Last Night In Soho is Doncaster-born Dame Diana Rigg's perfect swansong - Anthony Clavane

Before he went out of fashion, the singer-songwriter Morrissey was lauded for his celebration of headstrong, northern lasses who lit up the screen during the so-called Swinging Sixties.

A series of striking female cover stars dominated The Smiths’ 1980s singles.

But there was a strange omission.

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Yes, there was Rita Tushingham from A Taste of Honey, Patricia Phoenix from Coronation Street, Billie Whitelaw and even Viv “spend, spend, spend” Nicholson, the young Yorkshirewoman who hit the headlines after winning, and quickly dispensing of, a cool fortune on the football pools.

Dame Diana Rigg speaking as she received the Icon Award during the opening ceremony of the 2nd edition of the Cannes International Series Festival (Canneseries) on April 5, 2019, at the Palais des Festival in Cannes, southern France. Photo: VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images.

But where was Mrs Peel? This thought struck me as I watched Edgar Wright’s stylish fantasy-horror flick Last Night in Soho. In Soho, as it happens.

Mrs Peel, also known as the late, great Diana Rigg, stole the show in the role of Mrs Collins, a mysterious landlady; if I was to say anything more about her character, it would give away The Important Thing That Happens in the movie.

Instead, I urge you to see one of the best films of 2021.

It contains brilliant performances from rising stars Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy.

But I was even more enraptured by Rigg’s wondrous supporting turn.

Dressed in her trademark shiny catsuit, she first burst on to the scene as Emma Peel in The Avengers.

In this series she embodied a new kind of female icon: a tough, intelligent modern woman who didn’t suffer fools gladly. Especially male fools.

Last Night In Soho is clearly, amongst many other things, an homage to these icons.

Tushingham, who plays McKenzie’s grandmother, was equally iconic back in a decade which supposedly opened up exciting opportunities for provincial outsiders, offering them hope and promise.

London, of course, was the centre of all this excitement.

As I got on the train to go to London to watch the movie, I felt that excitement all over again. I always do.

A common trope in the movies of the time, whether kitchen sink dramas or psychological thrillers, focused on starry-eyed outsiders seeing the Big Smoke as a city paved with gold.

But, as those films warned us back in the day, we should be careful what we wish for.

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Obituary: Dame Diana Rigg, actress

Waterhouse’s line “A man could lose himself in London” is echoed by Tushingham’s character in Wright’s film. “It’s not what you imagine, London,” she tells her granddaughter.

Having earned a place at the London College of Fashion, McKenzie is transported into the capital’s swinging past where she watches a Cilla Black wannabe aim for the stars – and face the inevitable consequences.

Rigg died just over a year ago, aged 82. As her depiction of Mrs Collins confirms, she was a lot more than the sharp-tongued, karate-kicking Mrs Peel.

An accomplished actress on the stage, she was brilliant in everything she did, from James Bond to Game of Thrones.

From humble beginnings in Doncaster, the railway engineer’s daughter spent her early childhood growing up in India, then returned to a boarding school in Pudsey and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

The Avengers catapulted her to international stardom, but it came at a price. As she admitted: “I didn’t know how to handle it.”

I remember seeing Sophie Raworth’s poignant interview with her on The Andrew Marr Show about ten years ago where she revealed how she deliberately dropped off the radar.

London – a metaphor for fame – can be a brutal city and it is wrong to romanticise its “golden” era. The line “London can be a lot” recurs throughout Wright’s portrayal of a tough, intelligent woman’s attempt to climb the ladder of success.

The director, who visited her just two weeks before she died, said she was “the epicentre of the scene we’re portraying in the film and (her) perceptions were really fascinating to me...honestly, the crush I had on her as a little kid never really went away.”

Last Night In Soho turned out to be Dame Diana’s last role.

It is both the perfect swansong and a fitting tribute to the headstrong, northern lasses who “made it” in the 1960s.