Patrick Macnee

Patrick Macnee

Birth name: Daniel Patrick Macnee
Born: February 6, 1922
Died: June 25, 2015 (at age 93)
Birthplace: Paddington, London, England

Daniel Patrick Macnee (6 February 1922 - 25 June 2015), known professionally as Patrick Macnee, was a British-American actor. He was best known for his role as the secret agent John Steed in the British television series The Avengers.

Early life and career

The elder of two sons, Macnee was born in Paddington, London in 1922 to Daniel Macnee (1877-1952) and Dorothea Mary Hastings (1896-1984). His father trained race horses in Lambourn, and was known for his dress sense; he had served as an officer in the Yorkshire Dragoons in the First World War. His maternal grandmother was Frances Alice Hastings (1870-1945), who was the daughter of Vice-Admiral George Fowler Hastings and granddaughter of Hans Francis Hastings, 12th Earl of Huntingdon. His younger brother James, known as Jimmy, was born five years later.

Macnee's parents divorced after his mother began to identify as a lesbian. His father later moved to India, and his mother began to live with her wealthy partner, Evelyn Spottswood, whose money came from the Dewar's whisky business. Macnee referred to her in his autobiography as "Uncle Evelyn", and she helped pay for his schooling. He was educated at Summer Fields School and Eton College, where he was a member of the Officer Training Corps and was one of the guard of honour for King George V at St George's Chapel in 1936. He was later expelled from Eton for selling pornography and being a bookmaker for his fellow students.

Macnee studied acting at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, but shortly before he was to perform in his first West End leading role, which would have had him acting alongside Vivien Leigh, he was called up for the United Kingdom Armed Forces. He joined the Royal Navy as an ordinary seaman in October 1942 and was commissioned a sub-lieutenant in June 1943, becoming a navigator on Motor Torpedo Boats in the English Channel and North Sea. Reassigned as first lieutenant on a second MTB, Macnee caught bronchitis just before D-Day; while he was recuperating in hospital, his boat and crew were lost in action. Two of the crew received the Distinguished Service Medal. He left the Navy in 1946 as a lieutenant.

Macnee nurtured his acting career in Canada early on, but he also appeared as an uncredited extra in the British films Pygmalion (1938), The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) and Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948), as well as some live TV dramas for the BBC, before graduating to credited parts in such films as Scrooge (US: A Christmas Carol, 1951), as the young Jacob Marley, the Gene Kelly vehicle Les Girls (1957), as an Old Bailey barrister, and the war film The Battle of the River Plate (1956). Between these occasional movie roles, Macnee spent the better part of the 1950s working in dozens of small parts in American and Canadian television and theatre, including an appearance in an episode of The Twilight Zone in 1959 ("Judgment Night"). Disappointed in his limited career development, in the late 1950s Macnee was daily smoking 80 cigarettes and drinking a bottle of whisky.

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 Second World War memoirs of Winston Churchill.

The Avengers

Main article: The Avengers (TV series)

While working in London on the Churchill series, Macnee was offered the part in The Avengers (1961−69), (originally intended to be known as Jonathan Steed), for which he became best known. The series was originally conceived as a vehicle for Ian Hendry, who played the lead role of Dr. David Keel in a sequel to an earlier series, Police Surgeon (1960), while John Steed was his assistant. Macnee, though, became the lead after Hendry's departure at the end of the first season. Macnee played opposite a succession of glamorous female partners; Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg, and Linda Thorson.

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 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. Steed's sartorial style may also have been drawn from Macnee's father. 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. Steed was also the central character of The New Avengers (1976-77), in which he was teamed with agents named Purdey (Joanna Lumley) and Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt).

Macnee insisted on, and was proud of, never carrying a gun in the original series; when asked why, he explained, "I'd just come out of a World War in which I'd seen most of my friends blown to bits." Lumley later said she did all the gun-slinging in The New Avengers for the same reason. However, the Internet Movie Firearms Database lists seven instances where Steed uses a firearm, all in the original series.

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 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 co-wrote two original novels based upon The Avengers during the 1960s, titled Dead Duck and Deadline. He hosted a documentary, The Avengers: The Journey Back (1998), directed by Clyde Lucas.

For the critically lambasted film version of The Avengers (1998), he lent his voice in a cameo as "Invisible Jones". The character of Steed was taken over by Ralph Fiennes.

Later 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 (1985), 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, and The Love Boat. Although his best known part was heroic, many of his television appearances were as villains; among them were his roles of both the demonic Count Iblis and his provision of the character voice of the Cylons' Imperious Leader in Battlestar Galactica, also for Glen Larson, for which he also supplied the show's introductory voiceover. 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.

Macnee reunited with Diana Rigg in her short-lived NBC sitcom, Diana (1973) in a single episode. Other television appearances include a guest appearance on Columbo in the episode "Troubled Waters" (1975); and playing Major Vickers in For the Term of His Natural Life (1983). He had recurring roles in the crime series Gavilan with Robert Urich and in the short-lived satire on big business, Empire (1984), as Dr. Calvin Cromwell. Macnee also narrated the documentary Ian Fleming: 007's Creator (2000).

He also appeared in several cult films: in The Howling (1981), as 'Dr George Waggner' (named whimsically after the director of The Wolf Man, 1941) and as Sir Denis Eton-Hogg in the rockumentary comedy This Is Spinal Tap (1984). He played Dr. Stark in The Creature Wasn't Nice (1981), also called Spaceship and Naked Space. Macnee played the role of actor David Mathews in the made-for-television movie Rehearsal for Murder (1982), which starred Robert Preston and Lynn Redgrave. The movie was from a script written by Columbo co-creators Richard Levinson and William Link. He took over Leo G. Carroll's role as Alexander Waverly, the head of U.N.C.L.E. in Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen-Years-Later Affair (1983), produced by Michael Sloan. He was featured in the science fiction television movie Super Force (1990) as E. B. Hungerford (the series which followed did not feature Macnee), as a supporting character in the parody film Lobster Man From Mars (1989) as Prof. Plocostomos and in The Return of Sam McCloud (1989), a TV film, as Tom Jamison. He made an appearance in Frasier (2001), and several episodes of the American science-fiction series Nightman as Dr. Walton, a psychiatrist who would advise Johnny/Nightman. Macnee appeared in two episodes of the series Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (1993-94) and was a retired agent in a handful of instalments of Spy Game (1997-98).

Macnee made numerous TV commercials including one around 1990 for Swiss Chalet, the Canadian restaurant chain, and a year or so before, a commercial for the Sterling Motor Car Company. 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. Macnee steps out of the car and greets viewers with a smile, saying, "I suppose you were expecting someone else". Macnee was the narrator for several "behind-the-scenes" featurettes for the James Bond series of DVDs and recorded numerous audio books, including the 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.

Macnee featured in two pop videos: as Steed in original Avengers footage in The Pretenders' video for their song "Don't Get Me Wrong" (1986) and in the promotion for Oasis's "Don't Look Back in Anger" (1996), as the band's driver, a role similar to that which he played in the James Bond film A View To A Kill (1985). In 1990 his recording with his Avengers co-star Honor Blackman, called "Kinky Boots" (1964), reached the UK Singles Chart after being played on Simon Mayo's BBC Radio One breakfast show.

Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson

Macnee appeared in Magnum, P.I. (1984) as a retired, but delusional, British agent, who believed he was Sherlock Holmes, in a season four episode titled Holmes Is Where the Heart Is. He played both Holmes and Dr. Watson on several occasions. He played Watson three times: once alongside Roger Moore's Sherlock Holmes in a TV film, Sherlock Holmes in New York (1976), and twice with Christopher Lee, first in Incident at Victoria Falls (1991), and then in Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1992). He played Holmes in another TV film, The Hound of London (1993), along with the 1996 TV film Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Temporal Nexus. He is thus one of only a very small number of actors to have portrayed both Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on screen.

Personal life

Macnee married his first wife, Barbara Douglas, in 1942. They had two children, Rupert and Jenny, and a grandson, Christopher ("Kit"). After they were divorced in 1956, his second marriage (1965−1969) was to actress Katherine Woodville. His third marriage was to Baba Majos de Nagyzsenye, daughter of opera singer Ella Némethy, and it lasted from 1988 until her death in 2007.

Macnee became a U.S. citizen in 1982. He dictated his autobiography, which he entitled Blind in One Ear: The Avenger Returns (1988), to Marie Cameron.

Later in life, Macnee was an enthusiastic nudist.


On 25 June 2015, Macnee died at Rancho Mirage, California, his home for the past four decades, at the age of 93.


n.b. for credit listings reference


Year Title Role Notes ref
1948 Hamlet Extra Uncredited
1949 The Small Back Room Committee member Uncredited
1950 The Girl is Mine Hugh Hurcombe
Dick Barton at Bay Phillips Credited as Patrick McNee
The Elusive Pimpernel Hon. John Bristow Released in the United States as 'The Fighting Pimpernel
1951 Scrooge Young Jacob Marley Released in the United States as A Christmas Carol
1955 Three Cases of Murder Guard Subaltern Uncredited
1956 The Battle of the River Plate Lieutenant Commander Ralph Medley
1957 Les Girls Sir Percy Also known as Cole Porter's Les Girls
1972 Incense for the Damned Derek Longbow Also released as Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker and Doctors Wear Scarlet
1979 King Solomon's Treasure Captain John Good R.N. Macnee replaced Terry-Thomas.
The Billion Dollar Threat Horatio Black
1980 The Sea Wolves Major 'Yogi' Crossley
1981 The Howling Dr. George Waggner
The Hot Touch Vincent Reyblack
The Creature Wasn't Nice Dr. Stark Also known as Naked Space and Spaceship
1982 Young Doctors in Love Jacobs
1983 Sweet Sixteen Dr. John Morgan
1984 This Is Spinal Tap Sir Denis Eton-Hogg
1985 A View to a Kill Sir Godfrey Tibbett
Shadey Sir Cyril Landau
1988 Waxwork Sir Wilfred
Transformations Father Christopher
1989 Eye of the Widow Andrew Marcus
Lobster Man From Mars Professor Plocostomos
Masque of the Red Death Machiavel
1992 Waxwork II: Lost in Time Sir Wilfred
1993 King B: A Life in the Movies Himself
1998 The Avengers Invisible Jones, a Ministry Agent Voice only. Adaptation of the 1960s TV series Macnee had starred in
2003 The Low Budget Time Machine Dr. Ballard


Year Title Role Notes ref
1953 Tales of Adventure Roger Sudden
1955 On Camera Guest star Recurring
1959 The Twilight Zone First Officer Episode: "Judgment Night"
Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond Fiancé
1959−60 The Swamp Fox British Captain Main cast
1961−1969 The Avengers John Steed Main cast
1971 Alias Smith and Jones Norman Alexander 1 episode
1975 Columbo Episode:Columbo: Troubled Waters
1976 Sherlock Holmes in New York TV film
1976−77 The New Avengers John Steed Main cast
1977 Dead of Night TV film
1978 Evening in Byzantium TV film
Battlestar Galactica Imperious Leader / Count Iblis
  • Voice for episodes 1−12
  • Uncredited
1980 The Littlest Hobo Elmer Episode: "Diamonds Are a Dog's Best Friend" (S 1:Ep 18)
1982 Rehearsal for Murder TV film
1982−83 Gavilan Milo Bentley Main cast
1983 Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. Sir John Raleigh A reunion telefilm subtitled The Fifteen Years Later Affair was broadcast on CBS in America on April 5, 1983, with Vaughn and McCallum reprising their roles, and Macnee replacing Leo G. Carroll as the head of U.N.C.L.E. A framed picture of Carroll appeared on his desk.
For the Term of His Natural Life Major Vickers Miniseries
1984 Empire Calvin Cromwell Main cast
1985 Lime Street Sir Geoffrey Rimbatten Main cast
1989 Around the World in 80 Days Miniseries
Dick Francis: Blood Sport Geoffrey Keeble
Dick Francis: In the Frame Geoffrey Keeble
Dick Francis: Twice Shy Geoffrey Keeble
The Return of Sam McCloud Tom Jamison TV Movie of the series
1990−92 Super Force Voice of E.B. Hungerford
1991 Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady Doctor Watson TV film
The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw Sir Colin Miniseries
1992 Incident at Victoria Falls Doctor Watson TV film
1993 The Hound of London Sherlock Holmes TV film
1994 Thunder in Paradise Edward Whitaker Main cast
1996 The Case of the Temporal Nexus Sherlock Holmes TV film
1997−98 Night Man Dr. Walton Recurring
1997 Spy Game Mr. Black Episode:"Why Spy?" (S 1:Ep 1 −Pilot)
Light Lunch Himself Episode: "The Avengers... Still Kinky After All These Years" (S 1:Ep 42)
Diagnosis Murder Bernard Garrison Episode: "Discards" (S 5:Ep 10)
1999 Nancherrow Lord Peter Awliscombe TV film
Through the Keyhole House Owner Episode: "29 March 1999" (S 3:Ep 1)
2000 Family Law Sir Thomas Matthews Episode: "Second Chance" (S 1:21)
2001 Frasier Cecil Headley Episode: "The Show Must Go Off" (S 8"EP 12)
2003 That Was the Week We Watched Himself Episode: "11-17 April 1970" (S 1:Ep 2)
2005 After They Were Famous Himself Episode: "Crimefighters" (S 4:Ep 7)


  • Real Ghost Stories: The Dead and the Restless (1997)1
  • Real Ghost Stories: The Wild West of the Dead (1997)1
  • Real Ghost Stories: Spirits, Graveyards & Ghostbusters (1997)1
  • Real Ghost Stories: The Poltergeists (1997)1
  • Real Ghost Stories: The London Underworld & Beyond (1997)1
  • Ian Fleming: 007's Creator (2000)1
  • The Spirit of Diana (2003)1
  • Unlocking DaVinci's Code (2004)1
  • The Witnessing of Angels (2010)1
  • Real Ghost Stories: Hollywood Ghosts (2010)1
  1. ^ All of the documentaries are narrated by voice only.

Music videos

  • The Pretenders - "Don't Get Me Wrong" (1986) (Steed in original Avengers footage)
  • Oasis - "Don't Look Back in Anger" (1994)

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

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