"Blind in One Ear" (1988) is Mr. Macnee's autobiography: the author first leads us through his unusual childhood in an aristocratic and truly idiosyncratic family. Mr. Macnee's Mama watched little Daniel Patrick "through the bubbly blur of Dom Perignon", the feared "Uncle" Evelyn wanted "to make a good woman of him", and his Pa was rarely around. Patrick matriculated from Eton, often considered the best public (meaning exclusively private) school in the world, although his final period at the college was marred by quite some naughtiness. This part of the memoir is totally fascinating. Alas the story of long, long years of young Mr. Macnee trying to succeed as an actor, moving from place to place, including the US and Canada, waiting for his big break is, frankly, boring; even frequent dropping names of actors whom he met and worked with, like Laurence Oliver, Richard Burton, Vivien Leigh, Montgomery Clift, and many, many others does not relieve the monotony.
The Big Break comes in 1960 when Mr. Macnee is hired to play John Steed, one of the two leading characters in "The Avengers". He stars in four separate series (with Ian Hendry, Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg, and Linda Thorson), not to count the much later "New Avengers" (with Joanna Lumley as Purdey). The role of Steed has completely defined his legacy, which Mr. Macnee is first to admit: the series "brought the fame and money I'd always longed for", he writes.
"Blind in One Ear" is mostly a good read: the author is quite honest in assessing his successes and failures, the first third of the memoir is enthralling, and the writing sparkles with sly humor throughout the book. Here's just one small sample: "[...] my true moment of greatness came when I was asked whether I'd met Vivien Leigh. My answer was received with awe. Then a second question was asked. I had to say that although I'd longed to, I had not."
Two and three quarter stars.
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This is very warts and all as he talks about his fairly dysfunctional family and unusual upbringing and his time as an actor.
Entertaining, Mcnee is a witty storyteller, but it tends to lose steam after the Avengers is cancelled and he goes into his big new age, finding himself phase. Patrick Macnee has had an interesting lifebest known for his role in "The Avengers", and he attempts to tell his tale. Unfortunately, he dwells far too long on his odd childhood and brushes over the interesting times he must have had as an actor. You end up with the impression that he's a narcissist more than an actor. A must for any fans of the show. Macnee had the weird childhood indeed! Good for show biz historians and completist fans, but a whole lot of rambling junk for most everyone else.
I grew up watching The Avengers on PBS, so I have a childhood fondness for the character of John Steed. When Patrick Macnee passed on, I heard about this book and thought I'd see what his thinking and memories might reveal.
The first half of the book is the most interesting. The author pours out a relentless series of observations and quips up to about the time he gets out of World War II. While most of it isn't particularly deep, the scope of his subject matter manages to summon a fairly clear picture of his young life.
The picture he paints of the upper classes in Great Britain during this time is not a flattering one. They come off as generally dysfunctional, self centered, and often psychotic. It's hard to imagine him coming out of that upbringing without some kind of damage to his psyche.
If I had to hazard a guess, his response seems to have been to develop a defense field of whimsy coupled with hyper awareness of detail. This would explain why he either focuses on pure external events or presents his feelings as an observation.
For example, he exhibits a bit of a rogueish side as a youngster. During his time at school, he runs a bookie operation for horse racing using his dad's superior knowledge of horses.
He gets money out of it, gets the older school boys off his back, and the satisfaction of his dad liking him because the old man thinks his son is finally taking an interest in horseracing. It becomes so successful that the local organized crime figures give young Patrick a talking to about it, and then run him out of the business entirely.
There's no selfreflection in this story, nor is there any insight in the details he shares. There's a part missing that would explain how he put this together and where the talent for it came from. He describes the meeting with the thug threatening to break his nose with the clinical, lighthearted attitude of a squire slumming about town.
That's too bad. There are other stories of a similar nature (he gets expelled for distributing pornography to his classmates!), so I sense there's a major revelation of character in this carousing, gambling aspect of his young schoolboy life, but he never elaborates.
After that part of his life, the book turns its focus towards his acting career and loses any momentum it had going for it. His story becomes a recitation of parts played, broken up by the occasional family milestone common to actorsmarriage and kids at a distance, divorce looming, hooking up with cast members, the career popularity roller coaster, and so on. Here, his lack of depth makes for a tedious and obscure read.
Now, we not only have vital aspects of his formative character glossed over, but the development of his life suffers a similar fate. The destiny that leads up to his defining role ends up being a pile of detritus you have to sift through for any kind of insight.
He hangs out with some huge names in show bizAlec Guinness, Orson Welles, and Roger Moore to name a very fewyet his encounters with them come off as name drops on what feels like a resume. Stories to amuse autograph seekers on the way to the pub.
It's a wasted opportunity. A good editor would have encouraged him to break things up and focus more intently on fewer highlights with more specific detail and reflection. The guy was a workhorse for parts, so I'm sure a lot of chaff was already cut out, but come on, cut to the meat and make it good.
I mean, sure I would love to hear him talk about being Count Iblis on Battlestar Galactica, or how he managed to find himself in what (I think) is his truly best one liner of all timeas Sir Denis EtonHogg in Spinal Tap: "Tap into...America!"
I get that you have to pare things down. But really? A minor mention of his role in The Howling as "that werewolf movie?" This was the best that could be put down on paper?
Avengers fans will find the details lacking. There's really only two good storiesthe one where he propositions Honor Blackman after a shoot (where her response is awesome and puts him rightly in his place) and his description of the behindthescenes creative struggle to introduce a female counterpart to John Steed in the show.
That struggle is gobbsmacking when you consider today's entertainment. Here we are, 50 years later, having the exact same argument over including competent, believable, and humanized female characters in popular culture as back then. It still takes an immense amount of psychological energy to try something that by all accounts should have always been a no brainer.
Other than those two gems, there isn't much else to read about. He soon moves on to his career postAvengers and the wrap up of his life in California. Important events rush by without much explanation or analysis, but by then I was resigned to the style.
This book could have been a lot better. Just reread this for the first time in 20 years, and it is still enjoyable. I always thought Macnee was very cool as John Steed in "The Avengers". Steed was dashing yet tough, and got to adventure with beautiful women like Diana Rigg and Honor Blackman. Macnee wrote this in 1988 when he was 66, and was very open about his life, foibles and all. I had the distinct impression that Macnee would have become an upperclass twit had he not become an actor.