Margaret Nolan, who has died of cancer aged 76, made her first impression – and a lasting impact – on screen as the model clad in a leather bikini, her body painted gold all over, for the opening title sequence of the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger.
Robert Brownjohn designed the sequence, influenced by the 1920s Bauhaus photographer Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, in which footage from this third 007 movie and its predecessors is seen projected across her body.
Combined with Shirley Bassey’s stirring rendition of the title song the effect is witty and risqué, in the spirit of the period: one of the images shows a golf ball appearing to roll down Margaret Nolan’s cleavage. It was said to be the first title sequence to require clearance from a film censor.
Margaret Nolan was just 20 when she was asked to appear, after working as a model and landing a couple of small roles on screen. Her answer was yes – if she could also have a part in the film. So she became a “Bond girl” twice over, also playing Dink, a masseuse applying her therapy to Sean Connery’s 007 at a Miami Beach hotel.
With her star in the ascendant, she landed small roles in two 1964 film musicals, the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, as a young woman at a casino encouraging Wilfrid Brambell, as Paul McCartney’s poker-playing grandfather; and Ferry Cross the Mersey, as an art student hanging around with Gerry and the Pacemakers and other Merseybeat groups.
More television roles came, too. But when in 1969 one newspaper commented that “few TV producers could encounter a dumb blonde role without calling in Margaret Nolan”, she responded: “I’m not dumb and I’m far from the cartoon idea of a blonde – but, as long as I’m working, who cares?”
She later explained that she was well aware of the sexism, which included a slap on the backside from Connery at the end of her Goldfinger massage scene.
Although she perpetuated the stereotype in the farce She’s Done It Again with Brian Rix’s company at the Garrick Theatre (1969-70) and six Carry On films between 1965 and 1974, she proved that she could be a serious actress by appearing in the 1965 French film drama Three Rooms in Manhattan; avant-garde theatrical productions at London’s Ambience Theatre and the Roundhouse; and Anne Jellicoe’s 1969 West End play The Giveaway directed by Richard Eyre.
Margaret Nolan was also a Labour Party member and one-time events organiser for the Socialist Workers Party. Later, as a photographer and visual artist, she reflected on her sex-symbol status by cutting and pasting photomontages of pictures taken during her acting heyday.
She told the Den of Geek website in 2017 that she made some of them “grotesque”, countering “the idea that I was there as this passive woman being looked at”. She added: “Behind it all, behind my eyes, of course I knew what was going on.”
Margaret Ann Nolan was born in London on October 29 1943 to Molly (née O’Sullivan) and Jack Nolan, an Army clerk; she was evacuated to Waterford, in her mother’s native Ireland.
Postwar, after La Sainte Union convent in Highgate she began training as a teacher, but gave it up after meeting her first husband, the actor and playwright Tom Kempinski, and became a model under the name Vicky Kennedy.
Her early acting roles included an art teacher in the film The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery (1966); and, on television, the wild, flamboyant teenager Mercedes, recognisable for her corduroy trouser suit and matching hat in the soap opera The Newcomers for several months that year.
She was also a favourite of Spike Milligan, whom she performed alongside in his series The World of Beachcomber (1968-69) and Q6 (1975); she relished working with Milligan because he “let me play grotty charwomen and other smashing parts”.
The zany comedian also gave her some invaluable comedy tips. “Professionally, he taught me that timing is what makes things funny,” she said. “Timing is crucial.”
Her Carry On antics ranged from wearing a bikini for a “cat-fight” on a hotel floor with Barbara Windsor in Carry On Girls (1973) to playing Lady Daley, held up on the York road by Sid James’s highwayman in Carry On Dick (1974).
She also took a small role as a tavern wench in the 1968 English-civil-war horror film Witchfinder General alongside Vincent Price and Ian Ogilvy.
Later on, in Crossroads during 1983, Margaret Nolan portrayed Denise Paget, mother of Nina, who was almost certainly the first character in British soap opera to have Down’s syndrome.
From 1991 she spent much of the next two decades at her Spanish home near Órgiva, in Andalusia. On returning to Britain, she mounted art exhibitions in London and Manchester.
The 2011 film The Power of Three marked her return to the screen. She is still to be seen in the horror movie Last Night in Soho.
Margaret Nolan’s two marriages, to Kempinski (1967) and Michael O’Sullivan (1974), both ended in divorce. She is survived by her two sons, Luke, from the second marriage, and Oscar, from a relationship with Colin Deeks, as well as her twin sister, Geraldine.
Margaret Nolan, born October 29 1943, died October 5 2020