THE RESTLESS AVENGER
OLD Etonian Patrick Macnee eased his 6ft. frame into an armchair in his London flat and said: "Frankly,I can't wait to get back to the seashore.
"I have a lovely little house right on the beach at Malibu, California. Nothing but seagulls and sandpipers around. I'll be back there soon. I haven't any jobs lined up in the States, but who's worrying?"
The 38-year-old Macnee is tailor-made for the part of John Steed, tough, debonair undercover man in ABC's series The Avengers on alternate Saturdays at 10pm.
"I've been restless all my life," he said. "I like to be on the move; get around and see new places and people. It's more important than money. But I'm enjoying this series because the makers are not afraid to inject humour into the episodes."
Macnee went straight into The Avengers after six months as one of the producers of the TV series made for America from Sir Winston Churchill's memoirs.
"One of the best war stories I heard was from Earl Mountbatten," he said. "During the war a project was discussed to establish an artificial ice harbour in the Atlantic. The synthetic ice was said to be indestructible.
"Sir Winston was intensely interested. One day, he was having a bath when Lord Mountbatten walked in with two blocks of ice - one artificial and one real.
"To prove that only the real ice would melt he dropped them both into Sir Winston's bath."
Macnee has vivid memories of his Eton days. He was there with Ludovic Kennedy, Humphrey Lyttleton and TV chaplain the Rev. Simon Phipps.
Said Macnee, "I remember that Ludovic Kennedy was a first class jazz drummer and that Simon Phipps, a talented amateur actor, could do a humorous skit on a conductor directing a big orchestra."
Macnee's father was racehorse trainer Daniel Macnee. As a boy, Patrick rode gallops at Lambourn, Berkshire, alongside famous jockeys.
After Eton, Macnee did not take the traditional next step to the Guards. He found himself milking cows on a farm for six months before he began to do what he really wanted - study at drama school.
He had played Henry V when he was eight: at 13 he had played Queen Victoria in Victoria Regina at Eton.
After drama school he went into repertory at Bradford. Then, after the outbreak of war, he joined the Navy.
After the war the upward climb in stage, TV and films continued. As a veteran of the post-war TV revival he appeared in some 40 plays. Then it was America and Canada in the early 1950's. In 1954 he toured America with the Old Vic Company, returned to Britain to film. Then back to top New York TV shows.
Finally he went to Hollywood for his best film role in Les Girls. It was then he found that little house on Malibu Beach, so he stayed four years.
Said Macnee, "In 1959 I directed Ben Hecht's play Winkleberg in the States. It was all about the Chicago flop houses. Hecht could never get over the fact that an old Etonian could know so much about the Chicago slums."
Macnee grinned and added, "He didn't know that in 1955 I was so broke I was living in them for a time."
from The TV Times, England, 21st April 1961.
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