#1960s #1970s #1980s
The fortunes and misfortunes of some Diana Rigg characters…
Memorable moments in the career of Diana Rigg, a British National Treasure.
I was sad to read that the actress Diana Rigg, had passed away earlier this year. This fabulous actress like Honor Blackman had the triple honour of starring as a sidekick to Steed in The Avengers, in Doctor Who and as a (James) Bond girl. These were just three roles from Diana’s diverse filmography where she showed her versatile acting range which included comedies, horrors, fantasies and dramas.
As a kid, I remember watching her in The Assassination Bureau (1969), Theatre of Blood (1973) and The Great Muppet Caper (1981) to name a few. Her other roles included a then-contemporary version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968) and two Agatha Christie adaptations. In later roles, she joined the cast of Game of Thrones (2013-17) as Olenna Tyrell and in a recent remake of the classic series, All Creatures Great and Small.
Diana Rigg – Morecambe & Wise, dianarigg
Diana joined British comedians Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise for their 1975 Christmas special. In this show, Diana played characters as diverse as Nell Gwynne – in one of Ernie’s (infamous) plays – and a modern-day psychiatrist. Diana followed in the footsteps of her Royal Academy of Dramatic Art classmate, Glenda Jackson who had also starred in this TV Series.
In her special guest star role, Diana showed her comedic and singing (and dancing) skills to the hilt. She also joined this comic double act in a song their rendition of How Can You Believe You When I Said I Loved You When You Know I’ve Been a Liar All My Life?. Her singing talents were also heard in films after this appearance including A Little Night Music (1977) and Evil Under the Sun (1982).
The Avengers (1965-68)
The Avengers – Emma Peel & John Steed | Intro w. Credits, Tiffany’s Street II
Younger readers should note this British TV series although named The Avengers (1965-68) has nothing to do with Thor and his buddies. This was instead a British crime, spy and fantasy show telling of the suave and terribly English spy – complete with bowler hat and brolly – John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and his (mainly) girl assistants. Diana joined the series in series four as Emma Peel as Steed’s assistant in this quirky TV Series.
Rigg hadn’t seen this Spy-fi series before she got the role, but her co-star McNee described her as a “butterfly landing on a flower”. Steed and Emma Peel had a fun credible chemistry, and this was reportedly often with a sexual undertone. Diana designed her own costume for the controversial Queen of Sin episode. In her final appearance, Diana literally handed over the role to Linda Thorson who played her successor, Tara King. This as she passed her replacement on the stairs, and then explained how Steed liked his tea.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – Official Trailer – George Lazenby Bond Movie, Movieclips Classic Trailers
Diana Rigg played the only Bond girl (so far) who got to marry the British spy, James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). Bond was played by the Australian model George Lazenby in this his only Bond movie. Lazenby who had never acted before this role had been spotted in an advert for chocolate and the rest is history. Diana – in contrast, was chosen for her wide acting experience – accepted her role as she wanted to appear in an epic film.
The story has Blofeld (Telly Savalas) now based in Switzerland, with a troupe of attractive women known as the “angels of death”. He’s holding the world to ransom, with the threat that these women will spread a virus that will render plants and livestock infertile. Diana starred as Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo, otherwise known as Tracy. Tracy was the daughter of a mobster, who knows Blofeld’s whereabouts.
She is romanced by Bond throughout the movie, despite him bedding a few Bond girls in the film. Her character also gets involved with Blofeld’s dastardly plot. Tracy is of the same mould as her Avengers character in that she’s sassy, spunky and can give as good as she gets.
BFI online described Tracy as “a tough, personable heroine, matching Bond blow for blow and quip for quip.” Towards the end of this movie, Tracy and Bond take their wedding vows, and promise to be together till death they do part. This foreshadows the end of the film, which has a deadly shooting.
Evil Under the Sun (1982)
Diana Rigg & Maggie Smith sing Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top”, Todd Perley
Diana brought her presence to two Agatha Christie productions on the big and wee screen. In the TV Movie, Witness to the Prosecution (1982) she starred alongside an all-star cast. This movie tells how a man is accused of killing an old woman with all the evidence indicating that he is the murderer. His alibi can only be confirmed by his German wife (played by Diana). His wife, however, is the chief witness for the prosecution. The New York Times praised Diana for her “subtle and effective use of a Dietrichlike accent”.
In Evil Under The Sun Hercule Poirot investigates a missing diamond after its replacement is found to be a fake. This diamond was bought for Arlena Marshall (Dame Diana Rigg) by her husband Sir Horace Blatt (Colin Blakely). Poirot meets the pair on their honeymoon. There, the much-hated Arlena Marshall is later the victim of murder most foul and it’s seen both these crimes are linked to each other.
Hercule Poirot investigates the murder where everyone with a motive for killing her character, yet everyone has an alibi. Arlena is a famous actress who has hurt her family and acquaintances. All these characters have ties with her character and coincidentally are staying at the same hotel as her. The characters are on holiday on an Adriatic (fictional) island along with the “vacationing” Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov). Her character, Arlena was described by Diana as “the archetypal actress bitch”.
Other characters are also subjected to her barbed comments and her behaviours towards each of them lead to one of them murdering her. Diana, however, seemed to have fun in this role where she sings a musical number, You’re the Top with co-star Maggie Smith. Diana steals the show with her performance in this adaptation from Award-winning screenwriter, Anthony Shaffer. Her stunning and outlandish wardrobe was designed by Anthony Powell, who later worked on Death on the Nile.
Diana Rigg’s talent was commented on in 1982 by Patrick Mcnee who said of her
“One of the world’s great actresses. A superb comedienne. I’m convinced that one day she’ll be Dame Diana.”
Diana Rigg proved him right in her outstanding career in her many roles, be it with Steed and always with a bond, that she really is the top.
What a Character Blogathon 2020 No 27
This post was added to Outspoken & Freckled, Paula’s Cinema Club and Once Upon a Screen 9th What a Character Blogathon! Other reviews with these casts include Diana Rigg in Doctor Who. Morecambe and Wise in MGM Moments. Patrick Mcnee in Frasier, Murder She Wrote, The Ray Bradbury Theatre, Hotel, The Love Boat, Hart to Hart and Magnum PI. Telly Savalas in Kelly’s Heroes, Buona Sera Mrs Campbell, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, The Five Daughters Affair S3 Ep28 and 29 / The Karate Killers and The Cartier Affair. Maggie Smith starred in A Room with a View and Death on the Nile. Peter Ustinov starred in Appointment with Death and Death on the Nile.
8 thoughts on “FILMS and TV… Delightful Diana Rigg Memories”
With each highlight of Diana Rigg’s career, you had me wanting to reach for a DVD or search online as the night will be better if it is filled with the talented lady. Such a part of our lives for so long that it is impossible believe there won’t be more work to enjoy. I’m greedy that way.
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I understand what you mean, there’s so many actors and actresses I want at least one more film from and people I want more time with. Not greedy, just great people.
Thank you for writing about Diana Rigg. I haven’t seen much of her work, but you’ve showed me I’ve been missing out. Some great viewing ahead, methinks!
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I think so too, she was great especially in The Avengers. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this and more of her work.
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What a nice round-up of Dame Diana’s many diverse roles. She will forever be remembered as Mrs. Peel, naturally, but I remember two other entries on her filmography that have stayed with me. In 1970 she co-starred with George C. Scott in The Hospital (1971), written by Paddy Chayefsky. It’s a scathing but hilarious send-up of modern medicine (circa the 1970s) in the same vein as Network, Chayefsky’s 1976 satire on corporatized TV. The other is the 1997 Brit TV mini-series production of Rebecca in which she played Mrs. Danvers. These are just two favorites, of course, she wasn’t one to disappoint. I never missed her Mrs. Bradley Mysteries series either. So sad we lost her but she left a treasure trove behind.
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Not seen any of these, but certainly ones to check out. Thanks.
We’re seriously deprived here in America–we need these shows and more of the wonderful Diana Rigg. 🙂
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Really? When I was wee back in the 70s and 80s, I always envied the American’s choice of telly compared to Scottish TV… At times we even got different shows from English TV, “In England they have their own programme!” were words I hated hearing…