Thursday, January 15, 2009

R.I.P, Patrick McGoohan

Most people, as the subhead of this BBC News article declares, seem to remember him as the star of the excellent and weird TV show, The Prisoner. He was certainly excellent in that role, but he deserves far greater recognition.

In Danger Man (which aired in the U.S. in sometimes slightly different form and with the namesake song as Secret Agent), he starred in some of the finest television ever made. Check out these old episodes--you can buy the whole series on DVD--for brilliant examples of the exploration of morally tough decisions and no-win situations, as well as for beautifully understated writing.

I first watched him as a child in Disney's The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, which is only recently available on DVD. He was wonderful as Dr. Syn, and though I haven't seen this show in several decades, I still think fondly of it. I now must go watch it again soon.

McGoohan was even one of the very best foes Columbo ever faced.

I loved his work, and I am sad there will be no more of it.


Unknown said...

"The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh" has been on my "buy and collect when available" list for over a decade, and I recently discovered it was out. I ended up watching all three episodes back-to-back twice in one weekend. Even after forty years, it remains an eminently enjoyable story, in no small measure owed to McGoohan's dual performance as Dr. Syn and the Scarecrow.

Also, one of my favorite memories of all television is the ending of one of the "Danger Man" episodes in which McGoohan's character, John Drake, undertakes to rescue a colleague in enemy hands, strictly against orders, and succeeds. At the end, Drake is being chewed out by his boss for having done it and, in the course of the mission, having kidnapped an enemy colonel for interrogation. "What am I going to do with him?" shrieks the boss.

Just then, in walks the boss's boss to congratulate him on planning such a perfect mission and who dismisses Drake as "just the field man." As John leaves the room, closing the doors, he bows slightly to his boss and murmurs "Give my regards to the colonel," with one of the wickedest gleams in his eyes I've ever seen.

The fact that I can remember that moment after forty years says much about McGoohan's skills as an actor.

Mark said...

I remember that very episode. McGoohan in one look said a very great deal.


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