...a blog by Richard Flowers

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Day 2463: A Diamond Gone Forever


We were sad to hear that the original Miss Moneypenny, Ms Lois Maxwell, has died at the age of eighty.

We were watching "Diamonds are Forever", interrupted by a telephone call, when we heard the news. It seemed sadly apt.

She won a Golden Globe while appearing with Ms Shirley Temple and had a small role in the notorious "Bedtime for Bonzo" (it stared Mr Ronald Raygun and a Chimpanzee – one of them would go on to become President of America).

She was the voice of Atlanta in Gerry Anderson's "Stingray" and played a Nun-with-a-Gun in "The Avengers" (working for a "bishop" played by Mr David Bauer, who would later be Mr Morton Slumber in "Diamonds are Forever") but she will always be remembered for creating (along with Mr Bernard Lee's "M" and Mr Desmond Llewellyn's "Q") one of the three central supporting roles of the James Bond films.

Originally from Canada, Ms Maxwell first came to Great Britain during the World War Part II. She had run away, aged only 15, to join up and become part of the Army Entertainment Corps but her age had been discovered and she was in danger of court marshal and repatriation to Canada when she managed to secure a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. In fact, she sneaked off AWOL in order to attend the audition.

In 1961 she twisted director Mr Terence Young's arm to get a role in the first James Bond movie, Dr No. He owed her a favour and offered her a choice – she plumbed for the more demure, if less well paid, Miss Moneypenny over the role of possibly recurring girlfriend Ms Sylvia Trench. Good choice – Ms Sylvia was unceremoniously dropped after only two movies; Miss Moneypenny appears in EVERY James Bond film except the most recent and for fourteen of those flicks she is realised by Ms Lois.

She managed to imbue a whole relationship between her character and that of Mr James in only a few moments of screen time, so that people remembered her far beyond the actual SIZE of the role.

In later years she tried to persuade the Bond producers that it was time for a female "M". Eventually they agreed with her, but sadly they went and cast Dame Judi Dench instead. Not that Ms Dame Judi isn't TOTALLY WONDERFUL, but it would have been a SPECIAL CHARM to see a new Mr James taking orders from an old friend: "M" for "Moneypenny".

As well as her onscreen performance, we have recently been listening to her engaging and heart-warming contributions to the cast and crew commentaries on my new Ultimate James Bond DVDs. Now, those stories will be tinged with more sadness as the last of those three greats in no longer with us.

Although two more actresses have succeeded her in the role, Ms Caroline Bliss and the almost-as-super-as-Ms-Lois Ms Samantha Bond (saucier than Ms Lois, but up to date and stronger), Miss Moneypenny will be forever associated with Ms Lois. It was a role she made her own: the Property of a Lady.

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