Regular Cast Biography
by David K. Smith and Alan Hayes
Honor Blackman was born either 22 August 1926 or 12 December 1927, depending on your source, in London, England, and credits her father for her acting career—unusual, given that her family was not especially wealthy. For her fifteenth birthday he offered her a choice: a bicycle or elocution classes. Feeling her accent was becoming a bit too Cockney, she chose the latter. Her teacher advised her father to enroll her in the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, which she attended part-time while working as an office clerk.
Upon graduation, her father once again influenced her career by suggesting that she audition as an understudy in a West End play, The Guinea Pig. When the show's lead actress fell ill, Honor had her first "big break." This led to her first film appearance, a non-speaking part in Fame is the Spur, wherein she was killed by a cavalryman—and she was nearly killed for real by a horse that stepped on her hair while she was lying on the ground.
After a string of unremarkable "English rose" type film roles while working as a contract player for the Rank Organisation, Honor struck gold when Leonard White hired her for the part of Cathy Gale. Tony Arnell, casting director, says, "I put Honors name forward simply because when I was at Spotlight I remember she used to come and see a colleague of mine for help and advice. She was way down on her luck. I think her health wasn't good, her father had died, her marriage was up the creek—she was way down on her suppers, but she still looked amazing... Some people worried that her accent was 'too Kensington,' but I didn't think that mattered at all."
Honor had married actor Maurice Kaufmann six months before being cast as Cathy Gale. The couple would often help each other learn lines for upcoming performances, and The Avengers was no exception. They enacted many Avengers scripts together at home, and this habit was even noted in a TV Times article in November 1963, with a photo of Kaufmann complete with a walking stick which doubled for Steed's umbrella!
After two seasons she decided to leave the series before the part got stale, ostensibly, and she returned to film. Her stint as an expert in hand-to-hand combat won her the juicy role of Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, after which she expanded into fantasy, horror and comedy vehicles.
Honor has twice been the featured guest on the long-running tribute program, This is Your Life, on 17 December 1969 (Thames TV) and again on 17 February 1993 (BBC TV). She is involved with an organization called Fairtrade, which aims to ensure that third world producers get treated fairly and can actually make a living from their work. It is not clear whether she's actively supporting it or just allowing her name to be used, but she was on the front cover of one of their newsletters and was quoted saying how much she supported the organization.
Honor died at her home on 5 April 2020, aged 94.
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