Diana Rigg: The Biography by Kathleen Tracy
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Having just recently read "Blind In One Ear", a memoir of Patrick Macnee, who played the inimitable Mr. Steed in the 1960s British cult series The Avengers (see review
here), I could not resist picking the biography of Ms. Diana Rigg, who played the unforgettable Emma Peel in that series. It is ironic that Ms. Rigg, a great British stage actress, who have won numerous acting awards for her performances in Medea (Tony Award), Rebecca (Emmy Award), Abelard and Heloise (Critics Award), Mother Courage and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and others, who was named a Dame Commander of the British Empire for her stage career, is mostly known for a role in a TV series. On the other hand, it is not a surprise that the series in which both leads were played by real actors rather than TV hacks is widely considered one of the best cult series in the history of television.
Alas, while Mr. Macnee's memoir – thanks to the author’s perhaps unexpected literary gifts and his great sense of humor - is a pleasure to read, Ms. Rigg's biography, authored by Kathleen Tracy, is barely readable; in fact, it is likely the worst biography I have ever read. Ms. Tracy's method is to quote long passages from hundreds of interviews with Ms. Rigg and with people who have known her, and to use her own words only to interpret the quotes and provide segues from one quote to another. Even worse, the bio is full of pages and pages of completely irrelevant asides. For instance, why do we need to read minute details of Mr. Lazenby’s career, why do we need to know what he did before acting in a movie with Ms. Rigg and after? Why would we want to read about Ms. Blackman's and Ms. Shepherd's careers?
It is a pity that the author limits herself to a mechanical, cut-and-paste approach in this biography, instead of examining in depth such fascinating issues as, for example, Ms. Rigg’s relationship with feminism: while the character of Mrs. Peel is both pre-feminist (these are the 1960s) and post-feminist (as she takes feminism for granted), Ms. Rigg strongly denies any feminist bent of her own. I would also love to read more about what Ms. Rigg herself thinks about her various stage performances – the mechanical listing of titles, critics’ blurbs, and awards does not make for an interesting biography.
One and a half stars.
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