Thursday, June 25, 2015

Goodnight Mr. Steed: Remembering Patrick Macnee…Day 176 of Bond 365

Honestly, June has been a bit of a heartbreaker with regards to celebrities who had ties to the spy/espionage world, which has included Christopher Lee, French actress Magali Noel who was starred in OSS 117 n’est pas mort (1957) and Italian actress Laura Antonelli, who starred in Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966). And now this morning came the news that The Avengers star, Patrick Macnee, passed away at the age of 93 of natural causes.

Macnee was born in London on February 6, 1922 as Daniel Patrick Macnee. His father gambled the family’s fortune away early in Macnee’s life and his mother raised him in an unusual household dynamic for the times: his mother, who was lesbian, had her female partner/lover living with them.

After graduating from Eton, Macnee was cast as an extra in the Leslie Howard film Pygmalion (1938). However, his career was disrupted for the duration of World War II, but he resumed acting in small parts as he attended a London school of dramatic art.

He didn’t find the kind of roles he was looking for, so Macnee packed up and headed west to Canada and then the United States. He performed on Broadway and did some acting in Hollywood, but he still had not hit it big, but that was about to change.

Patrick Macnee as British secret agent and culture icon John Steed from The Avengers (Google Images)
Macnee return to England in 1959 and within two years, he found his ticket with secret agent John Steed, a role which he made into an enduring British icon with the signature bowler hat and umbrella. The series lasted until 1969, where it was cancelled after 161 episodes. During the series Macnee worked with actors on the show that would later go on to be cast in some of the Bond films: Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg, Julian Glover, and Christopher Lee.

Looking through his filmography of 167 acting credits, Macnee did a lot of guest appearances in television for the various shows that were popular at the time. A jewel among his credits was of course when Macnee teamed up with Roger Moore in A View to a Kill (1985), where he was cast as Sir Godfrey Tibbett. He was the very long-suffering chauffeur and all-around whipping boy to Moore’s Bond, but seeing them perform together was pure gold. I chuckle just thinking of the various scenes they did together. The last screen credit for Macnee is listed as Dr. Ballard in The Low Budget Time Machine (2003), which may have been when he retired, due to arthritis.

I leave you with a video of Macnee in a Sterling Motor Car Company commercial from 1989.

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