Shirley Jean Eaton is an English former actress, former model, and author. She garnered popularity for portraying Bond Girl Jill Masterson in the 1964 James Bond film ‘Goldfinger’. Originally from Middlesex, Eaton began her career as a singing actor on both the stage and TV. She had her big screen debut in 1953 in an uncredited role in ‘Personal Affair’. She is regarded as one of the most prominent sex symbols of Hollywood of all time. In the 1950s and the 1960s, she was often referred to as the Cockney blonde bombshell because of her London accent, blonde hair, and sex appeal. Besides ‘Goldfinger’, her other cinematic credits include ‘A Day to Remember’, ‘Doctor in the House’, ‘Three Men in a Boat’, the ‘Carry On’ film series, and ‘The Girl from Rio’. In 1969, she quit acting so she could focus on her family.
Shirley Eaton made her stage debut at the age of 12 in ‘Set to Partners’ in 1949. Soon after, she appeared in Benjamin Britten's ‘Let's Make an Opera!’ In 1954, she was cast in her first West End play, a production of ‘Going to Town’. Her first screen appearance came about in 1950 in an episode of ‘For the Children’. She subsequently portrayed the character Anne Pebble in all six episodes of BBC’s fortnightly comedy series ‘Parent-Craft’ (1951). In her first cinematic appearance, she played a school girl but was uncredited.
During the early stage of her career, she landed a contract with British filmmaker Alexander Korda and appeared in minor roles in films like ‘Doctor in the House’ (1954) and ‘The Love Match’ (1955). Her performance in those two films garnered her roles in droll features like ‘Panic in the Parlor’ (1956), ‘Three Men in a Boat’ (1956), ‘Your Past Is Showing’ (1957) and ‘Doctor at Large’ (1957).
Korda passed away in 1956 and Eaton subsequently became affiliated with Rank Organization. On a regular basis, she was cast as a fetching vamp in drama films like ‘The Girl Hunters’ (1963), while simultaneously starring in some of the most scathing British farces of the era. The first ‘Carry On’ film she appeared in was ‘Carry On Sergeant’ (1958). She also appeared in ‘Carry On Nurse’ (1959) and ‘Carry On Constable’ (1960). Being a trained ballerina and singer, she was cast in the singing and dancing role of Shirley Winter in the 1960 comedy film ‘Life Is a Circus’. This led to her appearances in several BBC musicals.
Eaton found international fame with her portrayal of Jill Masterson, one of the other-worldly beauties associated with the eponymous antagonist, Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe), in the 1964 James Bond film ‘Goldfinger’. Despite the fact that her character was killed off within the first 16 minutes of the film, it was the manner of the death that still remains unarguably the most memorable thing about the film. Masterson, having died of “skin suffocation”, is discovered by James Bond (Sean Connery) with gold paint covering her from head to toe. Eaton agreed to do the nude scene on the condition that it would be done tastefully. On November 6, 1964, she was featured on the cover of ‘Life’ magazine with identical gold paint.
Hollywood came calling after the success of ‘Goldfinger’ and Eaton starred in films like ‘Ten Little Indians’ (1965), ‘Around the World Under the Sea’ (1966), ‘The Million Eyes of Sumuru’ (1967), and ‘The Blood of Fu Manchu’ (1968). Her last cinematic appearance was in the 1969 West German action-adventure ‘Die sieben Männer der Sumuru’ (The Girl from Rio).
In recent years, Eaton has returned to the public sphere as a writer. She published her autobiography, ‘Golden Girl’, in 1999 through B.T. Batsford publishers. She also appeared in the 2001 short film ‘Everdream’.
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Family & Personal Life
Born on January 12, 1937, in Edgware, Middlesex, England, Shirley Eaton was raised in the suburb of Kingsbury. She was a student at the Roe Green Primary School on Princes Avenue and later attended Aida Foster Theatre School until she was 16 years old. Her time in the prestigious drama school would serve her well in the ensuing years.
In 1969, she decided to end her career as an actress permanently in order to be with her family. She had married building contractor Colin Rowe in 1957. They had two sons together, Grant and Jason. Rowe passed away in 1994. Through her two sons, she has five grandchildren. In a June 2018 interview with journalist James Davies, she remarked, “The most important thing for me was being a woman and having a family more than being a very famous glamorous actress."