Maxine Cooper, the occasional actress who will be forever remembered in Kiss Me Deadly as Mike Hammer's secretary, Velda, died April 4 of natural causes, according to today's L.A. Times. She was 84. Her role in the Robert Aldrich noir classic was unforgettable because, as a sexy, reliable Girl Friday, Velda presented a reassuring stereotype in an unstable and disorienting milieu. Velda was open, available — and had to be rescued, whereas the other women Ralph Meeker's Hammer encountered were neurotic and distant.
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“As the world becomes more primitive,” another character muses to Hammer, “its treasures become more fabulous.” Velda is the character who memorably dubs one of those treasures, the mysterious black box at the heart of the story, “the great whatsit,” and Cooper so described it with all the vulnerable scorn of a country living with the threat of nuclear annihilation.
Fittingly, she would appear in another story of a frightening world
making no sense — the Twilight Zone episode, And When the Sky Was Opened,
in which three astronauts return to earth — only to vanish, one by one,
with no one remembering they ever existed. Cooper would curtail her acting career after marrying screenwriter Sy Gomberg in 1957,
although she remained very active as an advocate and organizer for
civil rights, peace and nuclear disarmament.