TELEVISION - THE 60s
Shortly after Patrick’s return to England in 1960 he made an appearance in the Armchair Theatre production The Innocent, but soon after another play - Lucky Strike - he found himself without work.
Given the opportunity to work behind the camera, he agreed to become the London-based associate producer in the American TV documentary about war time Prime Minister Winston Churchill in The Valiant Years. This was a very successful 27-episode documentary series which recalled World War II through newsreel footage and Churchill's own words from his memoirs. Unfortunately, complicated rights issues with the footage used has prevented it from being made available on home video.
In October 1960, Patrick met his old friend and colleague Leonard White by chance at a London West End theatre. The two Englishmen had worked together in Canada for CBC, and, unbeknownst to Patrick, White and another CBC colleague, the Canadian Sydney Newman (now drama supervisor at ABC Television where White was a producer) had been discussing the possibility of using Patrick in a new series they were planning. Consequently, White spoke of the possibility to Patrick and asked him whether he might be interested in a return to acting in this series, which would soon be named The Avengers, as a “sidekick” character called John Steed. Patrick expressed his interest, met with White and Newman, and the rest is history.
While recording the first three series of The Avengers alongside the series’ original star Ian Hendry and later, Patrick’s own sidekick Honor Blackman, Patrick was afforded very little time to appear in any other productions. His only credit during this time was for BBC Television, in an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale in early 1962, at a time when ITV drama production had been shut down by an actor’s Equity strike.
When The Avengers switched to filming in 1964, Patrick was able to spread his wings a little more freely, and appeared in a small number of non-Avengers productions such as the Thursday Theatre production if Captain Carvallo, the Armchair Theatre productions The Importance of Being Earnest (1964) and The Long Nightmare (1966), and The Lady's Not For Burning, a play in a series called Conflict.
Patrick Macnee in The Long Nightmare (1966)
Patrick Macnee with Ian Carmichael in The Importance of Being Earnest (1964)
Patrick Macnee and Barbara Jefford in The Lady's Not for Burning
Patrick Macnee in Divorce, Divorce (1964)
Patrick also starred in three episodes of the drama anthology series Love Story: Divorce, Divorce (May 1964) with Fenella Fielding, where Macnee has a haircut in a "Peter Sellers' style", I Love, You Love, We Love (September 1964), and The Small Hours (June 1966) with Hannah Gordon.
However, for the greater majority of the Sixties, Patrick Macnee lived and breathed The Avengers and John Steed - and of course in doing so created a remarkable character that persists and is celebrated to this day.