04 July 2002: Independent Review

Diana Rigg

Diana Rigg was always the most unlikely of the actresses to be known as a Bond girl. Her Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service was definitely several kinky-booted steps backwards for the emancipated Emma Peel of The Avengers. As it was, her role opposite the unknown star of Australian TV commercials, George Lazenby, was one of the great movie mismatches. You almost felt sorry for Lazenby. After years of bone-dry sparring with Patrick Macnee's Steed, Ian Flemin's macho super-spy must have seemed a real dud.

The French still adore The Avengers, and their title for it - Chapeau Melon et Bottes de Cuir (Bowler Hat and Leather Boots) - emphasises the fetishistic nature of Rigg's outfits, and probably confirmed our neighbours' suspicion that we were a nation of sado-masochists.

But it was her demeanour, not her wardrobe, that was so ground-breaking in a television landscape where attractive young women were mostly game-show dolly birds. This woman could high kick as well as deliver droll repartee, and if Steed had occasion to rescue her, she delivered herself ironically to her white knight. Rigg suggested that intelligence, as well as leather, could be sexy, in an age where baby-doll nighties and false eyelashes were the mainstream alternative.

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