Honor Blackman received her first acting work on stage in London’s West End as an understudy for “The Guinea Pig.” She continued with roles in “The Gleam” (1946) and “The Blind Goddess” (1947), before moving into film.
In a statement, her family said she died peacefully of natural causes at home in Lewes, East Sussex. Blackman was also known for playing Cathy Gale in the 1960s TV series The Avengers opposite Patrick Macnee.
The pair had a novelty hit with 1964’s Kinky Boots, which reached the Top 10 in 1990.
Her other roles included Hera in Jason and the Argonauts and Laura West in the 1990s TV series The Upper Hand. The statement issued by Blackman’s family said: “As well as being a much-adored mother and grandmother, Honor was an actor of hugely prolific creative talent.
“With an extraordinary combination of beauty, brains, and physical prowess, along with her unique voice and a dedicated work ethic, she achieved an unparalleled iconic status in the world of film and entertainment.
The statement released by Honor’s family added that with an absolute commitment to her craft with total professionalism and Honor’s endeavors, she contributed numerously to great films and in theatre productions of our times.
“We ask you to respect the privacy of our family at this difficult time.”
Comedian and Bond fan David Walliams said Blackman would “live forever” as Pussy Galore. Director Edgar Wright, meanwhile, remembered her as the “ultimate Bond girl and original Avenger.”
Born in Plaistow in East London in 1925, Blackman trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Blackman’s martial arts training helped her win the role of Pussy Galore, an associate of criminal mastermind Auric Goldfinger in the third James Bond film.
Her pilot character – who was openly lesbian in Ian Fleming’s original novel – becomes Bond’s ally after a literal roll in the hay.
“I was already a James Bond fan, but I asked to read Goldfinger before taking part,” she once revealed.
“By the time I had read it, I was very convinced it was me.”
Yet the role was not a particularly glamorous one for the actress.
“Everyone thinks I went to exotic locations on Goldfinger,” she recalled at a celebration event at Pinewood Studios in 2008.
“But the furthest I got was RAF Northolt, just up the road.” In recent years, Blackman toured the UK with her show Honor Blackman As Herself, which saw her reflect on her long career.
Honor Blackman was the original feisty, black-clad female agent in The Avengers. It made her a role model for an emerging generation of women and an object of desire for their men.
Her characters were both sexy and intelligent and more than a match for their male co-stars. Her first acting job was as an understudy in a West End play called The Guinea Pig, and, when the lead actress became ill, she got invited to step in.
At age 39, when Goldfinger got filmed, Blackman was five years older than Sean Connery and, at the time, the most former actress ever to play a Bond girl. “Most of the Bond girls have been bimbos,” she once said. “I have never been a bimbo.”
Divorced from Kaufmann in 1975 (he died in 1997), Blackman never remarried. The couple adopted two children in the late 1960s, Lottie and Barnaby. Now an octogenarian, the ever-lovely and still glamorous star performs frequently, more recently working in the long-running English hit comedy series The Upper Hand (1990) and in her one-woman stage show, “Wayward Ladies”.
Blackman was a member of the Liberal Democrats and was previously a member of the Liberal Party, campaigning for the party in the 1964 general election. She declined a CBE in 2002, as she felt it would be hypocritical to accept the award as a republican. She publicly supported changing the British electoral system from first-past-the-post to alternative vote for electing members to the House of Commons in the Alternative Vote referendum in 2011.
In 2012 Blackman publicly criticized actor Sean Connery, her Bond co-star in the 1960s, for his status as a tax exile. She said, “I disapprove of him strongly now. Because I don’t think you should accept a title from a country and then pay absolutely no tax towards it. He wants it both ways. I don’t think his principles are very high.