Patrick McGoohan

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Patrick McGoohan Pencil Portrait
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Last update : 08/10/17

My portrait of McGoohan dates from the mid-60’s and his second stint as special agent John Drake in the long running ITC series Dangerman.

I always enjoyed his rather foppish persona as Drake that would instinctively lull his opponents into a false sense of security. A devout catholic, he refused any sexual scenes with actresses in his professional work and this led to interesting interplay with his leading ladies, forever unsure of their female charms.

In many ways his on screen persona mirrored his real character; colleagues remembering a consumate professional on set but equally a quiet, thoughtful and withdrawn individual mostly alone in his trailer between takes.

McGoohan (March 19, 1928 – January 13, 2009) was multi faceted – a writer, producer and director in addition to his acting. He worked closely with his friend Peter Falk on the “Columbo” series picking up a clutch of Emmys for his directorial efforts and of course transfixed and confused more than one generation of viewers with his series The Prisoner.

His filmography is not large, and indeed I only saw two of his film appearances at the cinema; both co-starring roles. The first was Ice Station Zebra in 1968 and the second opposite Mel Gibson in Braveheart (1995). However I must confess to owning the ITC boxed set of Dangerman, containing all forty seven 50 minute episodes which ran on ITV between 1964-66. Of course I would never buy these sort of collections full price on principle alone, but I am on Amazon’s email alert and there are usually some worthwhile bargains to be had during the summer lull.

I mainly recall some of the storylines from repeat transmissions in the early 70’s which I would endeavour to catch mid afternoon, during school holidays. In addition to some interesting editing work, the series was notable for Edwin Astley’s atmospheric soundtrack. Walking bass lines, sustained strings and that distinctive harpsichord all add to the list of ingredients that made the series so successful and McGoohan television’s highest earning star. Astley actually wrote around 400 music cues for the series and many of them effectively invoke sounds indigenous to the many countries the character of John Drake frequented.

In the 70’s Mcgoohan would further enhance his writing credentials as one of the actor Peter Falk’s favourite collaborators on the hit series Columbo.

Falk would invariably reserve high praise for McGoohan’s uncredited work as a writer on several episodes. In addition to McGoohan’s co-starring roles, he would personally direct an episode and contribute all of his dialogue. The on-screen chemistry between the stars reflected a deep friendship and professional respect. McGoohan was succinct in his recollections of working with Falk: “I’ll always remember how much fun I had playing ‘em, and to this day I get a kick out of watching ‘em.”

In recent months I have sat in front of the television more than I ever usually do but only to draw, and when I draw I usually have on the person I am drawing. My wife laughs at me – “getting in the mood then?”

Danger Man became a worldwide hit catapulting McGoohan to stardom. However his dependency on alcohol was growing and in 1964 he was arrested for drink-driving. He would spend six days in prison and was banned from driving for one year. The Press was more forgiving in that era, and his conviction went largely unreported. Nevertheless, he was clearly finding the conflict between his two lives increasingly difficult; namely the retiring family man and the workaholic actor, and the pressure was about to increase. The second series of Danger Man would make him the most highly paid television actor in the UK on £2,000 a week.

“When an actor has a leading part in a thing like this it is all the more necessary for him to be more disciplined,” he said but behind the scenes he was struggling. “The Jekyll and Hyde persona that would characterise much of his time spent filming on his next and perhaps best-loved project, The Prisoner, were already in evidence, often linked to an over-indulgence in alcohol,” says his biographer Rupert Booth.

Actor Gertan Klauber, who was in an episode of The Prisoner, revealed that McGoohan could take fight scenes far too far. After a lunch that “had gone on a little too long” the two actors rehearsed their scene.

“Unfortunately I was struck several times,” says Klauber. “After the second take I said to McGoohan, ‘Please do not hit me because otherwise the whole thing will go into fisticuffs… there’s just a certain amount of pain you can take.’ And in fact it did develop in take three and four into a fighting match.”

Booth turned up several examples of the actor being a very bad drunk. “While his conduct was mostly faultless in the outside world, with the notable exception of the drinkdriving conviction, it does seem that whilst working in the protective atmosphere of the set he was more liable to let his rock-solid self-control slip,” says Booth. As time went on his behaviour on set became increasingly erratic. He couldn’t tolerate the compromises of the production process and began drinking more heavily.

The actress Annette Andre, best known for her role in another ITC production Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) had a part in The Prisoner and says she hated every second she spent working with McGoohan. “And that was down to Patrick. It’s no secret that I just loathed him from the moment I started. I tried to be nice and he… doesn’t work with actresses at all well.” Whilst McGoohan may have been widely admired for his abilities as an actor – if somewhat ridiculed for his attitude towards the depiction of sex on screen – his behaviour towards Annette seems downright discourteous and unprofessional. “I was just amazed that a professional actor would not do what a professional actor should do, which is to do the story,” recalls Anthony Skene, another Danger Man writer, who witnessed McGoohan refusing to kiss a co-star. “You don’t let your personal foolishness get in the way but he certainly did.” His religious attitudes may have been good news for his family but they clearly brought him into conflict with his co-workers. Contributing to a convivial atmosphere within the confines of a closed working film set hardly seems disrespectful to his wife and daughters, yet the actor clearly felt a need to maintain considerable distance between himself and his leading ladies. Perhaps he was struggling more with temptation than even he could bear to admit.

McGoohan’s dictatorial behaviour as star and co-creator of the cult show indicated he had little respect for other people’s feelings. As filming went on his temper became more prone to fraying, and his actions more unpredictable. He was also averaging no more than two hours’ sleep a night, and there were suggestions he was suffering from bipolar disorder, then known as manic depression.

One thing the actor did refrain from doing a lot of was speaking to the press, which only served to foster the popular image of him as something of a recluse. He was also burdened with problems from the British tax authorities and had a reputation as a heavy drinker. In his heyday he could drink his friend Richard Burton under the table, which is saying something! Nevertheless, and to his eternal credit, after a second drink-driving offence in California he succeeded in giving up the sauce completely.

Recommended listening

Dangerman scores

Available from Network, music composed by Edwin Astley.

Recommended viewing

Hell Drivers (1957)

A deliciously over the top villainesque performance to relish from the normally reserved actor, in a B movie that sports a ‘who’s who’ line up of stellar British actors. When McGoohan’s lorry goes over the cliff at the end, you feel like cheering for the demise of a character seemingly bereft of a single redeeming quality.

All Night Long (1962)

McGoohan is the ruthless and ambitious jazz drummer, Johnny Cousin, in a film notable for a guest appearance from Dave Brubeck. I have his five “Time” albums, and the jazz maestro was still working into his 90’s when he passed away. Other notable jazz stalwarts Johnny Dankworth, Tubby Hayes, and Charlie Mingus also make appearances, adding a cool vibe to an entertaining 60’s ‘contemporary’ restaging of Shakespeare’s “Othello.”

McGoohan – on top form – is suitably oily and machiavellian, as he plots to drive a wedge between band leader Aurelius Rex (Paul Harris) and his wife, top jazz singer Delia Lane (Marti Stevens). The couple’s ‘friend’ and manager, he has a deal lined up to bring Delia Lane out of semi-retirement, but she’s too consumed in wedded bliss to contemplate working again. Cousin uses the occasion of their wedding anniversary party, to spread the seeds of doubt into the mind of Rex about a possible dalliance between his wife and road manager Cass (Keith Michell), using the misery caused by the “green-eyed monster” for personal profit. A big man, and therefore not an individual to mess with, Cousin lights the powder keg but will subsequent events explode in his face?

From today’s perspective All Night Long is an enjoyable curio: a not entirely successful venture that suffers at the hands of its London jazz party setting, hosted by wealthy proto-yuppie (and badly miscast) Richard Attenborough, who appears to have anticipated the fashion for converting Docklands warehouses into loft apartments by a good two or three decades. Non afficionados of the music genre, will require a steady hand on the fast forward button in order to skip the musical segments, and for many, the screenplay could have been condensed to a forty minute play.

The film boasts an unusual number of mixed-race couples for a British film made in the early Sixties, even though the party guests tend more towards the lighter end of the colour spectrum. At the forefront of this new movement was the English jazz composer, saxophonist and clarinetist Johnny Dankworth (who also makes a guest appearance), and his wife Cleo Laine.

The performances are generally convincing, especially McGoohan’s drumming, and the Criterion remastered version is visually pin sharp.

Dangerman (ITC)

Selected episodes:

  • Colony Three (October 27, 1964)—This episode was the blueprint for “The Prisoner” as Drake finds himself behind the Iron Curtain at a school for spies.
  • Don’t Nail Him Yet (December 22, 1964)
  • The Ubiquitous Mr Lovegrove (February 16, 1965)
  • A Very Dangerous Game (October 7, 1965)
  • To Our Best Friend (December 9, 1965)
  • The Paper Chase (March 31, 1966)

The Prisoner (ITC)

  • Arrival (29 September 1967)
  • It’s your funeral *
  • The Schizoid Man *
  • Fall Out (1 February 1968)

*While everyone agrees on the first, and the last two episodes of the 17 produced shows, extensive debate has taken place among dedicated fans trying to determine a “correct” order for the intermediate episodes. The order in which the episodes were originally broadcast in Britain differs from the order in which they were produced. Even the broadcast order is not that originally intended by series creator/star Patrick McGoohan. Many have analyzed the series line-by-line for time references, which in many cases provide different — sometimes radically different — episode orders compared to the broadcast order. As I’ve mentioned before, unless my local pharmacist comes up with a “wide awake” pill for me I haven’t the time to add comments of my own to this raging debate. My way of handling the situation is to leave the recommended transmission date blank!


The ultimate anorak’s blog and ideal fare for a rainy day or indeed any day if you can keep your tongue firmly in your cheek!

Braveheart (1995)

Old age had clearly done little to dissipate Mcgoohan’s barely restrained screen malevolence. As King Edward I he is undoubtedly the unforgiving “father from hell” and his never less than riveting scenes act as an appropriate counterpoint to the rather dull romantic interludes between Wallace and Murron and Mel Gibson’s losing battle with his scots accent. Actor and comedian Billy Connolly may have infamously dismissed Braveheart as “a piece of pure Australian shite” but McGoohan rightly escaped a similar critical “mauling;” put simply – he’s the best thing in it!

Recommended reading

Patrick Mcgoohan—Dangerman or Prisoner? (Roger Langley)

Yes its way too gushing and Langley loses sight of any objectivity at times, but nevertheless it’s a well researched, richly illustrated (450+ photos) tome, and a cornucopia of information. A handy resource to those DVD box sets.

“McGoohan was the Orson Welles of British television; a radical, an enfant terrible. He had total control and created something truly extraordinary. So, of course, they closed him down!”



An interesting collection of “Dangerman” memorabilia including a personal letter from McGoohan to the website host recalling his experiences filming the episode “Not so Jolly Roger.”

The Unmutual - The Prisoner News Website

For all you No. 6’s out there in prisoner land!\

“The Prisoner” compendium replete with eulogies to actors associated with McGoohan who have now sadly passed on; but then we all do in time.

Additionally, there’s a less than complete listing of McGoohan’s work, but a useful pointer for DVD availability.

EVERYMAN: The Story Of Patrick McGoohan - A Community Project

Brian Gorman is a freelance writer/artist based in Manchester, UK. He wrote and produced the highly-acclaimed stage play NEW DAWN FADES: A Play About Joy Division & Manchester’ which is touring the North West in May 2015. He has performed his one man play, EVERYMAN: The Story Of Patrick McGoohan – The Prisoner,’ in Chester, Liverpool, Manchester, and Portmeirion, and is a regular guest at the annual Prisoner convention in Portmeirion.

His artwork has been published in The Liverpool Daily Post, Green World, Starburst Magazine, and on ITV’s ‘Martina Cole’s Lady Killers’.

He is currently seeking funding for the production of a graphic novel about the life of tv/film star Patrick McGoohan (‘Danger Man’, ‘The Prisoner’, etc.). The book, based on Gorman’s writings and drawings, will be based on his stage play (of the same name).