In a statement to The Guardian, Blackman's family said she passed away at her home in Sussex of natural causes unrelated to the coronavirus.
"As well as being a much-adored mother and grandmother, Honor was an actor of hugely prolific creative talent," her family said. "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 and with absolute commitment to her craft and total professionalism in all her endeavors she contributed to some of the great films and theatre productions of our times."
Blackman, born in the London town of Plaistow, was an accomplished figure of both stage and screen who began her acting training when she was only 15 years old. She appeared in a number of films at the start of her career, including Quartet, So Long at the Fair, A Night to Remember, and The Square Peg, but it was her role as Cathy Gale in the '60s British spy show The Avengers that brought her into prominence.
"When I started, men were still of the opinion that women would always be seen as the weaker sex due to their lack of strength," Blackman said of her time on the show. "I was the first woman to be seen defending herself and so illustrated that this was no longer the case. Despite being glamorous and witty, Cathy was also Steed's intellectual equal. I think her character gave heart to many women at the time."
Her work in The Avengers made her a natural fit for one of James Bond's most famous female counterparts, Pussy Galore, starring opposite Sean Connery in Goldfinger, which brought her to the attention of international audiences. Blackman, who was 38 at the time, remains one of the oldest actresses to portray a Bond girl.
Blackman's film career was wide and varied, appearing in Westerns like Shalako and Something Big, fantasies like Jason and the Argonauts, and comedies like Bridget Jones's Diary and Cockneys vs. Zombies. Her versatility also shined in her TV roles, appearing on the British soap opera Coronation Street, Doctor Who, Casualty, and The Upper Hand. About her part as The Upper Hand's glamorous grandmother Laura West, Blackman said, "As Cathy Gale I got fan mail from fellas, obviously, thanks to the black leather and everything, but playing Laura I got lots more mail from women. That role made women who'd just retired and felt they'd been put on the back burner realize they had a lot of life left to live."
A prominent thespian, her stage credits include the 1981 London revival of The Sound of Music and the 1987 West End production of Nunsense. She returned to the stage in the 2000s for productions of My Fair Lady and Cabaret. Blackman's own one-woman show, Word of Honor, which looked back at her life and career, premiered in 2006.
In her later years, Blackman was an outspoken advocate for older women in the entertainment industry. "It's extraordinary how men with big beer bellies who look like hell still go on working — no one tells them they look like the back of a cab," she remarked. "But once a woman gets past 40 everyone gets twitchy about them."