blackman died at her home in Lewes, England, of natural causes, according to a family statement released on Monday.

Taking on the role in her late 30s, Blackman was the most senior Bond girl and one of only two leading actresses to be older than her Agent 007 co-star in the first half-century of the franchise.

Athletic and eloquent with a husky voice, she portrayed the blonde, pantsuit-wearing jet pilot and judo expert to such acclaim that she set the blueprint for other no-nonsense, headstrong Bond women.

"You can turn off the charm - I'm immune," Galore tells Bond when meeting him aboard main antagonist Auric Goldfinger's private plane.

The viewer is led to believe Galore is not interested in Bond, played by Sean Connery - or any other man for that matter - until the pair exchange judo moves in a barn and she falls for him during a roll in the hay.

The final scene of the film leaves the happy couple intertwined beneath their getaway parachute in a routine Bond sign-off.

In 2007, Entertainment Weekly ranked Blackman as the second-best Bond girl ever.

Swiss actress Ursula Andress, who played Honey Rider in Dr No (1962), topped the list.

"Blackman rounded off Pussy's cardboard edges, introducing fans to the series' first real woman - a gorgeous dame who can fly a plane and kick butt," the magazine said.

Blackman was previously known for her portrayal of Catherine Gale, a motorcycle-riding judo fighter who wore black leather, in the 1960s hit television series The Avengers. She was replaced in the series by Diana Rigg.

Blackman was born on Aug 22, 1925, in Plaistow, East London.

Starting her career in West End plays, the budding actress moved to films, with appearances in movies such as 1958's A Night To Remember, about the Titanic's sinking.

She also did television work, taking a role in The Saint (1962 to 1969), opposite actor Roger Moore, who replaced Connery in the Bond movies in the early 1970s.

Blackman married businessman Bill Sankey in 1946. After they divorced eight years later, she received treatment for a nervous breakdown.

In 1961, she married actor Maurice Kaufmann, who helped revive her career with The Avengers.

In later years, Blackman appeared in TV programmes such as Dr Who (1963 to 1989) and Coronation Street (1960 to present) as well as films including Bridget Jones's Diary in 2001.

Blackman and Mr Kaufmann adopted two children, Lottie and Barnaby, in the 1960s. The couple divorced in 1975.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2020, with the headline 'Honor Blackman set a blueprint for strong Bond women'. Subscribe