Patrick Macnee had a career that last decades. His acting credits in his IMDB.COM ENTRY begin in 1938 and run through 2003.
During that span, he didn’t get the role that defined his career — John Steed on The Avengers — until he was 39.
Even then, it took a while for The Avengers to become a worldwide phenomenon. Macnee’s Steed was the one consistent element in a show that changed cast members often.
It’s easy to see why. John Steed didn’t just know the right wines. He knew which end of the vineyard where the grapes had been grown. Steed could handle himself but — as the epitome of the English gentleman — he could adeptly out think his foes as well as out fight them.
It was all outrageous, of course. Steed and his various colleagues encountered robots, mad scientists, Soviet agents and all sorts of dangers. All were dispatched with a sense of style and elegance.
After that show ran its course, he seemed to transition effortlessly to an in-demand character actor. The captain of a cruise ship on Columbo. An alien menace on Battlestar Galactica. Dr. Watson in the made-for-TV movie Sherlock Holmes in New York.
All done with style, seemingly without effort. It seemed like he’d go on forever. He couldn’t, of course. He died today at 93.
Anytime it seems like a performance was effortless, chances are it wasn’t. To keep getting acting gigs is tough. However, watching Macnee it’s understandable why casting directors would keep turning to him.
Even with lesser material, he established a presence. For example, the 1983 TV movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had an uneven script. Yet Macnee shined as new U.N.C.L.E. chief Sir John Raleigh. When performing great material — such an Avengers script by Brian Clemens or Philip Levene — Macnee made it even more special.
Part of it was his distinctive voice. In the 1990s, when documentaries were made about James Bond movies for home video releases, he was a natural to narrate them. (He didn’t narrate Inside A View to a Kill, presumably because he was in the cast of the 1985 007 movie.)
On social media today, fans all over the world expressed sadness. That’s very understandable. Macnee was so good, for so long, it was easy to take him for granted. Nobody is doing so today.