Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Patrick McGoohan, 1928-2009. R.I.P.

Actor Patrick McGoohan died yesterday in Los Angeles after a brief illness. He was 80.

Although McGoohan is thought of as English or Irish, he was born in the United States. Whatever his upbringing, he had tremendous success on both sides of the Atlantic.

His first wide exposure was in the British TV series Danger Man in which he played the lead character, John Drake. Because of this role McGoohan was offered the chance to play James Bond. However, he turned it down. McGoohan, a devout Roman Catholic, would not kiss on camera. The John Drake would be reprised in the show Secret Agent Man and spawned the Johnny Rivers hit of the same name.

However, he is best known for writing, producing, directing and starring in The Prisoner. While it only ran for 17 episodes it was landmark television. McGoohan plays a spy who has resigned, is gassed in his apartment and then awakens to find himself in The Village.

Each episode begins a dialogue between McGoohan as Number Six and the new Number Two:

NUMBER SIX: Where am I?

NUMBER TWO: In The Village.

NUMBER SIX: What do you want?

NUMBER TWO: Information!!! Information!!! Information!!!

NUMBER SIX: You won't get it.

NUMBER TWO: By hook or by crook, we will.

NUMBER SIX: Who are you?

NUMBER TWO: The new Number Two.

NUMBER SIX: Who is Number One?

NUMBER TWO: You are Number Six.

NUMBER SIX: I am not a number!!! I'm a free man.

Whereupon Number Two erupts in laughter. From then on he is referred to as Number Six and begins a quest to find out who is Number One and to escape The Village.

I first saw The Prisoner in 1987 on the PBS station in Detroit. My older brother recorded the episodes and over time I became enamored with the show as well. McGoohan reprised the role of Number Six in a 2000 episode of The Simpsons.

A new version of The Prisoner starring James Caviezel (of The Passion of the Christ fame) as Number Six and Sir Ian McKellen as Number Two will air later in 2009 on AMC. This version will only air six episodes. Ironically, in advance of the new series AMC is airing all 17 episodes of the original series online.

Remake or not, The Prisoner has served as a source of inspiration for other TV shows. Burn Notice on the USA Network has a Prisoneresque quality only there's lots of kissing.

McGoohan won two Emmy Awards for playing villians on Columbo in both the 1970s and the 1990s. He was close friends with Peter Falk (who, unfortunately, is having health problems of his own.) He also appeared in films such as Silver Streak, Escape From Alcatraz, Scanners, Mel Gibson's Braveheart and The Phantom.

McGoohan is survived by three children, five grandchildren and a great grandchild. He was married to Joan Drummond for 57 years.

I'm sure somewhere up in Heaven G-d is saying, "Be seeing you."

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