Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Happy Birthday, Patrick Macnee!

Today is TV Tuesday here at Friends of Justice, and we have an awesome celebrity birthday to mark: tomorrow February 6 is Patrick Macnee's 91st birthday! He was born on February 6, 1922.

Patrick Macnee portrayed the most debonair and cool super-spies to ever drive a 1929 Bentley. Most people know him as John Steed from THE AVENGERS, but he also appeared on TV's BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, the James Bond movie A VIEW TO A KILL, and various other movies and plays, such as the London version of SLEUTH (before it was made into a movie starring Laurence Olivier.)

I don't remember when I first encountered THE AVENGERS; it was always just there. Obviously Diana Rigg was a huge part of the (ahem) attraction, but if Patrick Macnee as John Steed hadn't been there representing style and intelligence on his own, the show would not have worked half as well as it did.

Patrick Macnee was there from the beginning, but not as the star. Although the average American viewer is only familiar with the Diana Rigg and later episodes, the series actually made its debut in 1961.  John Steed was second fiddle to Dr. David Keel, played by Ian Hendry. When Dr. Keel's fiancee is murdered by heroin smugglers, he vows to fight to avenge her (hence the name). This was before Marvel Comics had begun their comic-book, by the way, so that is why both entities could use the name "AVENGERS." John Steed, professional spy, meets up with him and they began a partnership that would last for one year. Ian Hendry was a bigger star in the UK at that time, and he was definitely the lead. However, at the end of 1961 the UK actors' union went on strike against the broadcasting network. During the strike Ian Hendry got a firm film offer and asked out of his contract. When the strike was over, Dr. Keel was gone.

Scripts had accumulated, but now there was no actor to play against. The producers came up with the idea of casting a woman to say the words originally intended for a man, and the first real modern television heroine was born: Mrs. Cathy Gale, esteemed archeologist working for the British Museum. She and Steed hit it off immediately, but Honor Blackman was only interested in doing the show for two years; when her contract expired, she left to make GOLDFINGER. Enter Diana Rigg as Mrs. Emma Peel.

Diana Rigg joined the cast in 1965 and stayed through 1968. She, too, was only looking to stay temporarily, and when her contract expired she, too, left. She was replaced by Linda Thorson as Tara King in what turned out to be their last season. By this time THE AVENGERS was a world-wide phenomenon, but when the US network ABC decided not to renew the series, it ended in 1969. For several years, anyway.

In 1976 THE NEW AVENGERS appeared, but for some reason I remember not liking Patrick's new co-stars, Gareth Hunt and Joanna Lumley. I recall only watching one or two episodes all the way through. Sorry, Mr. Macnee...although I have wanted to catch up on these episodes now that I'm older.  

For all the great entertainment you gave us through the years, I tip my bowler to you!! 

As an extra bonus, 
here are ALL the themes from THE AVENGERS from first to last....!

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