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John Steed is a fictional character, played by Patrick Macnee, on the British series The Avengers and The New Avengers.

Contents

Description

Steed was a secret agent working for an unnamed branch of British intelligence. He was teamed with a variety of partners, including Dr. David Keel (1961), Cathy Gale (1962–1964), Emma Peel (1965–1968), Tara King (1968–1969), Purdey, and Mike Gambit (both 1976–1977).

One of Steed's trademarks was his impeccable dress, often consisting of a stroller with Bowler (or Coke) and everpresent umbrella. Steed's umbrella, with its distinctive whangee handle, was known for containing a sword, though there were other versions, including one that featured a sound recorder. (The swordstick featured in the title sequence was made by venerable English umbrella maker James Smith & Sons.) The bowler was metal plated and very hard, it could stop bullets and knock down opponents. His bowler and umbrella were in fact his favourite weapons.

Biography

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Pre-Avengers

Steed was born John Wickham Gascoyne Berresford Steed in the mid-1920s. A distinguished veteran of World War II, Steed served in the Intelligence Corps and received the Military Cross for single-handedly taking a German machine-gun post. Before leaving the British Army to join The Ministry Steed achieved the rank of Major.

He maintained a modest flat in London during the 1960s and drove a variety of elaborate, old-fashioned cars, including a Rolls Royce and several different models of Bentley, one of which he calls Fido. In one episode also a Vauxhall 30/98 can be seen.

The Avengers

During his early appearances, Steed's character was a more rough-and-tumble operative than the suave, sophisticated gentleman he became during the Gale and Peel eras. His most common style of dress in the first two seasons was a trenchcoat and suit; it wasn't until later that the bowler hat made its appearance. He was initially shown answering to several different superiors such as "One-Ten" and "Charles". During most of the Gale-Peel era the source of his orders were left a mystery. For the final season of the original series (the Tara King era) Steed was shown taking his orders from an obese man who used a wheelchair called "Mother" (and occasionally a blind woman named "Father"). In The New Avengers, Steed was once again shown working on his own, and it was suggested that he had moved up into a "Mother"-like role in British intelligence, although that didn't stop him from directly participating in missions.

Out of all his partners, he was closest to Mrs Peel; while their interaction was often laced with dry, sarcastic wit on both sides, he respected her as an equal, and owed her his life on more than a few occasions. There were some elements of repressed sexual attraction between Steed and the married Peel, but his professional respect for her, her status as a married woman (despite the fact that her husband was missing, and presumed dead), and perhaps a fear of spoiling their partnership kept him from acting upon his attraction to her.

Influence

Steed Malbranque, a footballer with the English Premier League club Sunderland A.F.C., is widely reported to have been named after John Steed on account of his parents having seen their child as the epitome of Britishness.

Fans of John Steed sometimes call themselves "Steedophiles".

Other versions of Steed

  • In the 1971 stage play of The Avengers, Steed was played by Simon Oates.
  • In the South African radio version of The Avengers which ran from 1971 to 1973, Steed was played by Donald Monat.
  • In the 1998 film, Steed was played by Ralph Fiennes.

External links


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