The James Bond team knew they were pushing their luck with the character of Pussy Galore – but they had a plan to beat American censors.

You don’t need this website to alert you to the fact that the James Bond movie series isn’t shy of a double entendre. Still, even the team behind 1964’s Goldfinger figured they might just be pushing their luck with the name of Honor Blackman’s character in that particular production.

Goldfinger, the third of the official 007 movies starring Sean Connery, saw him co-star opposite Blackman, Gert Frobe as Goldfinger and Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson. But Blackman was cast in the role of Pussy Galore, a name that has the subtlety of a rusty fridge freezer being aimed in the direction of your nether regions. It instantly made the names of the female lead characters in Bond movies to that point – Honey Ryder and Sylvia Trench – seem really rather tame.

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And the truth is that producers Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, director Guy Hamilton and screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn thought the might not get away with carrying the name over to the big screen. Notwithstanding the fact that she was the creation of Ian Fleming in his 1959 Goldfinger novel, whether the moniker would pass muster with more stringent movie censorship boards was to be something of an unknown.

Still, all concerned were willing try, even though they had a plan B in case things didn’t work out. For a start, the film tamed the character’s background her sexuality from the novel. Furthermore, the movie’s backer – United Artists – conceded that it may need to alter her name to Kitty Galore come the final cut of the film.

It was the more prudish American censors that all concerned were particularly worried about. As it turns out, there are two slightly different stories as to how the Bond team managed to get their way.

The main tale follows a brainwave on the part of a man called Tom Carlile.

Carlile worked for Bond producers Eon Productions as their publicity rep, and he had a brainwave come the premiere of Goldfinger in London (a premiere Sean Connery couldn’t attend and thus Honor Blackman would be the main star). By this stage, the film had been shot, and Blackman was referred to by the character name of Pussy within it.

Carlile’s idea was to rope in some royalty to help. As such, he struck a deal with UK newspapers. The papers concerned could have an exclusive photograph of Honor Blackman standing alongside Prince Philip at the premiere of the movie, and would also be entitled to worldwide syndication rights for the image.

The condition? That wherever the image was sold, it had to be captioned ‘Pussy and the Prince’ or ‘The Prince and the Pussy’. The deal was eagerly agreed, the shot taken, and the photo – and caption – duly did their rounds.

By the time therefore it came time for Goldfinger to go before the American censors, there wasn’t actually much left to censor. The picture had been seen, the name of Pussy Galore was widely out there. Albert R Broccoli duly took press cuttings to his meeting with the censors, who reluctantly agreed to let the name stand. The thinking was if Prince Philip was in the picture, he wouldn’t get involved if there was something amiss. No change was going to be required to the print.

Eon didn’t entirely get away with it. In America, the firm wasn’t allowed to use the name of the character on any promotional material for the movie Stateside. At best, she could be referred to as Miss Galore. Honor Blackman of course was having a ball with this, and would drop the name of Pussy Galore into plenty of the interviews she gave as part of her promotional duties for the movie.

Furthermore, you can hardly say the final cut of the movie plays things down. Just look at the scene where Blackman introduces herself to Connery on screen for the first time.

Director Guy Hamilton also had another version of events. He told the story that they took out American censor Geoffrey Sherlock for dinner. Sherlock’s wife was invited along too, and there were indeed concerns voiced.

But as Hamilton described (as per the excellent book Some Kind Of Hero by Matthew Field), “we conned Sherlock in the usual way by inviting him and his wife out to dinner and saying we were very big supporters of the Republican or the Democratic Party. We’d trade a glimpse of tit for something else. Appalling”.

Looking into the history of the MPAA at this stage, one element of the story that’s often missed is that the association was without an official boss at the time. Eric Johnston had been heading up the MPAA for 18 years, passing away from a stroke in 1963 while he was still its chief. What followed was a three year period where the MPAA didn’t have a President.

It wasn’t until the infamous Jack Valenti was appointed in 1966 that it had a new boss. Goldfinger meanwhile slipped out in the US in December of 1964. Whilst Geoffrey Sherlock had threatened to ban the film and was the chief censor at the time, it’s arguable he never built up quite the clout of Johnston or Valenti. He certainly would get the President job.

Valenti meanwhile would head up the MPAA for 38 years and would find himself crossed off a fair few Christmas card lists in that time.

As for the Bond team, they’d never try to get a character name on screen that was quite as blatant as Pussy Galore again. A few have nudged in that direction – Plenty O’Toole (Diamonds Are Forever), Mary Goodnight (The Man With The Golden Gun), Holly Goodhead (Moonraker) and Jenny Flex (A View To A Kill) for instance. The character and title of Octopussy was probably pushing it too.

But having brushed against the censors once, and with a more stringent era of censorship oncoming in both the UK and the US, things have been slightly calmer in that department since…

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