Did Prince Philip Save the James Bond Franchise?
Prince Philip, who died Friday at age 99, may have played a crucial role in helping James Bond producers get their most suggestive character name past American censors the MPAA.
The name, of course, was Pussy Galore, played by Honor Blackman opposite Sean Connery in 1964’s Goldfinger.
As Filmstories notes, Galore's character was taken straight out of Ian Fleming’s 1959 novel; but Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman already knew it would be a tall order to earn approval in the States, where censors were then much more prudish than in the U.K. In fact, they’d considered a change to "Kitty Galore" before going ahead with the original name, meaning that a late-stage censorship demand could have been expensive.
The story goes that reporters were offered the chance to snap pictures of Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and husband of British monarch Queen Elizabeth II, with Blackman at a London event in February 1964. The idea of a Bond girl with Royalty was a no-brainer for editors of the era (and probably still is), so they readily agreed to the strict condition that the photo had to be captioned “The Prince and the Pussy” or “The Pussy and the Prince.” When Broccoli presented the resulting clippings to the MPAA, the implication would be clear that Pussy Galore couldn’t be too rude, otherwise the Queen’s consort would have had nothing to do with it…right?
Well, maybe. While it’s almost impossible that the prince was a knowing partner in a 007-style ploy, American attitudes to British royalty were certainly exploited to get the movie onto U.S. screens. Pictures of the pair together at a movie premiere exist — she's seen as one guest in the usual kind of Royal line of honor setup — but it’s more difficult to track down the alleged headline. Examples like “Honor’s Judo Mix-Up” and “Cover Girl Cathy” can certainly be found — the former relating to the story that Blackman thought Philip was asking about her martial arts training during their brief exchange, the latter to her previous role as Cathy Gale in British TV spy adventure show The Avengers. Nevertheless, the phrase “Pussy Galore” appeared in an article that also name-checked the prince.
“By the time therefore it came time for Goldfinger to go before the American censors, there wasn’t actually much left to censor,” Filmstories reported. “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.”
Director Guy Hamilton suggested they’d taken another approach with the MPAA. At the time it was headed up by one Geoffrey Shurlock, who believed that “the screen should never be used to make what is basically wrong appear to be right” and that “the Ten Commandants are as applicable in the field of the imagination as they are in real life.” Hamilton reportedly recalled: “[W]e conned Shurlock 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.”
Regardless, Blackman was proud of the groundbreaking work she’d done on-screen. “Until that moment there were really only two types of women,” she once said. “There was the dyed blonde in black bra and stockings that the men were unfaithful to their wives with. Or there was the little wife who stayed at home and washed the dishes.” She was quite happy to help promote her Bond character’s name.
“When I was in the USA I discovered they were all so po-faced,” she added. “They were so puritanical. I would always pipe up, ‘Oh, you mean Pussy Galore?’ Later the Americans saw a picture on the front page of an English newspaper with me talking to Prince Philip and the headline read, ‘The Prince and the Pussy.’ They were taken aback but they took that as permission that it was a decent film and decent character otherwise Prince Philip wouldn’t be talking to me.”
However it spun out, Goldfinger’s producers got their print approved; the publicists got their headlines; the editors had their fun and “The Prince and The Pussy” became a piece of Bond legend. Goldfinger went on to make over $50 million in the U.S., and Philip was credited in some circles with having saved the franchise. And with Philip, Blackman and Connery all gone, maybe sleeping dogs should be allowed to lie — no matter how much of it was a lie.
Philip’s connection with Bond continued throughout his life; he and the Queen regularly attended the franchise premieres; and Blackman, too, remained involved, happy to attend fan conventions and discuss working with Connery, whom she called “the sexiest man I’ve ever met.” Another Bond girl, Joanna Lumley (from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) asserted that Philip himself could have played 007: “I think he’s just an extraordinary character — he rides, sails, drives horses, fishes, swims,” she once said. “He really could have been Bond. He was a naval commander, as well — Commander Bond.”
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