Honor Blackman

Honor Blackman
Honor Blackman 2000.jpg
Blackman in 2000
Born(1925-08-22)22 August 1925
Plaistow, Essex, England
Died5 April 2020(2020-04-05) (aged 94)
Lewes, Sussex, England
  • Actress
  • singer
Years active1947–2015
Bill Sankey
(m. 1948; div. 1956)

(m. 1961; div. 1975)

Honor Blackman (22 August 1925 – 5 April 2020) was an English actress, known for the roles of Cathy Gale in The Avengers[1] (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).

Early life

Blackman was born on 22 August 1925 in Plaistow, the daughter of Edith Eliza (Stokes) and Frederick Blackman,[2] a civil service statistician.[3][4] She attended North Ealing Primary School and Ealing County Grammar School for Girls.[5] 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.[6] In 1947 she appeared in the Patrick Hastings play The Blind Goddess at the Apollo Theatre.[7]



Blackman's film debut was a nonspeaking part in Fame Is the Spur (1947).[8] Her other films include Quartet (1948),[9] based on short stories by W. Somerset Maugham, starring Dirk Bogarde; Diamond City (1949), So Long at the Fair (1950),[9] in which she again appeared with Dirk Bogarde; A Night to Remember (1958),[9] an account of the Titanic disaster; the comedy The Square Peg (1958);[9] Life at the Top (1965) with Laurence Harvey;[9] The Virgin and the Gypsy (1970),[9] and the Western films Shalako (1968) with Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot,[9] and Something Big (1971) with Dean Martin.[9]

Blackman in the role of the goddess Hera in Jason and the Argonauts

She played Hera in Jason and the Argonauts (1963),[9] which featured stop-motion animation by Ray Harryhausen. She had roles in the films Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)[9] and Jack Brown and the Curse of the Crown (also 2001).[9]

James Bond

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).[10] Albert R. Broccoli said Blackman was cast opposite Sean Connery in the James Bond films on the basis of 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."[11]

At 38, Blackman was five years older than star Sean Connery and one of the oldest actresses to play a Bond girl.[citation needed]


In 1968, Blackman appeared opposite John Neville and Hylda Baker in the musical play Mr & Mrs, based on the plays of Noël Coward.[12] 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.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15]


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).[16] 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.[17]

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.[18]

In December 1969 and in February 1993, Blackman was taken by surprise as the subject of This Is Your Life.[19] 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,[20] and as Juno/Empress Eugénie in the BBC television production of Orpheus in the Underworld.[21]

In 1986, she had a role in "Terror of the Vervoids", a segment of the Doctor Who serial The Trial of a Time Lord.[22] 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[23] and in By Any Means.[24]

Blackman also appeared in a number of episodes of Never the Twain with Donald Sinden and Windsor Davies as vet Veronica Barton.[25]

Singing career

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.[26]

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.[27] In 1983 she sang as Juno in a special TV production of Jacques Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld.[28]

On 6 July 2009, Blackman released a new single, "The Star Who Fell from Grace", composed by Jeff Chegwin and Adrian Munsey.[29] She also compered the James Bond Prom, part of the "Welsh Proms" concert series in 2009.[30]

Other roles

Blackman appeared in the Doctor Who audio drama The Children of Seth, in which she plays the role of Anahita, released in December 2011.[31]

Personal life

Blackman was married twice. She was married to Bill Sankey from 1948 to 1956.[32] 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).[32]

After her divorce from Kaufmann, she did not remarry and stated that she preferred being single. She enjoyed watching football.[32]

Blackman owned a summer house in Islesboro, Maine, United States.[33]

Blackman died at her home in Lewes, East Sussex, on 5 April 2020, aged 94, from natural causes.[34][35]


Blackman was a British Republican, a member of the Liberal Democrats and was previously a member of the Liberal Party, campaigning for the party at the 1964 general election.[36][37] She declined a CBE in 2002, as she felt that as a republican it would be hypocritical to accept the award.[37] 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.[38]

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."[39]

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.[40]


Blackman appeared in the following films:[9]


  1. ^ Aaker, Everett (2006). Encyclopedia of Early Television Crime Fighters. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-6409-8. P. 58.
  2. ^ Hubbard, Frances (4 May 2007). "A question of honor". Courier Mail. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
  3. ^
    • Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Birth Index: 1916–2005 [database on-line]. Original data: General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office.
    • "BFI biodata". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 9 January 2011. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  4. ^ *Vonledebur, Catherine (28 March 2014). "Screen star Honor Blackman has stories Galore". Coventry Telegraph. Archived from the original on 22 December 2016. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  5. ^ "'The Name is Bond' at Ealing Council online". Archived from the original on 2 November 2013. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  6. ^ Bristol, University of. "Honor Blackman Archive | Theatre Collection | University of Bristol". www.bristol.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 10 December 2018. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  7. ^ Wearing, J. P. The London Stage 1940-1949: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel, Rowman & Littlefield, 2014, p. 342
  8. ^ a b Whitmore, Greg (6 April 2020). "Honor Blackman – a life in pictures". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 6 April 2020. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Honor Blackman". BFI. Archived from the original on 6 April 2020. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  10. ^ "Honor Blackman Judo Interview" on YouTube. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  11. ^ "The Lady – England's Oldest Weekly Magazine for Women". Archived from the original on 18 October 2007. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  12. ^ "Production of Mr & Mrs | Theatricalia". theatricalia.com. Archived from the original on 1 July 2016. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  13. ^ "Playhouse Programme 1979", Subscription brochure of National Theatre Company, Perth, Western Australia.
  14. ^ "Nunsense: London 1987". Theatre Gold. Archived from the original on 7 April 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  15. ^ Biography Archived 23 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine on Honor Blackman's official website
  16. ^ "Four Just Men (The): The Complete Series". Network on Air. Archived from the original on 7 April 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  17. ^ "Honor Blackman: 1925-2020". The Gallifreyan Newsroom. 6 April 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  18. ^ Laurence Marcus."Biography: Honor Blackman Archived 5 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine" at Television Heaven website, 27 April 2008
  19. ^ "Honor Blackman". Bigredbook.info. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  20. ^ The Secret Adversary at IMDb
  21. ^ "Orpheus in the Underworld" Archived 2 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine, British Film Institute, retrieved 10 April 2013.
  22. ^ "BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - Trial of a Time Lord: 9-12 - Details". www.bbc.co.uk. 24 September 2014. Archived from the original on 7 January 2019. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  23. ^ "Honor Blackman heads to Casualty". BBC News. 30 July 2013. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  24. ^ "James Bond girl and 'The Avengers' star Honor Blackman dies". NBC News. Archived from the original on 7 April 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  25. ^ "Never The Twain". Nostalgia Central. Archived from the original on 7 April 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  26. ^ "BBC report". BBC News. 30 May 2008. Archived from the original on 31 July 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  27. ^ "R.I.P. Honor Blackman, Sixties spy stunner of Goldfinger and The Avengers". METV. Archived from the original on 7 April 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  28. ^ "Orpheus in the Underworld (1983)". BFI. Archived from the original on 6 April 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  29. ^ "Honor Blackman: Words from the wise" at timesonline.co.uk Archived 15 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ "Golden girl – Honor Blackman profile at". Walesonline.co.uk. 4 July 2009. Archived from the original on 31 March 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  31. ^ "Doctor Who: The Lost Stories – The Children of Seth". Big Finish Productions. July 2012. Archived from the original on 21 January 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  32. ^ a b c Interview, Saga Magazine, October 2009
  33. ^ Alan Huffman: Islesboro, Maine Archived 27 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  34. ^ "James Bond actress Honor Blackman dies aged 94". BBC News. 6 April 2020. Archived from the original on 6 April 2020. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  35. ^ *Murphy, Simon; Pulver, Andrew (6 April 2020). "Honor Blackman, James Bond's Pussy Galore, dies aged 94". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 6 April 2020. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  36. ^ "Politics '97". BBC News. Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  37. ^ a b "Hollywood's tough-women owe a debt to Honor Blackman". The Independent. 22 August 2015. Archived from the original on 17 February 2017. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  38. ^ "Benjamin Zephaniah 'airbrushed from Yes to AV leaflets'". BBC News. 3 April 2011. Archived from the original on 18 September 2018. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  39. ^ Farndale, Nigel (27 August 2012). "Why Honor Blackman still packs a punch". The Telegraph. London, UK. Archived from the original on 25 November 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  40. ^ Gough, Patrick (27 April 2013). "Honor Blackman on her life story, Sean Connery and living in Bournemouth". Bournemouth Daily Echo. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 22 August 2015.

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