Maxine Cooper

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Maxine Cooper Gomberg
Born (1924-05-12)May 12, 1924
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died April 4, 2009(2009-04-04) (aged 84)
Los Angeles
Occupation Actress, activist, photographer
Spouse(s) Sy Gomberg (1957–2001; his death); 3 children

Maxine Cooper Gomberg (May 12, 1924 – April 4, 2009) was an American actress, activist and photographer. She was perhaps best known for her role as private detective Mike Hammer's secretary Velda in the 1955 film Kiss Me Deadly, which the Los Angeles Times has called a "film noir classic."[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Maxine Cooper was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1924 to Richard and Gladys Cooper. Her father was employed as a General Electric distributor. She first became interested in the theater and acting while she was enrolled as a student at Bennington College in Vermont.[1] Cooper transferred to the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California, where she completed her education in drama.[1]

Cooper travelled to Europe in 1946 to perform for United States military troops stationed on the continent following the end of World War II as part of the United States Overseas (USO).[1][2] She travelled throughout post-war Europe entertaining the troops with an ensemble of other actors including Veda Ann Borg, Rose Hobart, and Ellen Corby.[2]

She remained in Europe for more than five years, performing in both theatrical productions and television shows for the BBC. Her BBC television play credits included I Killed the Count in 1948, and You Can't Take it With You in 1947, which co-starred Finlay Currie.[2] She often performed at the Café de Paris in London.[2]

Cooper returned to the United States during the 1950s, and appeared in a number of television roles, including the 1959 Twilight Zone episode "And When the Sky Was Opened", and Dragnet. She also made two guest appearances on Perry Mason.:[1] in 1958 she played Gladys Strome, the title character, in "The Case of the Fugitive Nurse," and in 1959 she played Edith Devoe, also a nurse, in "The Case of the Caretaker's Cat."

Kiss Me Deadly[edit]

Cooper made her film debut in the 1955 crime thriller film Kiss Me Deadly, which was loosely based on a novel by Mickey Spillane.[1] director Robert Aldrich cast Cooper in Kiss Me Deadly after seeing her turn as the character, Anitra, in a Los Angeles production of the play Peer Gynt.[2] Aldrich would later cast Cooper in two of his other films, Autumn Leaves (1956) and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, which was released in 1962.[1]

She portrayed the character Velda, a trustworthy secretary to Ralph Meeker's detective Mike Hammer, the film's main character.[1] In the early 1970s, the original ending in which Velda and Mike view an explosion which destroyed the beach house had vanished.[1] The real ending was rediscovered by a film editor in the 1990s, though no one is sure why the ending was tampered with.[1]

Quentin Tarantino was fascinated by the film as a teenager.[2] Tarantino reportedly used Kiss Me Deadly as an inspiration for scenes in Pulp Fiction in 1994.[2] Tarantino tried to cast Cooper in the Jack Rabbit Slim restaurant scene in Pulp Fiction, but she declined.[2]

Later career[edit]

Cooper married her husband, Sy Gomberg, a screenwriter and producer, in 1957.[1] She left the acting profession in the early 1960s in order to raise her family.[1]

Gomberg and her husband became active members of the Hollywood activist community. She helped to organize groups of actors, writers and studio executives to participate in marches with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Montgomery, Alabama, during the 1960s.[1] Cooper also led campaigns against House Un-American Activities Committee's Hollywood blacklists.[2] She also spearheaded protests by those in the entertainment industry against nuclear weapons, the Vietnam War, and other causes.[1]

Gomberg briefly returned to her acting roots during the 1970s.[2] She made a cameo appearance as herself in the 1975 television series, Fear on Trial, which starred George C. Scott as John Henry Faulk, a blacklisted 1950s television and radio host.[2]

Gomberg became a photographer during her later life. Her photographs were used to illustrate a book by Howard Fast entitled, The Art of Zen Meditation. The Los Angeles Times referred to the book as "beautiful" in a 1977 book review when referring to her photographs.[1]

Death[edit]

Maxine and Sy Gomberg remained married until his death in 2001, aged 82.[1] She died on April 4, 2009, from natural causes at her home in Los Angeles, aged 84,[1] and was survived by her daughters, Katherine and Marsha, her son, Chris, and five grandchildren.[1]

Filmography[edit]

Film
Year Film Role Notes
1955 Kiss Me Deadly Velda Alternative title: Mickey Spillane's Kiss Me Deadly
1956 Autumn Leaves Nurse Evans
1957 Zero Hour! Sick Woman on Plane
1962 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Bank teller
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1948 The Front Page Peggy Grant Television movie
1954 The New Adventures of China Smith 1 episode
1954–1956 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Various roles 5 episodes
1955 The Star and the Story Mary Rainey 1 episode
Alfred Hitchcock Presents Mary 1 episode
Studio 57 1 episode
The Millionaire Virginia Hewett 1 episode
You Are There 1 episode
1956 Chevron Hall of Stars Rob 1 episode
Matinee Theatre 1 episode
Four Star Playhouse Millie Barr
Carol
2 episodes
Wire Service 1 episode
Dragnet 3 episodes
The Count of Monte Cristo Susan 1 episode
State Trooper Mary Herndon 1 episode
General Electric Theater Helen 1 episode
1957 Soldiers of Fortune Diane Graham 1 episode
Maverick Donna Seely 1 episode
1958–1959 Perry Mason Gladys Strome
Edith Devoe
2 episodes
1959 Peter Gunn Maria Matzi 1 episode
The D.A.'s Man Ina 1 episode
Richard Diamond, Private Detective Edith Beldon 1 episode
The Twilight Zone Amy 1 episode
1960 Philip Marlowe, Private Eye Janet 1 episode
Wanted: Dead or Alive Constance Howard 1 episode
1975 Fear on Trial Television movie
1980 High Ice Peggy Television movie

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Nelson, Valerie J. (April 15, 2009). "Maxine Cooper Gomberg dies at 84; actress in the film noir classic 'Kiss Me Deadly'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 16, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Maxine Cooper". The Daily Telegraph. April 20, 2009. Retrieved April 22, 2009. 

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