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Rigg, Diana (1938-)


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A sophisticated dark-haired beauty of the '60s, a classically trained actress who after RADA and repertory, signed with the RSC in 1959, but found international fame as Emma Peel in second series of The Avengers (ITV, 1965-67). The series was a tongue-in-cheek, stylish update of the William Powell-Myrna Loy movies, in which she engaged in witty repartee with Patrick Macnee, whilst defeating a range of colourful villains.

She made her film debut in 1968, repeating her stage role of Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream (d. Peter Hall, 1968). Too smart to fit comfortably into the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service (d. Peter Hunt, 1969), she was better served by In This House of Brede (US, d. George Schaefer, 1975), and The Hospital (US, d. Arthur Hiller, 1971). In more recent TV films, she excels as older women, mean and obsessive as in Mother Love (BBC, 1989, a best actress BAFTA), and has triumphed on the London and NY stage in roles as varied as the musical Follies and as Medea, but her British cinema career is lamentably brief.

She was awarded a CBE (1987) and DBE (1994). Her daughter by her first husband is actress Rachael Stirling (b.1977) who has appeared in several British films.

Roger Philip Mellor, Encyclopedia of British Film

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George Lazenby plays Bond in one of the series' most underrated entries

Thumbnail image of Avengers, The (1961-69)Avengers, The (1961-69)

Ultra-stylish '60s spy drama that all but invented cult TV

Thumbnail image of King Lear (1983)King Lear (1983)

Laurence Olivier's farewell to screen Shakespeare

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