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Patrick McGoohan

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Title: Patrick McGoohan  
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Subject: The Prisoner, All Night Long (1962 film), Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend, Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, Columbo
Collection: 1928 Births, 2009 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Male Actors, 20Th-Century English Male Actors, 20Th-Century Irish Male Actors, 21St-Century American Male Actors, 21St-Century English Male Actors, 21St-Century Irish Male Actors, American Emigrants to Ireland, American Male Film Actors, American Male Screenwriters, American Male Stage Actors, American Male Television Actors, American Male Voice Actors, American People of Irish Descent, American Television Directors, American Television Producers, American Television Writers, Bafta Winners (People), British Expatriate Male Actors in the United States, Disease-Related Deaths in California, English Male Film Actors, English Male Stage Actors, English Male Television Actors, English Male Writers, English Television Directors, English Television Producers, English Television Writers, Irish Emigrants to the United Kingdom, Irish Male Film Actors, Irish Male Stage Actors, Irish Male Television Actors, Male Actors from Los Angeles, California, Male Actors from Yorkshire, Male Spaghetti Western Actors, Male Television Writers, People Educated at Ratcliffe College, People from Astoria, Queens, People from County Leitrim, People from Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, People from Sheffield, Primetime Emmy Award Winners, Prometheus Award Winners, The Prisoner
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Patrick McGoohan

Patrick McGoohan
McGoohan in All Night Long (1962)
Born Patrick Joseph McGoohan
(1928-03-19)19 March 1928
Astoria, Queens, New York City, U.S.
Died 13 January 2009(2009-01-13) (aged 80)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Resting place Cremated
Alma mater Ratcliffe College
Occupation Actor, television writer, producer, director
Years active 1955–2002
Home town Mullaghmore, County Leitrim, Ireland
Sheffield, England
Television Danger Man, The Prisoner, Columbo
Religion Roman Catholic
Spouse(s) Joan Drummond (m. 1951–2009) (his death)
Children Catherine McGoohan
Anne McGoohan
Frances McGoohan
Awards Prometheus Hall of Fame Award (2002)
Primetime Emmy Award (1975, 1990)
BAFTA TV Award (1960)

Patrick Joseph McGoohan (19 March 1928 – 13 January 2009) was an American-born Anglo-Irish actor, writer and director who was brought up in Ireland and Britain, where he established an extensive stage and film career. His highest profile roles were in the 1960s television series Danger Man (US: Secret Agent),[1] and The Prisoner, which he co-created.[1] McGoohan wrote and directed several episodes of The Prisoner himself, occasionally using the pseudonyms Joseph Serf and Paddy Fitz.[2][3] Later in his career, he moved back to the United States and subsequently appeared as murderers in four Columbo episodes, twice winning an Emmy. He was featured in John Sturges's Ice Station Zebra (1968), David Cronenberg's Scanners (1981), and played King Edward "The Longshanks" in Mel Gibson's Braveheart (1995).


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Early career 2.1
    • 1960s: Danger Man 2.2
    • The Prisoner 2.3
    • Late 1960s to 1980s: films and Columbo 2.4
    • 1990s 2.5
    • 2000s 2.6
  • Personal life 3
    • Death and legacy 3.1
  • Filmography 4
  • Awards 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life

McGoohan was born in Astoria, Queens, New York City to Thomas McGoohan and Rose Fitzpatrick, who were living in the United States after emigrating from Ireland to seek work. He was brought up as a Roman Catholic.[4] Shortly after he was born, McGoohan's parents moved back to Mullaghmore, County Leitrim, Ireland,[5] and seven years later, they moved to Sheffield, England.

McGoohan attended St Vincent's School in Sheffield.[6] During World War II, he was evacuated to Loughborough, Leicestershire. There he attended Ratcliffe College, where he excelled in mathematics and boxing. McGoohan left school at the age of 16 and returned to Sheffield, where he worked as a chicken farmer, a bank clerk and a lorry driver before getting a job as a stage manager at Sheffield Repertory Theatre. When one of the actors became ill, McGoohan was substituted for him, launching his acting career.


Early career

In 1955, McGoohan starred in a West End production of a play called Serious Charge in the role of a priest accused of being homosexual. Orson Welles was so impressed by McGoohan's stage presence ("intimidated," Welles would later say) that he cast him as Starbuck in his York theatre production of Moby Dick—Rehearsed. Welles said in 1969 that he believed McGoohan "would now be, I think, one of the big actors of our generation if TV hadn't grabbed him. He can still make it. He was tremendous as Starbuck."[7] and "with all the required attributes, looks, intensity, unquestionable acting ability and a twinkle in his eye."[4]

His first film appearance was an uncredited role in The Dam Busters (1955) standing guard outside the briefing room. He delivers a line – "Sorry, old boy, it's secret – you can't go in. Now, c'mon, hop it!", which was cut from some prints of the movie.

While working as a stand-in during screen tests, McGoohan was signed to a contract with the Hell Drivers (1957) and the steamy potboiler The Gypsy and the Gentleman (1958), and after a few films and some clashes with the management, the contract was dissolved.

Free of the contract, he did some TV work, winning a BAFTA in 1960.[8] His favourite part for the stage was the lead in Ibsen's Brand, for which he received an award, and appeared in a (still extant) BBC television production in August 1959.

1960s: Danger Man

Soon, production executive Danger Man, a half-hour programme geared toward an American audience. It did fairly well, but not as well as hoped.[9] Production lasted only one year and 39 episodes. After this first series was over, one interviewer asked McGoohan if he would have liked the series to continue, to which he replied, "Perhaps, but let me tell you this: I would rather do twenty TV series than go through what I went through under that Rank contract I signed a few years ago and for which I blame no one but myself."[10]

McGoohan was one of several actors considered for the role of James Bond in Dr. No. While McGoohan, a Catholic, turned down the role on moral grounds, the success of the Bond films is generally cited as the reason for Danger Man being revived.

Before that happened, McGoohan spent some time working for Disney on The Three Lives of Thomasina and The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. After he had also turned down the role of Simon Templar in The Saint, Lew Grade asked him if he would like to give John Drake another try. This time, McGoohan had even more say about the series. Danger Man (US: Secret Agent) was resurrected in 1964 as a one-hour programme. The scripts now allowed McGoohan more range in his acting. The popularity of the series led to McGoohan becoming the highest paid actor in the UK,[11][12] and the show lasted almost three more years. After shooting the two episodes of Danger Man in colour, McGoohan told Lew Grade he was going to quit for another show.[13]

The Prisoner

In the face of McGoohan's intention to quit Danger Man, Grade asked if he would at least work on "something" for him. McGoohan gave him a run-down of what would later be called a miniseries, about a secret agent who resigns suddenly and wakes up to find himself in a prison disguised as a holiday resort. Grade asked for a budget, McGoohan had one ready, and they made a deal over a handshake early on a Saturday morning to produce The Prisoner. Apart from being the star, McGoohan was the executive producer, forming Everyman Films with series producer David Tomblin, and also wrote and directed several episodes, in some cases using pseudonyms.[14] The originally commissioned seven episodes became seventeen.

The title character of The Prisoner (the otherwise-unnamed "Number Six") spends the entire series trying to escape from a luxury island prison community called "The Village", and to learn the identity of his nemesis, Number One. The Village's administrators try just as hard to force or trick him into revealing why he resigned from his previous job as a spy, which he refuses to divulge. The location used was the Italianate village of Portmeirion in North Wales.

The Prisoner was a completely new, cerebral kind of series, stretching the limits of the established television formulae. Number Six became McGoohan's most recognisable character. Unfortunately, the role also became his prison: Number Six was so obsessively opposed to authority that whenever McGoohan later played characters who had anything to do with the concepts of individuality or freedom, the character was compared to his previous incarnation - for example, his portrayal of the warden in Escape from Alcatraz (1979). "Mel Gibson will always be Mad Max, and me, I will always be a Number," he was once quoted as saying.

Late 1960s to 1980s: films and Columbo

McGoohan appeared in many films, including Howard Hughes's favourite, Ice Station Zebra (1968), for which he was critically acclaimed, and Silver Streak (1976), with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. In 1977, he starred in the TV series Rafferty, playing a former army doctor who has retired and moved into private practice (one reviewer considers this series a forerunner to House).[15] He co-starred with Clint Eastwood in the prison drama Escape from Alcatraz (1979), portraying a cruel warden. He also appeared in Scanners (1981), a science fiction/horror film directed by David Cronenberg.

He directed Richie Havens in a rock-opera version of Othello called Catch My Soul. In 1985, he appeared on Broadway for his only production there; he starred opposite Rosemary Harris in Hugh Whitemore's Pack of Lies, in which he played a British intelligence agent. He was nominated for a Drama Desk Award as Best Actor for his performance.

McGoohan received two Emmy Awards for his work on Columbo, with his long-time friend Peter Falk. McGoohan had said that his first appearance on Columbo (episode: "By Dawn's Early Light", 1974) was probably his favourite American role. He directed five Columbo episodes (including three of the four in which he played the murderer), and wrote one and produced two (including one of these). McGoohan was involved with the Columbo series in some capacity from 1974 to 2000 and his daughter Catherine McGoohan appeared with him in his final one, Ashes to Ashes.[16]


McGoohan starred in The Best of Friends (1991) for the British John Gielgud as Sydney Cockerell and Dame Wendy Hiller as Sister Laurentia McLachlan. In the United States, the drama was shown as part of Masterpiece Theatre by PBS.

Also in this period he featured as King Edward I in Braveheart (1995), and as Judge Omar Noose in A Time to Kill (1996) and in The Phantom (also 1996) a cinema adaptation of the comic strip.


In 2000, he reprised his role as Number Six in an episode of The Simpsons, "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes". In it, Homer Simpson concocts a news story to make his website more popular, and he wakes up in a prison disguised as a holiday resort. Dubbed Number Five, he befriends Number Six and escapes with his boat; McGoohan gives the classic line after Homer pops the Rover Type Balloon with a fork – "If only I'd thought of that".

McGoohan's last film role was as the voice of Billy Bones in the animated film Treasure Planet, released in 2002. That same year, he received the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award for The Prisoner.

McGoohan's name was linked to several aborted attempts at producing a new film version of The Prisoner. In 2002, director Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) was signed to helm a version of the story. McGoohan was listed as executive producer for the film, which never came to fruition. Later, Christopher Nolan was proposed as director for a film version. However, the source material remained difficult and elusive to adapt into a feature film. McGoohan was not involved in the project which was ultimately completed. A reimagining of the series was filmed for the AMC network in late 2008, with its broadcast taking place during November 2009.

Personal life

McGoohan fell in love with actress Joan Drummond, to whom he reportedly wrote love notes every day. They were married on 19 May 1951. They had three daughters, Catherine (born 1952), Anne (born 1959) and Frances (born 1960). The McGoohans settled in the Pacific Palisades district of Los Angeles in the mid-1970s.

Death and legacy

McGoohan died on 13 January 2009 at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, following a brief illness.[17] His remains were cremated.[18] A biography of the actor was first published in 2007 by Tomahawk Press,[19] with a further biography published in 2011 by Supernova Books.[20]


Year Title Role Notes
1955 The Dam Busters RAF Guard Uncredited
1956 Zarak Moor Larkin
1957 High Tide at Noon Simon Breck
1957 Hell Drivers C. 'Red' Redman
1958 The Gypsy and the Gentleman Jess
1958 Nor the Moon by Night Andrew Miller
1961 Two Living, One Dead Erik Berger
1962 All Night Long Johnny Cousin
1962 Life for Ruth Doctor James 'Jim' Brown
1962 The Quare Fellow Thomas Crimmin
1963 Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow Dr. Christopher Syn
1964 The Three Lives of Thomasina Andrew McDhui
1968 Ice Station Zebra David Jones
1970 The Moonshine War Frank Long
1971 Mary, Queen of Scots James Stuart
1974 Catch My Soul n/a Director
1975 A Genius, Two Partners and a Dupe Major Cabot
1976 Silver Streak Roger Devereau
1977 The Man in the Iron Mask Fouquet
1978 Brass Target Colonel Mike McCauley
1979 Escape from Alcatraz Warden
1981 Scanners Doctor Paul Ruth
1981 Kings and Desperate Men John Kingsley
1985 Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend Doctor Eric Kiviat
1995 Braveheart King Edward I (Longshanks)
1996 The Phantom Phantom's Dad
1996 A Time to Kill Judge Omar Noose
2002 Treasure Planet Billy Bones voice Final film role
Year Title Role Notes
1955 The Vise Tony Mason 1 episode ("Gift from Heaven")
1958 The Vise Vance 1 episode ("Blood in the Sky")
1958 Armchair Theatre Jack 'Pal' Smurch 1 episode ("The Greatest Man in the World")
1959 Brand Priest Brand Henrik Ibsen play
1961 Armchair Theatre Nicholai Soloviov 1 episode ("The Man Out There")
Danger Man John Drake 39 + 47 episodes. Also directed three episodes.
1963 Disneyland Doctor Christopher Syn/
Scarecrow of Romney Marsh
3 episodes
1967–68 The Prisoner Number Six 17 episodes. Also directed five episodes.
1974 Columbo Colonel Lyle C. Rumford 1 episode ("By Dawn's Early Light")
1975 Columbo Nelson Brenner 1 episode ("Identity Crisis"). Also directed.
1976 Columbo n/a 1 episode ("Last Salute to the Commodore") – director
1977 Rafferty Doctor Sid Rafferty 13 episodes. Also directed one episode.
1979 The Hard Way John Connor Made-for-TV film
1983 Jamaica Inn Joss Merlyn
1985 American Playhouse Chief magistrate 1 episode ("Three Sovereigns for Sarah")
1987 Murder, She Wrote Oliver Quayle 1 episode ("Witness for the Defense")
1990 Columbo Oscar Finch 1 episode ("Agenda for Murder"). Also directed.
1998 Columbo Eric Prince "Ashes to Ashes". Also directed.
2000 Columbo n/a 1 episode ("Murder with Too Many Notes") – director
2000 The Simpsons Number Six 1 episode ("The Computer Wore Menace Shoes")



  1. ^ a b Prisoner" Star Patrick McGoohan Dies""". CBS News. 14 January 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2009. 
  2. ^ "Patrick McGoohan". Internet Movie DataBase. Retrieved 15 January 2009. 
  3. ^ "The Prisoner Puzzle (with Patrick McGoohan)". Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Patrick McGoohan".  
  5. ^ Langley, R: Patrick McGoohan. Tomahawk Press, 2007.
  6. ^ Langley, R. Patrick McGoohan, pp. 12–13. Tomahawk Press, 2007.
  7. ^ Jonathan Roenbaum (ed.), Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich, This Is Orson Welles (Da Capo Press, New York, 1992 [rev. 1998 ed.]) p.4
  8. ^ "BAFTA award in 1960", BAFTA, Retrieved 01 February 2015
  9. ^ Vincent Cosgrove, 2007. "Odds Are He Will Live on Disc Tomorrow," New York Times, 15 April. Retrieved 4-7-10.
  10. ^ "Why Danger Man scared me", Photoplay, April 1961, p. 14.
  11. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. (1 March 2010). Britannica Book of the Year 2010. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. p. 145.  
  12. ^ Time & Tide 46. Time and Tide Publishing Company. January 1965. p. 66. Danger Man, McGoohan put a new spin on the secret agent formula by refusing to allow his character, John Drake, ... The show's success made McGoohan Britain's highest-paid TV actor. 
  13. ^ Martin Jackson "Danger Man To Quit", Daily Express, 16 April 1966, p.12. Jackson states: "Now McGoohan has put up a new TV idea to ATV's managing director Lew Grade. He said: "It is another adventure series but a very different sort of character. It promises to be very exciting. Mr. Grade said: Mr. McGoohan is coming to see me tomorrow to discuss the details. We hope to start work on the new series in October."
  14. ^ McGoohan wrote "Free for All" as Paddy Fitz and directed "Many Happy Returns" and "A Change of Mind" as Joseph Serf. He also wrote "Once Upon A Time" and "Fall Out" using his own name.
  15. ^ "Rafferty". Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  16. ^ List of Columbo episodes and List of Columbo episodes#Repeat offenders
  17. ^ Dalton, Andrew. Prisoner' actor Patrick McGoohan dies in LA"'". Associated Press through the Internet Archive. Archived from the original on 9 February 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 
  18. ^ "Find a Grave Memorial". Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  19. ^ Langley, Roger; Falk, Peter (October 2007). Patrick McGoohan: Danger Man or Prisoner?. Tomahawk Press.  
  20. ^ Booth, Rupert (April 2001). Not a Number: A life. Supernova Books.  

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