The death of Diana Rigg on Thursday, September 10, saddens generations of passionate fans — few performers can boast affiliation with three franchises as popular as The Avengers, James Bond, and Game of Thrones.
A trained Shakespearean actor, Rigg found her first success as a TV star and sex symbol on The Avengers from 1967-69, playing Emma Peel, a catsuit-clad agent who’d melt your heart with a smile then kick your ass. She was a youthful, hip counterpoint to the show’s male lead, the older Patrick Macnee, whose John Steed carried a cane and wore a bowler hat. If you’re not familiar with the show (or just American), you can get a flavor of it from the stylish opening title sequence.
And style was a big thing with Mrs. Peel and Diana Rigg. In the ’60s, the phenomenon known as Swinging London was raging — England’s capital had become not just the epicenter of music but of fashion as well. Rigg was a sort of standard bearer on the small screen for the youth and their crazy mod look. There was nobody like her.
If American audiences didn’t know about her from The Avengers, they got a dose of the Rigg phenomenon soon enough, in the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Though the film is often remembered for George Lazenby’s one-off Bond portrayal, Rigg’s turn as Tracy Draco, also known as the Contessa Teresa Di Vicenzo, is unique among Bond Girls — she was the only one of the many beauties to ensnare 007 in the glory of holy matrimony. Yes, Bond was ready to give up his promiscuous ways for Tracy, who became Tracy Bond in a wedding ceremony noted for the bride’s fabulous white lace jumpsuit.
Alas, the union of Tracy and James wasn’t meant to last, but we won’t go into further detail. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is an underrated Bond film and now would be a great time for everyone to rewatch it, or see it for the first time.
Years, and many roles, after The Avengers and Bond, Rigg found herself once again in the the spotlight thanks to a massive pop-cultural phenomenon: Game of Thrones. On the show, she played Olenna Tyrell, matriarch of the House Tyrell, who proves a wily adversary in the ever-tumultuous saga of the Starks and Lannisters for dominance of Westeros.
Farewell, Diana Rigg.
These last two are great — scans from a 1967 issue of TV Guide that spotlighted the “Emmapeeler” line of jumpsuits based on Mrs. Peel’s wardrobe.