Patrick McGoohan, 1928-2009

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Patrick McGoohan, 1967

2009 is gotten off to a rough start. After the death of Bob Wilkins, I caught wind of the news that the talented British actor Patrick McGoohan has passed away at the age of 80. The incredible television series The Prisoner (1967-68) was McGoohan’s own creation and a follow-up to the previous television series he starred in, Danger Man (aka Secret Agent Man, 1964-67). Both shows are available on DVD and they’re well worth watching in their entirety, but The Prisoner is arguably the best television show ever created.

Besides acting, writing and directing for television, McGoohan also appeared in some terrific films. A couple of my favorite Patrick McGoohan performances can be found in All Night Long (1962) where he plays a cool as ice jazz musician in this original take on Shakespeare’s Othello and in Ice Station Zebra (1968) where McGoohan easily out shines the rest of the cast playing a role he perfected on television, a British spy. He was also memorable as Dr. Paul Ruth in Scanners (1981) and as the warden in Escape from Alcatraz (1979).

Style, class, brains, good looks and a wonderful voice that commanded your attention were just a few of the things that made McGoohan stand apart from many of his contemporaries. Unfortunately the qualities that McGoohan possessed seem to be in short supply these days so I’m sad to see him go.

I am not a number! I am a free man!
– Number 6 (Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner)

Patrick McGoohan was definitely not just a number. He was a great actor and I wish he had appeared in more films during his lifetime.


The Prisoner (opening sequence, 1967)

Some recommended links:
– David Hudson collects some links to various Patrick McGoohan obits and tributes at IFC Daily
– Tim Lucas on the final escape of The Prisoner.

Hopefully the rest of my January posts will be less dreary. I’ve been mourning my recently deceased cat and busy with work, so I haven’t had much time for blogging about movies lately. I am slowly compiling my Favorite DVDs of 2008 list that I hope to share before the month is over so keep an eye out for that.

17 thoughts on “Patrick McGoohan, 1928-2009

  1. Vanwall says:

    A genius has left us. I’m bummed. I’ll have to tell you sometime about my last apppearence at the San Diego ComicCon, where I’ve been wearing a No. 6 costume for the last 20 years or so. All Night Long was just on TCM not too long ago. He really was an amazing actor and thinker. I’ll post a bit more in another message after I’m home and collected my thoughts. 😦

  2. cinebeats says:

    I would love to here your convention story, Vanwall! I had no idea you were such a fan of The Prisoner, but I can easily understand why. It’s an absolutely amazing show.

    I’m sad to report that AMC is currently working on a new updated “remake” of The Prisoner that is supposed to be on air later this year. I only discovered this today when I was reading one of the obits and it depressed me almost as much as McGoohan’s passing.

  3. Vanwall says:

    Ok, this’ll be a might longish, sorry, but it really was unusual this year. Even today, I had just commented about McGoohan’s passing on a message board, and I get a call at work from the VP of the San Diego ComicCon about McGoohan’s death. He’s known me for years, and knew I was a big Prisoner fan, ’cause every year on Saturday during the convention I wear a No. 6 outfit. Small world.

    I was at the Comic-Con this summer to meet him for a 4-day comped pass, (yeah, it helps to have friends in high places – he’s VP of Ops there, hehe!) at the Wednesday preview night and was wearing my No. 6 apparel, by request from another friend, as I usually don’t wear it except on Con Saturdays, and at the Dark Horse Comics pavilion I was approached by a couple who wanted to take my picture with the husband – Dean Motter, the writer and artist of the DC “Prisoner” Comics! They were very nice, and it was a pleasure to meet them – Dean and I commiserated over the latest Prisoner film news, talked a bit about his work on the comics, which I have at home. Strange chance leads to an interesting meeting, but that wasn’t all.

    There was something new on the upcoming Prisoner re-make series at the Con also, which I wasn’t expecting to see anything about at this year’s Con; on Friday, the production company for the upcoming series used sky-writing to project a big “Seek The Six” over San Diego – their guerrilla marketing campaign had started, with an online game they were promoting – it was evidently some sort of alternate reality game, somewhat similar to the the Spielberg “A.I.” on-line game, “The Beast”, that I was involved in as a sometime assistant to my brother from a few years ago but much smaller, and closer to a few movie promo games recently. They were handing out two-piece overlap cards which spelled out “The truth is right beside you.”, then “Seek the six .com”

    I spoke to the three rather anonymous chaps there, and they refused to give more info, altho they took a lot of pictures of me as No. 6. They were delighted to see someone representing the real Prisoner series, evidently, too – and the amount of people recognizing me as No. 6 has gone up dramatically this year, as well. All through the Comic-Con, they had some shills in dark suits with numbers on the back handing out the two-piece cards, altho I never saw one myself – many people told me about them, and some asked if I was involved. I told them laughingly they were cheap imitations. 😉

    It only got weirder as the week went on. This was really an unusual year for me as No. 6 – I always go to the Masquerade Ball on Saturdays, but I don’t go inside to watch the costume show, I go around to the backstage area where they have a stage set up for the pro photographers to take some formal shots – there’s plenty of these on Flickr if you care to look – but before the actual contestants come back there after performing, the stage is empty except for those costumed people who have been wearing their stuff around the con, like me, and want to go onstage and have pictures taken. (They aren’t allowed to participate in the Masquerade, which is for costumes made specifically to be shown only at the Ball.) There are a lot of these folks, some bad, some good, a few great – almost needless to relate, most popular are the scantily clad babes hired by the comic book or film companies or who are just plain exhibitionists – but in all the 20-some years I’ve been going as No. 6, I have resisted all entreaties to appear on that stage – I find a good chair and watch and relax, but I have had my picture taken countless times over the years by other con-goers and the pros.

    This time, the masquerade was late in starting, all the show-offs had already been on stage, and a couple of pros I have a nodding acquaintance with kept waving me to get on. The Long Island Iced Teas from lunch must’ve kicked in – I finally relented, and somehow found myself under the lights, focusing left, focusing right, blinking from the many flashes, answering lines from the TV show, and after they ran out of ideas, they began shouting for me to do something else. I said,”Whadda ya want, a song and dance?” and they shouted “Sure!”, not thinking I would, I guess. Well, I took that as a challenge, by God, and it only took a second or two – I burst out in song, strutting, waving my shooting-stick umbrella, pointing to the sky, singing as loud as I could – I even stayed in key: “Prisoners of Love” from the Mel Brooks’ movie “The Producers”!! Frankly, it never sounded better or more appropriate. HeHe! As I got offstage to plenty of laughs and and even applause, I approached three other watchers on a bench who each held up papers with a ‘9’ on them like Olympic judges – I about fell over laughing myself. This won’t happen again, tho, as I have sworn off a career in theater from that moment on.

    Yeah, I’m a Prisoner fan, alright.

  4. cinebeats says:

    Vanwall – Fantastic story! Thanks so much for sharing it here. It deserves a blog post all its own. I suspect that your Prisoner attire will only become more popular after the new series airs. You really can’t go wrong with a navy sport coat or blazer. 😉

    I was especially impressed that Dean Motter made time to take a photo with you and chat. Motter is one of my favorite comic book creators and his Mr. X series is undoubtedly one of the greatest things I’ve ever read (and looked at). I’m a big fan and it’s nice to know he’s fond of The Prisoner as well.

    You should be applauded for having the nerve to get on stage and attempt to entertain folks. It’s not easy!

    Jason – Thanks for sharing your Patrick McGoohan tribute!

  5. Jonathan Lapper says:

    I loved him in those films you mention and of course the tv shows of which my mom was a big fan so I saw them when I was a kid on PBS in reruns and was really confused. But you know what else I like him in? Silver Streak. I just saw it again on the Fox Movie Channel a couple of months ago and boy does he do a great job of playing cold and sinister. And it’s not a half-bad mystery either.

  6. Marilyn says:

    My condolences on your cat’s passing. Of course, we all lost this wonderful actor. The Prisoner would not get my vote as the best TV series ever (that goes to Homicide: Life on the Streets), but I would definitely say it was the most original series I ever had the privilege to watch. Enigmatic, frightening, cheesy in a good way (I never look at my large exercise ball without thinking of the series), and, of course, the quintessential man to play No. 6. I’m looking forward to seeing it again.

    And, as always, I’m looking forward to your DVD list. It was very helpful to me last year.

  7. Vincent says:

    Hello Kimberly, i was sure to find some nice words about this great actor here.
    Let me have a thought for the Major Cabot in “A genius, two partners and a dupe (Un génie, deux associés et une cloche)” the fine western by Damiano Damiani. He was great here too.

  8. Doug says:

    I enjoyed watching The Prisoner in my youth. I came across this site from AMC that has all 17 episodes of The Prisoner to watch.

    Follow this link
    http://www.amctv.com/videos/the-prisoner-1960s-video/

    It was shocking to find, when I looked up McGoohan on IMDB, after watching the first episode, to see what he was doing these days for I found out that he had died just two days previous.

    Hope this link will provide you with some fond memories renewed.

    Doug

  9. Neil Fulwood says:

    Lovely tribute, Kimberley. I’m in complete agreement that ‘The Prisoner’ is that finest work ever crafted for television. A truly unique, ground-breaking and utterly subversive series that pushed the boundaries like no-one had done before or since.

    And McGoohan himself is an icon, pure and simple.

  10. supriya says:

    Hi
    The Prisnor has truely been something the best series that the television has come across. And McGoohan was one of the definately good actors that we have lost. The post made me nostalgic of the days when I usually experienced the magic of the series along with my friends.

  11. Keith says:

    Hey Kimberly. Just wanted to say how sad I was when I heard this news. Him and Ricardo Montalban both at the same time. I’m a fan of both of them. I actually this past year watched the entire series of Secret Agent/Danger Man on DVD. I grew in my adoration for Patrick McGoohan. He will be sorely missed. R.I.P.

  12. Nicole says:

    Rest in Peace, Patrick McGoohan.
    Thank you for the nice tribute.

    I actually just got into the Prisoner series about a month ago, and at this point, I’ve only watched 4 episodes, so I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series.

    I agree with you that The Prisoner is a better series than Danger Man, and I’m glad you mentioned his movies. I’ll have something else to look forward to then.

  13. ARBOGAST says:

    Am I the only one here who remembers McGoohan’s short-lived American doctor series Rafferty? I remember he had a rant in one of the first (only) episodes about naming dogs after people, like Bill or John – he was against it! His snarky assistant was played by John Getz, later of Blood Simple and The Fly.

    McGoohan was just always great to watch, as the Warden in Escape from Alcatraz, as a hillbilly (yes!) in The Moonshine War and as the British agent in Ice Station Zebra, whose big line (“Put another torpedo in the spout, blow a hole in the ice and GET ME THERE!”) I used to, in my youth, quote when out drinking. But the movie of his I really want to see is the Canadian Kings and Desperate Men from which Die Hard may have borrowed a trick or two.

  14. Jason Whiton says:

    I’m thinking of going down from San Francisco to the LA screening of Funeral in Berlin on Feb 21st and thought I’d spread the word to see if people would like to meet up for a Spy Fan Summit. More info on Spy Vibe.

    -Jason (SpyVibe.com)

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