22 August 1925 – 6 April 2020
Honor Blackman was born in Plaistow on 22 August 1925, one of four children. Her father, Frederick Blackman, was a civil service statistician.
She attended North Ealing Primary School and Ealing County Grammar School for Girls. At age 15, her parents permitted her to take acting lessons, and she started training at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1940.
While attending the school, she worked as a clerical assistant for the Home Office and during World War II, she was a dispatch driver.
Blackman’s film debut was a non-speaking role in Fame is the Spur (1947), after which she was signed with the Rank Organisation. Other films of note include Quartet (1948), A Boy, A Girl and a Bike (1949), So Long at the Fair (1950), The Delavine Affair (1955), Breakaway (1956), You Pay Your Money (1957), A Night to Remember (1958), The Square Peg (1958, pictured below), Serena (1962), Jason & The Argonauts (1963), Life at the Top (1965) and the Western films Shalako (1968) with Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot and Something Big (1971) with Dean Martin.
She rocketed to fame in England when she took the role in the TV series The Avengers, opposite Patrick Macnee (pictured below right). Her role in this series was so iconic that she was given a special BAFTA award for it in 2000, which she shared with the other Avengers women, Linda Thorson, Diana Rigg and Joanna Lumley.
However, the role many remember her for is Pussy Galore in the James Bond film, Goldfinger (1964).
Blackman practised judo at the famous Budokwai Dojo, which helped her prepare for the roles of both Cathy Gale in The Avenger and Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. At 38, she was among the oldest actresses to play a Bond girl.
Her theatrical career was as spectacular as her television and film work. In 1968, she appeared opposite John Neville and Hylda Baker in the musical play, Mr & Mrs, based on the plays of Noël Coward.
In the late 1970s, she toured Australia and New Zealand with Michael Craig and Colleen Clifford in the comedy Move Over, Mrs Markham.
In February 1979, she starred in Stephen Barry’s production of Tom Stoppard’s Night and Day at the Perth Playhouse.
In 1981, she was cast in the London revival of The Sound of Music opposite Petula Clark. The production opened to rave reviews and the largest advance sale in British theatre history.
In 1987, she starred as the Mother Superior in the West End production of Nunsense and returned to the theatre in 2005, with a production of My Fair Lady, playing Mrs Higgins.
She developed one-woman shows, Word of Honor and Wayward Ladies and played Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret at the Lyric Theatre in London’s West End.
Honor was featured twice on This is Your Life, and made many appearances on TV, including Dr Who, Midsummer Murders, Coronation Street, The Verdict, Casualty, Columbo, The Four Just Men, The Saint, The Upper Hand and You, Me and Them (2015).
She returned to film in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) and Jack Brown and the Curse of the Crown (2001).
She was married twice, to Bill Sankey from 1948–56 and later to British actor Maurice Kaufmann (1961–75). They appeared together in the horror film Fright (1971) and on stage. They gave a home to two adopted children, Lottie and Barnaby.
Honor Blackman refused a CBE in 2002, and in 2015, she stated in the Daily Mirror that she objected to being labelled a Bond Girl (pictured at left).
Yet despite her strong opinions – she was also very political – the glamorous Ms Blackman, even in her 90s, was still adored by legions of fans, and her passing will create further interest in the life and career of this legendary lady.