Obituaries

Eunice Gayson, the first Bond girl, dies at 90

Ms. Gayson (center) posed with fellow Bond actresses Tania Mallet (left) and Britt Ekland in 2012. She appeared in “Dr. No” and “From Russia with Love.”
Jonathan Short/Invision/AP/File 2012
Ms. Gayson (center) posed with fellow Bond actresses Tania Mallet (left) and Britt Ekland in 2012. She appeared in “Dr. No” and “From Russia with Love.”

NEW YORK — Eunice Gayson, the British stage and film actress who earned a place in cinema history as the first Bond girl, died on Friday. She was 90.

Her death was announced on her Twitter account. No other details were provided.

Ms. Gayson appeared in the first James Bond film, “Dr. No,” from 1962, as the sultry Sylvia Trench. She meets the British spy Bond (Sean Connery) at the elegant club Le Cercle over a game of cards. It was the first time he introduced himself as “Bond. James Bond.”

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Ms. Gayson repeated the role in “From Russia With Love” (1963), but the character was cut from subsequent movies after filmmakers decided to introduce a new “Bond girl” in every film.

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Ms. Gayson, who trained as an opera singer, came to “Dr. No” after performing the role of Baroness Elsa Schraeder in the 1961 London production of “The Sound of Music.”

After appearing in the Bond films, she acted in television shows, among them two 1960s spy series, “The Saint” (which starred a future James Bond, Roger Moore) and “The Avengers.” She remained a fixture in London theater. Among other productions, she appeared in the comedy “The Grass Is Greener” in 1971 and, in the early ’90s, in Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” as the grandmother.

But it was as Sylvia Trench that she will no doubt be best remembered. In Ms. Gayson’s first scene with Connery, Bond sees her across the green felt-covered table clad in a crimson off-the-shoulder gown and asks her her name.

“Trench,” she replies. “Sylvia Trench.”

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Whereupon Connery introduces himself: “Bond. James Bond.”

It would become the movie franchise’s signature line.

Movie viewers did not hear Ms. Gayson’s voice, however. Her lines were dubbed over by Nikki van der Zyl, a voice artist and dialogue coach who worked on several of the Bond films.

In a 2012 interview with the Scottish newspaper The Daily Record, Ms. Gayson said Connery had been so nervous before the scene that the director, Terence Young, advised her to go to lunch with him and have a few drinks to loosen him up. She addressed her experiences in the films in a 2012 autobiography, “The First Lady of Bond.”

Ms. Gayson was a reality television star before reality television became its own genre of entertainment.

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In 1953, she married producer and journalist Leigh Vance on the CBS television show “Bride and Groom,” sponsored by Betty Crocker. The couple were flown to New York for the wedding, and it was chronicled in London’s newspapers. Critics, though, panned the show. The wedding was described in Billboard magazine as an example of bad taste that could “end the British way of life.” The couple divorced in 1959.

Ms. Gayson was born on March 17, 1928, in Surrey, England, the daughter of Maria and John Sargaison, a civil servant.

She married actor Brian Jackson in 1968. That marriage also ended in divorce, a decade later. They had a daughter, Kate, who appeared in “GoldenEye” (1995), a James Bond movie starring Pierce Brosnan.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Danny Boyle, who will direct the latest installment of the Bond franchise, said the movie would reflect the changing attitudes toward women and sexual harassment.

Bond girls have often been portrayed as little more than sexual conquests. In March, Boyle said writers would acknowledge James Bond’s history and legacy. “But you also write in the modern world as well,” he said.