A Classic Bond Movie Was Banned In Israel Over Its Star’s Nazi Past – Then A Jewish Man Came Forward

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Goldfinger – one of the most popular movies in the James Bond franchise – first hit cinemas way back in September 1964. But 007 fans in Israel had to wait a little longer to enjoy watching its thrilling plot unfold. Indeed, the movie was briefly banned there after the Nazi past of a major cast member came to light.

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In fact, Israel refused to screen any films featuring this particular actor at all due to his eight-year membership in the Nazi party. However, things aren’t always as they seem. And the country lifted its ban after news emerged that the actor in question was in fact something of a war hero.

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Following the success of Dr. No and From Russia with Love, producers chose to adapt Goldfinger for the third entry in the James Bond franchise. Aimed specifically at the U.S. market, the movie enjoyed the budget of the previous two 007 entries combined. And Ian Fleming’s director friend Guy Hamilton was tasked with bringing the story to life.

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The movie begins with hero James Bond bringing down a Latin American drugs factory. While enjoying a well-earned vacation in Miami, he’s instructed to spy on a fellow hotel guest, Auric Goldfinger. Bond first meets this bullion dealer when he blackmails him into losing at cards. Unsurprisingly, things soon escalate.

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Taking revenge, Goldfinger asks his manservant Oddjob to knock Bond unconscious. When he wakes up, the secret agent discovers that his latest notch on the bedpost, Goldfinger employee Jill Masterson, has been killed in a rather gruesome manner. Indeed, Jill suffocated after being covered from head to toe in gold paint.

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Bond is later informed by superior M and the Bank of England’s governor about the varying price of gold across the world. He’s then given the mission of discovering how Goldfinger has managed to become so successful. Driving his famous Aston Martin, Bond heads to a country club to play a round of golf with his new nemesis, and the game inevitably turns ugly.

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Indeed, while competing for a recovered bar of Nazi gold, Bond is warned by Goldfinger to mind his own business. Unsurprisingly, the secret agent takes little notice and soon follows the bullion dealer to Switzerland. But he’s not the only one on his trail. Jill’s sister Tilly is also on the warpath and unsuccessfully attempts to assassinate him.

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Bond then discovers Goldfinger’s rather ingenious smuggling method when he breaks into his plant. The villain simply melts down the gold in his possession and integrates it into his beloved Rolls Royce’s bodywork. Unfortunately, just as Bond is about to leave, he inadvertently ends up getting another Masterson sister killed.

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Indeed, Bond accidentally sets off an alarm after running into Tilly during her failed assassination attempt. Alerted to their presence, Oddjob arrives on the scene and uses his weaponized steel-rimmed Derby hat to kill Tilly. But as usual, instead of being killed straight away, Bond is given an opportunity to escape.

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Goldfinger and his minions tie Bond to a cutting table that just happens to be under a lethal industrial laser. But just before the machine slices him in half, the Brit reveals that MI6 is aware of the villain’s impending Operation Grand Slam. This lie saves his life as Goldfinger realizes he can now trick MI6 into a false sense of security.

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Audiences then meet the iconic Pussy Galore for the first time as she flies Bond to Kentucky in Goldfinger’s own personal jet. The secret agent briefly manages to escape her clutches in time to eavesdrop on a meeting between her boss and the U.S. mafia. Here, Goldfinger reveals his dastardly plan for Operation Grand Slam – use the nerve gas known as Delta 9 to help break into Fort Knox, where most of America’s gold reserves are stored.

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The American mafiosi then feel the deadly effects of the nerve gas when Goldfinger uses it to kill them all. A recaptured Bond then explains to the chief villain that his gold-smuggling plan is flawed as he will simply run out of time. However, it turns out that Goldfinger actually has no intention of smuggling any gold.

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Instead, Goldfinger plans to make the Fort Knox’s stash of gold entirely useless by setting off a radioactive bomb inside the vault where it’s stored. This will, of course, significantly boost his own stash’s value and benefit China in the resulting financial meltdown that follows. We then see Goldfinger and his motley crew put the plan into action.

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Firstly, Fort Knox’s army comes under attack from the gas sprayed by Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus. After breaking into the compound, Goldfinger’s very own army manage to break into the vault just in time for their boss’ arrival. Bond is then handcuffed to the atomic bomb by Goldfinger’s minion Kisch. But, of course, the secret agent has planned for such an event.

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Yes, it turns out that Pussy Galore is actually a goodie after all, and the gas she used to “knock out” the Fort Knox personnel is entirely harmless. Having been previously warned of Goldfinger’s plan, the troops then get back on their feet and take care of his villainous crew. Aware that his plot is now completely crumbling around him, Goldfinger manages to flee the vault, but not before trapping everyone else inside it.

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Oddjob then adds Kisch to his list of victims before setting his sights on Bond. Thankfully, after freeing himself using Kisch’s handcuff keys, Bond electrocutes the persistent Oddjob and also dispatches the rest of Goldfinger’s army. His attempts to disarm the bomb aren’t as successful but luckily the Fort Knox troops arrive just in time to save the day. They stop the timer with just seconds left to spare – naturally, the counter halts reading 0.07.

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Of course, the drama doesn’t end there. On his way to a White House lunch with the President, Bond is surprised by a vengeful Goldfinger mid-air and a fight to the death ensues. After the plane’s window is shot out, Goldfinger is blown through it and falls to his death. Thankfully, Bond and Galore manage to parachute their way out to safety before the plane plummets into the sea.

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Unsurprisingly, Goldfinger proved to be a massive hit with both viewers and critics alike. In fact, one particular New York City cinema opted to stay open 24/7 to meet audience demand. The movie became the fastest-grossing in Hollywood history on its 1964 release and took in a remarkable worldwide total of nearly $125 million.

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Goldfinger was also the first film in the 007 franchise to pick up an Oscar when Norman Wanstall won the Best Sound Effects Editing category. Composer John Barry and Art Director Ken Adam were also recognized at the Grammys and BAFTAs, respectively. And the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes rating stands at an impressive 97 percent.

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Alongside leading man Sean Connery, Goldfinger welcomed back several familiar faces to the popular James Bond franchise. Desmond Llewelyn reprised his role as the head of the Q Branch simply known as Q. And Bernard Lee returned as the British Secret Service’s boss also known by just a single letter – M.

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But several new faces also joined the 007 fold for its third chapter. Honor Blackman took on the glamorous Bond Girl role of Pussy Galore. Shirley Eaton and Tania Mallet played ill-fated sisters Jill and Tilly Masterson, respectively. And Harold Sakata very nearly stole the show as Goldfinger’s sidekick Oddjob.

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However, the man who made the biggest impression in the film, for better and for worse, was undoubtedly Gert Fröbe. The German actor wasn’t actually the first choice to play the villainous Goldfinger. Orson Welles was in contention before he ruled himself out by asking for too much money. And Theodore Bikel unsuccessfully auditioned for the part, too.

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Producers took a chance on Fröbe after he impressed them with his turn as a child abuser in Es Geschah am Hellichten Tag. But his casting caused its fair share of problems. The German couldn’t speak much English and was therefore forced to speak his dialogue phonetically. However, his speech pattern was initially deemed too slow and he was later redubbed by Michael Collins.

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Fröbe’s casting also created a major issue when it came to releasing the film in Israel. Indeed, officials in the Middle East nation decided to ban Goldfinger altogether after the German actor’s political past came to light. For Fröbe had spent eight years as a member of the Nazi Party.

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However things weren’t as they first seemed. Fröbe decided to join the Nazi party as a 16-year-old with the intention of helping to “bring a solution.” Of course, the German struggled to achieve his valiant, if slightly naïve, goal. And he ended up leaving the movement two years before the start of World War II.

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During the Third Reich’s years in power, Fröbe worked as a stage actor until September 1944, when the Nazis shut down German theatres. Fröbe, who’d previously trained under Paul Guenther and Erich Ponto, was no stranger to performing. He’d showcased his talents as a cabaret performer and violinist.

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Fröbe was then forced to serve in the Nazi armed forces known as the Wehrmacht. He subsequently spent what would prove to be the final year of World War II fighting against the Allies. But alongside his time serving in such a horrific regime, there’s also a heroic side to Fröbe’s military experiences.

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Indeed, despite previously being a member of the Nazi party, Fröbe essentially saved the lives of two German Jewish citizens when he helped the pair hide from the secret police force known as the Gestapo. However, it was this story that later got him into trouble nearly two decades later.

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During a newspaper interview to promote Goldfinger, Fröbe admitted to his troubling past. He said, “During the Third Reich, I had the luck to be able to help two Jewish people, although I was a member of the Nazi party.” But the Daily Mail reporter he spoke to omitted the first half of the sentence in their story and misquoted the second half.

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Unsurprisingly, Fröbe’s apparent boast of “Naturally I was a Nazi,” didn’t go down too well with Israeli officials. And as a result, the country decided to ban Goldfinger from all cinemas. Thankfully for both Fröbe and the James Bond team, a key man from his past came to the rescue.

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Rather incredibly, one of the two individuals whose lives were saved by Fröbe came forward to clarify the matter. Mario Blumenau visited Vienna’s Israeli Embassy where he told officials that he wouldn’t be around if Fröbe hadn’t protected him from the Gestapo. Blumenau also revealed that his mother was the other Jewish German who Fröbe had protected.

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Blumenau’s embassy visit saw the Israelis lift their ban on Goldfinger and, indeed, the entirety of Fröbe’s filmography. This included his post-war movies Berline Ballade (aka The Ballad of Berlin) and Es geschah am hellichten Tag (aka It Happened in Broad Daylight). Thankfully, Fröbe managed to put the controversy behind him and continue with his movie career.

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Fröbe went on to star in ensemble comedy Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines in 1965. That same year he played a Dutch captain in pirate tale A High Wind in Jamaica. And in 1966 he appeared in two films which, considering his very recent troubles, could have been deemed very risky choices.

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Remarkably, Fröbe portrayed Hitler’s real-life French commander Gen. Dietrich von Sholititz in Is Paris Burning? And shortly after, he appeared in Triple Cross, a film about an MI5 double agent who goes undercover as a spy for the Nazis. Perhaps wisely, these two movies would be the last time that Fröbe would appear in WWII-inspired material in his English-language career.

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Instead, Fröbe took on more varied roles including the titular Russian mystic in I Killed Rasputin and Professor von Bulow in sci-fi comedy Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon. He also showed up as the tyrannical Baron Bomburst in family favorite Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. And he rounded off the 1960s with a role in rally adventure Monte Carlo or Bust.

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Fröbe appeared in more than a dozen films during the 1970s including Ludwig, And Then There Were None and Bloodline. In the 1980s he became a regular in a series of commercials for the Mercedes Benz W123. His final screen performance came as Detective Gurrmeyer in the German-Canadian children’s TV series, The Little Vampire.

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Sadly, Fröbe suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 75 in September 1988. His death came just 24 hours after he returned to the theatre world having undergone surgery for cancer in 1986. He was laid to rest at the Waldfriedhof cemetery in Icking, Bavaria in south-east Germany.

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Of course, despite his vast and varied filmography, Fröbe will always be remembered for his iconic turn as Auric Goldfinger. But the actor was keen to point out that he shared no similarities with the character in real life. The Independent quotes him as saying, “The ridiculous thing is that since I played Goldfinger in the James Bond film there are some people who still insist on seeing me as a cold, ruthless villain, a man without laughs.”

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What you may not know is that Fröbe’s career-defining character was actually inspired by two real-life figures. The Bond villain was reportedly named after Erno Goldfinger, an architect who lived near Ian Fleming. And his dastardly personality was apparently influenced by Charles W. Engelhard, Jr., a magnate in the gold mining industry.

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