One of my personal heroes has passed today, Patrick Macnee, star of several television program and cult films such as the Twilight Zone and the James Bond film A View to a Kill. He is of course best known for playing the bowler-hatted action man John Steed for nine years in the ITV series The Avengers. The most wildly imaginative program I have ever had the good fortune to have watched, the Avengers was beloved in my household growing up and my appreciation of it has only deepened over the years.
Modeled on his father (a diminutive dandy and race horse trainer), Macnee developed John Steed as a gentleman’s gentleman and action man. The character was initially a secondary hero to Dr. David Keel. As time wore on, Steed became the focus of the Avengers and served alongside a line of lovely ladies including Honor Blackman, Dame Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson.
Just as the character of Steed was not intended to be the lead, Macnee had not intended to be an actor as his intention was toward being an actor’s agent. His performance as John Steed in the Avengers was very formative to me as a child. The combination of courage, wit, intelligence and a playful adventurous flair remains the finest example of a leading man to me. A modern day icon, the character of Steed was just as important to me as Tom Baker’s Doctor Who or Adam West’s Batman.
I have no idea what that says about me… but Steed makes up an important part of my heroic ideal trifecta.
Gone but not forgotten, I can’t conjure an image of Patrick Macnee without imagining his winsome indefatigable grin.
Via BBC News:
Actor Patrick Macnee, star of The Avengers TV series, has died in California at the age of 93.
The Briton, best known for playing John Steed in the 1960s television series, died at home with his family at his bedside, his son Rupert said.
Macnee also played roles in theatre, appearing on Broadway, and served in the Royal Navy during World War Two.
A statement on the actor’s website read: “Wherever he went, he left behind a trove of memories.”
The statement added: “Patrick Macnee was a popular figure in the television industry. He was at home wherever in the world he found himself. He had a knack for making friends, and keeping them.”
He died peacefully at his home in California’s Rancho Mirage on Thursday, Rupert said.
James Bond ally
Born in London and educated at Eton, Macnee first appeared in the West End while still in his teens.
He played a number of minor roles – including one in Laurence Olivier’s 1948 film version of Hamlet – before rising to fame in the original Avengers series between 1961 and 1969.
He returned when that series was reprised in the 1970s, appearing alongside Joanna Lumley’s Purdey and Gareth Hunt’s Mike Gambit.
He also appeared in the 1985 James Bond film A View to Kill, playing an ally of Roger Moore’s Bond character.
‘Ahead of their time’
In a 2014 interview with The Lady magazine, Macnee said he believed The Avengers was a success because it “did something different and did it better.”
He told the magazine: “It was beautifully written, the ideas were very good, way ahead of their time and they incorporated fantasies for people who dreamed of doing exciting things.”