Maxine Cooper, KISS ME DEADLY’s Velda, Has Died

maxinecooperMaxine Cooper, the actress who played Mike Hammer’s trusted secretary Velda in director Robert Aldrich’s classic 1955 film noir Kiss Me Deadly, has died in Los Angeles, CA. She was 84.

Cooper, who went by her married name of Maxine Gomberg, passed away on April 4th, according to her family.

Cooper made her screen debut in Aldrich’s film, playing the secretary to Ralph Meeker’s tough-guy private eye. Aldrich cast Cooper in the role after seeing her in a Los Angeles stage production of the play Peer Gynt.

In Kiss Me Deadly, Meeker’s two-fisted detective Mike Hammer attempts to unravel a mystery involving a hitchhiker (Cloris Leechman, also making her film debut) he picks up one evening but is killed shortly afterwards. His investigations lead to a dark conspiracy involving atomic weapons secrets.

Kiss Me DeadlyShortly after the film’s initial release, the ending of the film was crudely edited, possibly at the studio’s direction, to make it seem as if Hammer and Velda in the climactic explosion of a beach house rather than escaping to the nearby surf. This ending became the one predominantly seen for several decades until the detective work of film historian Glenn Erickson, who tracked down and so the restoration of Aldrich’s original ending. (You can read Erickson’s story here.)

Cooper would appear in only two other films – Autumn Leaves (1956), also directed by Aldrich, and Zero Hour! (1957), which was the basis for the spoof classic Airplane ! (1980) – before concentrating her career in television.

Shortly after appearing in Aldrich’s Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, Cooper retired from show business to concentrate on raising her family with husband writer/producer Sy Gomberg. She also helped to organize actors and studio executives’ participation in Dr. Martin Luther King’s civil rights marches and Vietnam War protests.

Via LA Times.

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About Rich Drees 7174 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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