Saturday, 7 June 2014

Herb Jeffries R.I.P.

Singer and Western star Herb Jeffries died 25 May 2014 at the age of 100.

Herb Jeffries was born  Umberto Alexander Valentino in Detroit on 24 September 2013. His mother was of Irish descent. While he never knew his father, his father was of  Sicilian, French, Italian, Ethiopian, and Moorish descent. Mr. Jeffries began his career singing around Detroit before moving to Chicago. It was there that he started singing with  the Earl Hines Orchestra. It was in 1934 with the Earl Hines Orchestra that Mr. Jeffries made his first records.

 It was while the band was touring the South that Herb Jeffries noticed the popularity of Westerns with African American audiences. It occurred to Mr. Jeffries that African Americans were an untapped market for Westerns. He then enlisted independent, B movie producer Jed Buell to make Westerns with a nearly all African American cast. Unable to find a suitable leading man Herb Jeffries ultimately took the role himself, even though Jed Buell worried that he was too light complexioned. The resulting film was Harlem on the Prairie, released in 1937. Billed as the "the first all-Negro musical western," Harlem on the Prairie proved successful enough to warrant further films. It was followed by Rhythm Rodeo (1938), Two-Gun Man from Harlem (1938), The Bronze Buckaroo (1939), and Harlem Rides the Range (1939). In 1940 Herb Jeffries recorded with saxophonist Sidney Bechet. He later preformed with Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. During World War II Mr. Jeffries served in the United States Army.

Starting in 1950 Herb Jeffries began released albums under his own name, including      Magenta Moods (1950), Time on My Hands (1951), Just Jeffries (1951), and Say It Isn't So (1957). Alongside such other musical artists as Tommy Dorsey and Sarah Vaughan, Herb Jeffries appeared in the film Disc Jockey in 1951. In 1957 he starred in the musical Calypso Joe opposite Angie Dickinson.

 In the Sixties Herb Jeffries guest starred on such shows as I Dream of Jeannie, The Name of the Game, The Virginian, and Hawaii Five-O. He was the voice of Freight Train on the short lived, prime time, animated series Where's Huddles. In the Seventies he appeared in the films Chrome and Hot Leather (1971) and Portrait of a Hitman (1979), as well as the TV films Jarrett and Twice in a Lifetime.

Mr. Jeffries continued to record throughout the Eighties, Nineties, and Naughts. Among the albums he recorded were The Bronze Buckaroo (Rides Again) in 1995, Jamaica in 1998, and he Duke and I in 2005. At age 96 he performed a benefit concert for the  Oceansid, California Unified School District's music program. Over the years he also performed at benefits for autism and other developmental disorders.

Herb Jeffries was an excellent singer. He had a rich, full baritone suited to both jazz and Western songs. What is more, he was equally at home in both genres. He was also certainly a pioneer. He was the first singing cowboy who was African American in descent. His "race" Westerns provided African Americans with films in which African Americans were portrayed as more than domestic help or railway porters, and in which African Americans were not portrayed as stereotypes. Mr. Jeffries was a great singer who truly broke new ground.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Ann B. Davis Passes On

Ann B. Davis, who played Schultzy on The Bob Cummings Show and Alice on The Brady Bunch, died on 1 June 2014 at the age of 88. She had been hospitalised for a week following a fall in her home.

Ann B. Davis was born on 5 May 1975 in Schenectady, New York. She was three years old when her family moved to Erie, Pennsylvania. She attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where she was initially a pre-medical major. She switched to majoring in drama after seeing her brother in a performance of Oklahoma. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 1948.

Ann B. Davis made her film debut in an uncredited role in A Man Called Peter  in 1955. She appeared in the film The Best Things in Life Are Free in 1956. On television she appeared in episodes of Matinee Theatre, Lux Video Theatre, and Wagon Train. It was 1955 that she  began her run on The Bob Cummings Show in the role of  Charmaine "Schultzy" Schultz, Bob Collins' long suffering secretary. Miss Davis remained with The Bob Cummings Show for the entirety of its run. For her role as Schultzy, she won the Emmy for Best Supporting Actress (Continuing Character) in a Comedy Series in both 1958 and 1959 and was nominated for the award in 1956 and 1957. She had a cameo as Schultzy in the movie Pepe in 1960. She appeared on Broadway in the production Once Upon a Mattress in 1960.

In the Sixties Ann B. Davis appeared in the films All Hands on Deck (1961) and Lover Come Back (1961). She was a regular on The John Forsythe Show. It was in 1969 that she started playing the maid Alice Nelson on The Brady Bunch. She guest starred on the shows The New Breed, McKeever and the Colonel, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, The Phyllis Diller Show, Insight, and Love American Style.

From the Seventies to the Nineties Ann B. Davis reprised her role as Alice in The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, The Brady Brides, an episode of Day By Day, The Bradys, and an episode of Hi Honey, I'm Home. She guest starred on the shows Love Boat and Something So Right. Ann B. Davis appeared in The Brady Bunch Movie as a trucker named Schultzy. She also worked on stage, appearing on Broadway in Crazy for You in 1992 and touring with a production of Arsenic and Old Lace in 1996.

Ann B. Davis was a remarkable comedic actress. On The Bob Cummings Show she played a memorable character among an entire cast of memorable characters. On The Brady Bunch she was easily the best reason to watch the show (for some of us she was the only reason to watch the show). She gave a great performance as Carol's secretary Millie in Lover Come Back. Miss Davis had a gift when it came to comedy. She not only had perfect timing, but she could create full realised characters even when she was on screen for only a few minutes. If her characters remain often remain better remembered than the leads of the shows in which she appeared, it was perhaps because Ann B. Davis was so good at what she did.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Announcing the British Invaders Blogathon

In celebration of A Shroud of Thoughts' 10th year of existence I have decided to hold a blogathon. The British Invaders Blogathon will celebrate the best in British classic films. While many people think of  Hollywood when they think of movies, the fact is that the United Kingdom has made many many significant contributions to film. From Alfred Hitchcock to Hammer Films to Tony Richardson, the cinema would be a poorer place without the British. I've then scheduled The British Invaders Blogathon for 1 August, 2 August, and 3 August 2014.

Before anything else, here are the ground rules.

1. Posts can be about any British film or any topic related to British films. For the sake of simplicity, I am using "British" here to refer to any film made by a company based in the United Kingdom. If you want to write about a film made in Northern Ireland or the Isle of Man, then, you can do so. Also for the sake of simplicity, people can write about co-productions made with companies from outside the United Kingdom. For example, since 2001: A Space Odyssey is a British-American co-production, someone could write about it if they chose.

2. There is no limit on subject matter. You can write about any film in any genre you want. Posts can be on everything from the British New Wave to the Gainsborough bodice rippers to the Hammer Horrors. I am also making no limit on the format posts can make. You could review classic British film, make an in-depth analysis of a series of British films, or even simply do a pictorial tribute to a film. That having been said, since this is a classic film blogathon,  I only ask that you write about films made before 1984. I don't know about others, but I generally think of a film as a classic only once it has been around thirty years.

3. I am asking that there please be no duplicates. That having been said, if someone has already chosen to cover From Russia with Love (1963), someone else could write about the James Bond series as a whole.

4. I am not going to schedule days for individual posts. All I ask is that the posts be made on or between 1 August, 2 August, or 3 August 2014.

If you want to participate in the British Invaders Blogathon, you can get a hold of me either on Twitter at mercurie80 or at my email:  mercurie80 at gmail.comt, or you can simply comment below. 

Below I is a roster of participants and the topics they are covering. Come 1 August I will make a post that will include all of the posts in the blogathon.

Movies Silently:  A Cottage On Dartmoor (1929)

Sister Celluloid: The Astonished Heart (1950)

The Kitty Packard Pictorial: The Beatles films

The Vintage Cameo: Summer Holiday (1963)

Girls Do Film: Doctor Zhivago (1965)

Once Upon a Screen: Frenzy (1972)

Classic Movie Hub: To Sir With Love (1967)

Prowler Needs a Jump: Victim (1961)

Random Pictures: Peeping Tom (1960)

The Hitless Wonder Movie Blog: The Four Feathers (1939)

Critica Retro: The Magic Box (1951)

Margaret Perry: Ealing Studios

The Rosebud Cinema: The Gold Diggers (1983)

Speakeasy: Hell Drivers (1957)

Paula's Cinema Club: The Secret History of MI6

portraitsbyjenni: Kes (1969)

Cary Grant Won't Eat You: The Red Shoes (1948)

Hitchcock's WorldZulu (1964) 

Amy's Rib: A Life in Film: The Horse's Mouth (1958)

Hitchcock's World: The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Barry Bradford Blog: Local Hero (1983)

Thrilling Years of Yesteryear: Went the Day Well? (1932)

Not Always Movie Reviews from James Anymore : A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

Moon in Gemini:  The royal costume dramas of the Sixties

The Girl with the White Parasol: The Queen of Spades (1949)

Le Mot du Cinephiliaque:  if.... (1968)

Silver Scenes: The Chalk Garden (1964) and The Admirable Crichton (1957)

The Movie Rat: Time Bandits (1981)

filmscreed: Catch Us If You Can (1965)

Cinema Sentries: Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)

Below are several banners for participants in the blogathon to use:










Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A Shroud Of Thoughts' 10th Anniversary

Today is the 10th anniversary of A Shroud of Thoughts. It was on 4 June 2004 that I published "The Famous First Post". At the time I had no idea that A Shroud of Thoughts would last so long. At the same time I had no idea that in some ways the blog would become my life's work. I have actually been writing A Shroud of Thoughts longer than I have held most jobs!

Of course, before I commend myself too much for hitting the 10 year mark, I have to point out that there are blogs that are as old as and one that is even older than A Shroud of Thoughts. Immortal Ephemera was started as a website by Cliff Aliperti way back in 2002 and the blog dates to April 2003. It is devoted to classic films and movie collectibles and is still going strong today. Inner Toob was started by Toby O'Brien not long before I began A Shroud of Thoughts. He made his first post on the blog on 24 April 2004. Inner Toob is devoted to examining television as an alternate reality and is still running. The Stop Button is just a little younger than A Shroud of Thoughts and Inner Toob. Andrew Wickliffe started it on 20 February 2005. The Stop Button is devoted to film, covering everything from the Silent Era to the modern era. It too is still running. I am proud to call all of these excellent bloggers my friends and proud that all of us have kept our blogs going for so long.

Indeed, here I have to point out that it is rare a blog reaches one year in age, let alone ten. Way back in the Naughts, Perseus Development Corporation did a study on the phenomenon of blogging. They found that 66% of all blogs had not been updated in over two months and many had apparently been abandoned. About a quarter of them boasted only a single post, made on the day the blog was created. I rather suspect that things have changed very little since the Naughts, which means that Immortal Ephemera, Inner Toob, The Stop Button, and A Shroud of Thoughts are positively ancient in blog terms!

For those of you who were not online in the years 2002 to 2005, were too young to remember those years, or simply have forgotten them, blogs became something of a fad at that time. While blogs had been around since the mid-Nineties (indeed, Jorn Barger coined the term weblog in December 1997 and Peter Merholz shortened weblog to blog in the spring of 1999), it was in those years that the mainstream media really began to take notice of blogging. During those years it seemed as if everyone and his or her brother had a blog, even if it was for a short time.

In fact, I got the idea for A Shroud of Thoughts from a lady friend who had her own blog. Blogging looked like fun to me and as a result I decided to start my own blog. At that time the fashion was to give blogs titles with some variation of the word "thought" in them. For that reason I took the title for this blog from a phrase in from Lord Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage canto iii stanza 113:

I have not loved the world, nor the world me;
I have not flattered its rank breath, nor bow'd
To its idolatries a patient knee,
Nor coin'd my cheek to smiles, nor cried aloud
In worship of an echo; in the crowd
They could not deem me one of such; I stood
Among them, but not of them; in a shroud
Of thoughts which were not their thoughts, and still could,
Had I not filed my mind, which thus itself subdued.

Of course, if I had it to do all over again I would have probably given A Shroud of Thoughts a name more fitting a blog devoted to popular culture. Unfortunately, by the time I seriously considered changing the name of the blog it already had a small following. I worried it would confuse people if I changed its name, so A Shroud of Thoughts it has remained all this time.

From the beginning A Shroud of Thoughts was devoted to pop culture and nostalgia, although in the early days I would also write things of a more personal nature. Eventually I decided to stop writing personal posts almost altogether. Aside from being a rather private individual, I have to confess I think most people do not find my life terribly interesting! A Shroud of Thoughts would change in other ways over the years as well. At one time I reviewed much more recent films and television shows in the blog on a regular basis, something which has long since fallen by the wayside. I did not make a conscious decision to stop reviewing more recent films and TV shows. It is simply a case that I am much more interested in classic films and television shows and as a result posts on those topics began to dominate. Another unfortunate change in A Shroud of Thoughts has been that in the past several years I have found myself writing many more eulogies for those who have died. Sadly, it seems that the past few years the celebrities of the Golden Ages of Film and Television, as well as other media, have started dying at an accelerated rate.

Not only has A Shroud of Thoughts changed over the past ten years, but so has my own life. Since I started this blog I quit one job and took another from which I was eventually laid off after seven years due to the economy. I have twice became an uncle again as well. On a sadder note, my best friend died at an exceedingly young age in 2011. On a happier note I published a book, Television Rare & Well Done.

Of course, society and popular culture have also changed a good deal since 2004. While smartphones have been around since the Nineties they were exceedingly rare in 2004. Most people were still using ordinary mobile phones on which one can talk and text and not much else. Today smartphones are much more common. Similarly, while tablet computers have been around since the Nineties, they were far from commn in 2004. Today the sales of tablets actually outpaces that of desktop computers. Social media websites were still very much in their infancy in 2004. MySpace was less than a year old when this blog started and Friendster was a little older. Of course, today there are many more social media sites, including Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and others. Indeed, in the time A Shroud of Thoughts has existed MySpace rose to become the biggest social media site and then over years declined until it is a mere shadow of its former self.

As to what 4 June 2004 was like itself, not a terribly lot happened on that day. Perhaps the most notable thing as far as pop culture was concerned is that the film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban received its wide release in the United States. It was the third film in the wildly successful "Harry Potter" series and went onto make $796,688,549 at the box office. 4 June 2004 was also the date that the Ritchie Havens compilation album Dreaming as One: The A&M Years was released. The album was released on Mr. Havens' own Stormy Forest label and included the two albums he had recorded while at A&M Records, The End of the Beginning (1976) and Mirage (1977), along with some other material. As far as television goes, it was on 4 June 2004 that a show called Impact Wrestling debuted on  Fox Sports Net. The show later moved to  Urban America Television and later Spike TV, where it still airs.

As to what aired on the broadcast networks the night of 4 June 2014, the answer is not much of interest. In fact, I'd dare say most of the shows that aired that night have long since been forgotten. That night ABC aired George Lopez, Married to the Kellys, Hope & Faith, and 20/20. CBS aired Joan of Arcadia, JAG, and 48 Hours. Fox aired the movie Cats and Dogs on their movie anthology series Fox Night at the Movies. NBC aired Dateline NBC and Las Vegas, while UPN aired the movie American Outlaws on their movie anthology series UPN's Night at the Movies. The WB aired Reba, What I Like About You, and Grounded for Life. Notably, of the networks of the time two are no longer in existence In 2006 UPN and The WB would merge to form The CW. Only two of the shows that aired that night are still airng. Dateline NBC still airs on Friday nights, while 48 Hours moved to Saturday night the following season and has remained there since.

Beyond popular culture not much of historical importance happened on 4 June 2004. Perhaps the most bizarre news item of the day was the rampage of  a welder and an automobile muffler repair shop owner on a specially modified bulldozer in Granby, Colorado. The man had modified the bulldozer so that it was bulletproof and then proceeded to demolish Granby's City Hall, Granby's former mayor's house, and several other buildings. Fortunately, no one was killed during the rampage, although sadly the culprit killed himself with a handgun at its end.

One thing that has not changed since 2004 is that blogs are still plentiful. There are some people today who claim that blogs have decreased in their importance since the Naughts and that discussion has since moved to various social media sites. Personally I don't believe this is true. If anything there are more blogs now than ever and, if the statistics for my blog are any indication, people are still reading them. In fact, I get more hits on my blog than I ever have. What is more, that seems to be true of every blog I read. Perhaps discussion has largely moved to social media sites, but then I have to point out that most bloggers I know post links to their blog posts on social media sites where discussion about the blog posts then ensues. Quite simply, it seems to me blogs are as significant as ever, I think it is just a case that discussion has moved from the comment sections of blogs to social media sites. I rather suspect blogs will be around as long as the World Wide Web. I know I intend to continue writing A Shroud of Thoughts until I am no longer able to.

Anyhow I want to thank anyone and everyone who has ever read this blog over the years. as well as my fellow bloggers who have supported me in this endeavour. I really don't know if A Shroud of Thoughts would have survived the past ten years without them. I encourage you to visit my fellow bloggers' blogs listed on the right sidebar. You won't regret it!

Every year I publish what I feel to be my best posts of the past year (for this year I did that yesterday). It then seems fitting that since A Shroud of Thoughts has now lasted  ten years to post a list of what I think are the best posts of the past decade. I have chosen two posts for each year, counting series of posts as "one" post. Here I have to point out that some posts are missing images. Quite some time back every single image was wiped from the blog and I haven't gotten around to all of replacing them!

2004-2005
 "The Vanguard of Mars Part One" (3 September 2004)
"The Vanguard of Mars Part Two" (4 September 2004)
"The Architecture of Cinemas" (10 May 2005) 

2005-2006
 "The Rise and Fall of The Independent Television Station" (13 June 2005)
My series "The History of Heavy Metal" (the week of 5 February 2006)

2006-2007
 "The Most Successful Studio Never to Exist" (11 June 2006)
"The 70th Anniversary of the Hindenberg Disaster" (6 May 2007)

2007-2008
Superman's Pal, the Smut Monger" (29 August 2007)
"Doc Savage's 75th Anniversary" (1 March 2008)

2008-2009
Bus Stop: A Lion Walks Among Us" (14 September 2008)
My series "Spy Shows of the Sixties" (the week of 4 January 2009)

2009-2010
Mama Told Me Not to Come: The Sixties Party Scene on Film (2 Feburary 2010)
All of Your Toys: The Monkees vs. Don Kirshner" (17 April 2010)

2010-2011
"In Honour of John Lennon's 70th Birthday" (9 October 2010) 
"The Avengers Turn 50" (7 January 2011)  

2011-2012
"50 Years of The Dick Van Dyke Show" (3 October 2010)
My series on "Paramount's 100th Anniversary" (the week of 6 May 2012)

2012-2013
"Naming Names: The Rise & Fall of Confidential Magazine Part One" (19 August 2012)
"Naming Names: The Rise & Fall of Confidential Magazine Part Two" (20 August 2012)
"The Beatles and James Bond: 5 October 2012"

2013-2014
"The 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who" (23 November 2013)
"The Birth of Beatlemania in America Part One" (8 February 2014)
"The Birth of Beatlemania in America Part Two" (9 February 2014)

Again, I would like to thank everyone who has ever read this blog, as well as my fellow bloggers. As I said, without you I doubt A Shroud of Thoughts would have lasted ten years! Here's hoping that it can last another ten, at least.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Best Posts From 06/2013 to 06/2014

Every year on A Shroud of Thoughts' anniversary I publish a list of what I feel are the best posts from the past year (a "greatest hits" if you will). This year I am having to make an exception, as tomorrow is a very special anniversary and I have some very special plans for it. That having been said, I don't want to break with tradition, so I am publishing the best posts from 4 June 2013 to 4 June 2014 today. Without further ado, then, here are my favourite posts from the past year.

"The 80th Anniversary of the Drive-In Theatre" 6 June 2013

"100 Years Ago Today Red Skelton Was Born" 18 July 2013

"The 2nd Mrs. de Winter: Joan Fontaine in Rebecca" 6 August 2013

"Five Films Worth a Second Look" 19 August 2013

"The 100th Birthday of Walt Kelly" 23 August 2013

The first part of  my series on "The American Rural Comedies of The Sixties" The Week of 15 September

The last part of my series on "The American Rural Comedies of The Sixties" The Week of 22 September 2013

"Filmed by Four Star: An Overview of Four Star Productions" 12 October 2013

"Author Lyndsy Spence and The Famous Mitford Girls" 15 October 2013

The Week of "Teenage Death Songs: Someone's Going to Make You Pay Your Fare" and my two part article "Creating Monsters: Pre-Code Horror Films" The Week of 27 October 2013

"The 100th Birthday of Hedy Lamarr, Or Perhaps the 99th or the 98th" 9 November 2013

"The JFK Assassination's Impact on American TV & Film" 22 November 2013

"The 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who" 23 November 2013

"The Late Great Joan Fontaine: More Than The 2nd Mrs.de Winter" 15 December 2013

"The Golden Age of Christmas Songs" 23 December 2013

"The 50th Anniversary of Dr. Strangelove" 29 January 2014

"The Birth of Beatlemania in America Part One" 8 February 2014

"The Birth of Beatlemania in America Part Two" 9 February 2014

"The 120th Birthday of Jack Benny" 14 February 2014

"Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet (1944)" 17 March 2013

"The Big Valley Starring Barbara Stanwyck" 21 March 2013

The Week of my series "Batman Turns 75" and "The 100th Birthday of Sir Alec Guinness" The Week of 30 March 

"The Ten Highest Rated Television Shows Ever Cancelled Part One" 10 April 2013

"The Ten Highest Rated Television Shows Ever Cancelled Part Two" 11 April 2013

"Turner Classic Movies Turns 20" 14 April 2014

"The Evil of Victor Frankenstein in Hammer Films" 24 April 2014

"Tyrone Power's 100th Birthday" 5 May 2014

"Goldfinger: When James Bond Movies Truly Became JAMES BOND Movies"  1 June 2014

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Goldfinger: When James Bond Movies Truly Became JAMES BOND Movies

One would be hard pressed to find a more successful film franchise than the James Bond films. The first film in the series, Dr. No, was released in 1962. Over fifty years later the Bond series is still going strong, with the 23rd film in the series, Skyfall, having been released in 2012. Not only has the Bond series been phenomenally successful, but it has had a lasting impact on Anglo-American pop culture. Indeed, in the Sixties Dr. No helped bring a spy craze to the United States that had begun in the United Kingdom with shows such as The Avengers and Danger Man. The spy craze would not only lead to more films featuring 007, but a plethora of spy films, including entire series of movies featuring such spies as Harry Palmer (Michael Caine), Derek Flint (James Coburn), and Matt Helm (Dean Martin).

Of course, it was the Bond series that set the pace for many of the spy films that were released throughout the Sixties. Today when people think of the Bond movies they think of beautiful women, its gun barrel opening, its pre-credit sequences, over the top plots by truly nefarious villains, high tech gadgets, and themes songs sung by popular artists that play over highly stylised credit sequences (often centred on the female figure). As hard it is to believe given how strongly linked as these elements are to James Bond, many of these elements were either not present in or did not figure prominently in the first two Bond movies, Dr. No (1962) and From Russia with Love (1963). Quite simply, it was with Goldfinger that Bond Movies truly became James Bond movies.

As might be expected many of the elements we today associate with the Bond movies were present from the very first movie. Chief among these are beautiful women. No less than three beauties figure prominently in Dr. No: Ursula Andress (who played what remains many people's favourite Bond Girl, Honey Ryder), Eunice Gayson (who played Bond's London girl friend, Syliva Trench), and, of course, Lois Maxwell (who played Miss Moneypenny).  Dr. No also features the very first gun barrel opening (with stunt man Bob Simmons standing in for Sean Connery). The plot of Dr. No is also truly, well, Bondian and its villain truly nefarious. Quite simply Dr. No (played by Joseph Wiseman) is disrupting rocket launches from Cape Canaveral. Dr. No also featured a highly stylised credit sequence in which the feminine form figured prominently. That having been said, Dr. No had very little in the way of high tech gadgets and it lacked a theme song sung by a popular singer (it is Monty Norman's  "James Bond Theme" that plays over the opening credits).

From Russia with Love would continue the precedent set by Dr. No of featuring beautiful women (in this case Daniela Bianchi as Tatiana Romanova). And if anything its credit sequence was even more stylised and even more centred on the feminine form than the credit sequence of Dr. No. That having been said, while From Russia with Love features some very nefarious villains (namely, Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb), it's plot is not quite as over the top as those of other Bond films. (SPECTRE wants to steal a cryptographic device from the Soviets). While From Russia with Love does feature a theme song sung by a popular singer ("From Russia with Love" sung by Matt Monro), it is not played over the opening credits.

This is not to say that From Russia with Love would not introduce some of the better known elements associated with the Bond series. From Russia with Love is the first movie in the series to have a pre-credit sequence (I won't spoil it here, as it is also one of the best pre-credit sequences). From Russia with Love would also be the first Bond film in which gadgets have a significant role. Indeed, it is the very first film to feature Desmond Llewelyn as the head of "Q" Branch. Here it must be pointed out that while From Russia with Love is the first Bond film in which gadgets feature prominently, the gadgets in the film are a bit more humble than those in later 007 movies. Among the gadgets in From Russia with Love are 007's pager (it might not sound terribly high tech today, but one must consider that the Bell System had just introduced them in 1962), a tape recorder disguised as a camera, and a device for detecting electronic bugs.

In the end people familiar with later Bond films might be surprised by the ways in which Dr. No and From Russia with Love differ from later Bond movies. While the two films feature many of the elements familiar from the later Bond films, they also lack many of the elements audiences would come to take for granted in films in the series. This is not the case with Goldfinger. For the first time all of the elements viewers associate with Bond movies are in place. While Dr. No and From Russia with Love are recognisably Bond movies, of the early films its is Goldfinger that sums up the series for many.

Indeed, if anything Goldfinger built upon the elements introduced in the first two movies. With regards to beautiful women, the film starred Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet, and Honor Blackman (fresh from her stint as Cathy Gale on The Avengers) playing a character with the rather unlikely name of Pussy Galore. Goldfinger also featured one of the more notable pre-credit sequences, with James Bond single handedly infiltrating and taking out a drug factory. It was with its plot (truly Bondian in scope) and its villain, however, that Goldfinger truly expanded upon elements introduced in Dr. No. Auric Goldfinger (played by Gert Fröbe) was arguably one of the greatest villains in the history of the Bond franchise, if not the greatest. It is not enough that Goldfinger has one single abiding obsession in his life (namely, gold) and is willing to get his hands on more. Goldfinger is also ruthless and extremely sadistic, to the point that one has to wonder what he loves more, gold or causing people pain. He also has some wit and a rather warped sense of humour. Indeed, Goldfinger might have the greatest line in any Bond movie, "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!" As to his plot, well, one can't get much more Bondian than detonating a nuclear weapon inside Fort Knox.

While gadgets were introduced into the Bond franchise with From Russia with Love, Goldfinger took Bond's gadgets to a whole other level. Indeed, in the pre-credit sequence alone James Bond uses a diving mask cleverly disguised as a seagull and a grappling gun. Later we see Q's laboratory for the very first time in the series' history. In Q's lab we see a parking meter that dispenses tear gas, a Thermos flask with a grenade hidden in its base, and a bullet proof vest. Bond himself uses several gadgets in the film. Perhaps the most humble are homing devices (one of which he keeps hidden in his razor).  Perhaps the most notable is the Aston Martin DB5 (introduced in this film), although I guess it is debatable if it is one big gadget or a platform for several smaller gadgets. The Aston Martin has revolving number plates, with individual plates for the United Kingdom, France, and Switzerland. It also has a dashboard capable of tracking homing devices. Among the Aston Martin's other devices are hidden machine guns, an oil slick dispenser, an ejector seat, and bullet proof screens. Of course, Bond isn't the only person with gadgets in Goldfinger, as Auric Goldfinger has his share as well. The most notable of these is his famous laser table, but then he also has a trick billiards table, nerve gas, and, of course, an atomic bomb.

Goldfinger also took the credits sequence to a whole new level. Designed by Robert Brownjohn, the credit sequence featured clips of 007, Goldfinger, and so on projected upon the body of glamour model Margaret Nolan coated in gold. As remarkable as the credit sequence was, however, the true innovation of Goldfinger was that for the first time a theme song sung by a popular singer played over the credits. "Goldfinger" was written by John Barry, Leslie Bricusse, and Anthony Newley and performed by Dame Shirley Bassey. At that point in her career Dame Shirley Bassey was already an established singing star, having had hits with  "As Long As He Needs Me",  "What Now My Love", and "I (Who Have Nothing)", among other songs. Not surprisingly, "Goldfinger" provided her with another hit. It went to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, #21 on the British singles chart, and did very well throughout Europe. Over the years several theme songs to Bond movies have become hits on both sides of the Pond.

Goldfinger debuted in London on 17 September 1964 and was released in the United States on 25 December 1964. The movie proved phenomenally successful, even more so than Dr. No or From Russia with Love. In the United States alone it grossed $124,900,000. It was also the highest grossing film in the United States for 1964, beating out such heavyweights as Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady. Eon Productions can then hardly be blamed if they looked to Goldfinger as the blueprint for the majority of Bond movies to come. Indeed, if anything its immediate successor, Thunderball, upped the ante when it came to gadgets and larger than life plots.

It was with Goldfinger that all of the elements identified with the Bond series fell into place. Goldfinger featured beautiful women, the gun barrel sequence, a pre-credit sequence, a diabolical villain with a bigger than life plot, gadgets galore, and a theme song sung by a popular artist set against a highly stylised credits sequence. Goldfinger was not the first James Bond movie. Arguably it is not even the greatest Bond movie ever made. That having been said, Goldfinger was the film that largely set the pace for most Bond movies to come. It was arguably the point where James Bond movies truly became James Bond movies.