Eunice Gayson

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Eunice Gayson Pencil Portrait
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Les Ambassadeurs Club – 5 Hamilton Pl. London. W1J 7ED. A card game is underway, and a mysterious gentleman is dominating the table. A glamorous young lady in a red dress, unwilling to fold, asks the house to cover her for an extra £1,000. “I admire your courage, Miss . . .?” says the young man.

“Trench. Sylvia Trench,” replies the young lady. “And I admire your luck, Mr . . .?” “Bond. James Bond.” The lady, will later accept an invitation from the MI6 agent for golf the following day, but events take a different turn as all moviegoers know well. The scene was actually filmed at Pinewood Studios between a nervous Sean Connery and an assured Eunice Gayson. A veteran of British films, she was already thirty three, and her brief cameo would afford her the distinction of being the cinema’s first Bond girl.

The card game that Bond plays with Miss Trench is Chemin de Fer (which literally means “railroad” in French), a variation of Baccarat. The principal distinction between the two games is that there is some decision-making involved for the participants. The scoring of the cards is the same as in Baccarat, but the chart governing the game is different, there being three situations when there is an option of whether to draw or stand.

Number of Players
From two to eight people can play.

The Pack
Eight standard 52-card packs are shuffled together and placed in a dealing box called a “shoe” which releases one card at a time, face down.

In addition to the three options for standing or drawing, the distinctive feature of Chemin de Fer is that the players bet against each other, as opposed to Baccarat, where it makes little difference whether a player backs the Player hand or the Bank hand. Thus, in Chemin de Fer, the player acting as the Bank, in dealing out the cards from the shoe, is actually the banker – that is, the amount he puts up governs how much the other players can wager against him. If one or two players match this amount, the remaining players do not get to bet for that round.

As in Baccarat, the casino makes its profit by taking five per cent from all winning Bank hands. This cut for the house is taken out immediately, rather than at the end of the shoe.

The Layout
Usually up to eight people play, though in some games, the number can go up to nine or even 12. A game is normally not begun until there are five or six players available. In the middle of the French layout is a square marked “Banque,” which is for the banker’s bet, if any. Another square marked “Reliquat” is for that part of the banker’s bet (if any) that is not covered by all the other players.

Banking the Game
The player to the right of the dealer (or croupier) is the first banker and places the number of chips he is prepared to wager in front of him. Any player who wants to bet against this player calls out, “Banco!” and matches the same amount. If there is more than one such challenger, priority is given to the player nearer to the dealer’s right. If no one calls, “Banco!” two or more players may cover parts of the Bank, and the player placing the most money down gets the privilege of playing the hand. (There are other features of betting that are very detailed and which are played primarily in the European game.)

The Deal
As in Baccarat, two cards are dealt face down, one at a time, to the player and the banker. If the player has a natural (a total of 8 or 9), he turns over the cards immediately. If the player must draw a card, or with a total of 5 chooses to do so, he says, “Carte,” but does not turn over the two initial cards. since exposing the cards would be to the dealer’s advantage. The third card, though, is dealt face up for the players or for the dealer, whenever such a card is drawn.
Object of the Game. The goal is to form, in two or three cards, a combination that counts as close to 9 as possible. Face cards and 10s count 10 or zero, aces count 1, and other cards their pip value. Tens are disregarded in the total, thus, a 5 and a 6, totaling 11, counts as 1.

If a player has a count of 8 or 9 in his first two cards, he has a “natural,” and shows his hand immediately. If only the dealer has a natural, the dealer wins all the bets. If only the opponent has a natural, the dealer pays all the bets. A natural 9 beats a natural 8. Two naturals of the same number are a stand-off. When this happens, cards are tossed in, all bets are withdrawn, and players place their bets for the next deal (called a “coup”).

If neither the dealer nor his opponent has a natural, the opponent, according to the chart, may receive a third card, which is dealt face up. The dealer, also according to the chart, may draw a third card face up. (Variation: In some games, the dealer and any player who bancos are allowed to use their own judgment as to whether or not to draw a third card, regardless of mathematical advisability.)

When both players have stood or withdrawn, all cards are shown. If the dealer is nearer 9 than his opponent, he collects all the bets. If his opponent is nearer 9, the dealer pays all the bets. If the dealer and his opponent have the same total, all bets are a stand-off and are withdrawn.

Changing the Bank
Once the house settles all wagers, the next coup (deal) begins. The dealer remains dealer as long as he wins or has a stand-off. When he loses a coup, the player to his left becomes the dealer.

The new dealer announces the amount of his bank, bets are placed, and the deal continues as before. The cards are not removed from the shoe and reshuffled until only a few cards are left in it.

Gayson was one of two twin sisters born to a courageous, tough-it-out mother and a never-there father who took to repertory work early on and was a talented singer. Towards the end of the fifties, she appeared as a panelist on the American ‘What’s My Line?’ programme. It’s clear that the other panelists were totally unfamiliar with her, including stalwart Bennett Cerf, who refers to her as a very young girl; Eunice appearing much younger than her actual years. Only when the mystery guest, George Jessel, has been identified does Gayson redeem herself, somewhat, in the eyes of the others, by remarking to Jessel that she remembers having met him at the Variety Club of Great Britain. The lack of recognition for her is a little surprising as she had actually been married live on US TV only a few years earlier, becoming in effect, one of the earliest ‘reality stars’. Her appearance on ‘What’s my line?’ can be located at the following link:

Gayson’s first marriage was to Leigh Vance, a founding officer of the British Writer’s Guild. During his career, he penned scripts for several 1960s features, including ‘And Women Shall Weep’ (1960), ‘the Fightened City’ (1961) – an early showcase for Sean Connery, ‘The Dream Maker’ (1963), and ‘The Black Windmill’(1974). He wrote for several television shows including ‘Fantasy Island’, ‘Switch’,‘The Avengers’ and ‘the Saint’. In the mid-‘70s, he re-located to Hollywood, becoming a writer and producer of television series such as ‘Cannon’ and ‘Hart to Hart’.

His marriage to Gayson, was on the US show ‘Bride and Groom’. It originally ran on CBS between 1951 and 1953 in 15-minute increments between soaps weekday mornings. The show then moved briefly to NBC in 1954 for one more season, and frittered into that network’s rerun lineup occasionally in fits and spurts until 1958, when it was banished forever from the dial.

Unlike reality TV shows of today, the couple getting married actually knew each other for some time before tying the knot.

During each episode of ‘Bride and Groom’, host John Nelson, who originally did the ’40s radio program, would quiz real-life couples about their relationship. Then, he would cut away to an in-studio commercial, usually for Betty Crocker or General Mills products. After this plug, the happy couple wiould be whisked off to another part of the set for their wedding as sidekick Phil Hanna crooned the couple’s chosen wedding song. Afterwards, the newlyweds would be showered with prize “gifts”, some silverware, towels, cigarette lighters, bedroom suites and most enticingly of all, an all-expenses paid honeymoon, including the chance to drive a new car to the airport along the way.

The network also gave couples a 16mm copy of their televised marriage, since TVs were still a rarity at the time and many of the show’s participants probably wouldn’t ever get a chance to see their televised vows otherwise. Some of these films are still around in private collections, unlike most obscure shows of that era, which have since been lost. Whether Miss Gayson still has her own copy is not known. In any event, it is doubtful she would be too concerned either way as the first of her two marriages lasted barely longer than a year.

In her autobiography she talks about landing the Bond role, through her earlier association with Terence Young; about her friendship with Sean Connery, who she knew before Bond through her first husband Leigh Vance, who had employed him on ‘The Frightened City’, the wardrobe problems on her first day when she ‘blended in with the wallpaper’ and of how Sean Connery was so wracked with nerves that he couldn’t deliver the famous line, until Eunice took him for a liquid lunch in the Pinewood restaurant.

Gayson had been contracted by the Rank Organisation, becoming their highest paid actress, though she never made a single film for them; resulting in her tearing up her contract a year later under threat of being sued from the film studio.

At the height of her fame, she co-starred in a record-breaking run of ‘The Sound of Music’ in London’s West End, playing the role of The Baroness. When the musical transferred to the big screen, the part went to Eleanor Parker, a decision that must have been professionally disappointing for her.

By all accounts, her career began to slide in the 70’s, a rather predictable fate for essentially, a supporting player, and a woman by then, into her forties. Being essentially, a still very attractive personality was of no consequence, for there would always be scores of aspiring younger starlets coming through the ranks.

Recommended viewing

Zarak (1956)

An early collaboration with future Bond director Terence Young. Available to watch on Youtube, the film features a sterling cast of Hollywood beefcakes and future ITC stalwarts.

Loosely based on the life of Zarak Khan, an Afghan who spent most of his life fighting the British in the northwest frontier in the 1920s and 1930s, the film is pure escapism, most male viewers suitably distracted by Anita Ekberg’s obvious charms.

The film boasted a surprising amount of emerging film talent. Ted Moore, who handled some of the Technicolor/CinemaScope photography, later performed similar work on the early James Bond films, and art director John Box and costume designer Phyllis Dalton later won Oscars for their work on ‘Doctor Zhivago’. Richard Maibaum, who adapted A.J. Bevan’s novel, went on to adapt such Ian Fleming novels as ‘Dr. No’, ‘From Russia, with Love’, and ‘Goldfinger’. Similarly, the Director, Terence Young and the Producer, Albert R. Broccoli went on to create the Bond movies. Eunice was clearly ‘part of the family’.

The revenge of Frankenstein (1958)

Doctor No (1962)

From Russia with Love (1963)

She’s one of Mr Bond’s ‘old cases’ but a year on from his sudden departure for Jamaica, Miss Trench still looks worth reviewing. Sadly, a temporary fall out between director Terence Young and the Bond producers would derail projected plans for Sylvia’s perennial cameo at the start of each entry in the series; as it transpired, Gayson’s appearances would be limited to the first two movies and her character would survive, a more fortunate fate than one endured by many of 007’s women.

The Saint—The Invisible Millionaire (1964)

Dangerman—Man to be trusted (1964)

The Saint—The Saint bids diamonds (1965)

The Avengers—The Quick-Quick-Slow Death (1965)

Recommended reading

Eunice Gayson—The First Lady of Bond (2012)

An unashamed cash-in for the 50th anniversary of the Bond franchise, this is Eunice’s episode laden life story, engagingly recounted with a veritable dash of humour.

In addition to her two cameos in “Dr No” and “From Russia With Love” she went onto co-star in a record-breaking run of “The Sound of Music.” But when her second marriage fell apart and the roles dried up she was arrested for shoplifting.

This is the inside story on some of the best-loved films ever made, and how the original Bond girl came back from the depths of despair.

Bouncing back, Eunice busied herself with TV and theatre roles along with caring for her new daughter Kate – who herself became an actress and followed in her mother’s footsteps to become a Bond girl in ‘GoldenEye’ with Pierce Brosnan.

Despite a formidable all round career, it is Bond that really features most prominently in Eunice’s life and right up to the end of her life, she travelled the world to talk about the films at festivals and conventions.


Eunice’s official website, featuring a diary of her forthcoming personal appearances and a brief career summary. The photo gallery is woefully small though – surely she can do better?

An attractive series of screen shots from ‘Doctor No’ – revisting Eunice with her golf club and balls is always a pleasure.

A brief clip of Eunice at the London premiere of ‘Mame’ in 1969. She appears at 2.04 in this Pathe newsreel.