Nolan reverted to her birth name as soon as she began to find acting roles, appearing in numerous television shows, theatre productions and films. The latter included A Hard Day’s Night with the Beatles, Ferry Cross the Mersey with Gerry and the Pacemakers, and Marcel Carné’s Three Rooms in Manhattan. Nolan also appeared in one of the first episodes of the television spy thriller The Saint with Roger Moore.
Nolan played the role of Dink, Bond’s masseuse, in the James Bond film Goldfinger released in 1964. She was also painted gold and wore a gold bikini for Robert Brownjohn’s title sequence, advertisements and soundtrack cover (not Shirley Eaton as in the film’s narrative). This led to photographs in Playboy magazine’s James Bond Girls edition of November 1965. In the film Carry On at Your Convenience (1971), composer Eric Rogers referenced Nolan’s Goldfinger affiliation by using a three-note motif on a close-up of her. Nolan appeared on the front cover of the US and UK versions of the 2005 book Robert Brownjohn: Sex and Typography. In 2012, Nolan gave her first interview concerning her experiences as a model. Asked if the imagery liberates or celebrates womanhood, Nolan responded that:
It does celebrate the physical form. If I’d been nude, it might have been about liberation because up to that point, you wouldn’t have seen a nude woman in a publicly visible thing like that. I could have been very pretentious and said this is liberating. But because I was dressed-up anyway I didn’t get that sense.
It became the first film title to be shown in installation at MoMA, New York (2012).
On appearing in Michael Pertwee’s farce She’s Done It Again at London’s Garrick Theatre in 1969, Nolan was described as combining “a long list of physical attractions with a talent that has contributed to the success of many films and television plays”. She was known for five BBC series with Spike Milligan and, in 2013, published a short essay on her time working with him. Nolan gave a live reading of the work at the Poetry Society in Covent Garden, reviewed by What’s On London as a “deeply-personal memoir… her performance simply magical.” She spoke of her awareness of Milligan’s depressive character but also of their friendly working relationship; noting that “Professionally, he taught me that timing is what makes things funny. Timing is crucial.” Nolan was cast in several Carry On films including Carry On Girls (1973). The film contains the scene of Nolan (in a silver bikini) and Barbara Windsor cat-fighting on a hotel floor.
Nolan also appeared in serious theatre, motivated by political themes. In 2011, Nolan’s work as a comedy actress was recognised with her name included on Gordon Young’s Comedy Carpet installation in front of Blackpool Tower. Also, in 2011, Nolan returned to the screen after a gap of nearly three decades. She starred in a role especially written for her by Ann Cameron in Yvonne Deutschman’s The Power of Three.
In 2019, Edgar Wright cast her in his 2021 film Last Night in Soho. It was Nolan’s final film appearance.