Few characters in cinema carried a torch for someone as long as Lois Maxwell's Miss Moneypenny. Over the course of 14 James Bond films, the Canadian actress traded quips and cast many a longing glance at Agent 007, always in vain. Leaving her homeland as a teen, Maxwell made her first screen appearances in England before giving Hollywood a go with pictures like "That Hagen Girl" (1947). The now infamous Ronald Reagan movie earned Maxwell a Golden Globe, but failed to lead to more interesting parts. She began taking parts in Italian productions before a return trip to Britain led to her participation in "Dr. No" (1962), the British spy adventure that launched one of cinema's greatest franchises. Appearing in the first 14 James Bond adventures, Maxwell received much exposure and fan appreciation, even though Moneypenny was mostly confined to the offices of MI6. In between Bond duties, Maxwell guest starred on a number of television programs and earned additional movie assignments, including a pair of European spy spoofs. As her acting career was largely winding down, Maxwell reinvented herself as a writer and penned a popular column for The Toronto Sun newspaper. Moneypenny was Maxwell's signature role, and as its originator, she brought a sophisticated sexiness and sense of humor to the character that her younger successors could never quite duplicate.
Lois Maxwell was born Lois Ruth Hooker on Feb. 14, 1927 in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, though she grew up in the more bustling metropolis of Toronto. Following work on the radio and as a waitress, Maxwell successfully joined the Canadian Women's Army Corps by hiding the fact that she was only 15 at the time. Her true age was eventually discovered, but Maxwell was in England by that point and had accrued performing experience with the Canadian Auxiliary Services Entertainment Unit. She subsequently enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and made her movie debut via an uncredited appearance in the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger fantasy classic "Stairway to Heaven" (1946). Hoping to further her film career, Maxwell soon relocated to the United States and attracted the attention of Warner Brothers. Her first role, unfortunately, was in the notoriously bad Ronald Reagan/Shirley Temple vehicle "That Hagen Girl" (1947). However, Maxwell emerged from the experience unscathed and even earned a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer.
Following a handful of rather unimpressive movies for Warner and Columbia Pictures, Maxwell felt she was going nowhere in Hollywood and headed to Italy in search of more interesting work. Beginning with the drama "Tomorrow is too Late" (1950), she appeared in a handful of Italian movies and also indulged in some amateur car racing. After a couple of years, Maxwell returned to England and provided lovely scenery for the mostly dreary likes of such B-pictures as "Scotland Yard Inspector" (1952) and "Women of Twilight" (1952). However, the quality of films being offered to Maxwell soon increased noticeably and she acted in the ambitious science fiction thriller "Satellite in the Sky" (1956) and the mystery thriller "Time without Pity" (1957). That year, Maxwell married TV executive Peter Marriott and the couple had two children before the decade was out. She also became a regular presence on British television, guest starring on various programs, including the Patrick McGoohan spy series "Danger Man" (ATV, 1960-62), and had a supporting assignment in Stanley Kubrick's scandalous "Lolita" (1962) as a nurse.
The first James Bond adventure, "Dr. No" (1962) launched one of the longest running series in cinema history. It also ended up as a milestone for Maxwell, who became known worldwide for her recurring role as Miss Moneypenny, the MI6 secretary who harbors a not-so-secret infatuation with 007. Maxwell lobbied for a part in the production, but passed on playing a minor supporting character who, not surprisingly, ended up in bed with England's greatest spy. She said yes, however, when offered Moneypenny, whose obvious infatuation with Bond became a regular highlight of the series. Trading double entendres with 007 but never taking it any further, Maxwell skillfully projected both a knowing playfulness and a seemingly genuine concern for his welfare. With "Dr. No" a huge ticket seller across the globe, the following year's "From Russia with Love" (1963) was the first of what turned out be many sequels for Maxwell and a handful of other series regulars.
In between her Bond duties - which rarely took more than a few days - Maxwell appeared in the classic horror thriller "The Haunting" (1963) and voiced Lt. Atlanta Shore on "Stingray" (ITV, 1963-64), one of several "Supermarionation" family programs from the husband and wife team of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson. Maxwell and regular 007 co-star Bernard Lee, who played MI6 leader "M," were also lured to Italy for the Bond spoof "Operation Kid Brother" (1967), which starred Sean Connery's younger sibling, Neil. After regular guest star duties on various shows, Maxwell also earned her first regular spot on the Canadian family series "Adventures in Rainbow Country" (CBC, 1969-1970), which was a ratings success, but ultimately failed to produce a second season. While the James Bond films were a financial windfall for the various actors who played the character, that was not the case for Maxwell, who generally received in the neighborhood of £100 per day for what almost always amounted to little screen time (though Moneypenny did finally receive some field duty in "You Only Live Twice" and "Diamonds Are Forever"). Regardless, it was a great boost to be associated with such a phenomenon, and brief or not, her scenes as Moneypenny provided tremendous exposure, which helped cast Maxwell in other movie projects, like the Agatha Christie mystery "Endless Night" (1972).
Following the death of her husband in 1973, Maxwell moved back to Canada, but the majority of her acting assignments still came from overseas. She joined Bernard Lee once again for the French spy spoof "From Hong Kong with Love" (1975), in which they actually played their characters from the Bond films. In 1979, Maxwell inaugurated a column in The Toronto Sun newspaper, where she discussed her conservative political views, world travel, and acting experiences, which she signed "Miss Moneypenny." She also maintained business interests connected to the clothing industry. She still acted on occasion, with her Canadian heritage helping the little-seen tax shelter films "Mr. Patman" (1980) and "Eternal Evil" (1985) meet their Canadian casting quotas, but her recurring duties on the Bond films soon came to a close. Following the release of "A View to a Kill" (1985), Roger Moore announced that he would no longer be playing Bond. The film also ended up being Maxwell's last outing, part of a general housecleaning by the producers before they rebooted the series with Timothy Dalton as the new 007. Caroline Bliss took over as Moneypenny in "The Living Daylights" (1987) and Maxwell largely retired from acting.
In 1994, she discontinued her column after a popular 15-year run and moved to England. After an absence of more than a decade, Maxwell returned to performing with a part in the action-thriller "The Fourth Angel" (2001). Unfortunately, she experienced health concerns that resulted in a diagnosis of bowel cancer and had to undergo surgery. Relocating one last time to Perth, Australia, she worked on her autobiography, which Maxwell stated would be called Born a Hooker. It was not known whether the manuscript was ever finished, but it was not been published in the years since Maxwell died on Sept. 29, 2007.
By John Charles