Actor Patrick Macnee, best known for his role as the dapper John Steed in The Avengers TV series, died Thursday, June 25, 2015 at the age of 93. Macnee passed on at home in Rancho Mirage, California surrounded by his family, according to his son Rupert.
The Avengers aired through most of the 1960’s. Known for its progressive approach to feminism and its stories that centered around cutting edge technology, the show set the bar for action adventure shows on television.
Macnee grew up in Lambourn, Berkshire, England, where his father, Daniel Macnee, was a racehorse trainer, and his mother, Dorothea Henry, was awarded a British Empire Medal for her work with military families. He was educated at Summerfields Preparatory School, where he acted in Henry V at the age of 11, with Sir Christopher Lee as the Dauphin. He attended Eton College, where comedian and author Michael Bentine became a life-long friend.
Patrick trained at London’s Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, where he met and married Barbara Douglas. Macnee served in the coastal forces of the Royal Navy during World War II. Once the war was over, he spent his days visiting casting offices in London every day. Persistence paid off, and he eventually ended up on stage at The Windsor Repertory Theatre, in London’s West End, and on tours in Germany and the United States. He also accepted some minor film roles, including that of Young Marley in Alastair Sim’s classic version of A Christmas Carol.
The Avengers television series was arguably Britain’s greatest television export to that point, and is still broadcast around the world. You can still catch episodes of it on Hulu, for example; once the production on the show ended, Macnee was vital to the proper distribution of the show and the procurement of proper royalties for its various stars.
Macnee’s feature work included such films as A View to a Kill, with Roger Moore, The Howling, and The Sea Wolves, also with Moore, Gregory Peck, and his old friend, David Niven. He acted in numerous television productions and on stage as well, but also recorded numerous audio books, including thirteen Jack Higgins titles, and voice-over narrations for the four hour mini-series America at War in Color and many others.
Macnee also left his mark in science fiction television in the 1970’s. His was the voice we heard at the beginning of every episode of Battlestar Galactica, and also provided the voice for the Cylon Imperious Leader, and acted the role of Count Iblis, the central villain in the two part episode War of the Gods.
Macnee had two children, son Rupert and daughter Kate Woodville, and one grandson. He was married three times, including to actress Katherine Woodville, with whom he acted in The Avengers. He had been a US citizen since 1959.
Donations in Patrick’s honor may be made to the Actors Fund, www.actorsfund.org.
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