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Patrick Macnee

Patrick Macnee
Macnee in Lobster Man From Mars, c. 1988.
Born (1922-02-06) 6 February 1922
Paddington, London, England, UK
Nationality British (1922−present)
American (1959−present)
Citizenship United Kingdom
United States
Alma mater Eton College
Occupation Film, television actor
Years active 1947−2003
Known for John Steed
Spouse(s) Barbara Douglas
(1942−1956; divorced),
Katherine Woodville
(1965−1969; divorced),
Baba Majos de Nagyzsenye
(1988−2007; her death)
Children With Douglas:
Rupert Macnee,
Jenny Macnee

Patrick Macnee (born 6 February 1922) is an English actor, best known, especially to American audiences, for his role as the secret agent John Steed in the series The Avengers.


  • Early life 1
  • The Avengers 2
  • Other roles 3
    • Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson 3.1
    • Later roles 3.2
  • Personal life 4
  • Filmography 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Daniel Patrick Macnee, the elder of two sons, was born in London,[1] to Daniel and Dorothea Mary (née Hastings) Macnee. His father trained race horses in Lambourn.[1] His maternal grandmother was Frances Alice Hastings, who was descended from the Earls of Huntingdon.

His parents divorced after his mother declared her lesbianism and had a live-in partner (referred to in the memoirs Macnee dictated to Marie Cameron, Blind in One Ear: The Avenger Returns, as "Uncle Evelyn") who helped pay for young Patrick's schooling. He was educated at Ordinary Seaman in 1942 and was commissioned a Sub-Lieutenant in 1943 becoming a navigator on Motor Torpedo Boats in the English Channel and North Sea.[2]

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),[3] 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 dozens of small parts in American and Canadian television and theater. [4]

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.[5][6]

The Avengers

While working in London on the Churchill series, Macnee was offered a part originally known as 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,[7] 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.[8]

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 agents named Purdey (Joanna Lumley) and Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt). Lumley later said 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 in 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. Though it was traditionally associated with London 'city gents,' the ensemble of 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 dictated his autobiography, which he titled Blind in One Ear: The Avenger Returns, to Marie Cameron. 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."[9]

Other roles

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 (for Glen Larson), Hart to Hart, Murder, She Wrote, Battlestar Galactica (again for Larson) 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. (His involvement with Galactica typified these roles; in Galactica, in addition to narrating the opening titles, he provided the voices of two consecutive Imperious Leaders of the Cylon Alliance and, in "War Of The Gods, Parts One And Two," he also appeared on-camera as Count Iblis, who was seemingly a saviour but actually a demon.) 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 made a guest appearance on Columbo in the episode "Troubled Waters." In 1983 he played Major Vickers in 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 Dr. Calvin Cromwell. In the original Battlestar Galactica series, as stated above, Macnee provided the voice of two consecutive Imperious Leaders of the evil Cylons, and appeared onscreen as the evil Count Iblis. Macnee also narrated the 2000 documentary Ian Fleming: 007's Creator.

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 titled "Holmes is Where the Heart is." He in fact played both Holmes and Doctor Watson on several occasions. He played Watson three times: once alongside Roger Moore's Sherlock Holmes in a 1976 TV film, Sherlock Holmes in New York, and twice with Christopher Lee, first in Incident at Victoria Falls and then in Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady. He played Holmes in another TV film, The Hound of London (1993). He is thus one of only a very small number of actors to have portrayed both Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson on screen.

Later roles

He also appeared in several 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's original human incarnation 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 12. He also played in the 1989 film The Return of Sam McCloud (again for Glen Larson) as Tom Jamison.[10] He would also make a cameo appearance in the Sci-Fi American television series Nightman (also for Larson) 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's 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 for the Sterling Motor Car Company which presented 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, "I suppose you were expecting someone else?"

Personal life

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, and it lasted from 1988 to her death in 2007. Macnee lives in Rancho Mirage, California.

Macnee became a U.S. citizen in 1959.[11][12][13]



  1. ^ a b Patrick Macnee profile,; accessed 14 April 2014.
  2. ^ pp. 123-126 Wise, James E. & Baron, Scott International Stars at War Naval Institute Press, 1 Jan 2002
  3. ^ Hamlet (1948 film) IMDb profile; accessed 14 April 2014.
  4. ^ "Patrick Macnee Biography". Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  5. ^ "". Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  6. ^ "". Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  7. ^ "Official Website of Ian Hendry". Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  8. ^ "Ian Hendry and The Avengers". Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  9. ^ “Steed Lives On.”, TV Week. 5 June 1982, page 61
  10. ^ Frasier Online Episode Guide: Episode 8.11 – The Show Must Go Off. Retrieved on 10 August 2011.
  11. ^ IMDB
  12. ^
  13. ^

External links

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