Bond, James Bond Pt4: Moneypenny, Lois Maxwell

8 Apr

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“I always said I’d have Roger (Moore) for a husband, but Sean (Connery) for a weekend lover.”

Everyone knows (or should know) Lois Maxwell as the one and only “Miss Moneypenny”, but there’s much more to her acting career than that. She started out against her parents’ will, and without their knowledge, in a Canadian children’s radio program, credited as “Robin Wells”. Before the age of 15 she left for England with the Canadian army’s Entertainment Corps and managed (after her age had been discovered) to get herself enrolled in The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she met and became friends with Roger Moore.

Her movie career started with a Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger production, Stairway to Heaven (1946). After having won The Most Promising Newcomer Golden Globe Award in 1947, she went to Hollywood and made six films before she decided to try her luck in Italy. She ha to leave Italy to go to England when her husband became ill, and since then she has had roles in a number of movies besides the first 14 Bond movies. In 1989 she retired.

Maxwell lobbied for the role in the James Bond film Dr. No, as her husband had had a heart attack and they needed the money. Director Terence Young, who once had turned her down on the grounds that she looked like she “smelled of soap”, offered her either Moneypenny or the recurring Bond girlfriend, Sylvia Trench, but she was uncomfortable with a revealing scene in the screenplay. The role as M’s secretary guaranteed just two days’ work at £100 a day; Maxwell supplied her own clothes. The Trench character, however, was eliminated after From Russia with Love.

In 1967, Maxwell angered Sean Connery for a time by appearing in the Italian spy spoof Operation Kid Brother, with the star’s brother Neil Connery and Benard Lee. In 1971, Maxwell was nearly replaced for Diamonds are Forever after demanding a pay raise; her policewoman’s cap disguises hair she had already dyed for another role. However she continued in the role, as her former classmate Roger Moore took over the part of 007. In 1975, she played Moneypenny weeping for the death of James Bond in a short scene with Bernard Lee as M in the French comedy Bons baisers de Hong. For the filming of A View to Kill (1985), her final appearance, Bond producer Cubby Broccoli told her that the two of them were the only ones from Dr. No still working on the series. Maxwell asked that her character be killed off, but Broccoli recast the role instead. Her final Bond film was also Moore’s last outing, and she was succeeded by Caroline Bliss during Timothy Dalton’s tenure and later by Samantha Bond in the Pierce Brosnan films.

As Moneypenny, according to author Tom Lisanti, she was seen as an “anchor”, with her flirtatious repartee with Bond lending the films realism and humanism. For Moneypenny, Bond was “unobtainable”, freeing the characters to make outrageous sexual double entendures. At the same time, her character did little to imbue the series with changing feminist ideals. While still acting in the Bond films during the 80s Lois also became a regular columnist for the Toronto Sun newspaper. She purchased a cottage in northern Ontario and would often share stories about her experiences on the movie set, her co-stars, life in Italy, her experiences growing up in Canada and about her present life in general. As well as commenting on topics of the day. Her feature was a favorite for many and she was sorely missed when she finally retired from writing for the Toronto Sun.

She was the first actress to play the role of MissMoneypenny in the Bond Films, playing the character from Dr. No, in 1962 until her final performance of the character in the 1985 film A View to Kill. Is second only to Desmond Llewelyn for the number of appearances in James Bond movies. She was in 14 and he was in 18.

As Maxwell’s career declined, she lived in Canada, Switzerland, and England, until she was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2001. She moved to Perth, Western Australia, where she lived with her son until her death in 2007, at the age of eighty

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