The title character in the third James Bond film produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and arguably the best villain in the entire series, portrayed by Geman actor Gert Fröbe, although his voice was entirely redubbed by British actor Michael Collins.
A British citizen, Goldfinger is a fabulously wealthy man with worldwide interests, including a country club and a metallurgical facility in England, a factory in Switzerland, and a stud farm in Kentucky, in addition to a fleet of cars, a private jet, and a private army of Chinese and Korean retainers. As Felix Leiter (Cec Linder) puts it, he’s a “big operator.”
In the story, the Bank of England suspects that Goldfinger has been smuggling large amounts of gold bullion out of England. It’s true, but it barely scratches the surface of his real caper. His plan is to, with the help of the Red Chinese, detonate an atomic bomb inside the gold repository at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where America’s entire $15 billion gold reserve is stored. With the US gold radioactive and useless for fifty-eight years, economic chaos in the West will result, pleasing the Chinese and making Goldfinger’s own stock of gold increase in value by a factor of ten.
Why is Goldfinger the best villain in the series? Because he is one of the best-drawn characters, combining a realistic greed and obsession for gold with an outsized, almost fantastical personality. Like Dr. No and the villains in From Russia with Love, Goldfinger could easily be the perfect cartoon villain, but thanks to Richard Maibaum’s marvelous script, he’s also totally convincing in the role.
And Gert Fröbe is perfectly cast. He’s an overweight man, but he has a certain lightness and grace to him. He’s also supremely confidant, self-assured, and resourceful. And even though Bond keeps thwarting him, nothing can shake his will to succeed.
His roly-poly panache doesn’t disguise pure ruthlessness and evil, however. Only a twisted, demented megalomaniac would have Oddjob (Harold Sakata) murder Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) by covering her body with gold paint or kill Mr. Solo (Martin Benson) by crushing a brand-new Lincoln Continental around him. Worse yet, Goldfinger plans to spray poison gas into the air and kill forty-one thousand American soldiers who guard the Fort Knox installation. This is not the type of man you want pointing a laser beam at your privates.