26 January 2014

Shirley Eaton

Stunning Shirley Eaton (1937) played a cockney bombshell in British films throughout the 1950s and 1960s. She became famous as golden girl Jill Masterson in the third 007 adventure Goldfinger (1964). Five years later, Eaton retired.

Shirley Eaton
Italian postcard. Photo: MGM. Publicity still for Around the World Under the Sea (1966).

Carry On

Shirley Jean Eaton was born in Edgware, Middlesex, in 1937. She grew up in the suburb of Harrow Weald, where she attended Roe Green Junior School on Princes Avenue. Eaton won a place at the Aida Foster School, a specialist drama school, and remained there until she was sixteen.

Her stage debut was at age 12 in Set to Partners (1949) and following it up the following year with Benjamin Britten's Let's Make an Opera!

In 1954 she debuted at the West End in Going to Town. All through the fifties she was a singing star both on the stage and on Television. She had her own act in Variety shows all over the country and starred at The Prince of Wales Theatre in London in her own solo singing act.

Throughout her career, she worked with top British male comedy stars from the period including Jimmy Edwards, Max Bygraves, Bob Monkhouse and Arthur Askey. Her female co-stars included Peggy Mount, Thora Hird and Dora Bryan.

From 1953 on, she also appeared in the cinema. Her debut was a bit part in the comedy-drama A Day to Remember (Ralph Thomas, 1953) starring Stanley Holloway.

She had a supporting part in the comedy Doctor in the House (Ralph Thomas, 1954), about a group of medical students including Dirk Bogarde and Kenneth More. In Great Britain, Doctor in the House was the most popular film at the box office of 1954, and its success spawned six sequels, and the television series Doctor in the House.

Other early film roles include Three Men In A Boat (Ken Annakin, 1956) opposite Laurence Harvey, and Date with Disaster (Charles Saunders, 1957), in which she co-starred with Tom Drake. Eaton participated in the British heat of the 1957 Eurovision Song Contest.

She also sang and danced with the Crazy Gang in Life Is a Circus (Val Guest, 1958). That year, she also co-starred with William Hartnell and Bob Monkhouse in the comedy Carry On Sergeant (Gerald Thomas, 1958) - the first in the series of Carry On films, with 31 entries.

Carry On Sergeant had not been conceived as the start of a series, but after the film's surprising success producer Peter Rogers and director Gerald Thomas set about planning a further project. Eaton returned as a nurse in Carry On Nurse (Gerald Thomas, 1959) which was the year’s top grossing film in the UK, and after this success the Carry On series of films evolved. In 1960, Eaton returned one more time in the series, in Carry on Constable (Gerald Thomas, 1960).

Shirley Eaton
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 1085. Retail price: 0,20 DM. Photo: J. Arthur Rank / Progress.


Shirley Eaton co-starred with popular pulp novelist Mickey Spillane in the crime film The Girl Hunters (Roy Rowland, 1963). Spillane played his own literary creation, private detective Mike Hammer and Eaton was a seductive femme fatale.

Between 1962 and 1968, she also made three episodes of the spy thriller TV series The Saint, starring Roger Moore as the suave and sophisticated Simon Templar.

Eaton achieved most recognition for her short performance in Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964), the third film in the James Bond series starring Sean Connery. As the gold-painted Jill Masterson, Eaton even gained more recognition than Honor Blackman, who played the main Bond Girl, Pussy Galore.

Eaton graced the cover of Life Magazine of 6 November 1964 in her gold-painted persona. Her character's death, being painted head to toe in gold paint and suffering ‘skin suffocation’ led to an urban myth that Eaton had died during filming. She appeared in a 2003 episode of the series MythBusters to dispel the rumour.

Goldfinger was the first Bond film to win an Academy Award and was a financial success, recouping its budget in just two weeks.

After Goldfinger, Eaton made only a few more films, including a version of the Agatha Christie mystery Ten Little Indians (George Pollock, 1965) co-starring Hugh O'Brian, the science fiction film Around the World Under the Sea (Andrew Marton, 1966) starring Lloyd Bridges, and the spy story The Million Eyes of Sumuru (Lindsay Shonteff, 1967).

Eaton played the beautiful but evil Sumuru, who plans world domination by having her sexy all-female army eliminate male leaders and replace them with her female agents. She reprised her role in Jesus Franco's The Girl from Rio/The Seven Secrets of Sumuru (1970).

Then she retired to spend more time with her family. Eaton was married to Colin Lenton Rowe from 1957 until his death in 1994. The couple had two children. In 1999, Shirley Eaton published an autobiography titled Golden Girl. Her new art/autobiography book Under My Skin will be published Spring of 2014 and she is publishing an art calendar for 2014 with her own photography.

Trailer Carry On Nurse (Gerald Thomas, 1959). Source: UmbrellaEntAU (YouTube).

Trailer Around the World Under the Sea (Andrew Marton, 1966). Source: WarnerArchive (YouTube).

Sources: Gary Brumburgh (IMDb), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

1 comment:

Bunched Undies said...

I always wondered about her. She unforgettable in gold.