Lois Maxwell (1927-2007)

Canadian actress Lois Maxwell, who died in September aged 80, was best known as M’s secretary Miss Moneypenny in the long-running series of James Bond 007 firms, but she also provided the voice for Lieutenant Atlanta Shore in all 39 episodes of Gerry Anderson’s Stingray series. In addition, she portrayed Commander Straker’s temporary secretary Miss Holland in two episodes of UFO, The Cat With Ten Lives and The Man Who Came Back.

Lois Ruth Hooker was born on 14th February 1927 in Kitchener, Ontario, the daughter of schoolteacher William Hooker and his wife Ruth, a nurse. Early showbusiness aspirations led her to a career as a child radio performer, using the pseudonym Robin Wells so as to conceal what she was doing from her disapproving parents. As she could never take her earnings home, she spent the money on presents for the soldiers recovering at a military hospital close to the radio studio in Toronto.

In 1942, young Lois ran away from home and lied about her age in order to join the Canadian Women’s Army Corps, performing comedy and dance numbers to entertain the troops, During a tour of England in 1943, she was discovered to be under-age and dishonourably dismissed, and went AWOL in London. While hiding from the authorities, she auditioned for RADA and was awarded the very first Lady Louis Mountbatten scholarship, but was arrested by the military police and imprisoned at Aldershot. Lady Mountbatten intervened and persuaded the authorities to allow Lois Hooker to stay as her ward.

Attending RADA in 1944, she met 17-year-old Roger Moore and appeared with him in a student production of Hamlet. The pair became lifelong friends. On graduating from RADA, she worked in radio and as a photographer’s model before making her film debut in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger’s A Matter of Life and Death (1946).

While performing on the London stage in Noel Coward’s Our Betters she was spotted by a Hollywood talent scout and offered a contract with Warner Brothers. Arriving in Hollywood in 1947, she was featured in a Life magazine spread about Hollywood’s most promising starlets, photographed with another young actress, Norma Jeane Baker. Both actresses subsequently changed their names: Baker became Marilyn Monroe while Lois Hooker became Lois Maxwell, borrowing the surname from a gay ballet dancer whom she had befriended in London.

Maxwell’s first role for Warners was as schoolteacher Julia Kane in That Hagen Girl (1946), a vehicle for Shirley Temple. The film won Maxwell the 1948 Golden Globe for Most Promising Female Newcomer, but she was disappointed by the parts that followed in The Decision of Christopher Blake (1948) and The Big Punch (1948). She asked to be released from her contract and signed to Columbia Pictures, but after making The Dark Past (1948), The Crime Doctor’s Story (1949) and Kazan (1949) Maxwell was no happier with the work she was being offered and abandoned Hollywood to return to Europe.

She arrived in Italy just days after That Hagen Girl had opened there. Instantly recognised, she quickly found work and found herself playing more challenging roles in Amori e veleni (1949), Domani é troppo tardi (1950), Leggra Bianca(1951), Viva il cinema! (1952), Ha da vent… don Calogero! (1952), Aida (1953) and La Grand Speranza (1954). Settling in Rome for five years, she also tried her hand as an amateur racing driver and periodically commuted to London to accept parts in The Woman’s Angle (1952), Women Of Twilight (1952), Lady In The Fog (1952), the Hammer film Mantrap(1953) and The Blue Camellia (1954).

Maxwell returned to live in England permanently in 1954 and became a familiar face via appearances in films such as Kill Me Tomorrow (1957), Time Without Pity (1957), and the little-known science-fiction thriller Satellite In The Sky (1956). This low-budget Danziger Production directed by Paul Dickson co-starred Karon Moore, Donald Wolfit and Donald Gray (later to become the voice of Colonel White in Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons). She was also the leading lady in The High Terrace (1956) and Passport To Treason (1956), a pair of films produced by Robert S Baker and Monty Berman, who would later go on to produce ITC’s The Saint series.

Maxwell also began to be seen on television, appearing in an episode of the ITV sit-com The Adventures Of Aggie and episodes of Sailor of Fortune and O.S.S. She also made three appearances in Douglas Fairbanks Jr Presents…, an anthology series filmed at the British National Studios, Elstree, for the American National Broadcasting Company (NBC). It was while working on this series that she met television executive Peter Marriott, the director of NBC International (Great Britain) Ltd and a former commander of the Viceroy of India’s household troops – he would later become the producer of the science-fiction anthology series One Step Beyond. They married in 1957 and Maxwell temporarily set aside her acting career to start a family, giving birth to a daughter, Melinda, in 1958 and a son, Christian, in 1959.

She returned to work the following year with a role in The Unstoppable Man (1960) and went on to appear as Nurse Mary Lore in Lolita (1961). She also made guest appearances in Danger Man, No Hiding Place and her husband’s series One Step Beyond where she played alongside Anthony Oliver, the star of Gerry Anderson’s thriller feature Crossroads To Crime(1960).

Late in 1961, Peter Marriott suffered a double coronary and his doctor warned that it would probably prove fatal. Contrary to expectations he eventually made a full recovery, but his wife became very worried about how she would support her young family as a single parent. She begged people she knew in the film and television industry for work. One of those was Terence Young, who remembered her from Corridor Of Mirrors. Young was preparing a thriller feature for producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R Broccoli and he offered her a choice of two roles in the film: Sylvia, the lead character’s girlfriend, who would be seen wearing only a pyjama top, or Jane, the personal secretary to the lead character’s boss. Aware that her legs were not her best feature, Maxwell gratefully accepted the role of the secretary. The film was Dr No (1962) and the role of Jane Moneypenny made Lois Maxwell an international icon.

As Moneypenny, Maxwell held a torch for secret agent James Bond throughout 13 further films in the series over the next 23 years. By turns playful, flirtatious and professional, she sensitively portrayed Moneypenny as a loyal, adoring friend and colleague in one of cinema’s greatest unrequited relationships. Her casting was endorsed by James Bond creator Ian Fleming at the wrap party for Dr No. “You know, Miss Maxwell,” he told her, “When I visualised Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond stories, I saw her as a tall, distinguished-looking woman with the most kissable lips in the world. You, my dear, are exactly the woman I visualised.”

Maxwell followed her brief appearance in Dr No with a small role in the MGM romantic comedy Come Fly With Me (1962) and a guest role in an episode of Zero One, a BBC/MGM TV co-production filmed at the MGM British Studios in Borehamwood. Gerry and Sylvia Anderson then offered her the vocal role of Atlanta Shore in Stingray. For one Sunday in four over the next ten months, Maxwell joined her fellow cast members Don Mason, Robert Easton, Ray Barrett and David Graham, to record the dialogue for tour episodes in a single recording session. During this period, she also reprised her role as Moneypenny in From Russia With Love (1963) and then appeared as Richard Johnson’s husband in Robert Wise’s classic The Haunting (1963).

As Atlanta Shore, Maxwell’s role was similar to Moneypenny in many ways. Although formally the assistant controller and radio communications officer at WASP’s Marineville Tower, Atlanta was essentially little more than the personal secretary to her father, WASP Commander Sam Shore. And like Moneypenny her passion for the series’ lead character, aquanaut Troy Tempest, was appreciated but not necessarily reciprocated: despite being romantically linked to Troy, Atlanta was troubled by his obvious attraction to Marina, and was constantly frustrated in her attempts to spend time alone with him.

More television work followed, including two appearances in The Avengers, The Baron, The Saint, Gideon’s Way,Randall And Hopkirk Deceased and Department S. These appearances were punctuated by her ongoing cameos in the Bond films, Goldfinger (1964) being followed by Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967) and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). She would later cite the latter as her favourite of the 14 Bond films that she was involved with, although she also admitted a fondness for From Russia With Love.

Shortly before filming on You Only Live Twice got under way, Maxwell appeared alongside Bond alumni Bernard Lee, Daniela Bianchi, Adolfo Cell and Anthony Dawson in Alberto de Martino’s O.K. Connery (1967, released as Operation Kid Brother in the UK and the US). This was an Italian spy spoof, which starred Sean Connery’s brother Neil as a plastic surgeon who becomes a secret agent to fight an international conspiracy. Bernard Lee portrayed secret service boss Commander Cunningham and Maxwell was his gun-toting secretary Miss Maxwell, receiving more screen time (and a bigger pay packet) than she ever did on the 007 films. Sean Connery viewed Lee and Maxwell’s appearances in the film as a betrayal of both the Bond franchise and himself personally, and relations were frosty between them during the filming of You Only Live Twice. Connery later apologised for his rudeness when he discovered how supportive Maxwell had been to his brother at a difficult press conference during the promotion of the Italian picture.

In 1969, Maxwell returned to Canada to appear in a regular role in the popular children’s adventure series Adventures In Rainbow Country, The series followed the fortunes of 15-year-old Billy Williams (Stephen Cottier), his sister Hannah (Susan Conway) and his Ojibway best friend Pete Gawa (Buckley Petawabano) as they thwarted jewel thieves, kidnappers, hi-jackers and other criminal elements in the fictional Rainbow Country. Maxwell portrayed Billy’s mother Nancy, left a single parent following the mysterious disappearance of her husband.

With filming on Adventures In Rainbow Country completed, Maxwell came back to England and took another secretarial role, as Miss Holland in UFO. Norma Ronald, who had portrayed Straker’s secretary Miss Ealand in the series’ earlier episodes, was heavily pregnant when filming on the final nine episodes began at Pinewood in the summer of 1970, so Maxwell was invited to replace her temporarily: in order to minimise changes to the existing scripts, ‘Miss Ealand’ was simply amended to ‘Miss Holland’. Six lines of additional dialogue were written by Tony Barwick for The Cat With Ten Lives explaining Miss Holland’s presence to regular viewers: transferred from Colonel Blake’s office at Section 9, she is ‘filling in’ until Miss Ealand gets back.

Maxwell also appeared as Miss Holland in The Man Who Came Back and the character was subsequently written into the script of Mindbender. However, Norma Ronald was able to return to work on the series by the time that filming started on Mindbender and Timelash, so Maxwell’s services were no longer required. She went on to guest in an episode of The Persuaders! before filming her next appearance as Miss Moneypenny in Diamonds Are Forever (1971).

Maxwell’s association with the Bond franchise had almost come to an end with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. For Diamonds Are Forever, her agent demanded a pay rise from Eon Productions and producers Saltzman and Broccoli threatened to replace Maxwell if her agent did not back down. Believing that she would not be involved in Diamonds Are Forever, Maxwell dyed her hair black in order to secure a role as Peter Bowles’s wife in Sidney Gilliat’s adaptation of the Agatha Christie’s novel Endless Night (1972). At the eleventh hour, Saltzman and Broccoli accepted her agent’s terms and, with her black hair hidden beneath a customs officer’s uniform cap, she filmed a short scene with Sean Connery on location at the Eastern Docks Car Ferry Terminal and Hoverport in Dover.

Unfortunately, Maxwell’sr egular James Bond appearances ultimately had a detrimental effect on her career. Increasingly recognised as Moneypenny, a role that usually required her to be available for filming on only one day every two years, Maxwell became a victim of typecasting and found it more and more difficult to find other acting work as the years went by. Her old friend Roger Moore assumed the mantle of James Bond in 1973 and she continued to be seen as Moneypenny in Live And Let Die (1973), The Man With The Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983) and A View to a Kill (1985). But when Moore was replaced by Timothy Dalton for The Living Daylights (1987) the producers decided that, at 60, Maxwell was now too old to be seen flirting on-screen with 41-year-old Dalton. They replaced her with Caroline Bliss.

In the meantime, Maxwell had moved back to Canada following the sudden death of her husband in 1973. She settled in Toronto, bought a farm and became a partner in a business that manufactured crowd-control barriers. Between 1979 and 1994, she also wrote a twice-weekly column entitled ‘Moneypenny’ for the Toronto Sun newspaper. Aside from the Bond films, her other film roles during that time could be counted on one hand: Age Of Innocence (1977), Lost And Found (1979), Mr Patman (1980) and Martha, Ruth & Edie (1988). The latter two weren’t released theatrically in the UK, but Mr Patman was released on video as Shadows Of Darkness. There were also appearances in the TV movies The Blue Man (1987), Rescue Me (1988) and Lady In The Corner (1989) as well as a guest role in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but Maxwell decided to retire from acting in 1989.

In 1994, she moved back to England and settled in Frome in Somerset. Four years later she was lured out of retirement to play Helen Applewhite in the thriller Hard To Forget. In the autumn of 2000, she made one final screen appearance, taking the role of Olivia in The Fourth Angel (2001) which, although was released theatrically in Canada and parts of Europe, went direct to DVD in the UK and the US.

In 2001 Maxwell underwent a successful operation to remove bowel cancer, but the scare encouraged her to move to Australia to be close to her family. Since 2005, she had been living with her son Christian and his family in the southern Perth suburb of Melville in Western Australia, devoting her time and public appearance fees to the Fremantle Hospital Medical Research Foundation. She also began work on her autobiography which she announced would be titled Born A Hooker. Sadly the cancer returned and, after enduring several months of poor health, Lois Maxwell died at Fremantle Hospital, Perth, on 29th September. She is survived by her two children.

Originally published in FAB 58.