Jan. 12th, 1937
Edgeware, Middlesex, England, UK
Shirley Eaton's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles1968 - The Blood of Fu Manchu
1967 - The Million Eyes of Sumuru
1965 - Ten Little Indians
1964 - Goldfinger
1959 - Carry On Nurse
1958 - Carry On Sergeant
1954 - The Belles of St. Trinian's
Guest TV Roles
Long before Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty and company showed up in 80s TV households, Hollywood had, in effect, its own original "Golden Girl"...literally...in the form of stunning British actress Shirley Eaton. Although she found definitive cult stardom in 1964 with her final golden moment in a certain "007" film, Shirley was hardly considered an "overnight success". For nearly a decade she had been out and about uplifting a number of 1950s and early 1960s British dramatic films and slapstick farce. Shirley became quite a sought-after actress internationally but by the end of the decade, the dark-browed blonde beauty intentionally bade Hollywood and her acting career a fond and permanent farewell. She has never looked back.
Born in Edgeware, Middlesex, England on January 12, 1937 (some references incorrectly list her birth year as 1936), Shirley Jean Eaton began on stage as a youth, making her debut at age 12 in "Set to Partners" (1949) and following it up the following year with Benjamin Britten's "Let's Make an Opera". Her first on-camera work was on TV in 1951, but it didn't take long before the pretty teen began to provide fleeting, decorative interest on film. Under contract to Alexander Korda in her early career, she found an encouraging break with minor parts in such comedies as Doctor in the House (1954) and The Love Match (1955). She quickly rose to co-star status in the droll features Sailor Beware (1956), Three Men in a Boat (1956), The Naked Truth (1957) and Doctor at Large (1957) while appearing opposite such top stars as Peter Sellers and Dirk Bogarde, among others.
Upon Korda's death in 1956, Shirley briefly joined the Rank Organization. Every once in awhile she relished playing a fetching villainess in a drama, such as in The Girl Hunters (1963) when not playing it straight as the beautiful foil caught up in some of Britain's finest madcap farces, which included the highly popular "Carry On" movies. Trained also in ballet and voice, Shirley was afforded a great chance to sing and dance with the film Life Is a Circus (1960), and managed to grace the BBC as well in a few of their musical formats of the 1950s.
Shirley's career hit international status, of course, when she played Jill Masterson, one of a bevy of beauties linked to titular archvillain Gert Fröbe in the film Goldfinger (1964). And like many of the Bondian girls before and since, her character dearly paid for her furtive romantic clinches with Sean Connery's magnetic James Bond. Shirley's memorable 24-karat gold death scene (she was found by Bond painted head to toe in gold paint and had "died of skin suffocation"), became the eye-catching draw for the movie. The image was splattered everywhere -- on movie posters, in press junkets and in publicity campaigns. Despite the formidable attention the movie received in the form of Honor Blackman's high-kicking "Pussy Galore" character and Shirley Bassey's famous rendition of the title song playing the airwaves, it was Eaton's gilded visuals that became THE iconic image of not only the movie but the whole "007" phenomena.
In its wake Hollywood beckoned and Shirley immediately won a number of female leads in melodrama, crime yarns, war stories and rugged adventures. Adding to the mesmerizing Ivan Tors scenery in such movies as Rhino! (1964) and the underwater epic Around the World Under the Sea (1966/I), she appeared opposite some of Hollywood best-looking and talented leading men, including Harry Guardino and Robert Culp of the afore-mentioned Rhino! (1964), and 'Hugh O'Brian' in the classic whodunnit Ten Little Indians (1965). During this highly productive time her co-stars ranged from comedy legend Bob Hope (I) in Eight on the Lam (1967) to horror icon Christopher Lee (I) in The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968). Shirley's film career ended with her participation as Sumuru, the ambitious leader of an all-woman's society called Femina, in both The Million Eyes of Sumuru (1967) and The Seven Secrets of Sumuru (1969). Many of her movies remain interesting to the public today as they are a product reflective of their times, and a number of them, like she, have achieved cult status.
After Shirley's self-imposed retirement, she, first and foremost, dedicated herself to her family. The widow of building contractor Colin Rowe (they were married in 1957; he died in 1994), she has two sons, Grant and Jason, and is the proud grandmother of five. She also developed a special knack for writing and in 1999 published her autobiography entitled Golden Girl. In 2006 she marketed an "intimate diary" of poems. These days the spectacular Shirley can be glimpsed from time to time at film festivals that very much appreciate her cult celebrity. She also enjoys painting and has made a return to the stage in recent years.
- Contrary to Hollywood folklore, she did not test for the part of Emma Peel in _"The Avengers" (1961)_ (qv) when it was found that 'Elizabeth Shepherd' (qv) was unsuitable for the part. The part eventually went to 'Diana Rigg' (qv).
- Became pregnant during the filming of _Carry on Nurse (1959)_ (qv).
- Appeared on the stage at London's Price of Wales Theatre as one of the lead roles in "Come Blow Your Horn" while busily filming _The Girl Hunters (1963)_ (qv). The film's co-star, 'Mickey Spillane' (qv), became a family friend as a result of the shoot.
- She had appeared at the London Palladium three times, once when she was 17 and performing in a pantomime, and then in the early 1960s at two annual Royal Variety Performance galas that included 'Nat 'King' Cole' (qv), 'Sammy Davis Jr.' (qv), 'Bob Hope (I)' (qv) and 'Maurice Chevalier (I)' (qv). When in 2008 she appeared again, this time to celebrate the new James Bond film phenomenon, she received a standing ovation.
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