Behind the Scenes: Dr David Keel Era
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Casting The Avengers

Selecting Ian Hendry to play Doctor David Keel was not so much a choice as an inheritance. Indeed, he was virtually reprising his role of Dr Geoffrey Brent from the half-hour crime drama Police Surgeon. Incidentally, one of the reasons Hendry was given a partner in The Avengers is that it was felt he could not carry a full hour of drama alone. The role of the spy, John Steed, went to Patrick Macnee owing to a classic case of coincidence.

Earning a decent living as an actor had proved a struggle for Macnee, so when he was offered a chance to try his hand at producing, he leapt for it. The series was called The Valiant Years, adapted from the books of Sir Winston Churchill; Richard Burton narrated. By his own admission Macnee might not have been the best man for the job, but he did well and, more significantly, it situated him in the right place at the right time.

It was September 1960 when, out of the blue, producer Leonard White, a friend of Macnee's from his years in Canada, suggested he see Sydney Newman about an acting part in a new TV series. Unwilling to return to acting (or, more to the point, return to an actor's wage), Macnee almost rejected the offer. But when White pointed out that Macnee had done nothing in the two years since The Valiant Years, Macnee found it difficult to argue.

Macnee agreed to do the part, but when Newman balked at Macnee's requested salary (150 per week, as opposed to per episode, the latter being bi-weekly), Macnee apparently "blackmailed" him into the higher figure by making reference to an unsavory event in Montreal involving Newman and another director. More than that is not known presently.

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Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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