Monday, September 21, 2020

Diana Rigg in Memoriam

The other night we watched the James Bond film, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” with Bond played by George Lazenby.  Not my favorite Bond, we all know who that was … Sean Connery.  However, I must admit to falling in love all over again!  With whom you ask? Well, Diana Rigg, of course.

Born Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg she was able to add the title of Dame which she was awarded in 1994 for her services to drama. She had previously been awarded the honor of a CBE, Commander of the British Empire. I was always amused by the fact that James Bond also had the title of Commander.

Dame Diana died this month at the age of 82 which brought back a number of memories. Her death was even recorded in our local paper, “The New Mexican”, I presume because of her role from 2013 to 2017 as Lady Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones.

The actress was born in Yorkshire, England and shortly thereafter went with her father to India where he was a railway executive.  At the age of 8 she was sent back to England to a girls’ boarding school.  She trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where one of her classmates was Glenda Jackson and she was with the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1959-1967.

On stage she was incredibly versatile, succeeding in roles ranging from Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf” to --Dottie in Tom Stoppard’s “Jumpers”.  

-Some of her theatre credits include:

-Abelard and Heloise on Broadway in 1971 

-The Misanthrope on Broadway in 1975

-Follies in the West End in 1987

-“Putting it Together” 1992 World Premier in British Regional Theatre.

-Medea on Broadway in 1994 in the title role for which she won a Tony.

-The reprise of My Fair Lady on Broadway in 2018 as Mrs. Higgins, 

I actually saw Abelard and Heloise in London with my aunt who lived on Hampstead Heath. It was at the time a famous nude scene with Diana.  I remember my aunt laughing because I was looking down during the 2 seconds of nudity!

What an ambitious woman!  From theater she went on to screen and television, first gaining fame in her role as secret agent Emma Peele in the television series, “The Avengers” (1965-1968) opposite Patrick Macnee. I watched it regularly as she was the prettiest crime fighter I had ever seen, and she remains so for me.

The IMDB is the best source for movie and TV content and here is Diana Rigg’s: 

You need to scroll down on the site to see a list so extensive that it is all the more surprising that she is said to have regretted not having more success on the screen!  In fact, she had no Oscar but endless Tony, Emmy, and Olivier award nominations and wins. 


A friend once told her that a critic was someone who left “No Turn Unstoned” and she used that as the title of her 1982 book, a collection of negative reviews of plays and performances from Shakespeare to Stoppard.

Here a couple of examples among the hundreds:

-Maureen Stapleton in the ‘Emperor’s Clothes’ by George Tabori, 1953;

“Miss Stapleton played the part as though she had not yet signed the contract with the producer.

-Laurence Olivier as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, 1974; “Any fan of Walt Disney comics could turn on the set and see he had modeled his appearance on Scrooge McDuck.”

-Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, 1967; “It is the kind of play…that one might enjoy on second hearing if only the first time through hadn’t left such a strong feeling that once is enough”

In one of her obituaries, I believe it was the Daily Telegraph in England,  it said that “a group of gay men in America presented her with a scroll declaring that she was the woman ‘they would be most likely to go straight for’.”   I rest my case!

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