Entertainment & Arts

Avengers star Patrick Macnee dies

Media captionPatrick Macnee was best known for playing John Steed in The Avengers

Actor Patrick Macnee, star of The Avengers TV series, has died in California at the age of 93.

The Briton, best known for playing John Steed in the 1960s television spy show, died at home with his family at his bedside, his son Rupert said.

Macnee, who served in the Royal Navy during World War Two, also played roles in theatre, appearing on Broadway.

Avengers co-star Dame Diana Rigg paid tribute, saying: "Patrick was a very dear man and I owe him a great deal".

A statement on Mcnee's website read: "Wherever he went, he left behind a trove of memories."

He died peacefully at his home in California's Rancho Mirage on Thursday, Rupert said.

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Image caption Patrick Macnee reprised his John Steed role for The New Avengers TV series, starring alongside Joanna Lumley and Gareth Hunt

James Bond ally

Born in London, Macnee grew up in Berkshire and was educated at Summerfields Preparatory School and Eton.

At the age of 11, he acted in Henry V opposite a young Sir Christopher Lee. He first appeared in the West End while still in his teens.

He played a number of minor roles - including one in Laurence Olivier's 1948 film version of Hamlet - before rising to fame in the original Avengers series between 1961 and 1969.

The series developed a cult following around the world, with Macnee portraying the quintessentially English and mysterious super-spy John Steed.

Steed was known for his dress sense, always donning a bowler hat and carrying an umbrella, which was used as a secret weapon. He never used a gun.

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Image caption Macnee, centre, pictured with Lumley and Hunt in 1995

His co-stars during the initial run included Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson.

Macnee returned when that series was reprised as The New Avengers in the 1970s, appearing alongside Joanna Lumley's Purdey and Gareth Hunt's Mike Gambit.

Later, he starred on Broadway in Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth, touring internationally with that play and several other productions.

He also appeared in the 1985 James Bond film A View to a Kill, playing an ally of Roger Moore's Bond character, and made a cameo appearance as the head of a record company in This is Spinal Tap.

Sir Roger tweeted: "So very sad to hear Pat Macnee has left us.

"We were mates from 1950s and I have so many happy memories of working with him. A true gent."

Thorson, who played assistant Tara King, remembered Macnee as "a paradox".

"He was the best-dressed man on television and a nudist in real life," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"He was always upbeat. He had great stories and great detail and wonderful energy," she continued. "Patrick [had] a very happy and long life and the most wonderful children who took the greatest of care of him, in the last decade in particular."

Macnee also featured as a guest star in dozens of British, American and Australian TV productions; and made a cameo in Oasis's video for Don't Look Back In Anger.

He scored a top 10 hit of his own in 1990, with Kinky Boots - a novelty song recorded with Avengers co-star Honor Blackman - which was championed by Radio 1's then-breakfast DJ Simon Mayo.

'Ahead of their time'

In a 2014 interview with The Lady magazine, Macnee said he believed The Avengers was a success because it "did something different and did it better."

He told the magazine: "It was beautifully written, the ideas were very good, way ahead of their time and they incorporated fantasies for people who dreamed of doing exciting things."

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Image caption Macnee and wife Katherine Woodville, who also appeared in The Avengers
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Image caption Macnee with fellow actor Richard Burton in 1973

Macnee had two children, son Rupert and daughter Jennifer, 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, according to the AP news agency.