Rigg was not very happy doing the show, discovering after her first year that she was being paid less than the cameraman, but she stuck with the program for three seasons. Though the series had a life before and after her appearances, her years as the athletic, sensuous Mrs. Emma Peel are commonly considered the highlight of the series' run. She never quite escaped that early fame; only a few years ago, she poked a bit of fun at herself during a cameo appearance on Ricky Gervais's series Extras, when guest star Daniel Radcliffe asked if the now middle-aged Dame Diana still had that cat suit.
Diana won the Tony in 1995 for her Medea, and the Emmy in 1997 as Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca. She was damed in 1994. Bond buffs think her work in 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service far outshines that of George Lazenby, who was playing 007 at the time, but my favorite film role of Diana's must be 1973's Theatre of Blood, a darkly comic, tongue-in-cheek movie which mixes theatrical grand guignol with Shakespeare (and gives Vincent Price one of his juiciest roles to boot).
This week's Dance Party star does not consider herself much of a musical theatre performer, but her resume proves otherwise. There are people who still recall her guest appearance on the Christmas episode of the British variety show Morecambe and Wise in 1975, where she displayed hammy music hall skills.
Over the years, she has sung several of Stephen Sondheim's most memorable character songs. She was the only actor to emerge unscathed from the disastrous attempt to film A Little Night Music in 1977, in which she stole her scenes as Countess Charlotte, and warbled "Every Day a Little Death" opposite Lesley-Anne Down.
The London stage premiere of Follies, in which she played cynical socialite Phyllis, allowed her to belt "Could I Leave You?". It was in this production that she introduced a new Sondheim song written specifically for her. The recording of that number, "Ah, but Underneath," is the soundtrack for today's Dance Party clip, a montage of our star's film and television career. I'm not really sure why I became such an early fan of Rigg's back in the day, perhaps it was her easy repartee with the ultra-suave Patrick Macnee in The Avengers (I doubt it was that cat suit), but no matter. And I don't care what snarky John Simon thinks: Dame Diana has plenty of flying buttresses for me:
Dame Diana Rigg turned 72 years old this week.