Saturday, July 11, 2015

My Avengers Weren't Marvel: Goodbye Patrick Macnee

  Yesterday I heard that actor Patrick Macnee died on June 25th. While Macnee didn't have a monster career, he was a cult favourite due to his starring role in the 1960's series "The Avengers".

Patrick Macnee as John Steed. He helped develop Steed's style and even designed some of Steed's costumes himself.
As kids my sister and I loved The Avengers. We watched it regularly and played spies and secret agents because of it's influence. There were plenty of spies and secret agent movies and TV shows in the 60's, but The Avengers was definitely one of the best. (It also has one of the best themes. You can hear the theme and watch the cool opening  HERE.) It featured quirky characters, interesting sets, groovy 60's fashions, and the chemistry of John Steed and Emma Peel, played by Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg.

Diana Rigg as Mrs. Emma Peel. During the course of the series Mr. Peel was never seen, (having been lost in the Amazon before Mrs. Peel joined the cast), until Diana Rigg's last episode, where Mr. Peel returned and took Emma away so Rigg could leave the series.
There were other female leads besides 'Mrs. Peel' during the course of the series: One before Emma Peel, 'Cathy Gale', played by Honor Blackman,

Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman.
...which we didn't see in the U. S.), and one after,(Tara King...

...and with Linda Thorson.
... played by Linda Thorson.). There was even a different lead male character at the very beginning, when 'John Steed' was only a sidekick. (Dr. David Keel, played by Ian Hendry.He lasted one season.)

Patrick Macnee, Ian Hendry, and an unidentified corpse.
 But I think most people will agree that Steed's best partner was Mrs. Peel. She is certainly the favourite around here.

Steed rescuing Mrs. Peel, who has been tied to a miniature railroad track 'a la silent movies, in my daughter Emma's favourite episode, The Gravediggers. Yes. I raised my kids on The Avengers. And yes, Emma was at least partially named after Emma Peel. For her birthday just last month Fuzzy bought her the Complete Emma Peel Avengers DVD set. I've just realized that I had wanted to name Fuzzy 'Patrick'. Ok. That would have been officially weird.
  There was even a 70's redo of the series called The New Avengers, which also starred Patrick Macnee.

Before she became "Absolutely Fabulous" Joanna Lumley was Purdey. Gareth Hunt as Gambit never became fabulous...
  He was the star, but since he was then in his mid 50's he took a back seat as far as the action sequences went. That was left for his younger co- stars,Gareth Hunt as Gambit and Joanna Lumley as Purdey. (And yes, our cat, who passed away in March, was named after Purdey.) It didn't have the same magic as the original series though, and only lasted a couple of seasons.
  There was even a 1998 movie based on the series starring Ralph Fiennes as Steed and Uma Thurman as Mrs. Peel. (See, even the movie used Mrs. Peel instead of Cathy Gale or Tara King.) I really didn't like the movie, but how I dislike movie re-do's of old tv series' is a subject for a whole other post...
Ralph Fiennes as Steed and Uma..oh who cares...
Now that's more like it.
  Patrick Macnee was born in 1922 in Paddington, London, England. Some of his early career was spent in Canada, but he also appeared in British films like the 1951 version of "Scrooge", where he played young Jacob Marley.

George Cole as young Scrooge and Macnee as young Marley. In the 90's he hosted a tv showing of the movie, calling it "My family's favourite version of "A Christmas Carol". Gee, wonder why they like that one so much...)

 He also appeared in "This is Spinal Tap" in 1984, and the James Bond film "A View to a Kill" in 1985.
"A View to a Kill". As much as I love spy stuff, I never made it through a James Bond movie until late last year. I always thought they were boring. Now, having watched the first one all the way through I can honestly say...what the heck was going on?
He made appearances in many Canadian and American tv series before and after The Avengers.
Like this appearance as Derek Jacobi's dad in one of my favourite series, "Frasier".
He appeared in a Magnum P.I. episode called "Holmes Is Where the Heart Is",playing a retired British agent who thought he was Sherlock Holmes. He also played Doctor Watson three times.The first was in 1976 in "Sherlock Holmes in New York", (Starring Roger Moore as Holmes.).

Roger Moore and Charlotte Rampling with Macnee in "Sherlock Holmes in New York".
That was followed in 1991 by "Incident at Victoria Falls and 1992 in "Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady", both with Christopher Lee as Holmes.

He played Watson again in 1993 in "The Hound of London". Ignoring the fact that his character only thought he was Sherlock Holmes on that Magnum episode, that makes him one of very few actors to have played both Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
  A Mrs. Peel doll was made in the 60's, but alas no Steed.In 2002 dolls of both Steed and Emma Peel were produced. There were two sets, which used the same molds, but featured different clothing. One set even talked! ("Mrs. Peel, we're needed.") The Steed is much better than the Emma Peel...

There. This post ties in with dolls. Are you happy now?
  Macnee was proud of the fact that his Avengers character John Steed almost never appeared with a gun. This was his own preference, since he had bad memories from World War II. He wrote several books, including his autobiography, "Blind in One Ear: The Avenger Returns", and two Avengers novels. He became an American citizen in 1982 and had lived in California for more than 40 years.
  Goodbye Patrick.


  1. Great post! I loved The Avengers! I was a big Mrs. Peel fan. Loved the clothes too.

    1. Thanks! My favourite thing about the clothes is how Mrs. Peel's shoes matched the outfit so perfectly they almost looked like part of the pants, right down to the stripe on the leg continuing on the shoes. Yeah ok. I'm weird...

  2. Sorry Em. I meant to tell you, but you know how senile I am these days.

  3. Very nice article! I didn't know about the Holmes stuff, which is cool. But it's made more cool by the fact that Christopher Lee guest starred in a great Avengers episode, "Never, Never Say Die!"

    1. Thanks so much.I still haven't seen the Christopher Lee Homes movies, but Sherlock Holmes in New York is good.And I had totally forgotten about the Avengers episode with Christopher Lee!


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