Diana Rigg Tribute

This is more likely to be a free associative post with a minimum of text and lots of clips, but I wanted to pay tribute to my experience of the career of the delightful Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg, DBE (20 July 1938 – 10 September 2020).

My first encounter with Diana Rigg, although I wouldn’t have known who she was at the time, was when I saw The Great Muppet Caper (1981) at the local drive-in as a child.

Our next encounter would have been early in my high school years when I saw On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1968), one of the best James Bond movies of all time (adapted from possibly the best of the novels), where she played daredevil heiress Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo aka Tracy, the only woman to get Bond to consider marriage.

Sometime after this I became aware of the classic British TV series The Avengers (1961-69), best known for Diana Rigg’s tenure (1965-68) as the dashing Mrs Emma Peel, partnered with (but in so many ways superior to) goverment agent John Steed. I religiously videotaped the colour episodes as the repeats were aired in the wee hours of the morning, catching up on her original appearances in black & white through the local video library before eventually buying my own copies.

Turning up on TV one day as the midday movie was the unconventional Jack London “adaptation” (more of a madcap comic riff on the original novel) The Assassination Bureau (1969), co-starring Oliver Reed. I’ve probably watched this movie more often than any other individual appearance she has made (although some Avengers episodes might come close).

I tracked down Theatre of Blood (1973) in a video library, unable to resist the combination of Vincent Price and Diana Rigg in a Shakespeare-themed murder revenge movie. Diana can be seen here in one of her many disguises.

Along the way I’ve also had the pleasure of watching Dickens adaptation Bleak House (1985); lightweight farce The Hothouse (1964) (an episode of Armchair Theatre available on YouTube); Grace (1974), an adaptation of Henry James’ “Covering End” co-starring Jeremy Brett on TV series Affairs of the Heart (also on YouTube); and the dialogue-free espionage adventure oddities The Diadem (1969) and Minikillers (1968), independently financed German productions for the 8mm home film market.

In more recent years, of course, there have been her appearances in Doctor Who: The Crimson Horror (2013), playing the villain in full-on scenery-chewing fashion opposite her daughter Rachael Stirling (Tipping the Velvet), and in Game of Thrones as the gloriously competent political schemer Olenna Tyrell (2013-17, before I gave up on the show).

Somehow I’ve missed seeing any of her Shakespeare performances. She’s played Portia in a version of Julius Caesar (1970) generally regarded as forgettable, and the prospect of seeing her play Regan in King Lear (1983) is intriguing, but the one I’m most excited to see is A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968), where she plays Helena opposite Helen Mirren’s Hermia and David Warner’s Lysander, with a fairy court composed of Ian Richardson, Judi Dench and Ian Holm.

How did I not know that she also sang? There’s Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music (1977); a scene in an Agatha Christie adaptation sitting unwatched in the living room, Evil Under the Sun (1982); but perhaps most entertaining of all, there’s this extract from Snow White (1987).

Apparently she participated in a sketch for 1995’s Comic Relief fundraiser, playing Mrs. Childkiller in “Oliver 2: Let’s Twist Again”. I would dearly love to see this but have been unable to find it after extensive searching this morning. But to conclude, this is a loving tribute to her appearances in The Avengers as Emma Peel, the role with which she is most strongly associated.

One thought on “Diana Rigg Tribute

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s