Guest Actor Biography
Page 83 of 127

   

Lois Maxwell

Sister Johnson, The Little Wonders

by Pete Stampede

Lois Maxwell would still have had a recognisable film niche, adding an edge of transatlantic sophistication to some pretty routine 1950's British second features, before, as David Quinlan put it, "her warm personality was always welcome, if somewhat wasted, playing Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond films." (Don't get me started on how over-rated I think the Bond films are, I actually prefer most of the rip-offs of that genre to the clunking, overlong, sexist 007 opuses themselves. For years I've been claiming that any episode of The Avengers is superior to any Bond, an opinion I've yet to revise.) Born in Canada in 1927, she rather surprisingly appeared in several Italian ventures in the 1950's, including an unconvincing version of Aida (1953) starring Sophia Loren. But she first came to attention at a time when Canadian performers seemed to represent something exciting to austere, postwar Britain, judging by the success in all media (especially radio and the nascent television scene) of husband and wife presenters Bernard Braden and Barbara Kelly, smarmy game show host Hughie Green and actor Paul Carpenter, amongst others. An early film of Maxwell's, Corridor of Mirrors (1948), also saw Christopher Lee's film debut.

One of her B movie starrers, Women of Twilight (1952), provided an early role for Laurence Harvey, as emblematic of the 50's as her future co-star Sean Connery would be of the 60's. At the time she began playing M's overlooked secretary (with no explanation ever given for her Canadian accent), she was moving into character roles requiring an American sound. Hence her roles in episodes of ITC series, including Danger Man, "Position of Trust" (1960), which, like The Avengers, not only predated the Bond films but was actually better (if I ruled the world, Patrick McGoohan would be the subject of endless appraisals of his power as an actor and recipient of a knighthood, while Connery would be the one consigned to odd guest roles and who everyone thinks is dead). She worked with pre-Bond Roger Moore in The Saint, "Simon and Delilah" (1966), "Interlude in Venice" (1967) and The Persuaders, "Someone Waiting" (1971). She did the voice for the character Atlanta Shore (the puppet actually looked a bit like her, to be honest) in Gerry Anderson's Stingray (1964-65); her casting as a secretary in a couple of episodes of his live action series UFO (1970) must have been some kind of in-joke. At least her supporting roles included two classics, Lolita (1962), again as a nurse, which Stanley Kubrick came to Britain to make (and never left), and Robert Wise's splendid New England (well, filmed in Olde England here, but never mind!) ghost story The Haunting (1963). What a sad indication of present-day Hollywood that both of these have been recently and ineffectively remade.

Operation Kid Brother (1967), sometimes known as OK Connery, was a cheeky Italian cash-in which starred instantly obscure younger brother Neil Connery, with Maxwell and Bernard "M" Lee roped in along with a couple of other peripheral Bond players. Unsurprisingly finding herself typecast, Maxwell worked more in Canada as time went on, including Age of Innocence/Ragtime Summer (1977), a WW1-set drama with Honor Blackman (this film is unavailable on video, has never been on TV to my knowledge, and I've certainly never seen it, which may be unfortunate as reliable sources state that there are scenes where Honor, er, isn't wearing any clothes...) Maxwell was replaced as Miss Moneypenny after A View to a Kill (1985), which also had a thankless supporting role for Patrick Macnee; but like the trouper she is, she actually co-hosted ITV's coverage of the premiere of the first one without her, The Living Daylights (1987). Occasional roles since then have mainly been in Canada, the IMDB claiming somewhat erroneously that she's retired there. Reportedly she is now living in Perth.

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Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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