Drawing: Diana Rigg as Emma Peel

Diana Rigg

Described as one of the UK’s most cherished actors, Dame Diana Rigg, best known to global TV audiences as Emma Peel, the leather catsuit clad sidekick to secret agent John Steed (played by the lat Patrick Macnee) and unofficial undercover operative that fuelled the fantasies of schoolboys around the world in The Avengers.

Her name is a play on the phrase “Man Appeal” or M. Appeal, one of the required elements of the character. In 2002 she was voted the sexiest TV star ever and Michael Parkinson described her in his 1972 interview as the “most desirable woman he ever met” who “radiated a lustrous beauty”.

Not everyone found her appealing, however. In her book and subsequent stage show, No Turn Unstoned in which she revisits actors worst theatrical reviews, including her own nude appearance in A Belard And Heloise; “Miss Rigg is built like a brick basilica with insufficient flying buttresses”.

She left The Avengers to appear in the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) playing the Contessa Teresa “Tracy” Draco di Vicenzo Bond, the only 007 girl to marry the commitment-phone spy.

Dame Diana was at the BFI last Sunday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Emma Peel phenomenon with a discussion after the screening of The Avengers’ episode entitled The House That Jack Built. She signed my sketch of her in her “Peel” days.

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