Lois Maxwell was best known for playing Miss Moneypenny in 14 James Bond films where she had a memorably obvious but unrequited admiration for the globetrotting agent. She also played similarly steady and formidable characters in a few low budget noirs.
Born Lois Hooker in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, Maxwell grew up in Toronto, acting on radio and with the famed Canadian comedy team Wayne & Shuster, traveling with them to the UK to entertain Canadian soldiers during WWII. She stayed in England and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, until she landed a contract with Warners.
There she changed her name from Hooker to Maxwell for obvious reasons (though it would’ve been somewhat suitable for Bond movies), and for the next few years appeared in numerous films and TV series. One of her early noir roles was in The Big Punch (1948), where she played an army nurse and tough cookie who attracts the romantic attentions of two men: boxer Gordon MacRae, who’s on the lam from a frame-up, and pastor Wayne Morris, who helps MacRae get a job. That same year Maxwell also appeared in The Dark Past (1948) where William Holden played a hostage taker who holds captive Psychoanalyst Lee J. Cobb and his houseful of guests.
In Kill Me Tomorrow (1957) Maxwell was a reporter trying to help Pat O’Brien and his sick son get out of a strange deal made with murderers. O’Brien witnesses the murder of his newspaper editor and offers to take the rap if the diamond smuggling killers pay for his son’s operation. When O’Brien’s confession isn’t accepted, the crooks kidnap the boy.
In 1962, Maxwell got the role of Moneypenny and her name became forever linked to Bond and movie mythology. During the 1970s she moved back to Canada, appeared on TV, and wrote a lifestyle column for the Toronto Sun for 15 years. She eventually moved back to England and finally Australia, where she died of cancer 2007 aged 80.
a version of this article originally appeared in Dark Pages noir mag (thus the focus on Maxwell’s noirs)