Friday, September 11, 2020

Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg: R.I.P Emma Peel (1965-67), Diana Rigg (1938-2020)

Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg: R.I.P Emma Peel (1965-67), Diana Rigg (1938-2020) Diana Rigg, best known to my generation as Emma Peel, died earlier today. Diana Rigg was a consummate actress, one of the greatest in the pantheon of magnificent British actresses. Young men fell in love, or more aptly lust, with Diana Rigg. She was alluring in a catsuit when not showing her legs in short skirts. Young girls idolized Emma Peel, the co-star of The Avengers. They looked up to her for her beauty, brains, and class, the classic BBC’s. There was more to Emma Peel. She was strong, bold, confident, independent, self-assured, a martial arts expert – an equal of any man. Emma Peel was skilled in archery, fencing, and nuclear physics. The widow was not the demure, submissive, stay-at-home housewife. She was an inspiration to young women. They aspired to be Emma Peel. Diana Rigg was a pioneer of equal pay. She was paid £150 pounds, substantially less than not only her fellow actors, but also the cameraman in 1965. She demanded and received £450/week. The Avengers became Must See TV on ABC. She didn’t receive much support in her demand for equal pay, but the show as so popular with ABC they met her demands. Diana Rigg said: “I was painted as this mercenary created by the press … when all I wanted was equality. It’s so depressing that we are still talking about the gender pay gap.” Claire Foy played the young Queen Elizabeth in the first two seasons of Netflix’s The Crown. Matt Smith played Prince Philip. She was paid $40,000/episode, which may seem high, but it was less than Matt Smith was paid. Numerous other example exist of the pay discrepancy in Hollywood, which professes social justice and equality. Emma Peel partnered with John Steed (Patrick Macnee) in the Avengers as two counter espionage agents for an unknown British Ministry. They constantly found themselves in implausible plots and perils, sometimes on the front edge of technology. The third episode, The Cybernauts, featured a solar powered robot programmed to kill. The show also foresaw watching TV on your wrist and used electronic keys. Other times the plots traded on Hollywood motifs. Emma Peel in the second episode was tied to train tracks with an approaching train such as the heroine in classic silent movies. The train and tracks were those of an operating mini train. She was filmed in Epic by a crazed movie mogul in a operating studio portraying her life, adventures, and fear as he and his crew lead her to her death. The mogul, Z. Z. von Schnerk, stuck Emma’s head in a setting like the lion in MGM films. I remember the Honey for the Prince episode when she performed the Dance of Six Veils in a glorified bikini. She uttered a classic phrase which stuck in my memory: “We don’t want to offend the effendi.” The classic was “A Touch of Brimstone” involving the Hellfire Club, based on the historic Hellfire Clubs known for their licentious behavior. Emma Peel appears in her famous “Queen of Sin” costume with a snake around her neck. Diana Rigg was born in Doncaster (Yorkshire), England, but spent her early years in India, where she learnt Hindi as a second language. She was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and was with the Royal Shakespeare Company for six years. She was a stage actress before becoming famous in the Avengers. She often returned to the stage in her career. Stage and TV were her fortes. He predecessor in the Avengers was Honor Blackman, who played Dr. Cathy Gale with Patrick Macnee. Honor left the Avengers for the role of Pussy Galore in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger. Diana Rigg left the Avengers after two years with 52 incredible episodes. She followed Honor Blackman’s lead in 1969 by playing the Contessa Teresa di Vincenzo Draco in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. She had the honor of being the only bond Girl to marry James Bond (George Lazenby), but the honor was short-lived as she was murdered shortly after. Diana Rigg performed in Abelard and Heloise in London and New York. The New York play involved a scene in which she and Keith Mitchell, her male co-star were naked – a pioneering act in those days. John Simon, a New York critic, wrote a scathing review. He described the actress as “built like a brick basilica with insufficient flying buttresses.” She responded by collecting worst reviews going back to the Greeks. She published the reviews in “No Turn Unstoned: The Worst Ever Theatrical Reviews.” She donated the proceeds from the book and speaking tours to a actors’ charity. I have a copy of the book, somewhere – probably buried in my office. She performed with Rachel Stirling, her daughter, in episodes of Doctor Who and the Detectorists. Her acting awards include two BAFTAs, two Evening Standards, an Emmy and a Tony. She was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1988 and a Dame Commander in 2006. Recent audiences know her as Lady Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones, but our generation knows Diana Rigg as Emma Peel. She stopped smoking in 2017, having been up to 20 cigarettes daily. To Dame Diana Rigg, I am binge-watching my complete 51 episodes Avengers DVD collection.

No comments: