Bond Girl. The words alone are enough to summon up a smoky haze of glamour and intrigue, old-world charm and post-modern wiles.
For more than half a century, the Bond Girls—good and evil—have captivated audiences and remained an integral part of the James Bond legend, through six leading men and several reboots. Ian Fleming’s character may have outlasted the Soviet Union, as well as SMERSH and SPECTRE, but we all know that the superspy couldn’t have done it without his Bond Girls.
Marguerite Gordon, who appeared with Sean Connery in the very first Bond film, Dr. No (1962), holds a rarified place in the pantheon of Bond Girls. “I really was the first evil woman that James Bond ever met,” she says over the phone from a local hotel.
Taking centre stage Friday night (August 23) at a gala fundraiser at VIFF’s Vancity Theatre, Gordon will help launch the society’s new Bond retrospective, 007 Reloaded: Bond vs. Bond. A 20-film program running until September 5, the series features 19 of the 23 official Eon Productions films, as well as the non-canonical Never Say Never Again, featuring Sean Connery’s 1983 return to the role.
Cheerful and vivacious, Gordon is an engaging storyteller, and happy to talk about her past. Born to privilege as Marguerite LeWars in Kingston, Jamaica, Gordon served as Miss Jamaica and was a 22-year-old working at the BOAC airport service counter when she first met Dr. No’s director.
“I was checking in first-class passengers to London,” she recalls, “and Terence Young came up to me and said, ‘Would you like to be in the movies?’” Gordon, as would anyone, thought it was a line. “He said, ‘I’m going to make a series which will become the most famous in the whole world,” and I said ‘Have a nice trip.’”
About three months later, Young reappeared at Gordon’s desk with a bottle of Miss Dior perfume and a contract. “You don’t know who I am, or if I can act,” she told him. “Take back your contract and take back your perfume, I do not accept gifts from strange men!”
The 73-year-old Gordon laughs as she tells the tale, noting that she was still living a sheltered life with her parents at the time. But she later thought about Young’s offer, and decided to go in and meet with casting.
Slated to read for the risqué part of Dr. No’s henchwoman Miss Taro, the young Gordon was not impressed. “I’m looking at the script, and it said I’m to be wrapped in a towel lying on a bed, kissing this strange man, and I said, ‘I’m not reading for this part, my parents wouldn’t like it.'”
Of course, Gordon—like most people—had no idea who Sean Connery was at the time (“I’ve never heard of him,” she told Young, “You soon will,” he replied), and she now regrets not taking the Miss Taro role. But before she could walk out, Young offered her another role, which, although smaller, still had prominent screen time—the Afro-Asian freelance photographer (and Dr. No operative) Annabelle Chung.
“Ian Fleming always had a thing for the mixtures in Jamaica, so they decided to make me half-Chinese. They taped back my eyes with Durafix,” Gordon recalls, noting that they put two elastics behind her head to change the shape of her eyelids. “It was odd to put on but I got accustomed to it.”
Speaking with Gordon, it’s clear that her sultry voice—with traces of both Jamaican and Trinidadian accents—is quite different from what one hears in Dr. No. When asked about the discrepancy, she once again laughs and it leads to another great story.
“It’s not my voice. I had a bit of a disagreement with, God rest his soul, Terence Young,” Gordon says, explaining how the director wanted to fly her to London for dialog overdubs. “I felt that he felt that I would be willing to go the casting couch way, so I was extremely annoyed with him at the wrap party. Then he wrote me from London and asked me to come up, and I said, ‘No, I’m not coming.’ And he said, ‘Well we can take out your scene,’ and I said, ‘You’ve already paid me so take it out’”—she laughs heartily—“but he never did, so it’s somebody else’s voice overdubbed.”
As for Connery, Gordon has nothing but praise. “He was absolutely wonderful, I’m only sorry I haven’t seen him for 51 years,” she says. “He was a very, very thoughtful man, when I kept blowing my lines, at one point he had his hand on my knee saying, ‘Come on, Marguerite—where’s your self-confidence?’ and I started to cry. ‘Take your hand off my knee, I shouldn’t be here, I’m not an actress!’ But he was very kind, and very nice—and great-looking.”
By choice, Dr. No was to be her only screen role. “I wasn’t really interested in films,” she says, preferring instead to concentrate on a business career.
Working her way up within BOAC, British West Indian Airlines, and Lufthansa, Gordon was eventually asked by the Jamaican government to help with the start-up of Air Jamaica, and then went on to start her own human resource training company. Now living in Trinidad and Tobago, she has a regular advice/etiquette column in the Trinidad Express, and has authored two books, Dancer, the Little Dog from Mayaro Beach (a children’s book) and Manners and Entertaining with Marguerite Gordon: A Guide to Caribbean Life and Style.
A self-made, successful woman, the tireless Gordon is happy to be visiting Vancouver (she has family here) and “very, very honored” by all the James Bond-related attention.
“It hasn’t changed my life,” she says of her time on the Dr. No set, “but I’m very happy I did it.”
And, for the record—if there were any doubt—it’s Connery all the way for Gordon: “He’s the best James Bond.”