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So long Lily Stanhope, RIP Honor Blackman

Columbo Honor Blackman

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.

Columbo Dagger of the Mind Honor Blackman
Lily Stanhope feels the pain at the conclusion of Dagger of the Mind

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.

Columbo Honor Blackman
Cheers Honor – thanks for the memories!

You can read my review of Dagger of the Mind here.

Honor is included in this article about great Columbo roles for women aged 45+

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22 thoughts on “So long Lily Stanhope, RIP Honor Blackman

  1. After watching this episode many many times, i just noticed something decidely odd: Inspector Durk pats a woman on the behind at the viewing of Sir Roger’s casket. Pip pip old bean, not copacetic.

  2. RIP Little Richard…..small part in Murder Of A Rock Star, i remember being shocked that he was in a Columbo episode.

  3. Honor blackman , great actress pity same cant be said about dagger of the mind , very silly and unenjoyable episode and one i never choose to watch only last salute is worse marginally i am afraid to say.

  4. Lilly does some delicious hamming in the 1968 western “Shalako”. She is Lady Julia Daggett (close enough to ‘dagger’ to make me double take), her scenes with Stephen Boyd and Jack Hawkins are particularly memorable.

  5. Honor Blackman was a great actress, she will be sorely missed. From James Bind to Columbo and her illustrious acting career, she was an acting treasure. RIP, Ms Blackman. 🙏🏻💐🇬🇧

  6. RIP Honor. Sadly, the only thing I remember about ‘Dagger of the Mind’ is that it bored me so much I gave up watching half way through.

  7. Honor Blackman’s eyes are the twin highlights of that episode. By turns warmly alluring and coldly maniacal, they tell the whole story of Lily’s character, and of her relationships with the men in her life. I can still see them gleaming as she sits beside Nicky in the car.

    The cast was made up primarily of English actors resident in Hollywood who had long been confined to roles reflecting stereotypes of Merrie Olde England. In that episode Honor Blackman, John Williams, Bernard Fox, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Arthur Malet, and others took a clear relish in playing those stereotypes to the limit and beyond. It’s too bad Richard Basehart couldn’t have been replaced by someone like, I don’t know, Michael Hordern, so that Columbo the self-aware Italian-American stereotype could have been entirely surrounded by self-aware English stereotypes. It still wouldn’t have been among my favorite episodes, but at least it would have been obvious what the point of it was supposed to be.

  8. My views on Ms. Blackman, et al.’s contribution to the Columbo canon are a matter of record ( I’m a big “Dagger” fan.

    I also have no beef with setting a Columbo outside Southern California. Beverly Hills has no monopoly on wealth, power, and snobbery. London isn’t class conscious? British seamen are not creatures of rank? Luis Montoya and Hassan Salah didn’t regard their positions as entitling them to deference? The class conflict central to Columbo can exist anywhere.

    As for foreign stereotypes, what about L.A. stereotypes? Nora Chandler, Grace Wheeler, and Ward Fowler? Nelson Hayward? Alex Benedict? The Great Santini? There are plenty of home-grown “types” in Columbo, characters who principally embody the glitzy professions they practice. I don’t mind this. In fact, that’s how many of us identify episodes (the one with the surgeon; the one with the photographer; etc.). But it’s not limited to non-SoCal Columbos.

  9. I disagree. Maybe it’s the English Professor in me, but I always loved “Dagger of the Mind.” It’s more of an homage to the British drawing room mystery genre mixed with the play of a play on Macbeth. I enjoyed Honor Blackman and Basehart’s “child-like” over acted theatrics; Blackman’s costumes to die for; the uppity butler with our respectful working class visiting detective; the uppity British inspector who is bested by the understated Columbo; the spooky, gothic ambience of the old mansion, the theatre, and the Wax figures in the wax museum; the silliness of the luggage mix up and overlooked Lieutenant at the airport (in the spirit of the nun mistaking Columbo for a homeless man in “Negative Reaction”); the first edition book that was mistakenly left open with damage to the spine that Columbo recognizes as an anomaly; the lavish morning breakfast suite when the butler comes a calling for the security of ongoing employment via a little blackmail; and that fun British convertible car they drive with juissance!

    It’s high comedy. However, the umbrella reveal is thin and Nicky’s collapse into madness feels inauthentic, resulting in anticlimax.

    Cheers to Honor!
    Christyne Berzsenyi

    • I love this episode too, Christyne, for pretty much the same reasons. Blackman and Basehart are so flamboyant and hammy! I liked them, the butler, the wax museum, the umbrella trick … I just enjoyed it all. 🙂

  10. Ms. Blackman was a classic beauty, lovely even in her 90’s, and my favorite Bond Girl by a long shot. Dagger of the Mind is my guilty pleasure. Growing up, I was a hard rock/metal fan, but I had several guilty pleasures that I listened to, like Abba and The Carpenters. I didn’t let my friends know that I listened to them until years later, when I found that most of them had their own guilty pleasures in music as well…..unless it was disco, which will always be unforgivable. When it comes to Columbo episodes, Dagger is my guilty pleasure.

    I remember watching the episode as a child when it first aired, when the only breaks were commercial breaks, before you could rewind and watch episodes repeatedly. If you missed a part of the episode, you missed it, unless it aired later during summer reruns, and syndication was years away. Most shows have to have at least 100 episodes before they can be syndicated. After the second run of Columbo’s, I didn’t see any reruns until A&E or Hallmark channels showed some in the 1990’s, before streaming and DVD/BlueRay sets were available.

    In her late 40’s, she was stunning as Lily on Dagger. I even forgive Richard Basehart’s accent and hamminess, since Nicky and Lily were both from the theater. I still find it an easily watchable episode. I also prefer her to the voluptuous Miss Dudley. She was definitely my pick for Columbo’s most gorgeous murderess. Rest in Peace, lovely Honor.

    • Since it’s confession time, I will admit that I really love this episode. As a teen, I was falling in love with all things British as I was reading my way through all of Dickens’ novels. Back in the 70s, it was not easy to get a glimpse of what London or other parts of England looked like. Encyclopedias only had a few pictures, in color if you were lucky, to try to see what the place looked like. Columbo’s tour of London on his way to and from the airport were such a treat! I didn’t know at the time that the stately home of Sir Roger wasn’t in England, and I even thought the interior scenes were done in real British locations. Dagger holds a special place in my heart because it was set in the place where David Copperfield and Nicholas Nickleby and Abel Magwitch and Tiny Tim trod. Thanks to Peter Falk for getting NBC to give us a tour of a bit of London.

  11. RIP a great actress indeed. As for her contribution to Columbo I’ve always liked Dagger of the Mind very much (perhaps the most underrated episode of the 70’s), with a huge thank you to Honor Blackman, who fully understood how to apply the paranoid madness of Lady macBeth into the part of actress Lily Stanhope.

  12. I’ll always have soft spot for ‘Dagger….’ – the first Columbo episode I ever saw, so R.I.P Honor – give my love to Peter, Richard, Wilfred et al.

  13. There has never been a successful Columbo episode set outside Southern California.
    The reason for this might be that Columbo is essentially a class comedy (like much of Raymond Chandler). We are intrigued and delighted by his intrusions into Beverly Hills and Bel Air society and, especially, the many humorous interactions with the other “second class” citizens (car hops, bartenders, waiters, cleaners, etc) – all of whom for once see someone they can finally look down on !
    Needless to say, this doesn’t translate that well to alternative locations, eg London, cruise ships, etc.

    • Totally disagree here. I think Dagger of the Mind and, say, A Matter of Honour are very good episodes, not to mention the master piece that is called Troubled Waters. It’s refreshing to see Columbo away from his natural environment and out of his comfort zone once in a while. And I think you don’t get the character of Columbo at all when you say that he is someone for “other second class citizens” to look down on. Columbo gets along very well with most of those people, unless they’re arrogant by nature or profession.

      • I’m with you, David — about this episode as well as about Troubled Waters and A Matter of Honor.

    • I agree there has never been a GOOD Columbo episode set outside Southern California, but I count a cruise ship with Californian people (aren’t they?) as Californian, and “Case of Immunity” as non-Californian. Even the Irish episode (“Conspirators”) isn’t Californian enough.
      In the non-Californian episodes there are really to many stereotypes (and this “Dagger of the Mind” is the very most stereotypical of all). In the other episodes, sometimes there are (about Texans, people of Cincinnati, etc.) but that’s peanuts.
      However, I don’t agree with what is said about the attitude towards and of the “second class” citizens. Columbo is one of them.


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