An Avengers stage production may occur, Bamigboye says

Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers television series.

A stage musical version of The Avengers may be in the offing, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamiboye said in a post on Twitter.

The project “in very early stages development 4 poss musical by #UniversalStageProductions,” Bamigboye wrote on Twitter.

(UPDATE, 7:20 a.m., New York time: Bamigboye now has a story online at the Daily Mail website. “A small team has been assembled to explore whether The Avengers could work under a West End proscenium,” he wrote.

Former 007 film composer David Arnold has been asked to work on the stage project as well as writer-director Sean Foley, Bamigboye reported.)

Bamigboye, this decade, has had a number of 007 film scoops proven correct, which is why the blog notes this.

The original Avengers television series ran from 1961 to 1969. There was also a revival, The New Avengers, that ran in the 1970s.

But there was also a 1971 stage play.

The Voices of East Angela website had a summary of the 1971 stage play.

Patrick Macnee, the star of the 1960s and ’70s TV versions, declined to participate. Instead, “experienced British TV actor Simon Oates was drafted in,” according to the website.

Voices of East Angela also reproduced posters of the play, directed by Leslie Phillips and written by Terence Feely and Brian Clemens. The latter worked as a writer and producer on the 1960s and ’70s TV shows.

“It seems the technically challenging stage show proved too challenging and the plot was verging on the pantomime featuring as it did invisible dolly birds (this was 1971 remember) and a giant computer brain,” according to Voices of East Angela.

“Numerous set changes and a multitude of set mishaps generated more unintended laughs than those written in to the script and following an initial run of ten nights in Birmingham the show was shipped down to the West End where it opened nine days later.

“Such were the poor reviews and numerous stage mishaps that it lasted a mere three weeks at the Prince of Wales theatre before it was unceremoniously hoisted off stage with a metaphorical shepherd’s crook.”

We’ll see what happens. In the U.S., fans of The Avengers television show are deeply annoyed how Marvel’s Avengers (featured in two movies so far, with two more scheduled for 2018 and 2019) have pre-empted the name.

The original Avengers comic book debuted in 1963, two years after The Avengers TV show premiered in the U.K. but before the series came to America.

Robert Day, Avengers and QM director, dies

Caesar’s Wife, a fourth-season episode of The FBI, directed by Robert Day. Spymaster Russell Johnson (left) is about to beat up Harrison Ford.

Robert Day, whose long career included directing episodes of The Avengers and Quinn Marin television shows, died on March 17 at the age of 94, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

The British-born Day helmed six episodes of The Avengers, including From Venus With Love and Mission…Highly Improbable.

Relocating to the United States, Day was frequently employed by QM Productions, including nine episodes of The FBI, two episodes of The Invaders, Barnaby Jones and The Streets of San Francisco. He also directed a TV movies for QM, 1970’s House on Greenapple Road, which launched the Dan August TV series.

Day’s work on The FBI, included a notable fourth-season episode, Caesar’s Wife, in which a Soviet spymaster played by Russell Johnson beats up a character played by the then-unknown Harrison Ford.

Day was married to actress Dorothy Provine from 1969 until she died in 2010. Her spy-related credits included a two-part episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the movie Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die.

Day was also the brother of Ernest Day (1927-2006). The younger Day was a second unit director of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker and the 1996 Mission: Impossible movie, as well as directing two episodes of The New Avengers.

Patrick Macnee dies at 93, BBC says

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

Patrick Macnee, debonair actor best known for playing John Steed on The Avengers, died today at 93, according to the BBC, WHICH CITED MACNEE’S SON RUPERT.

There was also a statement ON THE ACTOR’S WEBSITE that said Macnee “died a natural death at his home in Rancho Mirage, California…with his family at his bedside.”

Macnee enjoyed a long career, playing dozens of characters. Still, The Avengers and his character of John Steed, with his bowler and umbrella, became Macnee’s career trademark. The show first went into production in 1961. Its greatest popularity came when he was paired with Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel.

The actor saw two of his co-stars — Honor Blackman and Rigg — leave the series to take the lead female role in James Bond movies (Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). Another Majesty’s actress, Joanna Lumley, was Macnee’s co-star in a 1970s revival, The New Avengers.

Macnee finally got his turn at a Bond movie, A View to a Kill, in 1985, playing an ally of Bond (Roger Moore) who is killed by henchwoman May Day (Grace Jones). Macnee, years earlier, had played Dr. Watson to Moore’s Sherlock Holmes in a made-for-television movie. Macnee also made a properly dignified chief of U.N.C.L.E. in 1983’s The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.

UPDATE: For the second time this month (Christopher Lee’s death was the other), Roger Moore bids adieu to a colleague:

Brian Clemens, mastermind of The Avengers, dies

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg, arguably the best pairing in The Avengers

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg, arguably the best pairing in The Avengers

Brian Clemens, a mastermind of the television series The Avengers, has died, according to an obituary on the INQUISITR WEBSITE.

Clemens, born in 1931, had a lengthy career as a writer and producer. But he is perhaps best known for his work on The Avengers (1961-69) and The New Avengers (1976-77).

In a 2008 U.K. television interview, Clemens said The Avengers “had a curious logic all its own.” Ideas that might work elsewhere could work on The Avengers, he said. “The Avengers had unwritten rules” which were “in my head,” Clemens said.

Of suave John Steed, played by Patrick Macnee, Clemens said in 2008: “He is the manipulator of the all the girls he’s ever been associated with. He gets them into situations for his own benefit.”

Eon Productions, maker of the James Bond film series, used The Avengers as a farm club. Honor Blackman, who played Cathy Gale on The Avengers, was signed to play Pussy Galore in 1964’s Goldfinger. After bringing aboard Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, the series even made a joke about Mrs. Gale sending Steed a card from Fort Knox.

Rigg, of course, ended up playing Tracy, Bond’s doomed bride, in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Macnee finally made his 007 appearance in 1985’s A View to a Kill. Going the other way, Joanna Lumley, who had a small part in Majesty’s, was the female lead in The New Avengers.

Here’s the 2008 interview with Clemens:

Syd Cain, an appreciation

When the subject of James Bond movies comes up, Syd Cain isn’t one of the first names to come up. But Cain, who has passed away at the age of 93, is one of the unsung heroes of the long-running film series.

In Dr. No, the first 007 film, Cain had the title of art director and was essentially the deputy to production designer Ken Adam while not receiving a credit. In the John Cork-directed documentary Inside Dr. No, Cain described how he had to wade into a swamp in Jamaica and had to deal with leeches. Hardly glamorous.

When From Russia With Love went into production in 1963, the brilliant Adam was working on Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. So it fell to Cain (this time receiving an art director credit) to be the primary designer of sets. In the documentary Inside From Russia With Love, Cain would call his set for a chess match, involving SPECTRE master planner Kronsteen, one of his favorites. The video below can’t be embedded but just glancing at it you can get a sense of Cain’s design work:

Cain returned to the series with 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, this time with the fancier title of production designer, the same title Adam had. That movie couldn’t boast of a volcano headquarters set a la Adam’s You Only Twice set of SPECTRE headquarters. But Cain’s sets for SPECTRE’s home base in Majesty’s were impressive in their own right (integrating actual locations and buildings in Switzerland).

Finally, he was the lead production designer of Roger Moore’s 007 debut, Live And Let Die (this time with the less-fancy title of supervising art director).

Ken Adam, rightfully, is hailed as the innovator of 007 art design with his seven Bond films which included the volcano set, Goldfinger’s Fort Knox sets, The Spy Who Loved Me’s Stromberg villain’s lair and others. Peter Lamont get kudos for longevity, designing sets for nine Bond movies (after also being one of Adam’s deputies), starting with 1981’s For Your Your Eyes Only and running through 2006’s Casino Royale. Also, both Adam and Lamont won Oscars for their non-007 work.

Cain didn’t get that kind of acclaim. But he was responsible for the look of two of the best Bond movies (From Russia With Love and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) regardless of his on-screen credit. And he helped Adam in a major way on the first Bond film. On top of all that, his spy entertainment work includes The New Avengers, the 1970s continuation of The Avengers television series.

So, RIP, Mr. Cain. Heroes may go unsung, but they are heroes all the same.

The Avengers: a half century of John Steed & Co.

Better late than never, we felt we should note this was the 50th anniversary of The Avengers, in which the English gentleman agent John Steed and his various associates battled forces that threatened the U.K.

Actually, when the show began in January 1961, Patrick Macnee, who played Steed, had second billing and Steed wasn’t yet in gentleman agent mode. Receiving top billing was Ian Hendry as Dr. David Keel. The show began with Keel’s financee being murdered. The mysterious Steed pops up and two proceed to avenge the death of the financee.

For the second season, Dr. Keel was gone and Macnee was now the clear star. Eventually, he’d partner with Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman), who favored leather clothing and was skilled at judo. Blackman went off to play Pussy Galore in 1964’s Goldfinger. Below, Cathy Gale tells Steed goodbye and the dialogue provides a hint of Blackman’s upcoming 007 role:

Diana Rigg took Blackman’s place as yet another “talented amateur,” Emma Peel. At this point, the U.S. television network ABC to import the U.K. series and the Steed-Peel combo clicked with American audiences. Also, the show apparently got a bigger budget. Production switched from videotape to film, freeing up the crew to shoot sequences outdoors and not just be confined to a studio. The original John Danworkth theme was discarded and a snappier theme, composed by Laurie Johnson, was recorded.

Macnee and Rigg had an appealing chemistry, helped along by scripts from the likes of Brian Clemens and Philip Levene. David McDaniel, who penned some of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. tie-in paperback novels worked Steed and Mrs. Peel into The Rainbow Affair, though the duo aren’t named.

However, after a couple of seasons, bigger things beckoned for Rigg. She, like her predecessor, would be the female lead in a James Bond movie, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Another replacement, Tara King (Linda Thorson) rounded out the original show.

It’s hard to keep a good agent down. Macnee’s Steed had a return engagement in the 1970s in The New Avengers, this time with two partners, Gareth Hunt’s Mike Gambit (to take over some of the rough stuff from Steed) and Joanna Lumley as Purdey. The show was overseen by Clemens and Albert Fennell, who had produced the last few seasons of the original show. Laurie Johnson returned, composing a new theme. The New Avengers was shown by CBS in the U.S. as part of The CBS Late Movie. The New Avengers only lasted two seasons, though Diana Rigg did make a cameo as Mrs. Peel.

The Avengers was also something of a farm team for Eon Productions. Besides Blackman and Rigg, various character actors from the show got cast in Bond movies, such as Philip Locke (Vargas in Thunderball), Julian Glover (Kristatos in For Your Eyes Only) and James Villiers (Bill Tanner in For Your Eyes Only). And members of The Avengers crew, such as director of photography Alan Hume and art director Harry Pottle would get hired to work on Bond movies. Thus, it was appropriate that Macnee finally be cast in a 007 film, 1985’s A View To a Kill.

Inevitably, The Avengers would be considered for a feature film. The result was the uneven 1998 namesake film with Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman facing off against a villain played by Sean Connery. Macnee got a small voice-only cameo. Today, the original series remains fondly remembered while the film….well, the less said, the better.

Happy 50th, Mr. Steed. Here’s a look at the different main titles of The Avengers and The New Avengers: