Entertainment & Arts

Co-stars pay tribute to Patrick Macnee

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

Co-stars of The Avengers actor Patrick Macnee have been paying tribute following his death at the age of 93.

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

Dame Diana Rigg, who played Emma Peel in the show, said: "Patrick was a very dear man and I owe him a great deal."

Sir Roger Moore described him as "a true gent".

They appeared together on screen when Macnee played one of James Bond's allies in 1985's A View to a Kill.

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Media captionWatch excerpts from The Avengers starring actor Patrick Macnee

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 statement on Macnee's website said: "Patrick Macnee was a popular figure in the television industry. He was at home wherever in the world he found himself.

"He had a knack for making friends, and keeping them. Wherever he went, he left behind a trove of memories and good wishes."

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

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Image caption Dame Diana Rigg starred in The Avengers between 1965-1968
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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

Shakespeare on screen

Born in London, Macnee grew up in Berkshire and was educated at Summerfields Preparatory School and Eton, where he became life-long friends with the late comedian and author Michael Bentine.

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 show developed a cult following around the world, with Macnee portraying the quintessentially English and slightly 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.

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Image caption Linda Thorson played Tara King in The Avengers

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

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

Thorson, who played Steed's 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."

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Image caption The Avengers cast had a reunion in 1993

Former Doctor Who assistant Nicola Bryant also paid tribute, having worked with Macnee on the West End production of Killing Jessica in 1986.

"Sorry to hear of the death of Patrick Macnee. He was so kind & charming. A joy! 93! A good innings," she tweeted.

Novelty record

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.

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

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 spent the past 40 years living in the US.