Eunice Gayson, 1928 – 2018

Eunice Gayson: stage and screen actor who found fame playing Sylvia Trench, the first Bond girl, opposite Sean Connery
Toby Hadoke | The Guardian Mon 11 Jun 2018

Eunice Gayson, who has died aged 90, was an actor with a film, television and theatre career that spanned several decades. Despite this, she will be forever associated with her unique place in cinema history as the first Bond girl.

Exactly eight minutes into the running of the 1962 film Dr No, Sean Connery utters the words “Bond, James Bond” for the first time, in answer to a question from Gayson, whose character has introduced herself at the card table as “Trench, Sylvia Trench”. With typical efficiency, Bond adds Miss Trench to his list of conquests shortly after their casino encounter and he later finds her hitting golf balls in his apartment dressed only in his shirt. Their playful exchange is momentarily interrupted when he is summoned to Jamaica on a mission, a clear demonstration of Bond’s constant juggling of business and pleasure.

Unlike the other women on the Bond girl list, Gayson played the same character in more than one of the extremely successful franchise’s films. Trench turns up again in From Russia With Love (1963), when her afternoon punting with 007 has to be curtailed when he gets a call from headquarters. The intention was that Miss Trench would be a regular presence in the films, part of a running joke involving their assignations being cut short when espionage obligations arose at an inopportune moment. Guy Hamilton, the director of the next film in the series – Goldfinger (1964) – had other ideas however, and kiboshed the plan.

No matter, for by then Gayson’s claim to cinematic immortality was unimpeachable, even though her voice was not heard in either film: she was dubbed by the actor Nikki van der Zyl. No criticism of Gayson should be inferred – Van der Zyl dubbed the majority of female voices in Dr No and many others in future Bond films. Gayson’s perfectly acceptable vocal performance, playful and seductive, can still be heard on the film’s original trailer. She might have had a different slice of Bond movie immortality had the original plan – that she play the recurring role of Miss Moneypenny – gone ahead. As it was, Lois Maxwell took the role (and played it for 23 years). Nevertheless Trench was an important part – Gayson received higher billing than Maxwell in both films – and the actor helped a nervous Connery during that crucial first scene.

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