Danger Man Or Prisoner?
was the Orson Welles
of British television.
A radical; an enfant
terrible. He had total
control and created
extraordinary. So, of
course, they closed
him down! Donovan
IN A FOREWORD TO Patrick McGoohan: Danger Man Or Prisoner? by Roger
Langley, Peter Falk (Columbo) says Patrick is "…the most underrated,
under-appreciated talent on the face of the globe. The first two times that
he appeared on Columbo he won Emmys for Best Performance By A Guest Star
In A TV Series. No character in the history of television has had that honour."
As a Patrick McGoohan fan myself, I was delighted to come across this wonderful
book while attending the recent launch of James Robertson Justice's biography
The Bleeding Time?"
at Pinewood Studios. A great friend of Peter Falk, Patrick starred in, directed
and wrote for Columbo and is acknowledged as making a large contribution
to the show's success.
So why is so little known about the man who was responsible for the cult series
The Prisoner a landmark series first shown in the UK in the late-Sixties
that changed the history of television and has inspired many other dramas up
to the present day?
Patrick McGoohan shuns publicity and is fiercely protective of his privacy,
so that this very private man is the subject of a book is a stroke of luck for
the star's many admirers around the world the author, although a busy
lawyer, has been a principal organiser of the Appreciation Society for The
Prisoner during its thirty-year life and continues to publish the society's
With 450 rare and exclusive photographs, Patrick McGoohan: Danger Man Or
Prisoner? looks at the actor's personal and public life. Born Patrick Joseph
McGoohan on 19 March, 1928 in New York to Irish parents, his family moved to
Ireland when Patrick was six months old. In 1938, they moved to Sheffield, Yorkshire,
but he attended Ratcliffe College until 1944, having joined the Air Training
Corps in 1943 despite suffering health problems as a child.
One of Patrick's earliest stage appearances was in 1945 at St Vincent's Youth
Centre, Sheffield, in a production of Pride and Prejudice as Mr Darcy.
From working at a repertory theatre in Sheffield, Patrick became an actor and
began to attract attention from the local media well before his move to the
West End and Hollywood beating a path to his door.
With an impressive cv of stage, television and screen productions directing,
writing, acting, producing and various collaborations Patrick McGoohan
is often declared to be one of the best actors to have ever come out of Britain.
Yet, the obsessive protection of his privacy and often conflicting and provocative
remarks made to the press over the years has created a need to set the record
straight. Having lived in the US for the past thirty years he has a dual
US passport Patrick is a clean-living family man with a solid marriage
to former actress Joan Drummond since 1951.
This first-ever biography of Patrick McGoohan, Patrick McGoohan: Danger Man
Or Prisoner? details his classic television series Danger Man and
The Prisoner and explains why McGoohan the top choice for James
Bond turned down the role. The book also looks at his relationships with
the actors and directors with whom he has worked. Orson Welles was his mentor
and Paul Eddington introduced Patrick to Joan.
The "tough-guy" image is wrong, says Patrick, who says he is "soft-hearted,
gentle and understanding". His cinema debut was The Dam Busters (1954)
and when he appeared in High Tide At Noon (1957) a journalist described
his performance as the character Simon Brett as being "as twitchy as that of
James Dean in Giant."
After a showing of The Gypsy and The Gentleman (1958), where Patrick
played a gypsy opposite Melina Mercouri and Keith Michell, one reporter described
him as "the most important picture discovery since Kirk Douglas"; he would "make
more dollars for Britain than Guinness" and Patrick was, he said: "[Charlton]
Heston, [Kirk] Douglas and [Burt] Lancaster rolled into one."
In December 1958 he landed the part of Charles Castle, in The Play
Of The Week: The Big Knife, about Hollywood corruption. Variety said:
"…special mention must be made of the performances of Patrick McGoohan as Charles
Castle… and Louise Albritton as his wife." And one reviewer observed that Patrick's
"…mannerisms, movements and voice were always those of a mature actor."
Peter Howell, who appeared in an episode of The Prisoner, said that "his
charisma and magnetism were remarkable it was like working with Laurence
Olivier." But not all of Patrick McGoohan's life has been easy. He went through
a life-threatening colon operation which left
him in a coma for some weeks, and it appears he is as dismissive of
his illnesses as he is of his talent.
For his performance in Brand, Patrick received the London Drama Critics'
Award for Best Theatre Actor Of The Year Brand was also broadcast
by BBC television in 1959 and Patrick McGoohan was justifiably proud of his
When Patrick stepped smartly into Danger Man, a new and long-running
television series, as agent John Drake, one of the episodes supposedly
located in Italy was filmed at Portmeirion. It was Patrick's decision
to shoot The Prisoner at Portmeirion. He has said that cult shows are
probably watched time after time without diminution of enjoyment because "these
programmes were made by enthusiasts, who believed passionately in their work."
This, perhaps, sums up Patrick McGoohan. He always gives his best.
In Braveheart (1995) he was cast as the evil King Edward Longshanks and
gave a superb performance. He described the character as "a rasping tyrant who
recognises that to rule you need to put your rod
of iron where it hurts most." Mel Gibson was apparently flattered that Patrick
had agreed to do Braveheart and it was a film that reunited Patrick with
his old Danger Man and The Prisoner producer David Tomblin, who
was first assistant director on Braveheart.
Patrick also played the part of the ghost of the comic hero's dead father in
The Phantom and has even appeared in The Simpsons!
But what now? There is the film of The Prisoner but who will be
Number 6? I'd like it to be Kiefer Sutherland or maybe that other
Darcy, Colin Firth. Be seeing you…
In Patrick McGoohan: Danger Man Or Prisoner?
Roger Langley un-ravels the myths separating the man from his on-screen creations.
Now available from all good bookshops at an RRP of £19.99, the book
is published in paperback by Tomahawk
Press of Sheffield. ISBN-10:
0-9531926-4-4; ISBN-13: 978-0-9531926-4-9.
Patrick McGoohan: Danger Man Or Prisoner? has a number of inter-esting
Appendices: Complete Patrick McGoohan Screenography of Films, Television, Theatre
and Radio; Episode Guides To Rafferty, Columbo, The Prisoner
and Danger Man, with Original UK and US Broadcast Dates; Film and Television
Productions he Directed; Order
of Episodes Of The Prisoner; Questionnaire Completed By Patrick McGoohan
in the early 60s; About The Writer.
Roger Langley has been a principal organiser of the Appreciation Society for
The Prisoner during its thirty-year life. He has written The Prisoner
in Portmeirion (1999), The Prisoner Series Guide (2005) and the latest
US Prisoner DVD Megaset booklet. Langley has produced numerous periodicals devoted
to The Prisoner and continues to publish the Appreciation Society's magazines.
"This must be for McGoohan fans that most eagerly-awaited of all books.
A biography. And what a biography! This well-structured work glitters, every
page well-composed, literate, and absorbing, every fact meticulously researched
and detailed. Does this work do justice to this most private and retiring of
actors? The answer is an emphatic Yes... McGoohan will even be quietly pleased.
Believe me, this is a book that you'll certainly be reaching for, again and
again. Don't think twice" David Barrie, Founder of The Prisoner Appreciation