Thursday, January 15, 2009

THE HAT SQUAD: PATRICK McGOOHAN

"He must no longer be referred to as Number Six,
Or a number of any kind.
He has gloriously vindicated the right of the individual to be individual,
And this assembly rises to you... Sir
."
President of the Council
'The Prisoner' - "Fall Out"

I used to post all of the TV credits for a particular actor as tribute to their passing. But it was a very depressing and time-consuming job to get them in a certain Toobworldly order, and so now I just find other ways to honor them in the "Hat Squad" posts.

However, Patrick McGoohan was my second favorite actor of all time (surpassed only by Sir Alec Guinness). 'The Prisoner' is my favorite TV show of all time, and I'm not sure that 'Lost' will be able to supplant it once the final episode airs. (But sometimes it feels awfully damn close.) And therefore, I think the exception must be made.

The thing I admired most about McGoohan was that his sense of personal principles translated into the characters he played both in the movies and on TV. If he was the bad guy, oh, he was very very bad. He made it a point, I think, to refrain from showing any redeeming qualities. That's not to say they were thugs, however. Most of his villains were refined and civilized; not people to admire, certainly, but they did have style.


"Do try the marmalade.
The Silver Streak may have its faults,
But they have an excellent cuisine
."
Roger Deveraux
"Silver Streak"


That's my favorite McGoohan quote, and it displays that civilized manner of his villains.

Conversely, if he was to play the hero, then he couldn't be ambiguous about it; there were no shades of gray for his good guys. He refused to allow his first major character, John Drake of 'Danger Man' and 'Secret Agent', to have a "girl of the week" because it went against his moral bearings. Similarly, Drake never used a gun, at least not unless there was no other recourse.

I saw 'The Prisoner' when it first aired in America, on CBS as a summer replacement series back in the late sixties. And that final episode, "Fall Out", knocked me for a loop. It showed me that TV didn't have to be the mindless chewing gum for the eyes everyone claimed it was. People tuned in to "Fall Out" with the hopes that all of their questions which had been building up over the previous sixteen episodes would finally be answered.

Instead, McGoohan's script gave them even more questions. He wanted the audience to think for itself, to find their own answers.

As a result, he had to leave the country to avoid the brouhaha which erupted when it aired in England. (I understand he even got some death threats over that finale!)

For the next ten years, until PBS brought it back during the summer of 1977, I had to content myself with my memories of the series, and try vainly to tell others what a grand experiment in television they had missed. The best I could do was a simple: "It was made _____ years ago, and it's still twenty years ahead of its time."

Then came the repeats on A&E, the video and DVD releases, and now AMC is streaming the entire 17 episode series online in preparation for their update coming later this year (starring Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellan). There are many books, organizations, a comic book sequel, and several novels dedicated to this everyman (a term which McGoohan used for the name of his production company while making 'The Prisoner').

No matter what the role he played in Toobworld, whether it was Number Six, John Drake, or the four murderers on 'Columbo', it's always the way he had fun with the inflection in his lines.

Take his role as Nelson Brenner in "Identity Crisis", my second favorite 'Columbo' episode ever. (Once again McGoohan loses out in my admiration, this time to "Try And Catch Me". I will concede however, that "Identity Crisis" is better written; it's Ruth Gordon as Abigail Mitchell that puts "Try And Catch Me" in the lead.)

In "Identity Crisis", it's just the way he twists a simple phrase like "I know!" and the exclamation of a name like "Steinmetz!" that burnishes my admiration for the man as an actor.

That quote from "Fall Out" above put me in mind of another quote, one by Shakespeare from "Julius Caesar":


"This was a man, take him for all in all,
We shall not look upon his like again
."


And when it comes to such an individual as an actor, writer, and director, who adhered to his principles when it came to the creations that would be his legacy, than I think we can say the same for Patrick McGoohan.

"The Simpsons" .... Number Six
- The Computer Wore Menace Shoes (2000)

Columbo: Ashes to Ashes (1998) (TV) .... Eric Prince

The Best of Friends (1991) (TV) .... George Bernard Shaw

Columbo: Agenda for Murder (1990) (TV) .... Oscar Finch

"Murder, She Wrote" .... Attorney Oliver Quayle
- Witness for the Defense (1987)

Of Pure Blood (1986) (TV) .... Dr. Felix Neumann

"American Playhouse" .... Chief Magistrate

- Three Sovereigns for Sarah (1985)

Jamaica Inn (1983) (TV) .... Joss Merlyn

The Hard Way (1979) (TV) .... John Connor

"Rafferty" .... Dr. Sid Rafferty

The Man in the Iron Mask (1977) (TV) .... Fouquet

Columbo: Identity Crisis (1975) (TV) .... Nelson Brenner / Colorado

Columbo: By Dawn's Early Light (1974) (TV) .... Col. Lyle C. Rumford

"The Prisoner" .... Number Six

"Danger Man" .... John Drake

The Three Lives of Thomasina (1964) .... Andrew McDhui

"Disneyland" .... Dr. Christopher Syn
- The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh

The Prisoner (1963) (TV) .... The Interrogator

"Rendezvous"

- The Executioner (1961) TV episode .... Gilbert Stoner
- The Hanging of Alfred Wadham (????) TV episode .... Priest

"ITV Play of the Week"
- Sergeant Musgrave's Dance (1961) TV episode .... Sergeant Musgrave

- Shadow of a Pale Horse (1959) TV episode .... The Prosecutor
- A Dead Secret (1959) TV episode .... Frederick Dyson
- The Big Knife (1958) TV episode .... Charles Castle
- Disturbance (1958) TV episode .... Flint
- All My Sons (1958) .... Chris Keller
- The Iron Harp (1958)

"Danger Man" .... John Drake

"Armchair Theatre"
- The Man Out There (1961) TV episode .... Nicholai Soloviov

- The Greatest Man in the World (1958) TV episode .... Jack 'Pal' Smurch

"Tales of the Vikings"
- The Barbarian (1960) TV episode Brand (1959) (TV) .... Brand

"ITV Television Playhouse" .... Mat Galvin (1 episode, 1958)

- Rest in Violence (1958)

This Day in Fear (1958) (TV) .... James Coogan

"The Vise"
- Blood in the Sky (1958) TV episode .... Vance

- Gift from Heaven (1955) TV episode .... Tony Mason

"The Adventures of Aggie"

- Cock and Bull (1957) TV episode .... Jocko
- Spanish Sauce (1956) TV episode .... Migual

"Assignment Foreign Legion" .... Capt. Valadon
- The Coward (1957)

"The Adventures of Sir Lancelot" .... Sir Glavin

- The Outcast (1956)

"BBC Sunday-Night Theatre" .... Seth Makepeace

- The Makepeace Story #1: The Ruthless Destiny (1955)

Moby Dick Rehearsed (1955) (TV) .... A Serious Actor / Starbuck

"You Are There" .... Charles Stewart Parnell

- The Fall of Parnell (December 6, 1890) (1954)
As Red Skelton said, Good night, and may God bless.....

BCnU... Sir.
Toby O'B

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Toby,

Well done on your Tubeworld tribute to Patrick McGoohan. I think I
spotted one typo though. You say:

"Similarly, Drake used a gun, at least not unless there was no other recourse."

Although I've never seen the series, I'm guessing you meant to say,
"Similarly, Drake *never* used a gun".

BCNU,

- FiL

PS, You don't happen to have an mp3 of the Prisoner theme song, do
you? I want to use it for my musical tribute on my show next week.

Ruth said...

Toby,

I second that praise. An exceptional individual.

Didn't realize until I read the Times obit that he was born in Queens.

And, FiL, if you're reading, the Prisoner theme is on YouTube. There must be some way to capture that on MP3.

Mercurie said...

I'm still reeling over Patrick McGoohan's death. I even watched an episode of Danger Man in his honour. I am still convinced that John Drake WAS Number Six!

El Wayno Loco said...

Well done, sir. I've known the end may have been coming soon for Mr MaGoohan, as indeed it may be coming for us at any time; still a sad loss of a one of a kind actor.
Just this past year, two great DVDs wormed their way into the EWL archive, "The Three Lives Of Thomasina" and very recently, "Dr. Syn: The Scarecrow Of Romney Marsh". Both of course feature the talents of Patrick MaGoohan. (Okay,"Thomasina" also was a film about a cat, so of course I loved it from an early age.)
I've had the pleasure of standing in the doorway of Number Six's cottage and the amazing experience of exploring "The Village" at dawn when it was deserted. None of these experiences would have occured if not for the incredible Patrick MaGoohan.

I guess he maybe didn't want to stick around for the remake.

RIP Patrick MaGoohan RIP

Brian Leonard said...

Great tribute, Toby.

One reason I started watching The Prisoner was that I had seen McGoohan in The Three Lives of Thomasina. Luckily, I'd also read previews of the show--or I might have been shocked at the, um, dissimilarity!

I will especially miss McGoohan as I watch the AMC remake. I hope it's worthy.

Be Seeing You,
Brian-El