Macnee in Lobster Man From Mars, c.1988
6 February 1922 |
Paddington, London, England, United Kingdom
|Alma mater||Eton College|
|Occupation||Film, television actor|
|Known for||John Steed|
Baba Majos de Nagyzsenye
(1988−2007; her death)
Macnee, the elder of two sons, was born Daniel Patrick Macnee in London, to Dorothea Mary (née Henry or Hastings) and Daniel "Shrimp" Macnee, who trained racehorses in Lambourn. His maternal grandmother was Frances Alice Hastings, who was descended from the Earls of Huntingdon – Macnee has long suggested that he may be a distant relation of Robin Hood, sometimes said to have been a black sheep of the Huntingdon family. Macnee's great-grandfather was Scottish portrait artist Sir Daniel Macnee.
His parents divorced after his mother declared her lesbianism and had a live-in partner (referred to in Macnee's memoirs, Blind in One Ear: The Avenger Returns, as "Uncle Evelyn") who helped pay for young Patrick's schooling. He was educated at Eton College, was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and was awarded the Atlantic Star for his service during World War II. After nurturing his acting career in Canada, Macnee appeared in supporting roles in a number of films, notably as an extra in Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948), in the Gene Kelly vehicle Les Girls (1957), as an Old Bailey barrister, and with Anthony Quayle in the war film The Battle of the River Plate (1956). He had a small role in Scrooge (US: A Christmas Carol 1951) as the young Jacob Marley. Between these occasional movie roles Macnee spent the better part of the 1950s working at scores of small parts in American and Canadian television.
Not long before his career-making role in The Avengers, Macnee took a break from acting and served as one of the London-based producers for the classic documentary series The Valiant Years, based on the World War II memoirs of Winston Churchill. It was while working in London on the Churchill series that Macnee was offered the part originally named Jonathan Steed.
Despite numerous roles in theatre, on television and in cinema, Macnee is best known as John Steed in the series The Avengers (1961−69). The series was originally conceived as a vehicle for Ian Hendry who played the lead role of Dr. David Keel, while Steed was his assistant. Macnee though became the lead after Hendry's departure at the end of the first season. He played opposite a succession of female partners who included Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and finally Linda Thorson. Steed was also the central character of a revival, The New Avengers (1976–77), in which he was teamed with Purdey (Joanna Lumley) and Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt). Lumley said that she did all the gun-slinging because Macnee, having served in the Second World War, would have nothing to do with guns.
Although Macnee evolved the role as the series progressed, the key elements of Steed's persona and appearance were there from very early on: the slightly mysterious demeanour, and increasingly, the light, suave, flirting tone with ladies (and always with his female assistants). Finally, from the episodes with Honor Blackman onwards, the trademark bowler hat and umbrella completed the image. Traditionally associated with London 'city gents', the suit, umbrella and bowler had developed in the post-war years as mufti for ex-servicemen attending Armistice Day ceremonies. Macnee, alongside designer Pierre Cardin, adapted the look into a style all his own, and he went on to design several outfits himself for Steed based on the same basic theme.
During the 1960s, Macnee co-wrote two original novels based upon The Avengers, which he titled Dead Duck and Deadline. In 1988, he wrote his autobiography, which he titled Blind in One Ear: The Avenger Returns. In 1995, he hosted a documentary, The Avengers: The Journey Back, directed by Clyde Lucas.
When asked in June 1982 which Avengers female lead was his favourite, Macnee declined to give a specific answer. "Well, I'd rather not say. To do so would invite trouble", he told TV Week magazine. Macnee did provide his evaluation of the female leads. Of Honor Blackman he said "She was wonderful, presenting the concept of a strong-willed, independent and liberated woman just as that sort of woman was beginning to emerge in society." Diana Rigg was "One of the world's great actresses. A superb comedienne. I'm convinced that one day she'll be Dame Diana." (His prediction actually came true in 1994.) Linda Thorson was "one of the sexiest women alive" while Joanna Lumley was "superb in the role of Purdey. An actress who is only now realising her immense potential."
Macnee's other significant roles have included playing Sir Godfrey Tibbett opposite Roger Moore in the James Bond film A View to a Kill, as Major Crossley in The Sea Wolves (again with Moore), guest roles in Encounter, Alias Smith and Jones, Hart to Hart, Murder, She Wrote, Battlestar Galactica and The Love Boat. He made an appearance in episode 10 of series one of The Twilight Zone in 1959 ("Judgment Night"). Though Macnee found fame as the heroic Steed, the majority of his guest appearances have been in villainous roles. He also presented the American paranormal series, Mysteries, Magic and Miracles. Macnee made his Broadway debut as the star of Anthony Shaffer's mystery Sleuth in 1972 and subsequently headlined the national tour of that play.
On television, in 1975, Macnee co-starred as the ship's captain with Peter Falk and Robert Vaughn in the Columbo episode "Troubled Waters", directed by Ben Gazzarra. In 1983 Macnee played the role of Major Vickers in the television mini series For the Term of His Natural Life. He had recurring roles in the crime series Gavilan with Robert Urich and in the 1984 satire on big business, Empire, as the menacing M.D. Calvin Cromwell. In the original 1970s version of Battlestar Galactica, Macnee was the voice of the evil Imperious Leader of the Cylons, and appeared onscreen as the evil Count Iblis. In the 2000 documentary Ian Fleming: 007's Creator, he is the narrator.
Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson
In 1984, Macnee appeared in Magnum, P.I. as a retired British agent who believes he is Sherlock Holmes (in a season four episode entitled "Holmes is Where the Heart is"). He in fact played both Holmes and Doctor Watson on several occasions. He played Watson three times: once to Roger Moore's Sherlock Holmes in a 1976 TV film, Sherlock Holmes in New York and twice with Christopher Lee (Incident at Victoria Falls and Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady). He played Holmes in another TV film, The Hound of London (1993).
He also appeared in several cult films: in The Howling as 'Dr George Waggner' (named whimsically after the director of 1941's The Wolf Man) and as 'Sir Denis Eton-Hogg' in the rockumentary comedy This Is Spinal Tap. In 1981, he played Dr. Stark in The Creature Wasn't Nice, also called Spaceship and Naked Space. He took over Leo G. Carroll's role as the head of U.N.C.L.E. in The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen-Years-Later Affair, produced by Michael Sloan, in 1983; his role differed from Carroll's of Alexander Waverly. Patrick starred in the 1990s science fiction series Super Force as E.B. Hungerford (called "MR. H." by lab assistant F.X.) in the pilot and his computer counterpart; his character was killed. Macnee also appeared as a supporting character in the 1989 science fiction parody, Lobster Man From Mars, as Prof. Plocostomos and in Frasier, season 8, episode 11. He also played in the 1989 film The Return of Sam McCloud as Tom Jamison. He would also make a cameo appearance in the Sci-Fi American television series Nightman as Doctor Walton, a psychiatrist who would advise Johnny/Nightman.
Macnee serves as the narrator for several "behind-the-scenes" featurettes, featured on the James Bond series of DVDs. He lent his voice in a cameo as 'Invisible Jones' in the 1998 critically lambasted film version of The Avengers (in which Steed was played by Ralph Fiennes), and he also featured in two pop videos: as Steed in original Avengers footage in the The Pretenders' 1986 video Don't Get Me Wrong, and in the Oasis's video of their song Don't Look Back in Anger in 1996, as the band's driver, a role similar to that which he played in the 1985 James Bond film A View To A Kill
He has also appeared in various TV commercials including one in 1990 for Swiss Chalet, the Canadian restaurant chain, and recorded numerous audio books, most notably for the audio book releases of many novels by Jack Higgins. He also recorded the children's books The Musical Life of Gustav Mole, and its sequel, The Lost Music (Gustav Mole's War on Noise), both written by Michael Twinn. Patrick Macnee also appeared as a retired agent in the short-lived TV series Spy Game (1997), and in two episodes of the revived series of Kung Fu, the Legend Continues.
Circa 1989, Macnee did another commercial of note, this one for the Sterling Motor Car Company and which presents an inspired matchup of product and spokesman. In this, over the James Bond theme, the car duels with a motorcycle assailant at high speed through mountainous territory, ultimately eludes the foe, and reaches its destination. Here, it is Macnee who steps out of the car and greets us with a smile, saying (and providing dramatic irony at its best), "I suppose you were expecting someone else?"
Macnee has two children, Rupert and Jenny, from his first marriage to Barbara Douglas (1942−56). His second marriage (1965−69) was to actress Katherine Woodville. His third marriage was to Baba Majos de Nagyzsenye (1988−2007, her death). Macnee lives in La Jolla, Southern California.
- Patrick Macnee Biography (1922–). Filmreference.com. Retrieved on 10 August 2011.
- "encyclopedia.com". Retrieved 21 March 2012.
- "avengers.tv". Retrieved 21 March 2012.
- "Official Website of Ian Hendry". Retrieved 6 July 2013.
- "Ian Hendry and The Avengers". Retrieved 6 July 2013.
- “Steed Lives On.”, TV Week. 5 June 1982, page 61
- Cork, John (Director), John Cork (Scriptwriter), Ian Fleming (Contributor), Truman Macdonald Talley (Contributor), Mark Amory (Contributor), Tina Beal (Contributor). Ian Fleming: 007's Creator (Documentary, Short, Biography).
- Frasier Online Episode Guide: Episode 8.11 – The Show Must Go Off. Frasieronline.co.uk. Retrieved on 10 August 2011.
- EPHRAIM HARDCASTLE: William Hague delivers a witty ditty on expenses at a Conservatives lunch. Daily Mail. (10 July 2009). Retrieved on 10 August 2011.
- Bond | Blackman Snubbed Macnee's Nudist Invite. Contactmusic (9 July 2009). Retrieved on 10 August 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Patrick Macnee.|
- Patrick Macnee official website
- Patrick Macnee at the Internet Movie Database
- Patrick Macnee at AllRovi
- Patrick Macnee at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
- Avengers: The Journey Back