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April 1970: TV-Movies Today

The Real Scandal in Diana Rigg's Life

She makes movies, she goes onstage in Shakespearean drama, she sometimes guests on other TV shows but her reputation remains firmly grounded in one role she's long ago given up playing, "Mrs. Peel" on "The Avengers". Diana Rigg doesn't mind exactly but she's not that one-dimensional, not by a long shot.

She was born in Doncaster, England on July 20, 1938 but left at two months old before she really got a good look at the place. Her dad, Louis Rigg (yes, she's that rare actress who uses her own name) was made manager of the state railroad in an Indian province whose name we won't even attempt to spell. Diana stayed with her folks until she was eight-and-a-half, then it was back to England and boarding school. By the time she was eleven, India had gained its independence and her family was reunited in Leeds, England. Somewhere along the way, Diana ran into a teacher named Mrs. Sylvia Greenwood who encouraged her in acting. "She was a brilliant dramaric coach with a great capability for engendering enthusiasm among her pupils. I owe everything to her," Diana says today.

She passed up college to enroll in the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She studied there two years and went directly from it to - "unemployment". An eye-catching 5'9" Diana found that she just didn't fit the ingenue parts that were around at the time, so she turned to fashion modeling, then finally found her niche in repertory. She began her Shakespearean career as a walk-on, at two days' notice took over the lead in a production of "The Devils". The rest, as they say, is history, at least theatrical history.

She's a fine actress in every medium she's ever tackled; movie-wise she even managed to marry James Bond her last time out ("On Her Majesty's Secret Service"). And speaking of marriage, Diana isn't. Married, that is. Talking with interviewer Jerry Talmer last fall she explained, "I've jad these views for several years. I don't want to impose them on anybosy. I'm very female about it. I mean I don't see what I can gain." Then when he pressed her further she was candid and unashamed. "I have a menage," she explained. "I live with Philip Saville. He's a director."

There are a few more unconventionalities about Miss Rigg. In a business where hard-driving actresses about she comes on very soft; "I don't push myself forward on the screen enough." Working in a climate where family ties are usually the first to go she nonetheless turned down the lead in "Paint Your Wagon" so that she could be with her mother who was ill. Since Diana treats her own living arrangements so matter-of-factly there's been no scandal about that. But besides Philip there's another member of the household - and he raises eyebrows up to there. He's a macaw (that's a bird) and when Diana tells interviewers his name she adds "Print it if you dare". So far none have - and we're chicken (that's another bird) too.


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