Along with their voluptuous curves and feminine demeanor, Bond girls - especially those in 007's earlier screen outings - are famous for having demure, sexy voices. Who can forget the likes of Sylvia Trench, Jill Masterson and Solitaire purring through suggestive dialogue with just the right measure of restrained sex appeal and unmitigated class. You've got to hand it to the Bond producers - they always managed to find girls who looked and sounded just the part.
Or did they.
Well, no they didn't as a matter of fact.
The truth is, the reason so many of the early Bond girls always sounded so 'perfect' was because much of their dialogue was dubbed in post-production. That's right, many of those famous sultry asides and cheeky double-entendres were added to the films' audio soundtracks after shooting had finished. More to the point, nearly all of the dubbing was done by one woman, a German-born voice actress called Nikki van der Zyl.
So which Bond girls are we talking about here exactly?
Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) - 'Dr No'
The scene in 'Dr No' where Honey Ryder emerges from the Caribbean surf singing Underneath the Mango Tree in her bikini has become the stuff of legend (it's my all time favourite Bond girl scene, that's for sure). Suffice to say, the producers of 'Dr No' didn't have a problem with the way Andress looked, it was how she sounded that gave them cause for concern. Nikki van der Zyl herself has been quoted as saying: 'The problem with Ursula Andress was that not only did she have a strong Swiss-German accent, but she tended to put the emphasis of a word on the wrong syllable. They [the producers] felt her accent might be too difficult for the American audience to understand and, in any case, it wasn't sexy enough.'
Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson) - 'Dr No' and 'From Russia with Love'
The producers liked Eunice Gayson: not only did she look elegantly attractive, she also exhibited great on-screen rapport with Sean Connery. In fact, there was even talk of getting Sylvia Trench to appear in all of the subsequent films throughout the series. Sadly, Gayson's voice was not such a big hit - the producers thought it ' too precious ' - so Nikki van der Zyl's re-voicing talents were brought in to ensure Trench sounded as good as she looked. Although Eunice Gayson's dialogue is completely absent from the final cuts of 'Dr No' and 'From Russia with Love', her voice can still be heard on the original 'Dr No' trailers.
Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) - 'Goldfinger'
The sight of Shirley Eaton's naked, dead body lying face down on a bed covered head-to-toe in gold paint is one of the Bond franchise's most iconic images. While Eaton certainly didn't disappoint in the looks department (she was a bona-fide sex symbol in 1960s Britain), the producers of 'Goldfinger' were less-than-impressed with her propensity to adopt an Oliver Twist-type twang. So, once filming was over, the shout went out to Nikki van der Zyl. Upon hearing Eaton's delivery, the uncredited voice-over star commented: 'I realised immediately why she had been known as the Cockney Bombshell.'
Dominique 'Domino' Derval (Claudine Auger) - 'Thunderball'
The role of Domino was initially meant to be that of an Italian woman: Dominetta Petacchi. However, the director and producers of ' Thunderball' were so impressed by French model Claudine Auger's innocent yet sexy aura (Domino was supposed to be a virgin) that they re-wrote the character to be of French stock. All well and good you might think, surely a stunning French model would be the ideal choice to play a stunning French Bond girl, both in terms of looks and voice. Not so. Despite her above average English skills, her voice was deemed to be just too low by Harry Saltzman. That's right; the French model sounded just too French - time to bring in the German voice-over artist.
Solitaire (Jane Seymour) - 'Live and Let Die'
This can't be true, surely. Why on Earth would Jane Seymour, a beautiful young English rose with a cut-glass English accent need to be re-voiced by anyone, let alone a non-English actress? The story behind this episode of dubbing doesn't concern any kind of issue with Seymour's accent or pitch, it simply came about as a result of the mini-series queen being taken ill during filming. Ever the professional, Seymour decided to soldier on and finish her scenes even when she had a fever of 103 degrees The result of this fortitude - at least to the reviewing producers - was that her voice sounded squeakier in some scenes than it did in others. Fortunately, the ever reliable van der Zyl was on hand to save the day.
The crazy thing is, these five are just the tip of the iceberg: Kissy Suzuki, Chew Mee Corrine Dufour and Olympe - as well as countless other female characters - were all given the van der Zyl treatment in between 1962 and 1979.
But don't tell anyone - this is still regarded by some in the franchise as being classified information (FYEO) so don't expect to see van der Zyl get any kind of public acknowledgment or official recognition anytime soon...
Bo Heamyan is a freelance writer and life-long 007 fan who believes no Bond Villain will ever be as cool as Christopher Lee.
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