Although predominantly associated with the Bond franchise after her starring role in Goldfinger, Honor Blackman, who sadly passed away on 6th April, holds a special place in the heart of many a Columbo fan.
Blackman, who died of natural causes at the age of 94, became Columbo’s third female murderer when she did away with Sir Roger Haversham in the opening scenes of 1972’s London-based romp Dagger of the Mind – the murder being particularly memorable as it was caused by a jar of cold cream to the old boy’s temple.
And while I’m on record as stating I’m not a fan of the episode, nor of how Blackman and partner in crime Richard Basehart were forced to outrageously ham it up as murderous duo Lily Stanhope and Nick Frame, Blackman certainly can’t be accused of not fully committing to the episode’s far-fetched antics as they unfold.
Fitting for an episode set against London’s theatrical scene, and the two leads starring in a production of Macbeth, Blackman’s Stanhope chastens and manipulates her leading man into covering up a murder and committing another, à la Lady Macbeth, before the wily Lieutenant busts the pair in a showy finale.
Aged 47 at the time of Dagger’s first airing in November 1972, Blackman had already enjoyed a long and distinguished acting career, her first screen roles coming in the late 1940s while still in her early 20s.
Her big break came in The Avengers alongside future Columbo alum Patrick Macnee in 1962, where she starred as kinky boots-loving martial arts ace Catherine Gale for 43 episodes. She left the series to take up her now legendary role of Pussy Galore opposite Sean Connery in Bond’s third adventure, Goldfinger, in 1964.
Blackman also had large and small screen roles on productions as varied as Jason and the Argonauts, Coronation Street and Doctor Who, while she appeared in 95 episodes of hit UK comedy The Upper Hand from 1990-96. In addition, she worked in theatre for many decades.
A breast cancer survivor in 2003, Blackman died peacefully at home in Lewes, southern England. She is survived by a daughter, Lottie Kaufmann; a son, Barnaby Kaufmann; and four grandchildren.
As always at times like this, I like to pay my own small tribute and to celebrate the contribution such stars as Blackman made to the Columbo universe. She was the last surviving lead member of the cast of Dagger of the Mind, and now hopefully joins episode co-stars Basehart, Falk, Wilfrid Hyde-White and Bernard Fox in enjoying a glass of the good stuff in the shadows of the Pearly Gates.