Avengers actor Patrick Macnee – R.I.P (sadly).

June 25, 2015 | By | 1 Reply More

Avengers actor Patrick Macnee has died of natural causes at his home in Rancho Mirage, California, at age 93, with his family at his bedside, according to his son, Rupert.

Avengers actor Patrick Macnee - R.I.P (sadly).

Avengers actor Patrick Macnee – R.I.P (sadly).

While working in London on the Churchill series, Macnee was offered a part originally known as Jonathan Steed. Despite numerous roles in theatre, on television and in cinema, Macnee is best known as John Steed in the fantasy/spy-fi/scifi series The Avengers (1961−69). The series was originally conceived as a vehicle for Ian Hendry, who played the lead role of Dr. David Keel, while Steed was his assistant. Macnee, though, became the lead after Hendry’s departure at the end of the first season.

He played opposite a succession of female partners who included Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and finally Linda Thorson. Steed was also the central character of a revival, follow-on series, The New Avengers (1976–77), in which he was teamed with agents named Purdey (Joanna Lumley) and Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt). Lumley later said she did all the gun-slinging because Macnee, having served in the Second World War, would have nothing to do with guns.

Although Macnee evolved in the role as the series progressed, the key elements of Steed’s persona and appearance were there from very early on: the slightly mysterious demeanour and, increasingly, the light, suave, flirting tone with ladies (and always with his female assistants). Finally, from the episodes with Honor Blackman onwards, the trademark bowler hat and umbrella completed the image. Though it was traditionally associated with London ‘city gents,’ the ensemble of suit, umbrella and bowler had developed in the post-war years as mufti for ex-servicemen attending Armistice Day ceremonies. Macnee, alongside designer Pierre Cardin, adapted the look into a style all his own, and he went on to design several outfits himself for Steed based on the same basic theme. During the 1960s, Macnee co-wrote two original novels based upon The Avengers, which he titled Dead Duck and Deadline.

When asked in June 1982 which Avengers female lead was his favourite, Macnee declined to give a specific answer. “Well, I’d rather not say. To do so would invite trouble,” he told TV Week magazine. Macnee did provide his evaluation of the female leads. Of Honor Blackman he said, “She was wonderful, presenting the concept of a strong-willed, independent and liberated woman just as that sort of woman was beginning to emerge in society.” Diana Rigg was “One of the world’s great actresses. A superb comedienne. I’m convinced that one day she’ll be Dame Diana.” (His prediction actually came true in 1994.) Linda Thorson was “one of the sexiest women alive” while Joanna Lumley was “superb in the role of Purdey. An actress who is only now realising her immense potential.”

Macnee was educated at Summer Fields School and Eton College, where he was a member of the Officer Training Corps and was one of the honour guard for King George V at St George’s Chapel in 1936. He enlisted in the Royal Navy as an Ordinary Seaman in 1942 and was commissioned a Sub-Lieutenant in 1943 becoming a navigator on Motor Torpedo Boats in the English Channel and North Sea.

After nurturing his acting career in Canada, Macnee appeared in supporting roles in a number of films, notably as an extra in Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (1948), in the Gene Kelly vehicle Les Girls (1957), as an Old Bailey barrister, and with Anthony Quayle in the war film The Battle of the River Plate (1956). He had a small role in Scrooge (US: A Christmas Carol 1951) as the young Jacob Marley. Between these occasional movie roles, Macnee spent the better part of the 1950s working at dozens of small parts in American and Canadian television and theatre.

Not long before his career-making role in The Avengers, Macnee took a break from acting and served as one of the London-based producers for the classic documentary series The Valiant Years, based on the World War II memoirs of Winston Churchill.

He also appeared in several cult films: in The Howling as ‘Dr George Waggner’ (named whimsically after the director of 1941’s The Wolf Man) and as ‘Sir Denis Eton-Hogg’ in the rockumentary comedy This Is Spinal Tap, as well as 1983’s The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E., 1978’s Battlestar Galactica, and 1985’s Bond movie, A View to a Kill.

Macnee was pre-deceased by three wives: Barbara Helen Douglas Foulds, actor and devoted mother of his two children, a son, Rupert, and a daughter; Kate Woodville; and Baba Majos de Nagyzsenye. He has one grandson.

Patrick Macnee spent the last forty years of his life, and is remembered fondly, in California’s Coachella Valley, living in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage.

Donations in Patrick’s honour may be made to the Actors Fund, www.actorsfund.org.

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Category: Fantasy, TV

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About ColonelFrog

Colonel Frog is a long time science fiction and fantasy fan. He loves reading novels in the field, and he also enjoys watching movies (as well as reading lots of other genre books).

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  1. Julian White says:

    How odd – Christopher Lee was also at Summer Fields at the same time (they were the same age) … A sad loss, both of them.

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