Lois Maxwell

d. September 29, 2007

Lois Maxwell, the Canadian-born actress who gained international fame for her long-running portrayal of Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond films, died Sept. 29 in a hospital in Fremantle, Australia. She was 80.

Moneypenny’s screen time was extremely limited in the films, sometimes amounting to just one scene, but Maxwell as Moneypenny became part of the familiar and beloved Bond family, along with Bernard Lee as M and Desmond Llewelyn as Q. Maxwell quipped and flirted with James Bonds played by Sean Connery, George Lazenby and Roger Moore in the first 14 Bond movies.

She was born in Ontario and seemingly born to perform, appearing on Canadian radio programs as a youngster. In her teens she joined a wartime Canadian military unit sent to Britain to entertain troops. There she obtained a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1944, where Roger Moore was a fellow student.

After early stage and film work in England, she decided to try Hollywood and landed a role in 1947’s “That Hagen Girl,” starring Ronald Reagan and former child star Shirley Temple. Maxwell received a Golden Globe award as most promising newcomer for her performance. She and Marilyn Monroe were in a group labeled Hollywood’s most promising starlets in a Life magazine photo.

But Hollywood stardom did not materialize and Maxwell returned to Europe, appearing in British and Italian movies throughout the 1950s. By 1962, as she explained in many interviews, she was in desperate straits: “I had a husband who was desperately ill, with two small children and no money, so I called producers I had worked with before and said, ‘Help me.’”

Terence Young, who directed her in 1948’s “Corridor of Mirrors,” was preparing the first Bond film, “Dr. No.” Maxwell often told the story of how Young offered her a choice of two roles, Miss Moneypenny or Sylvia Trench, the vamp Bond meets in his first scene in a London casino, and who Young envisioned as another running character in the films. But Sylvia’s second appearance in “From Russia With Love” was also her last. Maxwell chose Moneypenny because she said she “didn’t fancy myself in James Bond’s pajama top, hitting golf balls down the hallway,” as Sylvia did in “Dr. No.”

Maxwell recalled that Bond creator Ian Fleming, when introduced to her, said, “When I wrote Miss Moneypenny, I envisaged a tall, elegant woman with the most kissable lips in the world, and you, my dear, are the epitome of that dream of mine.” But then, said Maxwell, "He puckered up his lips and I puckered up mine. At that moment, a female voice behind him screeched, 'Ian! Bedford wants you.' It was his wife. I never did get to kiss him."

In 1962, Maxwell appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s “Lolita” as well as in “Dr. No.” Her other film roles in the 1960s included “Come Fly With Me,” “The Haunting” and “Operation Kid Brother,” a dreadful spy spoof starring Maxwell, Bernard Lee and Sean Connery’s non-actor brother Neil. She also had guest shots in British TV series such as O.S.S., Danger Man, The Avengers, The Saint, The Baron, Department S, UFO and The Persuaders. She even had a recurring role in Stingray, the 1964 “Supermarionation” series, providing the voice of Lt. Atlanta Shore, a part she reprised in the 1981 movie version, “Invaders from the Deep.”

Maxwell was the steady presence through three decades of Bond, surviving the departure of Connery, the single appearance of George Lazenby as Bond in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (a film that actually gave Moneypenny some of her best scenes), and the arrival of Roger Moore, who beat every other Bond for longevity, starring in seven pictures. Maxwell was there all the way, beating out Llewelyn, who did not appear in “Dr. No” or “Live and Let Die,” and Bernard Lee, who died after shooting his scenes for 1979’s “Moonraker.”

But when Moore announced he was finally leaving after 1985’s “A View to a Kill,” Bond producer Cubby Broccoli broke the news to Maxwell that it also was time to recast Moneypenny with a younger actress. She took the inevitable decision in stride, half-joking that Moneypenny should become the new M in Timothy Dalton’s Bond films.

Broccoli didn’t bite, but the role of Moneypenny has not fared well since Maxwell’s departure. Caroline Bliss made little impression as Moneypenny in Dalton’s two Bond films. Legal problems then kept Bond off the screen for seven years. Pert Samantha Bond played Moneypenny in Pierce Brosnan’s four Bond films. But the recent “reboot” of the Bond “franchise” with Daniel Craig as Bond has eliminated the role of Moneypenny, along with many other familiar trappings of the series.

Maxwell was born Lois Hooker and often threatened to write an autobiography titled “I Was Born a Hooker.” She returned to Canada in 1986 and started writing a thrice-weekly column titled “Moneypenny” for the Toronto Sun that ran until 1994. She still took occasional acting roles, the last in 2001’s “The Fourth Angel” with Jeremy Irons. Maxwell had battled cancer for several years and moved to Australia in 2002 to be closer to her son Christian.

Top to bottom: Lois Maxwell and Sean Connery in “From Russia With Love”; on the “Goldfinger” set; in Playboy’s 1965 “James Bond’s Girls” feature; at James Bond’s wedding in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”