Blackman in January 2000
|Died||5 April 2020 (aged 94)|
Lewes, Sussex, England
(m. 1948; div. 1956)
(m. 1961; div. 1975)
Honor Blackman (22 August 1925 – 5 April 2020) was an English actress, widely known for the roles of Cathy Gale in The Avengers (1962–1964), Bond girl Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964), Julia Daggett in Shalako (1968) and Hera in Jason and the Argonauts (1963). She is also known for her role as Laura West in the ITV sitcom The Upper Hand (1990–1996).
Blackman was born in Plaistow, the daughter of Edith Eliza (Stokes) and Frederick Blackman, a civil service statistician. She attended North Ealing Primary School and Ealing County Grammar School for Girls. For her 15th birthday, her parents gave her acting lessons and began her training at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1940. While attending the Guildhall School, Blackman worked as a clerical assistant for the Home Office. Following graduation, she was an understudy in the West End play The Guinea Pig. In 1947 she appeared in the Patrick Hastings play The Blind Goddess at the Apollo Theatre.
Blackman's film debut was a nonspeaking part in Fame Is the Spur (1947). Her other films include Quartet (1948), based on short stories by W. Somerset Maugham; Diamond City (1949), So Long at the Fair (1950), in which she again appeared with Dirk Bogarde; A Night to Remember (1958), an account of the Titanic disaster; the comedy The Square Peg (1958); Life at the Top (1965) with Laurence Harvey; The Virgin and the Gypsy (1970), and the Western films Shalako (1968) with Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot, and Something Big (1971) with Dean Martin.
She played Hera in Jason and the Argonauts (1963), which featured stop-motion animation by Ray Harryhausen. She had roles in the films Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) and Jack Brown and the Curse of the Crown (also 2001).
Albert R. Broccoli said Blackman was cast opposite Sean Connery in the James Bond films based on her success in the British television series The Avengers. He knew that most American audiences would not have seen the programme. Broccoli said, "The Brits would love her because they knew her as Mrs. Gale, the Yanks would like her because she was so good, it was a perfect combination".
During the 1960s, Blackman practised judo at the Budokwai dojo. This helped her prepare for her roles as Cathy Gale in The Avengers and Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. (1964) At 38, she was one of the oldest actresses to play a Bond girl, and was five years older than the star Sean Connery. Following its release, she was the subject of the long-running BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs, choosing an anthology of poetry as her book, and Michelangelo's David as her luxury.
In 1968, Blackman appeared opposite John Neville and Hylda Baker in the musical play Mr & Mrs, based on the plays of Noël Coward. In the late 1970s, she toured Australia and New Zealand with Michael Craig and Colleen Clifford in the comedy play Move Over, Mrs Markham. In February 1979, she starred in Stephen Barry's production of Tom Stoppard's Night and Day at the Perth Playhouse, coinciding with Stoppard's presence as a participant in the Festival of Perth.
In 1981, she appeared in a London revival of The Sound of Music opposite Petula Clark. The production opened to rave reviews and the largest advance sale in British theatre history to that time. She spent most of 1987 at the Fortune Theatre starring as the Mother Superior in the West End production of Nunsense.
Blackman returned to the theatre in 2005, touring through 2006 with a production of My Fair Lady, in which she played Mrs. Higgins. She developed a one-woman show, Word of Honor, which premiered in October 2006. From April to September 2007, Blackman took over the role of Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret at the Lyric Theatre in London's West End.
Blackman started acting on television in the recurring role of "Nicole", secretary/assistant to Dan Dailey's character of Tim Collier in the television series The Four Just Men (1959). In an episode of The Saint titled "The Arrow of God" (1962), Blackman played an adulterous personal secretary named Pauline Stone, who became one of several suspects in the murder of a despised gossip columnist.
In an episode of The Avengers, "Too Many Christmas Trees" (1965), John Steed received a Christmas card from Cathy Gale. Reading the envelope, he says in a puzzled voice, "Whatever can she be doing at Fort Knox...?" It was an inside joke, as Blackman was filming Goldfinger at the time.
In December 1969 and in February 1993, Blackman was taken by surprise as the subject of This Is Your Life. In 1972, Blackman (as a "Special Guest Star") and Richard Basehart played a married pair of Shakespearean actors who commit murder in the American crime mystery series Columbo (episode "Dagger of the Mind"). In 1983, she appeared in a film production of Agatha Christie's novel, The Secret Adversary, in the role of Rita Vandemeyer, and as Juno/Empress Eugénie in the BBC television production of Orpheus in the Underworld.
In 1986, she had a role in "Terror of the Vervoids", a segment of the Doctor Who serial The Trial of a Time Lord. From 1990 to 1996, she appeared as Laura West on The Upper Hand. In 2003, Blackman took a guest role on Midsomer Murders, as ex-racing driver Isobel Hewitt in the episode "A Talent for Life". In September 2004, she briefly joined the Coronation Street cast in a storyline about wife swapping. In 2007, she participated in the BBC TV project, The Verdict. She was one of 12 well-known figures who made up a jury to hear a fictional rape case. The series was designed to explore the jury system. She was sworn in as a juror as "Honor Kaufmann". In 2013, she guest-starred in the BBC medical drama Casualty and in By Any Means.
Blackman's recording with The Avengers co-star Patrick Macnee of "Kinky Boots" (1964), referring to the boots she wore in the show, was a surprise hit. In 1990 it resurfaced on the chart, peaking at No. 5 after being played incessantly by BBC Radio 1 breakfast show presenter Simon Mayo. After her appearance in Goldfinger, she recorded a full album of songs titled Everything I've Got.
In 1968, Blackman released a 45 of "Before Today"/"I'll Always Be Loving You" (CBS 3896), which were featured in the musical play Mr & Mrs. In 1983 she sang as Juno in a special TV production of Jacques Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld.
On 6 July 2009, Blackman released a new single, "The Star Who Fell from Grace", composed by Jeff Chegwin and Adrian Munsey. She also compered the James Bond Prom, part of the "Welsh Proms" concert series in 2009.
Blackman was married twice. She was married to Bill Sankey from 1948 to 1956. After their divorce, she married British actor Maurice Kaufmann (1961–75). They appeared together in the slasher film Fright (1971) and some stage productions. They adopted two children, Lottie (1967) and Barnaby (1968).
After her divorce from Kaufmann, she did not remarry and stated that she preferred being single. She enjoyed watching football.
Blackman was a member of the Liberal Democrats and was previously a member of the Liberal Party, campaigning for the party in the 1964 general election. She declined a CBE in 2002, as she felt that as a republican it would be hypocritical to accept the award. She publicly supported changing the British electoral system from first-past-the-post to alternative vote for electing members to the House of Commons in the Alternative Vote referendum in 2011.
In 2012 Blackman publicly criticised actor Sean Connery, her Bond co-star in the 1960s, for his status as a tax exile. She said "I disapprove of him strongly now. Because I don't think you should accept a title from a country and then pay absolutely no tax towards it. He wants it both ways. I don't think his principles are very high."
Following the death of Margaret Thatcher in April 2013, when asked about her thoughts on Thatcher, Blackman responded:
She's not my idea of Heaven I have to say. Although she did some good things in her time, she was merciless about the unions. I'm not too happy about the Falklands either. We lost men, we took injuries and we blew up a ship. I suppose we need it for a base, but my common sense tells me that it does belong more to Argentina than it does to us. Lots of people may throw things at me for saying that about Thatcher, but hopefully not during the performance. She was a powerful figure, but she did damn all for empowering women. She didn’t surround herself with any women whatsoever or encourage women to come into politics or do anything in particular. She could have been a quite wonderful role model.
Blackman appeared in the following films:
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