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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Patrick McGoohan TV's Star "Secret Agent" Man Dies

Patrick McGoohan, the man who starred as "Secret Agent" on American television, and on British and Canadian tee vee as "Danger Man", as well as the quixotic "Prisoner" Number Six died on Tuesday, January 13, 2009 in Los Angeles after a brief illness. He was 80 years old.

During the airings of the popular shows with which he was associated McGoohan had the distinction of being the highest paid television actor of that time.

Orson Welles once said of McGoohan that he could have been one of the major stars of his generation: he had the looks and the intensity and painted most of the roles he played with a wryness and a satirical edge that made him a compelling actor to watch. Yet this complicated man, highly-strung, unpredictable and irascibly enigmatic, seemingly threw away his career while at the height of his fame and influence and was never again to fully recapture it.
It was Orson Welles, who discovered McGoohan's talent and cast him as Starbuck opposite his Ahab in the well-received theatrical production of Moby Dick in the 1950s.

On television McGoohan, a charismatic leading man, was selected to play secret agent John Drake in a new action-adventure series, Danger Man. It proved to be the perfect showcase for McGoohan's special brand of acting in which he created around him an aura of potential eruption, like a caged wild animal that could pounce at any moment. McGoohan confessed that he deliberately acted with a certain abrasive edginess to keep himself and others on their toes.

McGoohan starred in 86 episodes of Danger Man, propelling him to international stardom. The father of three daughters, McGoohan reacted against what he considered to be a moral lapse on television by refusing to allow his TV hero to use a gun (unless absolutely necessary) or be involved in sexual dalliances with his leading lady. He gave similar reasons for twice turning down the chance to play James Bond in 1962.

The success of Danger Man as the first British show to break into the burgeoning American television market, paving the way for others like The Avengers and The Saint – gave McGoohan creative carte blanche to pursue his own project, a startlingly original, and costly, series about a retired spy (known as Number Six) living in a quaint village from which he cannot escape.

He was never interested in the ancillary aspects of acting, of stardom and having his name up in lights. He even moved his family, first to Switzerland, then to Mexico, and finally to California to avoid media intrusion on his home life.

McGoohan found satisfaction in total involvement in first-class projects. Although first and foremost an actor, during his Danger Man/Prisoner days he had also involved himself heavily in scripting and production and he continued these interests in America. He directed the film Catch My Soul (1974), a rock version of Othello, and directed and guest-starred in a number of episodes of the popular television detective series Columbo, winning an Emmy Award for one performance. He also began to write poetry and novels, supplementing such pursuits by taking supporting roles in big Hollywood movies including the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor comedy hit Silver Streak (1976) and Clint Eastwood's Escape from Alcatraz (1979).

McGoohan's final appearance on the big screen as the tyrannical King Edward Longshanks was in the 1995 Mel Gibson blockbuster Braveheart.

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