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Saying Goodbye to the Dapper Agent: Patrick Macnee of “The Avengers”


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Patrick Macnee

Patrick Macnee, the British born actor known as John Steed in the 1960s TV series “The Avengers” died at the age of 93.  Macnee died Thursday of natural causes with his family at this bedside in Rancho Mirage.

The spy drama began in Britain in 1961 before coming to the US in 1966 and it lasted for eight seasons.  Macnee’s character was in all but two episodes with his lovely string of beautiful women as his sidekicks.  The most popular was Diana Rigg, who played junior agent Emma Peel from 1965 to 1968.  Honor Blackman played Catherine Gale from 1962 to 1964, and Linda Thorson was Tara King from 1968 to 1969.

“We were in our own mad, crazy world,” Macnee told the Wichita Eagle in 2003 when “The New Avengers” was being issued on DVD.  “We were the TV Beatles.  We even filmed in the same studio.”

Macnee’s early life matched his famed character in many ways.  The fictional character, John Wickham Gasoyne Berresford Steed was born in the mid-1920s to a noble British family, educated at Eton and served in the military during World War II.  Daniel Patrick Macnee was born February 6, 1922, in London to eccentric parents, also attended Eton, and served in the military during World War II captaining torpedo boats that sought to destroy German U-boats in French waters.

Before he left Eton, Macnee discovered acting.  He apprenticed in the British theatre, toured in provincial theaters and made his film debut in 1938 film “Pygmalion” as an extra.

At 19, he was married and had 2 children.  After the war, Macnee graduated from drama school, but had trouble finding work and even moved to Canada at one point to find acting jobs.  He later married his second wife, but they divorced in the 1960s.  His final marriage was in 1988.

Macnee became an American citizen in 1959 and moved to Palm Spring in 1967 because the dry desert air benefited his daughter, who suffered from asthma.

Among his films are “Hamlet” (starring Lawrence Olivier), “A Christmas Carol,” “Until They Sail,” “Les Girls,” “Young Doctors in Love,” “Sweet 16” and “This Is Spinal Tap.”  He had a comic turn in the latter film as a British entrepreneur, Sir Denis Eton-Hogg.  Before “The Avengers,” he appeared in such TV shows as “Twilight Zone,” “Rawhide” and “Playhouse 90,” among many others.  But it was “The Avengers” that provided a permanent living for Macnee as he owned 2.5% of the profits, and the series continued playing worldwide into the 21st century.

Patrick Macnee – we will miss that bowler hat and your dapper secret agent!  Rest in Peace!

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