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Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Patrick McGoohan as Number 6 in the balls-out bizarre THE PRISONER (1968).

There are others among the geek community who hold Patrick McGoohan's stranger-than-hell series THE PRISONER (1968) in the highest possible regard, but ever since first seeing it during its late-1970's reruns on PBS I've appreciated it but never went as batshit crazy over it as some of my contemporaries did. That said, THE PRISONER was intriguing on many levels and is definitely worth checking out for those of you who've never seen it. (And for the record: my favorite episode is "The Girl Who Was Death.")

I've always felt it was kind of unfortunate that Patrick McGoohan's career is often given short shrift in favor of discussion of THE PRISONER, but now that he's joined the Choir Invisible maybe more consideration will be paid to his body of work. The guy was a solid acting presence in everything I ever saw him in, especially as the vile bad guy in Mel "Sugartits" Gibson's BRAVEHEART, so I wish him all the luck and respect possible in whatever circumstance awaits once one is tits-up dead and interred.

As (literally) royal douchebag Longshanks in BRAVEHEART (1995).

From today's Los Angeles Times:

Patrick McGoohan, TV's 'Secret Agent' and 'Prisoner,' dies

Patrick McGoohan in "Danger Man" on CBS in 1961.
The British actor, 80, often played villains on TV and in movies. But he gained his greatest fame as the TV spy John Drake. He also won two Emmys for 'Columbo.'
By Dennis McLellan
9:57 AM PST, January 14, 2009
Patrick McGoohan, an Emmy Award-winning actor who starred as a British spy in the 1960s TV series "Secret Agent" and "The Prisoner" and was known for playing various villainous roles in films and on television, has died. He was 80.

McGoohan died peacefully Tuesday in St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica after a short illness, said Cleve Landsberg, McGoohan's son-in-law. The family did not provide further details.

It was the height of James Bond mania in 1965 when McGoohan showed up on American TV screens in "Secret Agent," a British-produced series in which he played John Drake, a special security agent working as a spy for the British government.

The hour-long series, which ran on CBS until 1966, was an expanded version of “Danger Man,” a short-lived, half-hour series on CBS in 1961 in which McGoohan played the same character.

But it was McGoohan's next British-produced series, “The Prisoner,” on CBS in 1968 and 1969, that became a cult classic.

Once described in The Times as an "espionage tale as crafted by Kafka," "The Prisoner" starred McGoohan as a British agent who, after resigning his post, is abducted and held captive by unknown powers in a mysterious village, where he known only as No. 6.

McGoohan created and executive-produced the series, which ran for only 17 episodes. He also wrote and directed several episodes.

Among the memorable villains he played on screen was England's sadistic King Edward I in Mel Gibson's 1995 film "Braveheart."

As a guest star on TV's "Columbo, McGoohan won Emmys in 1975 and 1990.

A recent shot of McGoohan. Who'd have guessed he was from Long Island?


Anonymous said...

Ahh, geez, Stever-- McGoohan and Montalban.

You, among my "newer" friends, are probably best able to understand the effect The Prisoner may have had on my (or any 12-13 year old brain). It was everything rolled into one, the cool agent, the noble gestures, the mind-games, the sets and even the fight scenes. Rover, "be seeing you!" I can go on.

McGoohan had George Markstein (that's who's sitting in that odd little room in the credits) and I am so sad to learn that they had a falling out over the last double-episode's direction. I think McGoohan was wrong to go off on his own, as the final shows are the highest and lowest of the series, all in one. The syndication-only Western number is still a standout for me, cementing my hatred of British actors who have flawless American accents. But McGoohan's real life gestures of friendship are no less remarkable than anything on-screen, when actor Alexis Kanner (Billy in the Western) called for him to help finish an independent movie he was making, McGoohan flew to Canada (I believe) to play a role. Why a Western? McGoohan had always had wanted to do one!

I understand McGoohan spent many years out of the business taking care of his mentally ill daughter. It explains his apparent disinterest in his career output.

It's hard to pick a favorite-- I think there's weaker ones, but always interesting. I guess I have to agree with your pick, but I also enjoyed the one with dream projection (Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling) which happened to involve another actor as #6.

The theme song of The Prisoner fights it out for all-time favorite for me with The Green Hornet. But I especially like the variation of the theme that was a part of the very last show's "outro" rundown of the characters.

And Ricardo Montalban-- gee, the he enlivened that early Trek (where's our Khans now?! It's way past 1996... (that the right year?)) and single-chestedly remade the Trek movie franchise.

But my favorite two acecdotes about Mr. M. is that "Ellexigente" "The Demanding One" of cuban coffee bean fame, was his father! and the "Corinthian" part of rich Corinthian leather was entirely made up by Mr. Montalban in the recording booth! That stretch of the commercial is a voice over. He was just foolin' around and getting a laugh out of the engineers. Delightful!

Thanks, Steve! Your blog is apparently essential reading!

-Professor Brown

Rolls said...

What!? He was still alive!? I dated a girl in college and the only thing I can thank her for was turning me on to "The Prisoner." It just blew my mind! Another part of my youth fades off into the mist. Any word on a "Prisoner" flick? Daniel Craig anyone?