Auric Goldfinger

Auric Goldfinger is a fictional character and the main antagonist in the James Bond film Goldfinger, based on Ian Fleming's novel of the same name. His first name, Auric, is an adjective meaning of gold. Fleming chose the name to commemorate the architect Ernő Goldfinger, who had built his home in Hampstead, near Fleming's; it is possible, though unlikely, that he disliked Goldfinger's style of architecture and destruction of Victorian terraces and decided to name a memorable villain after him.[1] According to a 1965 Forbes article and The New York Times, the Goldfinger persona was based on gold mining magnate Charles W. Engelhard, Jr.[2]

Auric Goldfinger
James Bond character
Gert Fröbe as Goldfinger during a rummy game at Fontainebleau Miami Beach
First appearanceGoldfinger (1959 novel)
Last appearanceGoldfinger (1964 film)
Created byIan Fleming
Portrayed byGert Fröbe
Voiced byMichael Collins
Full nameAuric Goldfinger
ClassificationVillain (Former; regular)
Pussy Galore
Jill Masterson

In 2003, the American Film Institute declared Auric Goldfinger the 49th greatest villain in the past 100 years of film. In a poll on IMDb, Auric Goldfinger was voted the most sinister James Bond villain, beating out in order Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Dr. No, Max Zorin and Emilio Largo.[3] The sequence where Goldfinger has Bond strapped to a table with a laser and delivers the often homaged line "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die" was voted the number one best moment in the James Bond film franchise in a 2013 Sky Movies poll.[4]

Auric Goldfinger was played by German actor Gert Fröbe. Fröbe, who did not speak English well, was dubbed in the film by Michael Collins, an English actor.[4] In the German version, Fröbe dubbed himself back again.

Goldfinger was banned in Israel after it was revealed that Fröbe had been a member of the Nazi Party. However, he left the party before the outbreak of World War II. After several years, the ban was lifted, as it was found that Fröbe likely saved the lives of two Jews by hiding them in his basement during the war.

Novel biography

In the novel, Auric Goldfinger is a 42-year-old from Riga, Latvia, who emigrated to Britain in 1937 at the age of 20. He is 5 feet (152 cm) tall, has blue eyes, red hair, and a passion for his tan.

Goldfinger's name was borrowed from Ian Fleming's neighbour in his Hampstead home, architect Ernő Goldfinger, and his character bears some resemblance.[5] Ernő Goldfinger consulted his lawyers when the book was published, prompting Fleming to suggest renaming the character "Goldprick", but Goldfinger eventually settled out of court in return for his legal costs, six copies of the novel, and an agreement that the character's first name 'Auric' would always be used. Goldfinger is typically a German-Jewish name, and the protagonists of the novel know this, but neither Bond nor Mr. Du Pont think Goldfinger is Jewish. Instead, Bond thinks the red-haired, blue-eyed man to be a Balt, being proved correct when Goldfinger is revealed to be a Latvian émigré.[6]

Following naturalistion as a British citizen in Nassau, in the Bahamas, Goldfinger has become the richest man in England, although his wealth is not in English banks, nor does he pay taxes on it as it is spread as gold bullion in many countries. Goldfinger is the treasurer of SMERSH, a Soviet counterintelligence agency, which is Bond's nemesis. Goldfinger fancies himself an expert pistol shot who never misses, and always shoots his opponents through the right eye. He tells Bond he has done so with four Mafia heads at the end of the novel.

Goldfinger is obsessed with gold, going so far as to have yellow-bound erotic photographs, and have his lovers painted head to toe in gold so that he can make love to gold. (He leaves an area near the spine unpainted, but painting this area also is what kills Jill Masterton, as in the film.) He is also a jeweller, a metallurgist, and a smuggler.

When Goldfinger first meets Bond in Miami, he claims that he is agoraphobic; a ploy to allow him to cheat Junius du Pont, a previous acquaintance of Bond's (from Casino Royale) at a game of two-handed Canasta. Bond figures out how Goldfinger is managing this, and blackmails him by forcing him to admit his deception. This incident also establishes Goldfinger as boundlessly greedy, as whatever sums he can gain by this elaborate cheating are negligible compared with what he already has in his possession.

Goldfinger is also an avid golfer, but is known at his club for being a smooth cheater there, also. When Bond contrives to play a match with Goldfinger, he again cheats the cheater by switching Goldfinger's Slazenger 1 golf ball with a Slazenger 7 he had found while playing.

In both the novel and film, Goldfinger is aided in his crimes by his manservant, Oddjob, a mute, monstrously strong Korean who ruthlessly eliminates any threat to his employer's affairs.

Goldfinger is the owner of "Enterprises Auric A.G." in Switzerland, maker of metal furniture, which is purchased by many airlines including Air India. Twice a year, Goldfinger drives his vintage Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost car from England to Enterprises Auric. Bond learns that Goldfinger makes dead drops of gold bars for SMERSH along the way, and that his car's bodywork is 18 carat (75%), solid white gold under the ploy that the added weight is armour plating. Once at Enterprises Auric, the bodywork is stripped off, melted and made into airplane seats for a company that Enterprises Auric is heavily invested in. The plane(s) are then flown to India where the seats are melted down again into gold bars and sold for a much higher premium rate; 100 to 200 per cent profit.

Operation Grand Slam

In the novel, Goldfinger captures Bond and threatens to cut him in half with a circular saw as Oddjob tortures him using his pressure points. Bond offers to work for Goldfinger in exchange for his life, but Goldfinger refuses to spare him, and he blacks out.

Bond wakes to find that Goldfinger is going to take him up on his offer after all, and makes him his prisoner and secretary. While working at this job, Bond discovers that Goldfinger is plotting to rob the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in an action codenamed "Operation Grand Slam".

Goldfinger plans to contaminate the water supply at Fort Knox using the nerve agent GB (also known as Sarin), killing everyone at the base. Then, using an atomic bomb designed for an MGM-5 Corporal intermediate-range ballistic missile that he had purchased for $US1 million in Germany, Goldfinger would blow open Fort Knox's impregnable vault, before removing roughly $15 billion in gold bullion by truck and train with the help of American criminal organizations, including the Mafia; the Purple Gang (an organization that existed in real life); the Spangled Mob (a fictional gang featured in the earlier Bond novel Diamonds Are Forever); and the Cement Mixers, an all-female gang led by lesbian and former trapeze artist Pussy Galore. They would then escape to the Soviet Union on a cargo boat. Goldfinger bribes the syndicate leaders with $15,000 in gold apiece to secure their attendance at the meeting and promises that each group will receive at least $1 billion, while he will keep $5 billion. In addition, Goldfinger has promised Bond £1 million in gold once the theft is complete.

Bond foils Goldfinger's plan by writing a note to his American colleague Felix Leiter, containing the details of the impending operation, and taping it to the underside of an airplane toilet seat. Once the note reaches Leiter, he arranges for help from the FBI and the Pentagon, Leiter is able to foil the theft, but Goldfinger escapes.

Later, Goldfinger and his henchmen learn from SMERSH who Bond is, and determine to take him with them in defecting to the Soviet Union. They pose as doctors to incapacitate crew and passengers (including Bond) with drugged inoculations. Then they hijack the aircraft and load Goldfinger's three-ton personal bullion hoard onto it. The hijacked airplane is piloted by three German ex-Luftwaffe pilots who work for Goldfinger. Oddjob meets his end when he is sucked through an airliner window after Bond pierces it with a knife. Bond and Goldfinger engage in a brief struggle, during which Bond is seized by a violent rage for the first time in his life, strangling Goldfinger to death with his bare hands. Bond then turns to the pilots and forces the airplane to turn back from its intended flight path, causing it to ditch in the ocean after running out of fuel. The weight of Goldfinger's gold causes the airplane to sink rapidly, taking his body and his pilots down with it. Only Bond and Pussy Galore, both wearing lifejackets, appear in the ocean and are soon picked up, as the only survivors.

Criticism of novel's plan and changes made in filmed version

After publication of the novel, the details of "Operation Grand Slam" were questioned, with critics noting it would have taken hours, if not days, to remove $15 billion from Fort Knox, during which the U.S. Army would have inevitably intervened. The issue of getting every soldier on the base to drink the poisoned water without an alarm was also raised. A final problem was the "clean" atomic bomb, tactical or not, which in all likelihood would have annihilated the vault instead of breaking it open. The novel itself has a scene where Bond points out to Goldfinger several reasons why the plan could not possibly work, and Goldfinger responds only with a vague assurance that he has prepared solutions for these problems.

Consequently, the filmed version of the novel altered the details of the plan. Although the audience is initially led to believe Goldfinger is going to steal the gold, the real plot is revealed to be to render the gold contained in the Depository radioactive and useless, crippling the gold standard-based economy and thereby dramatically driving up the price of the gold Goldfinger already owns. A scene in the film even uses a confrontation between Goldfinger and Bond to point out logistical flaws in the plan as set out in the original novel.

Film biography

In the film, Goldfinger is a successful businessman, owning many properties throughout the world including "Auric Enterprises, AG" in Switzerland, and a stud-farm in Kentucky called "Auric Stud". However, Goldfinger's real business is that of internationally smuggling gold, using the method of having a car (precisely a Rolls-Royce Phantom III) built with gold body castings and transporting it via airplane before having the bodywork re-smelted once it arrives at its destination. After Goldfinger's business affairs come under suspicion from the Bank of England, Bond is sent to investigate.

In the film, Felix Leiter says that Goldfinger is "British, but he doesn't sound like it"; however, this may simply mean he possesses British citizenship, as by his accent and red-blond hair he is probably German by birth. Fröbe was chosen to play the villain because producers Saltzman and Broccoli had seen his performance in a German thriller titled Es geschah am hellichten Tag (It happened in broad daylight, 1958), based on the story Das Versprechen (The Pledge) by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. In that film, Fröbe played a serial killer named Schrott, who kills children to vent his frustrations with his domineering wife. Broccoli and Saltzman had seen the movie and decided upon the "big bad German" for the role.

In the film, Goldfinger, an avid golfer, reveals a fascination with Nazi gold when Bond tempts him to betting high stakes against a lost, historical Nazi gold bar, an incident not in the novel (the golf game is merely for a large amount of cash). He is defeated, however, when he is tricked by Bond after attempting to cheat. Goldfinger is shown to take sadistic pleasure in killing his enemies, which he accomplishes in elaborate ways. This is shown when he attempts to kill a captured Bond by slowly cutting him in half with a laser (but is talked out of it by Bond) and, later, when he uses nerve gas to execute a group of gangsters he had invited to his ranch.

Goldfinger is later revealed to be planning to place an atomic device containing cobalt and iodine into Fort Knox, rendering the gold radioactive and useless for 58 years, increasing the value of his own gold and giving the Chinese an advantage resulting from the ensuing economic chaos. Bond, at this point held captive by Goldfinger, is able to smuggle the details of the operation out to his CIA associate Felix Leiter and, taken along on the operation by Goldfinger, ultimately thwarts the operation by defusing the atomic device.

With Fort Knox safe, Bond is invited to the White House for a meeting with the President. However, with his pilot Pussy Galore, Goldfinger hijacks the plane carrying Bond. In a struggle for Goldfinger's revolver, Bond shoots out a window, creating an explosive decompression. Goldfinger is sucked out of the cabin through the window. He gets stuck for a moment, but is eventually sucked out. With the plane out of control Bond rescues Galore and they parachute safely from the aircraft.

Appearances in other media

  • Goldfinger also appears in the animated series James Bond Junior, in which he has a teenaged daughter, Goldie, who is as greedy and ruthless as her father. He refers to specific elements of the original film, establishing continuity, though his survival is not explained.
  • Goldfinger also appears in the 2012 video game 007 Legends during the Goldfinger levels.


  1. Ben Macintyre (2008-04-05). "Was Ian Fleming the real 007?". London: The Times. Retrieved 2008-04-08.
  2. "Milestones, Mar. 15, 1971". Time. 1971-03-15. Retrieved 2010-04-25.
  3. "Movie, TV and Celebrity Polls". IMDb.
  4. Battersby, Matilda (January 2, 2013). "'No, Mr Bond, I Expect You to Die': Showdown Between Goldfinger and Sean Connery Voted Greatest James Bond Moment". The Independent. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  5. Ezard, John (3 June 2005). "How Goldfinger nearly became Goldprick". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  6. Black, Jeremy (2005). The politics of James Bond: from Fleming's novel to the big screen. ISBN 978-0-8032-6240-9. Retrieved 2009-12-17.
Preceded by
Rosa Klebb
James Bond Villain Succeeded by
Emilio Largo
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