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The Avengers (TV Series 1961–1969) Poster

(1961–1969)

Trivia

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Emma Peel's name was taken from the British film industry expression "M-Appeal", or "man-appeal", which is what the show's producers were looking for in her character.
Diana Rigg was the first person ever to do Kung Fu on the screen. In 1965, Ray Austin went to his producers and said, "Listen, I want to do this thing called Kung Fu". They said "Kung what?" and insisted that Emma, like her predecessor, stick to judo. Instead, Austin secretly taught Rigg Kung Fu.
The vast majority of the first series is sadly missing from TV archives and thought to be probably lost forever - only the first 22 minutes of the very first episode, The Avengers: Hot Snow (1961), and two complete later episodes, The Avengers: Girl on the Trapeze (1961) (which is one of only two editions not to feature the character of Steed) and The Avengers: The Frighteners (1961) have been recovered and preserved. The off-air soundtrack to The Avengers: Tunnel of Fear (1961) is believed to survive, albeit in the possession of a private collector.
The look and character of Steed is an amalgam of Patrick Macnee's father (a racehorse trainer and dandy), fictional character the Scarlet Pimpernel, and Macnee's commanding officer in the Navy.
At least three principal actors in the series went on to appear in James Bond films: Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964), Diana Rigg (Contessa Teresa 'Tracy' Di Vicenzo Bond) in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) and Patrick Macnee as Sir Godfrey Tibbett in A View to a Kill (1985).
In The Avengers: Too Many Christmas Trees (1965), Steed receives a Christmas card from Cathy Gale and it is postmarked "Fort Knox". This is in reference to Honor Blackman's appearance as Pussy Galore in the James Bond film Goldfinger (1964).
Series writer Brian Clemens noted in an interview the sexual chemistry that particularly existed between Steed and Emma Peel, and the common question of "Will they ever go to bed together?" Clemens's attitude toward the characters was that they already had done, and this was the next day. Stars Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg confirmed later, in interviews, that they had decided their characters had a casual sexual relationship, "but just didn't dwell on it."
Mrs. Peel's maiden name is Knight. We learn more about her childhood and her relationship with her mother and father in an exhibition on the "late Emma Peel" in the episode The Avengers: The House That Jack Built (1966).
At the end of the final episode of the series, The Avengers: Bizarre (1969), Mother talks directly to the audience, promising that The Avengers would return.
During her first series, Diana Rigg was dismayed to find out that the cameraman was being paid more than she was. She demanded a raise, to put her more on a par with her co-star, or she would leave the show. The producers gave in, thanks to the show's great popularity in the US.
To maintain the pure fantasy of it, there were strict rules about what could and could not be shown in an episode: 1. No "uniformed policemen". 2. No "colored people". 3. No blood. 4. No dead women. 5. No blatant sex.
Steed's full name is John Wickham Gascone Berresford Steed.
Patrick Macnee came up with Steed's umbrella sword. He objected to Steed using a gun, as it reminded him of his military tenure.
Patrick Macnee was a nudist. Honor Blackman claimed that he was once invited her to play tennis in the nude. She politely declined.
Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg remained close friends ever since making the series.
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The original macho female spy, Cathy Gale, was a composite character based on two real-life women: Life magazine's daring photographer, Margaret Bourke-White, and anthropologist Margaret Mead.
Steed's signature cars were vintage 1926-1928 Bentley racing or town cars, including Blower Bentleys and Bentley Speed Sixes (although, uniquely, in The Avengers: The Thirteenth Hole (1966) he drives a Vauxhall 30-98), Catherine Gale rode a motorcycle, Emma Peel drove a blue Lotus Elan convertible, Tara King drove a red AC 428
Eleanor Bron turned down Emma Peel and the role was taken by Elizabeth Shepherd, who was replaced by Diana Rigg midway through filming her first episode (The Avengers: The Town of No Return (1965)). Shirley Eaton, Moira Redmond and Katherine Woodville (who was engaged to be married to Patrick Macnee at the time) were among the actresses who also tested for the part when production on this episode was halted.
Emma's fighting suits were named Emmapeelers.
Footage of Emma Peel from one of the color episodes was reused in an episode of The New Avengers (1976).
Emma Peel's revolver is a gold-plated, pearl-handled pocket version of the Webley Mk IV chambered for .380/200 (aka .38 S&W).
Honor Blackman left the series to co-star in Goldfinger (1964).
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A sequence dropped from Pulp Fiction (1994) had Vincent Vega confess to Mia Wallace about fantasizing over Emma Peel beating him up. Uma Thurman, who plays Wallace, later went on to play Emma Peel in The Avengers (1998).
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Sydney Newman never received credit as creator of the series. In his memoir, The Avengers and Me, Patrick Macnee interviewed Newman about this. Newman explained that he never sought on-screen credit on the series because during his previous tenure at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, such credits were not given, and he never thought to get one for this series.
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When the series began, Ian Hendry was the main star, with the idea being he would rotate between different partners (an early version of the Mission: Impossible (1966) format). The series title actually refers to Hendry's character, Dr. David Keel, and Steed, who worked together to find those responsible for Keel's fiancée's murder in the first episode. Early episodes focused more on Keel's character, and Steed doesn't even appear in a couple! When the first season was interrupted by a strike, Hendry quit the series during the hiatus in order to pursue a film career. The same format was used for Steed with a couple of leftover Dr. Keel scripts retooled for a new character named Dr. Martin King, but other scripts, originally written for a male character, were rejigged for another new addition: Catherine Gale.
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Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg share the same thing in common. They both starred in this show, they both each starred as a Bond girl in the James Bond films (Blackman as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964) and Rigg as Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) and they both each starred in a serial of Doctor Who (Blackman in Doctor Who (1963)'s "Trial of Time Lord: Mindwarp and Rigg in Doctor Who: The Crimson Horror (2013).
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According to Patrick Macnee in his book The Avengers and Me, Diana Rigg disliked wearing leather and insisted on a new line of fabric athletic wear for the fifth series. Alun Hughes, who had designed clothing for her personal wardrobe, was suggested by the actress to design Emma Peel's "softer" new wardrobe. Pierre Cardin was brought in to design a new wardrobe for Macnee.
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Diana Rigg auditioned for the role of Emma Peel on a whim, without ever having seen the programme
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Steed's London address is, variously: 5 Westminster Mews (during the Cathy Gale run), 4 Queen Anne's Court in the monochrome Emma Peel editions, and 3 Stable Mews for the colour episodes.
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In the episode The Avengers: Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40? (1968), Linda Thorson speaks with her normal Canadian accent.
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Nyree Dawn Porter was first choice for Catherine Gale but turned it down.
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According to Script Editor Dennis Spooner, the series would frequently feature Steed visiting busy public places such as the main airport in London without anyone else present in the scene. "'Can't you afford extras?' they'd ask. Well, it wasn't like that. It's just that Steed had to be alone to be accepted. Put him in a crowd and he sticks out like a sore thumb! Let's face it, with normal people he's weird. The trick to making him acceptable is never to show him in a normal world, just fighting villains who are odder than he is!"
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A film version of the series was in its initial planning stages by late 1963 after series three was completed. An early story proposal paired Steed and Gale with a male and female duo of American agents, to make the movie appeal to the American market. Before the project could gain momentum Honor Blackman was cast in Goldfinger (1964), requiring her to leave the series.
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Linda Thorson narrowly won the role of Tara King after making the list of the final three candidates along with Mary Peach and Tracy Reed.
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Julie Stevens was the second choice for the role of Venus Smith after Angela Douglas turned it down.
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Despite the reputation of "The Avengers", In Britain it only made the top ten of watched shows four times between 1960-69. February 1964, November 1965, March 1967 and February 1969. Ian Hendry's subsequent series The Informer (1966) was actually more popular at the time. So when the production company (ABC [Associated British Corp.], nothing to do with the American ABC, which stood for American Broadcasting Co.) was ordered to be wound up by July 1968 (due to breach of license on another matter), it was easy for the new company (Thames TV) to cancel the series.
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The naming of this show was the reason as to why in the UK, The Avengers (2012) had to be renamed to "Avengers Assemble" due to this TV show taking the original name 61 years prior to its release.
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After Diana Rigg left the series, the producers toyed with the idea of having guest actresses be Steed's sidekick.
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When asked in June 1982 which female lead was his favourite, Patrick Macnee declined to give a specific answer. "Well, I'd rather not say. To do so would invite trouble," he told TV Week magazine. Macnee did provide his evaluation of the female leads. Of Honor Blackman he said, "She was wonderful, presenting the concept of a strong-willed, independent and liberated woman just as that sort of woman was beginning to emerge in society." Diana Rigg was "One of the world's great actresses. A superb comedienne. I'm convinced that one day she'll be Dame Diana." (His prediction came true in 1994.) Linda Thorson was "one of the sexiest women alive".
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In 2007 the series was ranked #20 on TV Guide's Top Cult Shows Ever.
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Linda Thorson got the role of Tara King because she was dating producer John Bryce at the time.
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Linda Thorson was requested to bleach her hair blonde to distinguish Tara King from Emma Peel. The process ruined her hair and she had to wear a wig for several episodes.
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In the United States, the ABC network that carried the final series chose to air it opposite the number one show in the country at the time, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1967). Steed and King could not compete, and the show was cancelled in the US. Without this vital commercial backing, production could not continue in Britain either, and the series ended in May 1969.
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John Bryce was brought in as producer to replace Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell on the sixth and last series because the studio wished to bring the show "back to realism", as he had produced the Cathy Gale episodes. However financial problems and internal difficulties undermined Bryce's effort. He also had to hurriedly shoot seven episodes to ship off to America with the last of the Emma Peel episodes. He only completed three (Invitation to a Killing a 90-minute episode introducing Tara King, The Great, Great Britain Crime, which had some of its original footage reused in The Avengers: Homicide and Old Lace (1969) and Invasion of the Earthmen, which survived relatively intact except for the scenes in which Tara wears a brown wig) before he was replaced by Clemens and Fennell again.
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With Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015), Ralph Fiennes became the 007th [= seventh] major actor or actress who has appeared in both the 'James Bond' and 'The Avengers' universes, the latter being the English spy one and not the comic super-heroes one. From the original television series The Avengers (1961), three actors appeared in Bond movies: Honor Blackman played Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964), Patrick Macnee portrayed Sir Godfrey Tibbett in A View to a Kill (1985), and Diana Rigg played Tracy Di Vicenzo in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). The latter film also featured as The English Girl actress Joanna Lumley who would later appear in The New Avengers (1976) which also starred MacNee. Whilst Nadim Sawalha appeared in both The Avengers (1998) cinema film as well as two Bond movies: The Living Daylights (1987) and The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). Fiennes actually appeared in The Avengers (1998) cinema movie co-starring with former James Bond Sean Connery who played the villain Sir August de Wynter. Of these seven actors, both Fiennes and Macnee have portrayed The Avengers' character of John Steed, in the theatrical film and television series respectively, with the latter also voicing the Invisible Jones character in The Avengers (1998) cinema movie. In this 1998 cinema film, John Steed (Ralph Fiennes) and Emma Peel (Uma Thurman) get across the frozen river by 'walking' on the surface inside inflatable plastic bubbles which is similar to how James Bond gets aboard Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Charles Gray)'s oil rig in Connery's final official series Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever (1971).
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Production of the first series was cut short by a strike. By the time production could begin on the second series, Ian Hendry had left the show.
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Spoilers 

The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

A radio version began two years after the show ended: broadcast weeknightly on Springbok Radio, the South African Broadcasting Corporation's English-speaking wing, scripts from the filmed series (often earlier versions than had appeared on-screen) were reworked into fifteen-minute serials of varying lengths. Sponsored by Cold Water Omo and starring Donald Monat as Steed and Diane Appleby as Mrs Peel (Mother made occasional appearances, usually played by Colin Fish), the series ran from 6th December 1971 to 28th December 1973 (plus a mini reprise in "The Great Gong Robbery", a special drama celebrating Springbok's Silver Jubilee on 30th April 1975). Laurie Johnson's theme tune was used throughout, and to smooth over the more visual aspects Springbok news-broadcaster Hugh Rouse was engaged as the tongue-in-cheek narrator. This was South Africa's sole experience of the show (outside of rented film prints) at the time since their television service only began in the mid-'70s and the parent TV series wasn't purchased until many years later. It is unknown how many serials aired: from a potential 83 stories (some of which appear to have been remade), only 19 are currently known to exist in full, thanks to private South African enthusiasts as the SABC did not retain any copies.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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