Then & now Eunice Gayson, Bond Girl
SCENE: LE CERCLE casino in London. A card game is underway, and a mysterious gentleman is dominating the table. A glamorous young lady in a red dress, unwilling to fold, asks the house to cover her for an extra £1,000. “I admire your courage, Miss . . .?” says the young man.
“Trench. Sylvia Trench,” says the young lady. “And I admire your luck, Mr . . .?” “Bond. James Bond.” Thus, in 1962, the world was introduced to Agent 007, cultural icon and the most successful franchise in British cinema history. It was the opening sequence in Dr No, with Sean Connery playing the dashing MI6 spy. Bond was never without his trusty Walther PPK, his Aston Martin, and a beautiful girl on his arm. We can all name a few Bond girls – Britt Ekland, Halle Berry, Jane Seymour, Maud Adams – but who was that first-ever Bond girl? Not Ursula Andress – her memorable scene was a little later in Dr No. That distinction went to Eunice Gayson, who played Sylvia Trench in both Dr No and its follow-up, From Russia with Love. There’s another first – a girl lasting more than one film with Bond.
But the girl born Eunice Sargaison wasn’t supposed to be playing a glamorous girlfriend of 007. She was originally considered for the recurring role of the perennially lovesick Miss Moneypenny, but she was committed to performing in The Sound of Music in the West End, so she had to turn it down. The filmmakers wrote the part of Sylvia Trench for her instead.
It was a huge break for the singer/dancer/actress from Surrey – her biggest roles to date had been in a film with The Goons and in the Hammer horror b-movie The Revenge of Frankenstein. Although being a Bond girl landed her parts in such secret agent TV series as The Saint (starring future Bond Roger Moore), The Avengers and Danger Man, she never lit up cinema screens again.
But this month, Gayson, now in her 80s and twice divorced, has been called back for another Bond mission on the 50th anniversary of the world’s most famous spy. As part of a week-long tour to launch Bond 50 Blu-Ray, a box set of all 22 Bond films to date, Gayson travelled from Eilean Donan Castle in the Scottish Highlands (where part of The World is Not Enough was shot) in Bond’s Aston Martin QBS (featured in Quantum of Solace) with a golden briefcase containing the first copy of the box set.
Gayson’s autobiography, The First Lady of Bond, is published in October.