“Some Things That Just Aren’t Done”: James Bond vs. the Beatles

Curator's Note

In Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton 1964), James Bond’s (Sean Connery) comparison between serving Dom Perignon ‘53 above thirty-eight degrees Fahrenheit and “listening to the Beatles without earmuffs” offers an early and enduring example of the pop culture humor that grew into an essential component of the Bond formula by the Pierce Brosnan era. But what I find most interesting and revealing about this moment is that it poses a cultural distinction between Bond and an emergent British youth culture that did not exist within the industrial practices that produced Goldfinger.

As detailed in histories by Tino Balio (1987) and Jeff Smith (1998), United Artists engaged in considerable efforts toward media diversification during the late 1950s and early 1960s, spearheading studio investment in television production, soundtrack recording, and transnational film production and distribution. The James Bond series offered an emblematic success story of UA’s diversified efforts across the Atlantic – not only realizing lucrative American-British co-productions, but furthering promotion and profit via the increasingly popular platform of long-playing soundtrack records. By the time Goldfinger was released, United Artists and its ancillary record label had solidified what Smith terms a “James Bond market” characterized by a cycle of singles by popular artists coordinated for each film’s opening credits sequence alongside John Barry’s compositions (100-130).

Two months before Goldfinger’s theatrical release, United Artists’ first Beatles film opened to considerable success for the company. A Hard Day’s Night (Richard Lester 1964) was developed at UA’s London-based European offices as part of an even more pointed logic of diversification than that which structured Bond’s success; UA had signed the Beatles for, in producer Walter Shenson’s (1995) words, “the express purpose of making a soundtrack album.” The affinity between James Bond and the Beatles as part of an increasingly borderless, medium-unspecific Hollywood found textual expression in the Beatles’ next film, Help! (Lester 1965), which spoofed the Bond formula and even sported a cover of Barry’s Bond theme. From the film industry’s perspective, any potential distinction between Bond and the Beatles constituted little more than a matter of taste.


Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry. Madison, WI: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1987.

Jeff Smith, The Sounds of Commerce: Marketing Popular Film Music. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1998.

"You Can't Do That": The Making of "A Hard Day's Night." Video. Saltair Productions, 1995.

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