Website last updated: 17-7-2024

In Memoriam British actress Pamela Salem (1944-2024)

By: Brian Smith
Pamela Salem, Moneypenny, Never Say Never Again
In 1983, Miss Moneypenny was portrayed on screen by Pamela Salem in the James Bond film Never Say Never Again (1983). The charismatic actor had two small, but memorable scenes, exhibiting the style of badinage one associates with the earlier Sean Connery films. ‘I’m to eliminate all free radicals,’ Bond tells her after M packs him off to the health farm Shrublands. ‘Oh, do be careful!’ she replies.

Pamela Salem had previously worked with Sean Connery in Michael Crichton’s The First Great Train Robbery (1978). In 2006, she told From Sweden With Love founder Anders Frejdh that it was Connery who suggested her for the role of Moneypenny ‘since they had previously worked together on The First Great Train Robbery.’

News of her passing was announced on 23 February 2024 by Big Finish Productions, the company which produces audio plays and books - predominantly science fiction titles, most famously Doctor Who.

Pamela Salem (1944-2024): A Remembrance

Pamela Fortunee Salem was born in Bombay on 22 January 1944. She was educated at Heidelberg, the oldest of Germany’s universities, and later the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. She honed her craft in repertory theatre in Chesterfield and York.

During the 1970s Pamela became a familiar face on television, with guest appearances in series such as Jason King, The Onedin Line, Blake’s 7 and The Professionals. In 1976 Pamela auditioned for the role of Tom Baker’s companion Leela in the BBC show Doctor Who but missed out to Louise Jameson. Pamela still secured a small role in Jameson’s first story, The Face Of Evil, as one of the voices of Xoanon. She then appeared in the follow-up story, playing Toos in The Robots Of Death. Michael E Bryant, the director of this four-part serial, had reservations about the script. ‘I thought it wasn’t science fiction, I thought it was basically an Agatha Christie. What it caused me to do was cast the very best actors I knew to play all the roles in it.’ The story was basically Christie’s And Then There Were None with an influence of Dune and I, Robot.

Pamela enjoyed this period and the roles she was offered. She remarked, ‘It was a very definitive time, actually, all that time on television. Everything was sort of breaking new ground, and it was really unusual to do.’

Following her big-screen debut in The First Great Train Robbery and a few other television roles, she landed the part of Monica Burton in Buccaneer (1980) starring The Spy Who Loved Me’s Bryan Marshall. Her biggest television role thus far came in 1982 when she starred as Belor in the fantasy television show Into The Labyrinth which ran for three series.

Following her appearance as Miss Moneypenny in Never Say Never Again, more film and television roles followed. In 1988 she appeared in 37 episodes of the BBC serial Eastenders as Joanne Francis, manager of Strokes Wine Bar and member of gangster organisation ‘The Firm’. She became part of the famous Den Watts/James Willmott-Brown storyline which at its peak had more than 19 million viewers. Den Watts was played by Leslie Grantham, a convicted murderer. Pamela first met Grantham in HM Prison, Wormwood Scrubs in the ‘70s. She was a prison visitor, a voluntary appointment to monitor welfare and to offer friendship and advice to prisoners who often have no friends or family. It was Pamela’s Doctor Who co-star Louise Jameson, another regular prison visitor, who encouraged Grantham to pursue an acting career. During Pamela’s stint on Eastenders, she returned to the world of Doctor Who (now played by Sylvester McCoy) when she was cast as Professor Rachel Jensen in Remembrance Of The Daleks. This 25th anniversary story was set on the same day the show was first broadcast, 23 November 1963. With many nods to the past, Pamela’s costume and look echoed that of Jacqueline Hill’s Barbara Wright from the first episode. As well as the series regulars, Pamela co-starred with Simon Williams and newcomer Karen Gledhill.

Pamela’s exposure in a James Bond film, two of the BBC’s most popular programs, and then as Chantal in the sitcom French Fields, made her a household name in the UK.

In the 1990s she moved to Los Angeles with her husband, the actor Michael O’Hagen, before settling in Surfside in Miami, Florida. Her relocation led to roles in American television shows, most notably ER and The West Wing.

Pamela returned as Professor Rachel Jensen in Big Finish Productions’ spin-off series Counter-Measures which reunited her with Simon Williams and Karen Gledhill. In 2020 she also reprised her character Toos from The Robots Of Death in the audio drama series The Robots.

As a person, Pamela had time for everyone and always a kind word, a sentiment echoed by her Remembrance Of The Daleks and Counter-Measures co-star Karen Gledhill on the Big Finish website:

“Pamela was the kindest, most generous actor I have ever worked with. Back in the ‘80s on Remembrance of the Daleks (my first proper TV job), she took me under her wing and led me through a wonderful but slightly daunting experience. We became friends, and whenever we met were always so pleased to see each other. Counter-Measures was a total bonus – nearly eight years of regular contact with this unique woman, whose talent and professionalism shone like the star she was – what a privilege to have worked with her.”

Barbara Carrera, who portrayed Fatima Blush in Never Say Never Again, told From Sweden with Love:

“So very sad. I remember Pamela... she was such a lovely person. Even though we had no scenes together, I thought she made a memorable Moneypenny. My condolences to her family. She will be missed.”

Pamela Salem, Sean Connery, Barbara Carrera, Never Say Never Again
Pamela Salem, Sean Connery and Barbara Carrera promoting Never Say Never Again in 1983.

Pamela’s husband Michael O’Hagen died in 2017. She was the sister of the poet, voice artist and puppeteer Gillie Robic.

Text and photos by Brian Smith. Copyright © 2024 From Sweden with Love. All rights reserved.



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