Thursday, 15 January 2009

Patrick McGoohan

The news of Patrick McGoohan’s death saddened me. I was also startled, though of course I should not have been, to learn that he was 80. I still think of him as the smouldering hero of two major television series of my childhood.

I first came across him when I was very young, after he became a household name through his portrayal of the secret agent John Drake in 'Danger Man'. I’ve not seen an episode since I was about ten, and no doubt the show would not look too exciting today. But I was enthralled, week after week, and so were millions of others. (The theme tune was very popular, too.)

When it was announced that McGoohan was appearing in a brand new thriller series, therefore, everyone paid attention. I was one of those who watched the first episode of ‘The Prisoner’, in which an unnamed agent (some people suggest it was Drake) is kidnapped after announcing his intention to quit. He finishes up in a mysterious village, where he is known as Number Six. Escape from the village is impossible.

The weirdness of ‘The Prisoner’ annoyed many people at the time. ‘Danger Man’ had been straightforward action, but this was a very surreal story-line, very 1960s, as if Kafka had collaborated with a scriptwriter from ‘The Avengers’. I enjoyed it, although like many others I was baffled by it. No wonder it became a cult. Incidentally, if anyone has never visited the real-life location of The Village, Port Meirion in North Wales, I can recommend it most strongly – a wonderful place to visit; it’s also good to stay at one of the hotels, for when the tourists are gone, you can wander around The Village undisturbed – very eerie, sometimes.

Later, I enjoyed McGoohan in both Ice Station Zebra (I was going through an Alistair MacLean phase at the time) and in 'Columbo'. I saw little of him after that, but I remain an admirer. His acting range wasn’t in the Alec Guinness class, but he was very good at what he did. He will be missed.

4 comments:

Ali Karim said...

Dreadful, Dreadful, Dreadful, Dreadful, Dreadful, Dreadful, Dreadful, Dreadful, Dreadful, Dreadful, Dreadful, Dreadful, Dreadful, Dreadful, Dreadful, Dreadful, Dreadful, is all I can say - your summary made me sad. I guess we have the same thoughts

Ali

Michael Walters said...

Very sad. I was mildly obsessed by 'The Prisoner' as a teenager - seeing it (and indeed 'The Avengers') again today, I'm amazed by how daring and imaginative some mainstream television was at that point. I always thought that McGoohan was a terrificly charismatic actor and was surprised that he didn't do more in his later career - although I also have the impression that he was a man who sometimes sacrified his career to his principles. As I happens, I was in Portmeirion a only a couple of weeks ago, with the result that my eldest son is now sporting a sadly topical tee-shirt...

Elizabeth Foxwell said...

McGoohan also appeared in "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh" (from the books by Russell Thorndike, brother of Dame Sybil Thorndike). This film has just been released on DVD under the title "Dr. Syn."

He also scared me to death in "Jamaica Inn."

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for all these comments. Michael, I think there was something slightly enigmatic and held-back about McGoohan that is uncommon in an actor and which contributed to that charisma. Like me, you live within fairly easy reach of Port Meirion - we're lucky to be so handy for it, I think.
Elizabeth, I have heard of, but don't know, the Dr Syn books. Are the books enjoyable?