January 2, 2017


Patrick Macnee (1922-) b. London, England.

Patrick Macnee

Daniel Patrick Macnee was born on 6th February 1922 in Paddington, London, the first of two sons, into a wealthy and very eccentric family and his early years were unusual to say the least. The family were descended from the Earls of Huntingdon through his maternal grandmother, Frances Alice Hastings. His father, also Daniel and a race horse trainer, was destined to lose the family fortune on drinking and gambling, a lifestyle that eventually resulted in his mother, Dorothea Mary (nee Henry), announcing she was leaving the family home and moving in with her lesbian lover. She took Patrick with her and, with �Uncle Evelyn� (as he called her), he lived with the two women for the next few years, being forced to wear kilts until he was 11 years old. . He was educated at Eton College, very nearly getting himself expelled for running a gambling syndicate, and left to join the Royal Navy, commissioned as a Lieutenant and he was awarded the Atlantic Star for his service during World War II.

After his military service ended, he gained a scholarship to the Webber Douglas School of Dramatic Art in London and he resumed his stage and film career, with a string of bit parts such as Young Jacob Marley in Scrooge in 1951. However, despite his best efforts, he became disillusioned with the limited nature of the roles he was getting and decided to leave England and try his luck in Canada and the USA. In 1954, he joined an Old Vic touring troupe en-route to Broadway and later moved on to Hollywood, where he found work with some small roles in occasional television shows and films and had greater success with roles such as a barrister opposite Gene Kelly in Les Girls and in the war movie The Battle of the River Plate. Although he became a United States citizen in 1959, he decided to return to England. It is worth noting that to this day he is regarded as something of a TV pioneer in Canada, having spent much of his time there campaigning for their fledgling industry.

Once back home, he used all the producing experience he had gained in Canada to land a co-producer credit on the 1960 TV series Winston Churchill: The Valiant Years. It was shortly after this in 1961 that his life really did change forever, when he landed the role that brought him worldwide fame and popularity – John Steed, in the cult TV series The Avengers. Interestingly, in the entire eight year run of the series, Steed is very rarely seen with a firearm, preferring instead to rely on his trusty umbrella. Macnee has stated that he insisted on this, saying that he had seen enough of the carnage and mayhem guns caused during his military service during the war. Whilst there is no doubting the incredible impact The Avengers had, not only on Patrick�s career but on British TV drama generally, it did ultimately lead to limited opportunities for him because of his close association with the character of Steed. This was undoubtedly one of the considerations when he agreed to reprise his role in 1976 with the New Avengers series, which, whilst not as successful as the original show, still enjoyed good audience figures and paved the way for him to take a number of good roles in American TV series, in particular Alias Smith and Jones, Hart to Hart, Murder, She Wrote, Battlestar Galactica and The Love Boat.

On the big screen, he went on to perform in several big budget movies, including A View To A Kill and The Sea Wolves, both with Roger Moore. He made his Broadway debut in 1972 when appearing in Sleuth and continued in the production during its national tour.

He played Dr. Watson opposite Roger Moore‘s Sherlock Holmes in the 1976 TV movie, Sherlock Holmes in New York and went on to play Holmes himself in another TV movie, The Hound of London in 1993. He also played Watson in two more TV movies with Christopher Lee, Incident at Victoria Falls and Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady.

On a more light-hearted note, Patrick has also featured in two pop videos as John Steed in The Pretenders’ video Don’t Get Me Wrong, and in the Oasis’ video Don’t Look Back in Anger in 1996. Since being forced to retire from acting due to his arthritis, he is always in demand for the recording of audio books and in particular he has narrated many of Jack Higgins� novels.

Patrick has been married three times, firstly to Barbara Douglas (42-56) by whom he had two children, then to Katherine Woodville (65-69) and has been married to Baba Majos de Nagyzsenye since 1988.

Compiled by Clive Saunders.

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