No, Goldfinger, You Can’t Kill Someone by Painting a Body With Gold

But surely you don’t expect us to talk about it

Photograph by Loomis Dean, © Christopher Dean / Life Logo and Cover Treatment © Time, Inc.

Though only a brief scene, the 14-karat demise of “Bond Girl” Shirley Eaton remains Goldfinger’s most iconic image. “She died of skin suffocation,” 007 tells M. “It’s been known to happen to cabaret dancers. It’s all right so long as you leave a small bare patch at the base of the spine to allow the skin to breathe.”

James Bond was a much better agent than a scientist. We breathe through our noses and mouths, not our skin (though clogging the pores for an extended period can cause heatstroke). The filmmakers, however, believed author Ian Fleming’s death-by-gold scenario was a genuine risk and took precautions. A physician was present during filming, and afterward the makeup was removed as quickly as possible. “It took an hour, with a lot of help and scrubbing from the makeup artist and wardrobe mistress,” Eaton told us recently by e-mail.

Eaton, 77, plans to publish a new book about her life and career, Under My Skin, to coincide with Goldfinger’s golden anniversary this year. Her experience with the body paint hasn’t affected her fondness for gold. “I wear it often,” she says. “I have always liked gold as a metal for its warmth.”

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