Honor Blackman, a Memorable James Bond Adversary, Dies at 94

Honor Blackman, a Memorable James Bond Adversary, Dies at 94

Honor Blackman, an actress who achieved fame as a beautiful pilot with judo skills and a highly suggestive name in the 1964 James Bond movie “Goldfinger,” then went on to a long screen career in her native England and abroad, has died at her home in Lewes, in southeastern England. She was 94.

Her family announced her death in a statement released to The Guardian in London. Ms. Blackman was a breast cancer survivor, having undergone a lumpectomy in 2003.

Ms. Blackman may have been unknown to American audiences when she played Pussy Galore opposite Sean Connery as the dashing secret agent James Bond, but she had already become a star in Britain on television.

She joined the spy series “The Avengers” for its second season in 1962, replacing Ian Hendry as the co-star of Patrick Macnee, who played John Steed, an almost painfully cultured British intelligence agent. Her character, Mrs. Cathy Gale, was an anthropologist who enjoyed martial arts and dressing head to toe in leather while saving the world from increasingly bizarre plots and conspiracies.

It was only after Ms. Blackman left the series two years later that the show was exported to the United States; American viewers were introduced instead to her successor, Diana Rigg, as Mr. Macnee’s newest partner, Emma Peel.

Ms. Blackman gave up “The Avengers” to take the role in “Goldfinger,” the third movie in the Bond series. In her late 30s when she made the film, she turned out to be one of the oldest “Bond girls” in the series, although she always objected to that term.

“I consider Bond girls to be those ladies who took one look at Bond and fell on their backs,” Ms. Blackman told the website Cambridge News in 2012. Early on in “Goldfinger,” Ms. Galore declares to Bond, “I am immune to your charms” and judo-flips him into a haystack. (It turns out not to be a permanent immunity, however.)

Honor Blackman was born on Aug. 22, 1925, in London, the third of four children of Frederick Blackman, a civil-service statistician, and the former Edith Eliza Stokes. Her father was a crucial influence on her decision to pursue an acting career, she recalled. When she was a teenager, he gave her a choice of a bicycle or elocution lessons (he felt his own East London accent had held him back in life); she chose the lessons.

She later attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and began performing onstage.

Her first credited screen role was in “Daughter of Darkness” (1948), a British crime film with horror elements; that came after she died in a horseback riding accident in an uncredited part in “Fame Is the Spur,” a 1947 movie starring Michael Redgrave.

Before “Goldfinger,” she made dozens of appearances on British television and more than 20 feature films, among them “A Night to Remember” (1958), Roy Ward Baker’s drama about the sinking of the Titanic; “The Square Peg” (1959), a comedy with Norman Wisdom set during World War II; and “Jason and the Argonauts” (1963), in which she played the goddess Hera.

Ms. Blackman continued her screen acting career well into her 80s, including taking a small part as a glamorous party guest in “Bridget Jones’s Diary” (2001) and a recurring role on the classic British soap opera “Coronation Street” in 2004.

She worked in the theater for decades as well. In the 1980s she did a British tour of “A Little Night Music” (she deemed Madame Armfeldt in that show her favorite role — “That part just fit me like a glove,” she told the British Huffington Post) and played Captain von Trapp’s child-averse love interest, the Baroness, in a West End revival of “The Sound of Music.”

In later years, she played Henry Higgins’s mother in a national tour of “My Fair Lady” (2005) and Fraulein Schneider in the West End revival of “Cabaret” (2007).

Ms. Blackman returned to the television spotlight in 1990 on “The Upper Hand,” a British version of “Who’s the Boss?” Her character (played by Katherine Helmond in the American version) was a glamorous, sexually eager grandmother, and she continued in the role for six seasons.

Ms. Blackman had a singing career as well. She recorded “Kinky Boots” with her former co-star Mr. Macnee in 1964, although it became a hit only when it was rereleased in 1990. (Her “Avengers” character had a taste for thigh-high, spike-heeled black boots, but the later “Kinky Boots” film and stage musical were unrelated.) She released a new single, “The Star Who Fell From Grace,” in 2009, when she was in her 80s.

Her final movie was the 2012 horror comedy “Cockneys vs. Zombies,” in which bank robbers unwittingly unleash an army of the living dead in East London. Her last screen role was in a 2015 episode of the British sitcom “You, Me & Them.”

Ms. Blackman wed Bill Sankey, a businessman, in 1946; they divorced in 1954. She married Maurice Kaufmann, a British actor, in 1961; the couple had two children and divorced in 1975.

She is survived by a daughter, Lottie Kaufmann; a son, Barnaby Kaufmann; and four grandchildren.

Throughout her career, Ms. Blackman admitted to being painfully self-critical and sometimes blamed her father, because of his refusal to praise her for a job well done. But as the decades passed, she came to value his influence.

“What he taught me has stood me in good stead,” she told the Australian newspaper The Courier-Mail in 2007. “Self-discipline, the ability to work and order my life come from him, and I’m grateful for that. What’s done is done, and you can’t bemoan the past.”


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