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Macnee 'dear man', says Diana Rigg


Patrick MacNee, who has died aged 93, with Diana Rigg in The Avengers

Patrick MacNee, who has died aged 93, with Diana Rigg in The Avengers

Patrick MacNee, who has died aged 93, with Diana Rigg in The Avengers

Diana Rigg has paid tribute to the actor Patrick Macnee who died yesterday, describing him as a "dear man".

The actress, who played Emma Peel alongside Macnee in The Avengers, said: "Patrick was a very dear man and I owe him a great deal".

Macnee, best known for playing the urbane intelligence agent John Steed in the 1960s TV series The Avengers, was 93.

He died of natural causes at his home in California yesterday with his family at his bedside, according to his son, Rupert.

Sir Roger Moore, who appeared with him in the James Bond film A View To A Kill, described him as "a true gent".

He had lived in the US for the last 40 years.

A statement paying tribute to him on his website said: " Patrick Macnee was a popular figure in the television industry. He was at home wherever in the world he found himself.

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"He had a knack for making friends, and keeping them. Wherever he went, he left behind a trove of memories and good wishes."

The son of a racehorse trainer, Macnee grew up in Berkshire and was educated at Summerfields Preparatory School, where at the age of 11 he acted in Henry V opposite a young Sir Christopher Lee.

He then went on to Eton College before training at London's Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art.

After serving in the Royal Navy in the Second World War he turned his hand to acting, working at the Windsor Repertory Theatre and in some minor film roles before moving to Canada and the United States, becoming a US citizen in 1959.

Macnee found fame in The Avengers, playing the dapper British intelligence agent Steed throughout the original series from 1961 to 1969.

Dashing in his bowler hat and sharp suit, Steed was the epitome of the debonair English gentleman, the secret agent eschewing a gun to instead arm himself with a distinctive umbrella that doubled as a sword.

He reprised his role for the New Avengers in 1976-77 and appeared as the voice of Invisible Jones in the 1998 The Avengers film, starring Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman.

Macnee proved that he was as urbane in real life as his most famous character during an interview with The Lady magazine last year.

Quizzed on who was the most appealing of his three co-stars in the original Avengers series - Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale, Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, or Linda Thorson as Tara King - Macnee did the only thing an English gentleman could and politely sidestepped the question.

"The very first thing you learn if you're a gentleman is that you never compare one woman to another," he said.

"That's the way of all death. You get a big pointed high heel in your groin and you'll never walk again!"

Macnee also spoke with pride at how the show paved the way for women to play leading action roles on television.

He told the magazine: "The wonderful thing was it made women feel they didn't just belong in an apron in front of a stove cooking for the kids.

"It made them delight in the awareness that they could get out there and do it all, fight men, take on villains, all the kinds of stuff we showed in The Avengers."

He added: "I'm very proud of what we achieved for women with The Avengers.

"I don't think we knew that we were doing it at the time; it just seemed that a woman would make the ideal foil to my John Steed. And so she did."

After The Avengers, Macnee starred on Broadway in Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth, touring internationally with that play and several other productions and guest-starred in dozens of British, American and Australian TV productions, and later featured in an Oasis music video for their 1996 song Don't Look Back In Anger, appearing as the band's driver.

He was also in the 1985 Bond film A View To A Kill with Sir Roger, acting as Bond's ally, the horse trainer Sir Godfrey Tibbett.

Paying tribute, Sir Roger said: "So very sad to hear Pat MacNee has left us. We were mates from 1950s and I have so many happy memories of working with him. A true gent."

Author and playwright Bonnie Greer added: "When I was a kid, some folks were 'one of us' - Leonard Nimoy and Patrick Macnee. Dude of dudes. RIP Patrick Macnee."

Goodness Gracious Me actor Sanjeev Bhaskar also paid a warm tribute to him, saying: "RIP Patrick Mcnee (sic). The Avengers also warm and wonderful foil to Sir Roger Moore in several films and Spinal Tap. Epitome of the British Gent."

Macnee was married three times, including to actress Katherine Woodville, with whom he acted in The Avengers, and had two children, a son and a daughter, as well as one grandson.

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