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Overview for Patrick McGoohan
Patrick McGoohan

Patrick McGoohan


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Also Known As: Joseph Serf,Patrick Joseph Mcgoohan,Archibald Schwartz,Paddy Fitz Died: January 13, 2009
Born: March 19, 1928 Cause of Death: undisclosed illness
Birth Place: Astoria, New York, USA Profession: Cast ... director actor screenwriter stage manager chicken farm manager steel mill worker wire rope factory worker bank employee


This tall, blond, blue-eyed and charismatic leading man of the British stage, TV and films could have been one of the Western world's biggest movie stars. However McGoohan seemed unsuited for this role by both disposition and conviction. Back in the late 1950s/early 60s when he was a rising young actor on the West End London stage, McGoohan was offered the potentially star-making role of James Bond, Agent 007 on Her Majesty's Secret Service. He rejected the part on moral grounds fearing that Bond would be an unhealthy image for his daughters to see. The producers made do with a handsome young Scot named Sean Connery while McGoohan went on to gain some measure of international stardom playing a very different secret agent on British TV.

McGoohan may still be best known as secret agent John Drake in the half-hour espionage series "Danger Man" (1960-61 in the UK; 1961 on CBS in the US) and its hour-long revival (1964-66 in UK; CBS, 1965-66), retitled "Secret Agent" in the US. Even those who have forgotten the show may remember the popular theme song by Johnny Rivers which featured session work by guitarist Eric Clapton. Drake was not cut from the same cloth as Bond. He never carried a gun, never shot anyone and avoided romantic or sexual entanglements. Despite these apparent limitations, the show was a huge success.

Tiring of conventional spy stories, McGoohan approached Sir Lew Grade with an idea for an unusual follow-up series. This would be a satirical, allegorical series about a retired secret agent who gets knocked out after tendering his resignation and wakes up in a playfully Kafkaesque village. Baffled but intrigued, Grade backed the series and "The Prisoner" (1967-68, UK; CBS, 1968- 69) went into production. McGoohan executive produced and starred in what would become one of the most highly regarded series of the decade. He also wrote and directed several episodes using pseudonyms as well as his own name. Primarily concerned with what it means to be an individual in a conformist, regimented society, the show took satirical potshots at various elements of English society. Many found the series' surreal conclusion unsatisfying but its very obscurity served to guarantee its continuing cult status. "The Prisoner" remains popular on college campuses and is often rerun on public TV.

McGoohan was born to Irish parents in the Astoria section of Queens in NYC. He moved to Ireland as an infant and was raised on the family farm until economic hardship prompted a move to England in 1938. On his own by age 16, McGoohan soon began acting in several amateur theater companies. He eventually received professional training and began making a name for himself on the English stage. A notable West End credit was the role of Starbuck in Orson Welles' production of "Moby Dick." His greatest success was the starring role in an acclaimed London production of Ibsen's "Brand" in 1959. McGoohan won the London Drama Critics Award for his powerful portrayal of a principled pastor.

A contract player for the Rank Organization, McGoohan entered films in bit parts, often playing heavies. He first registered in "Hell Drivers" (1958) playing a sadistic trucker. American film audiences may have first encountered McGoohan in several British-American co-productions released by the Walt Disney studio, notably "The Three Lives of Thomasina" (1963), an affecting children's drama told from a cat's point-of-view. McGoohan fared well as a cold but competent doctor who learns how to warm up his bedside manner. His official Hollywood debut came in the lavish political adventure "Ice Station Zebra" (1968) where he won kudos for his charismatic portrayal of a secret agent. Intriguingly, McGoohan failed to follow up with a conventional Hollywood career.

McGoohan hid his clipped British accent and affected a Southern one as a ex-Revenue agent gone bad in "The Moonshine War" (1970). He returned to England to play James Stuart, the treacherous half-brother of "Mary, Queen of Scots" (1971). McGoohan even directed one film, "Catch My Soul" (1973), an unsuccessful, revisionist adaptation of "Othello" starring Richie Havens. After making several acclaimed appearances as an actor and director on the detective series "Columbo"--and winning two Emmys in the process--McGoohan returned to playing movie bad guys in the comedy adventure "Silver Streak" (1976) and the speculative military drama "Brass Target" (1978). He won raves for his shrewdly underplayed portrayal of a megalomaniacal warden opposite determined convict Clint Eastwood in Don Siegel's "Escape from Alcatraz" (1979). McGoohan followed up with a bizarre but affecting small role as a sympathetic "mad" scientist in David Cronenberg's sci-fi thriller "Scanners" (1980). A standard dastardly portrayal in the Disney dinosaur adventure "Baby: The Secret of the Lost Legend" (1985) was followed by a ten-year hiatus from the big screen. Classy TV projects intervened until McGoohan triumphantly returned to the limelight with an acclaimed villainous portrayal of King Edward I a.k.a. "Longshanks" for Mel Gibson's period adventure "Braveheart" (1995). Apparently revitalized by this critical and commercial success, McGoohan followed up with roles in two commercial films set for 1996: "The Phantom," as the title character's father, and "A Time to Kill," as a judge presiding over a murder trial in a small Southern town.

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