Cathy Gale brought out the violent streak in me and I was out to kill 

21 November 2016

From TVWorld magazine for 20-26 April 1968

If I say I’ve got everything, it sounds smug, and I don’t mean it that way. I just mean what I say — I usually do — and I have got the things that matter.

To find myself, after the unreal success of the Rank contract days, with a failed marriage, a failed career and, worst of all, with the feeling that I had failed completely as a person – that was more than I could bear.

I had a nervous breakdown. Unless you have experienced that special private hell you can’t begin to understand what it means to be forced to come face to face with yourself and the things you fear and yet go on living.

You’ve got to fight — or go under. There’s a pretty tough streak in me, and I survived. I’m grateful to psychiatry because it taught me to see things pretty clearly.

PALLO FLOORED – Accidents will happen

In learning to understand yourself, you learn to recognise other people. When you know what motivates them, why they act as they do, you understand. And understanding is close to loving, isn’t it?

But all that was a long time ago. Those were the bad times — and the beginning of the good times came with Cathy Gale in The Avengers. I had no idea she would be so successful. I don’t think any of us had. I just knew I liked the character and I enjoyed the fighting, and it was when the fighting began that the series clicked.

In those days it wasn’t possible to edit video tapes so it had to be right first time.

I used to go out to kill.

I remember Pat Macnee saying: “Darling, you don’t have to hit quite so hard…”

“Oh yes I do!” I said, and I meant it.

WITH DAUGHTER CARLOTTA – Honesty is a good quality

I had to go in with all my strength if I was going to throw those great big men about, and the truth is I wasn’t sure I could do it.

I’d have looked a right Charlie if I’d tried and not been able to manage it, and I didn’t want to look a Charlie.

I didn’t break anyone’s neck, but I accidentally knocked out Jackie Pallo. He hit his head as he fell, so it wasn’t really my fault.

Pat Macnee said, “Darling, you don’t have to hit quite so hard…” “Oh yes I do!” I said, and I meant it.

All the time I was making The Avengers I was black and blue all over.

Nobody believed I did the fighting myself, till they came to the gym and watched. I surprised myself in a way, because playing Cathy revealed a violent streak in me that I didn’t know I’d got, though I suspect, deep down, it’s in all of us.

It shouldn’t have surprised me, because all my life I had been physically very strong and tough. As a child, I was a complete tomboy. I used to fight with my brother and his friends.

We did everything together, and Ken was the one I matched myself against. He was a year older than me, and his early death at the age of 35 was a terrible blow.

WITH HUSBAND MAURICE – Tough TV image left him unaffected

Cathy Gale was a fantasy woman — but there was an awful lot of me in her.

I liked her because she was cool and determined and unsentimental, and she never gave up. She could take on a man on his own terms and go all out to win, yet she managed to stay sexy. She was a tantalising mixture — faintly male and very female.

It always amused me to discover that some men really were afraid of me — or rather Cathy. The only one who was completely unaffected by that rather violent image was Maurice Kaufmann, my husband. Incidentally, he’s in The Saint on Friday.

Taxi-drivers, shop-keepers, waiters and lots of men I met casually used to make rather uneasy jokes like: “I’d better be careful, or you’ll throw me over your shoulder!”

Taxi-drivers, shop-keepers, waiters and lots of men I met casually used to make rather uneasy jokes like: “I’d better be careful, or you’ll throw me over your shoulder!”

In a way, it gave me a lot of confidence just knowing that I could. I’ve never had to use judo in real life, but it’s nice to have it in reserve.

I’m not looking for trouble, but I could cope with it if it came, thanks to Cathy Gale.

I was sorry to leave her, but I didn’t want to be permanently type-cast as an off beat sex symbol in black leather and boots.

It was time to move on, and I am glad I did, because after Cathy came Pussy Galore, leader of an all-girls flying circus in the James Bond film “Goldfinger.”

The big disappointment of that episode was that I never learnt to fly. I was invited to have lessons as a publicity stunt, and I thought: Why not? It might be useful.

But so many things happened to interrupt the lessons that I gave up in the end. I count it as one of the great failures of my life.

I console myself with fast cars, but I can’t get any kick out of driving my Mercedes in this country any more. The 70 m.p.h. limit spoilt everything.

AFTER A PRIVATE HELL LIFE IS NOW FINE – Marriage brickwork was there, a baby provided the cement

I love driving at speed. There’s a wonderful satisfaction in driving a thoroughbred car flat out.

I like to do all things well. Or not at all. When there is no challenge, there is no interest for me. That’s one of the reasons why I went back to the theatre for the West End play “Wait Until Dark”.

Playing the part of a blind woman was an enormous challenge, because it wasn’t enough to give the impression of blindness.

Technically, it creates a lot of problems, because you are acting in a vacuum. It is a strange experience to cut yourself off from any communication by sight with the other actors.

I had to remember all the time that I couldn’t see.

In the end, I literally could not see. I thought myself blind.

In Saturday’s ABC Armchair Theatre play “Recount” I play the part of a woman who discovers she is pregnant in middle age. She is horrified and embarrassed for all sorts of reasons, as I suspect many women would be.

But off the set. I think it’s a wonderful idea to have a baby late in life. I know. Because of Lottie.

I love driving at speed. There’s a wonderful satisfaction in driving a thoroughbred car flat out.

Maurice and I always wanted children. I think it is instinctive If you have a good marriage, and we have, you want to perpetuate it.

We had the brickwork, but a baby is the cement in the structure of a marriage. We waited a long time before we decided to adopt simply because we couldn’t believe we couldn’t actually make a baby.

We are old for parents of a first baby, and we won’t be quite as active as 20-year-olds when she is running around. But we won’t have one foot in the grave, either.

Young parents have the pleasure of growing up with their children, but at least we know ourselves and each other, and we know we have a marriage that’s likely to last. We can offer a child security because we have found it in each other.

Because I wasn’t Carlotta’s natural mother, I had more time and freedom to plan. But even so, when she actually came and I took her in my arms, it wasn’t remotely as I had imagined it would be.

I was scared. However prepared you think you are, it’s frightening when suddenly you realise that you are entirely responsible for this human being.

The physical side of looking after a child is easy — anyone can do that. It’s just common sense. I’d never had children around until Lottie, but I went to the clinic to learn how to bath and feed her and do all the other things.

What do you tell a child? What do you teach her? If I could give her one quality, I think I should choose honesty. I’d like her to look at herself squarely, and have an open, unprejudiced mind.

Any fool can cope with the physical facts of a baby, but the mind… that’s different. The responsibility sometimes frightens me.

What do you tell a child? What do you teach her? If I could give her one quality, I think I should choose honesty. I’d like her to look at herself squarely, and have an open, unprejudiced mind.

Lottie came to us when she was six weeks old. I didn’t have a nanny for the first two months, because I wanted her to know that she was mine. I didn’t want her to be in any doubt about her mother.

Today, we have Rosalia, who is a wonderful nanny. Lottie loves her, and she and I have a complete understanding.

I didn’t know when I engaged her that the women of the Seychelles have a reputation for being fantastically good with children.

But I know now. Apart from being completely reliable and competent, Rosalia has a wonderful joie de vivre.

Some people say: “How good of you to adopt a baby”. What do they mean? Hell, we WANTED her!

She enjoys the baby, but she never tries to usurp my position as her mother. I feed Lottie, bath her and take her out for walks. I think the thing I like best is getting her up after a rest when her little face is all rosy and she looks positively edible.

Some people say: “How good of you to adopt a baby.” What do they mean? Hell, we WANTED her!

What Maurice and I give Lottie is infinitesimal by comparison with what she gives us. It’s an indulgence to be allowed to love; it ought to be enough.

It must be wonderful actually to bear a child, but I’m just happy that I have one.

That’s why I say I’ve got everything. I have everything I need. And I’ve never been so happy in my life.

  • Honor Blackman (22 August 1925 – 6 April 2020) began studying acting in 1940. Her first film role was as an extra in 1947’s Fame Is the Spur, but she became most famous for playing Cathy Gale in The Avengers, then Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. Both her marriages ended in divorce; that to Bill Sankey lasted 1948-1956, while that to Maurice Kaufmann (29 June 1927 – 21 September 1997) ran 1961-1975. She had two children with Kaufmann, Lottie and Barnaby. She declined a CBE in 2014 as she was a lifelong republican and campaigner for the Liberals.

You Say

2 responses to this article

Ronald Spafford-Crisps 7 April 2020 at 4:52 am

John Steed plus Cathy Gale were the AVENGERS, a team who avenged the serious crimes of others, and who frequently engaged in “realistic” acts of violence (of which Mary Whitehouse surely did not approve).

(Some might say it was never the same after Dr Keeler went AWOL from the show.)

When that partnership ended, the show with Emma Peal rapidly became slapstick (think Batman with the “POW”, “KERBAM” cartoon bubbles) with at times wacky “sci-fi” elements, and then with Linda Thorsen descended into farce (accompanied by appropriate music to heighten the levity) and even at times banal comedy.

Both Peel and Thorson did their best with the woeful dialog and incredulous plots, so no criticism of their performance is intended.

Kenny 8 October 2023 at 12:19 am

Honor Blackman wore a 9th Degree Black Belt in Judo and she crippled many opponents with her incredible throws. She also was a founder of the Blue Blouse Jiu Jitsu Society.

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