Monday, February 23, 2015

Patrick McGoohan and The Prisoner, Part 1

So, after taking a hiatus from game blogging for the past seven weeks, I am working my way back. Writing takes a fair amount out of me (in time, among other things), and it's difficult for me to focus on two somewhat disparate categories at once. But I'm going to make a try at doing so. The next three posts will be a bridge. They aren't about gaming, per se, but I think they will be of interest to many gamers. Because of the religious and political angles (more in evidence in parts 2 and 3) they will be cross-posted on my religious/political blog Mahound's Paradise.

I was first exposed to Patrick McGoohan and The Prisoner when I saw a re-run of the show on English television in 1983-84 while I was an undergraduate in London. When I returned to the States I became an evangelist for the show among my friends. I loved The Prisoner (which originally ran in 1967-68) and still think it is one of the finest series television has produced. At the time I was also a newbie "libertarian" and hung out on the fringes of the Libertarian Alliance folks associated with the Alternative Bookshop (closed long ago) in London. One of the LA founders, Chris Tame, wrote a paper called "Different Values" where he identified The Prisoner as quintessentially libertarian and individualist (which is sort of an obvious point, but it's wonderful essay) and cited McGoohan for playing other great individualist characters such as the title character of Ibsen's Brand on the London stage in 1959 (also videotaped by the BBC and available on DVD as well as YouTube) and John Drake in Danger Man (aka Secret Agent), 1960-62, 64-68, the forerunner of The Prisoner. McGoohan quickly became one of my heroes.

For the fun of it, here's the famous three-minute opening sequence. Absolutely brilliant:

I didn't know McGoohan's formal politics (if he had any). I did remember seeing an interview with him as a grumpy old man where he made grumpy old man snarks at Ronald Reagan. (In checking into it, I discovered that the interview I saw was made in 1985, when he was only 57 or 58. It's available on YouTube in two parts here and here). So I always imagined that the actor's politics were at least vaguely leftist.

And I still don't know precisely what his formal politics were (McGoohan passed away in 2009). And do be honest I didn't care then and I don't care now. But today (sort of randomly), I found out something fascinating that I never knew.

McGoohan was a devout Catholic.

On that tantalizing note, I'm going to leave things here. This will be a three part series of posts (this one is the first). The second part will discuss McGoohan's Catholic Faith and how it influenced his acting career. The last will discuss the individualism expressed by The Prisoner as well as by McGoohan himself in his acting choices. Is it necessarily libertarian? Can it be Catholic (presumably McGoohan thought so)? And what of the relation between libertarianism and Catholicism. Are they opposed? Can they be reconciled? I think this will be fun. But for now

Be seeing you...

1 comment:

  1. Danger Man and The Prisoner are my two favorite TV shows of all time. Patrick McGoohan has always been a favorite of mine. While I'm not a fan of every movie that he ever did...I always liked his style of acting.
    I admire him for his stance on what should be shown on television, and I believe that our society would have been far better off if most people would have limited how much they watch and especially what they watch and allow their children to watch.
    I think he was an individualist from the time he was a young lad...and the few stories that he shared about his childhood and growing up are endearing...especially sharing how shy he was around girls, and the story about how he "set up" meeting his future in-laws...hilarious!
    He's the only actor that I have ever cried about when I found out that he had died. There was just something about him that touched me. While I am sure that he had moments where he wasn't nice to people, or lost his cool...don't we all?
    He admitted that he had worked his way through 3 nervous breakdowns during the filming and production of The Prisoner. Someone who only sleeps 2 or 3 hours a night is a restless soul...and sleep deprivation can cause lots of behaviorial aberrations ..especially being short tempered. We all just need to remember that we can't know what anyone else is going through, because we really can't walk in their shoes.
    I admire him for being dedicated enough to follow through and taking over almost every job at one time or another to get The Prisoner made to HIS satisfaction. He even whistled the tune that became the theme song..and listened to the theme music and gave approval before it was used. That was a 40 piece orchestra ...and they did an awesome job!
    We lost a unique and complicated man when Patrick died. I don't think that he got the respect due to him for his contributions to television and the movies. Thanks for the articles about Patrick!