Who is The First Lady of Bond?
by Maurice Kemm

Eunice Gayson has proclaimed herself 'The First Lady of Bond' - but is she entitled to do so?

If it is all about who was 'first', then let us examine that aspect first.

The first screen adaptation of a James Bond novel was Casino Royale, broadcast in 1954 by CBS television and starring Linda Christian - the original Bond girl. So Linda was definitely first, but having acknowledged that, let's put it to one side and confine ourselves to considering only the EON produced movies which kicked off in 1962 with Dr.No.

In that first Bond film, the female characters, in order of appearance are: Mary Trueblood, secretary to John Strangways (played by Dolores Keator), then Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson), Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell, seen right with Sean Connery) and finally - quite a way into the film - Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress).

So the first actress we see on screen is Dolores Keator. However, because a) she plays a minor character, b) does not have any scenes with 007 and c) is quickly dispatched - elevating her to First Lady is not appropriate.

Next on screen is Eunice Gayson and then Lois Maxwell. The latter had a very persuasive claim because she and 007 had scenes together in fourteen Bond movies. Although she is the only completely accomplished actress in Dr.No, Maxwell is disregarded because she and Bond never made it into bed together.

A while later we get to see the main female character in the striking form of Ursula Andress. If there was nothing else to consider, perhaps The First Lady should be Andress.

But hold on, although you saw them you did not hear their voices (apart from Lois Maxwell). A very important fact has been overlooked (or deliberately obscured?) Both Gayson and Andress were dubbed (revoiced) by Nikki van der Zyl. She also revoiced Dolores Keator and several other minor characters in Dr.No, so Nikki's contribution was very substantial and this gives her a unique multiple claim for recognition. And lets not forget that, incredibly, she went on to revoice females in ten Bond movies, including Gayson again in From Russia With Love.

Eunice Gayson was neither the first lady on the screen in a Bond film, nor was she the first female voice heard. Indeed, she wasn't heard at all. As Trench, she was to have been an ongoing girlfriend for Bond, but she was dropped after just two appearances. We can only speculate why.

So can Eunice Gayson rightfully claim the title of The First Lady of Bond when she only provided half the performance for the character Sylvia Trench? The all-important alluring voice which 007 finds attractive was supplied by another actress. In the editing room the contributions of two professional actresses were combined to create the visual and vocal screen manifestation of Sylvia Trench. The audience would never detect the artifice. That's the magic of cinema. (Watch and listen to the Les Ambassadeurs scene.)

In the spirit of fairness, and acknowledging the participation of both, let us graciously agree that Eunice Gayson and Nikki van der Zyl should jointly wear the accolade of First Lady of Bond.
The photo above shows the two First Ladies together at a film convention.

In the James Bond Archives (published by Taschen in 2013) the editor Paul Duncan quotes from a discussion he had with Peter Hunt and Ursula Andress in which Hunt says: 'Revoicing somebody is very tedious, hard work. It's not easy, and you've got to be extremely patient and careful about how you get it. ' About Nikki he said: 'she used to work very hard at it and we would redo things and work very, very hard.'
Of Nikki providing the voice of Honey Ryder in Dr.No, Andress acknowledges that Nikki 'did a very good job'. What a pity other females who Nikki revoiced cannot be as grateful.

Did you know? Roger Moore's reaction when he was told by producers that he would have to work with'actresses' that need to be dubbed, was "ARRGH"

Also by Maurice Kemm:
Greatest Hoaxes & Greatest Cover-ups

The World of Nikki van der Zyl