Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Blind in One Ear: The Avenger ReturnsBlind in One Ear: The Avenger Returns by Patrick Macnee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Patrick Macnee is the unforgettable John Steed from "The Avengers", the cult British TV series from 1960s (remade in 1998 as a US movie; it has nothing in common with the recent same-titled movies based on comics). The series, running in the 1961-1969 period, was shown all over Europe, in the US, and in many other countries. It is widely considered one of the best cult series in the history of TV, a sentiment that I readily agree with. "The Avengers" might in fact be the second- or third-best series I have ever watched, mostly thanks to Mrs. Peel - by the way, Diana Rigg's bio is waiting on my shelf - and John Steed. (I am sure there can be no doubt which cult TV series is by far the best in the history of mankind, right?)

"Blind in One Ear" (1988) is Mr. Macnee's autobiography: the author first leads us through his unusual childhood in an aristocratic and truly idiosyncratic family. Mr. Macnee's Mama watched little Daniel Patrick "through the bubbly blur of Dom Perignon", the feared "Uncle" Evelyn wanted "to make a good woman of him", and his Pa was rarely around. Patrick matriculated from Eton, often considered the best public (meaning exclusively private) school in the world, although his final period at the college was marred by quite some naughtiness. This part of the memoir is totally fascinating. Alas the story of long, long years of young Mr. Macnee trying to succeed as an actor, moving from place to place, including the US and Canada, waiting for his big break is, frankly, boring; even frequent dropping names of actors whom he met and worked with, like Laurence Oliver, Richard Burton, Vivien Leigh, Montgomery Clift, and many, many others does not relieve the monotony.

The Big Break comes in 1960 when Mr. Macnee is hired to play John Steed, one of the two leading characters in "The Avengers". He stars in four separate series (with Ian Hendry, Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg, and Linda Thorson), not to count the much later "New Avengers" (with Joanna Lumley as Purdey). The role of Steed has completely defined his legacy, which Mr. Macnee is first to admit: the series "brought the fame and money I'd always longed for", he writes.

"Blind in One Ear" is mostly a good read: the author is quite honest in assessing his successes and failures, the first third of the memoir is enthralling, and the writing sparkles with sly humor throughout the book. Here's just one small sample: "[...] my true moment of greatness came when I was asked whether I'd met Vivien Leigh. My answer was received with awe. Then a second question was asked. I had to say that although I'd longed to, I had not."

Two and three quarter stars.

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