Bond fans all over the world were saddened to learn of the death of Guy Hamilton on April 21st 2016. Hamilton directed 4 Bond films including the iconic Goldfinger (1964) along with Diamonds are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).
“In a statement, Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson told Variety: “We mourn the loss of our dear friend Guy Hamilton who firmly distilled the Bond formula in his much celebrated direction of ‘Goldfinger’ and continued to entertain audiences with ‘Diamonds Are Forever,’ ‘Live and Let Die’ and ‘The Man with the Golden Gun.’ We celebrate his enormous contribution to the Bond films.”
While the two previous Bond films directed by Terence Young established some of the cinematic Bond’s cultural staples, it was Hamilton’s Goldfinger that propelled the cinematic franchise to new heights. It recouped its $3 Million budget in just two weeks and became the highest grossing film of 1964. Among many elements, Goldfinger was the first film to deploy the use of a pre-titles sequence unrelated to the main plot of the film as well as introducing a lyrical theme song sung over the credits sequence to set the tone of the rest of the film. The film was also the first to feature Bond driving a gadget laden vehicle, the Aston Martin DB 5 along with a more extensive use of gadgets. It also became the first Bond film to win an Academy Award.
Talking to the Director’s Guild of America, he spoke about his use of comedy in the Bond films he directed.
“The great thing is, leave your brains under the seat and we’ll go for a great, big ride,” he said.
Hamilton joined the Royal Navy during World War II where he served in a British military intelligence unit, which is something he had in common with Bond creator and novelist Ian Fleming who had been a Commander in the British Naval Intelligence Division. In a real life story fit for a Bond film, Hamilton’s unit was responsible for rescuing British officers caught in France during the Nazi Occupation. At one point Hamilton missed a crucial rendezvous and was forced to stay behind enemy lines in Brittany. Hamilton managed to survive with assistance from the French Resistance
Hamilton also went on to direct two non-Bond films for Harry Saltzman, Funeral in Berlin (1966) featuring Michael Caine as Len Deighton’s Harry Palmer as well as Battle of Britain (1969). Michael Caine is reported to have said that Guy Hamilton would make improvisations on the set using his previous experience in British Naval intelligence as a guide.
Hamilton returned to helm 3 additional Bond films in the 1970s notably introducing Roger Moore as Bond in Live and Let Die (1973). He was always a proponent for making the Bond films bigger and more glamorous once saying, “In the making of Bond films we are some of the meanest toughest film makers. If we spend a million dollars it had better be up there on the screen.”
Upon learning of Hamilton’s death, Roger Moore tweeted the following statement:
“Incredibly, incredibly saddened to hear the wonderful director Guy Hamilton has gone to the great cutting room in the sky. 2016 is horrid.”
Indeed, 2016 has been a very difficult year for Bond fans with the recent death of Ken Adam and most recently Ian Fleming’s literary agent Peter Janson-Smith. Bond fans will always appreciate the contributions of these individuals. Guy Hamilton was part of the first generation of Bond contributors who left an enduring legacy behind. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.
article by Jack Lugo
Today it’s easy to overlook the significance of “Live and Let Die,” but after the Lazenby experience there was no guarantee that a Bond film without Connery could be a box-office smash. You can bet the studio and the producers were sweating bullets right up til the movie’s premiere. The success of “LALD” guaranteed that Bond would be in theaters for decades to come, and that success was due in large part to Hamilton, of course.
Great article, Jack. Can’t believe how brutal 2016 has been so far!
Brilliant, Jack. Yes, R.I.P. a great film director who earned the respect of even Hitchcock for just one scene (the machine-gun-toting old lady in Goldfinger). A huge contributor to the Bond film series and director of my personal favourite Harry Palmer film, Funeral in Berlin. I always enjoyed listening to him talking about his films -great audio commentaries on the Goldfinger and Live & Let Die DVDs.