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I Am Not A Number, I Am A Man
January 14, 2009 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Patrick McGoohan has died. The BBC and other news agencies are reporting the death of actor Patrick McGoohan, following a brief illness. He was 80 years old. McGoohan is best known as the star and co-producer of the 1960s cult classic TV series "The Prisoner", which we have discussed here many times, most recently last week when AMC announced that it would stream all of the original episodes on its website. AMC has also been producing a remake of the series starring Jim Caviezel (as Number 6) and Ian McKellen (as Number 2) for broadcast this fall.

In this 1977 interview, McGoohan discusses how he came up with the idea for the series and some other lesser-known bits of infotrivia about this show. Reclusive and with a reputation for being "difficult", his abruptness is evident, nevertheless it has been reported that he was pleased with the new production.
posted by briank (116 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
By hook or by crook, they got him.

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posted by Artw at 9:35 AM on January 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


#
posted by The Bellman at 9:38 AM on January 14, 2009 [8 favorites]


/types row of Xs across photograph on McGoohans file, has machine deposit it in a filing cabinet.
posted by Artw at 9:38 AM on January 14, 2009 [18 favorites]


(_) . freedom!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:39 AM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I am not a number! I am a free man!" I remember this from Iron Maiden too.
posted by alteredcarbon at 9:40 AM on January 14, 2009


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posted by Thorzdad at 9:40 AM on January 14, 2009


Coincidentally, Wired has a good post today about the remaking of the series. It appears that a theatrical remake, which had been buzzed about for quite a long time, is no longer in the works.
posted by briank at 9:41 AM on January 14, 2009


Be seeing you. :(
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:41 AM on January 14, 2009 [13 favorites]


Oh, and here's the link to that interview I mentioned:

http://www.cultv.co.uk/mcgoohan.htm
posted by briank at 9:42 AM on January 14, 2009


Another icon of my youth gone down.

Be seeing you.

||/
o
posted by Herodios at 9:42 AM on January 14, 2009


Don't forget Danger Man.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:42 AM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


He was absolutely amazing as Edward Longshanks in Braveheart. RIP.
posted by dbiedny at 9:43 AM on January 14, 2009


°
posted by eriko at 9:44 AM on January 14, 2009


Man, I'm gonna end up favoriting every comment in this thread.

As much as I might have wanted to say all the death notices the past few weeks have gotten to me, this one made me go 'Nooooooooooooo', if only to see him froth in rage at the Prisoner remake. Or maybe that's what killed him? Fine, fine actor, great performances.

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posted by cavalier at 9:45 AM on January 14, 2009


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posted by cjorgensen at 9:46 AM on January 14, 2009


He can make even the act of exhaling his final breath into an act of defiance.
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:46 AM on January 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


noooo

I've long liked the Prisoner, and just this week I've started getting the Danger Man/Secret Agent via Netflix. He's not as broody in Danger Man, but so far the series has got a nice feel to it.

bummer indeed.

Guess Rover finally did a final number on him.
posted by edgeways at 9:51 AM on January 14, 2009


I'm sad that Patrick McGoohan has died. I'm grief stricken that Jim Caviezel is going to be in a remake of the Prisoner as #6.
posted by crataegus at 9:54 AM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


.

Come in No6, your time is up (though for it'll always be Dr Ruth)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:58 AM on January 14, 2009


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posted by omnidrew at 9:59 AM on January 14, 2009


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Thanks for some very weird childhood memories.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:00 AM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


. . . . . .
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:05 AM on January 14, 2009


Actually looking at IMDB there's a some great parts I'd forgotten like The Warden in Escape from Alcatraz and Red in the stone cold classic Hell Drivers
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:07 AM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by Spatch at 10:08 AM on January 14, 2009


I always liked his quirky performances in Scanners and Escape from Alcatraz.
posted by adipocere at 10:08 AM on January 14, 2009


Well, damn.

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posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:11 AM on January 14, 2009


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posted by kuppajava at 10:12 AM on January 14, 2009


good actor, great show...

just tell me it wasn't the damn balloon....
posted by HuronBob at 10:14 AM on January 14, 2009


"Who is number 1?"

"You are number 6"

A terrific actor.
posted by jasper411 at 10:14 AM on January 14, 2009


I totally had a crush on him.

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posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:14 AM on January 14, 2009


McGoohan:
[The Village] was meant to be both. The external was the symbol, but it's within us all I think, don't you? This surrealist aspect; we all live in a little Village.

Troyer:
Do we?

McGoohan:
Your village may be different from other people's villages but we are all prisoners.

Troyer:
Well, I know who the idiot is in mine.

McGoohan:
Yes, Number One - same as me.

posted by Spatch at 10:14 AM on January 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


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posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:16 AM on January 14, 2009


*Crushes chrysanthemum in fist, throws it into San Francisco Bay*
posted by steef at 10:16 AM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just started watching The Prisoner last week. All the original episodes are online (legally!). I'm somewhat embarrassed that I got past age 40 without ever seeing the show.
posted by COD at 10:17 AM on January 14, 2009


He was not pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. Well, except for that Number Six thing.

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posted by lordrunningclam at 10:19 AM on January 14, 2009


There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. That they may have been the architects of the great pyramids, or the lost civilizations of Lemuria or Atlantis. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive somewhere beyond the heavens...
Great voice too.
posted by mazola at 10:26 AM on January 14, 2009


(please delete that! I'm Stoopid!)
posted by mazola at 10:26 AM on January 14, 2009


Sad news.

The Prisoner was great but, to me, he's best remembered as Columbo's ultimate adversary, where he played four different murderers. Looking at his trivia section at IMDb, it seems that he was also considered as a replacement to Peter Falk's Columbo. That would have been worth seeing.

Be seeing you!

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posted by veedubya at 10:28 AM on January 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


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posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 10:30 AM on January 14, 2009


Mazola, are you perhaps mixing Patrick McGoohan with Patrick MacNee?
posted by mgrichmond at 10:31 AM on January 14, 2009


Who is number 1?
You are, number 6.

The comma has always been controversial.
posted by Gungho at 10:32 AM on January 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


. Escape from Alcatraz is worth renting or catching when it comes around on cable. It's fun to see Eastwood and McGoohan go up against each other.
posted by octothorpe at 10:33 AM on January 14, 2009


Well, depending on his spiritual belief, now he knows who #1 is.

I kinda hope he got a chance to preview the "new" Prisoner before he left us, and I REALLY hope it wasn't what killed him.

Sigh. Resigned.
posted by wendell at 10:35 AM on January 14, 2009


I have some book about some of the crazy british TV shows in the 60's, and the chapters on McGoohan were the most compelling. Apparently he insisted that his Danger Man character wouldn't be all kissy-kissy with the ladies, which made it a big hit with little boys who found that stuff very squirm-inducing.

Also: Ice Station Zebra!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:36 AM on January 14, 2009


I just finished watching all of the The Prisoner episodes yesterday. Great stuff. Be seeing you, number 6.

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posted by RussHy at 10:40 AM on January 14, 2009


Though he hasn't been in many recent productions as a writer or an actor I'm going to miss him sorely.
posted by Vaska at 10:41 AM on January 14, 2009


Ice Station Zebra, fuck yeah. Supposedly Howard Hughes' obsessive film fave.

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posted by mwhybark at 10:47 AM on January 14, 2009


oh no. Will always think of his wonderful, integrity-fully-awake role as number 6 as intelligent rebellion. Kind of like MetaFilter.

Loved his elegant, beautifully accented manliness.
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posted by nickyskye at 10:48 AM on January 14, 2009


I didn't find out until now that he was born in Queens or that his big break came from Orson Welles, who cast him as Starbuck opposite Welles's Ahab in his stage adaptation "Moby-Dick Rehearsed".

He was typically memorable in the role of a British secret agent, "David Jones", in the film version of Ice Station Zebra. "I once killed a man called Jones. Though not for that reason, of course." His mordant delivery will be missed.
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:49 AM on January 14, 2009


The Prisoner was great but, to me, he's best remembered as Columbo's ultimate adversary...

Hell yeah! Impeccably dressed and supernaturally articulate, he makes a perfect foil to the bumbling Falk. (Apparently they were great friends in real life.) One of my favorite installments casts McGoohan as a secret agent with a penchant for quoting The Prisoner; he's undone by a recording of clocktower chimes.

I'm grief stricken that Jim Caviezel is going to be in a remake of the Prisoner as #6.

I don't see it either. If you asked me to get you a young Patrick McGoohan...well, I'm not sure who I'd get, but it probably wouldn't be Caviezel; he would seem to lack McGoohan's natural authority. But I'll reserve final judgment until I've heard his try at a stern Mid-Atlantic accent.

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posted by Iridic at 10:50 AM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


.

Really enjoyed Secret Agent, and his portrayal of John Drake in that series. Always thought it was better than The Prisoner.

Sue me.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:00 AM on January 14, 2009


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posted by BartFargo at 11:00 AM on January 14, 2009


Well, depending on his spiritual belief, now he knows who #1 is.

You are, number 6.

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posted by benzenedream at 11:03 AM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Prisoner finally escapes. RIP Number Six.

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posted by Ron Thanagar at 11:04 AM on January 14, 2009


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My favorite part of this show was the killer balloon that would emerge from the ocean during one of Number 6's many escape attempts. An awesome show.
posted by bluesky43 at 11:07 AM on January 14, 2009


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posted by mds35 at 11:13 AM on January 14, 2009


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posted by Sphinx at 11:17 AM on January 14, 2009


Be seeing you.

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posted by Shepherd at 11:17 AM on January 14, 2009


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posted by Dr-Baa at 11:17 AM on January 14, 2009


very sad. The Prisoner is indelibly stamped with McGoohan's personality. he truly made the series what it is.

In this 1977 interview, McGoohan discusses how he came up with the idea for the series and some other lesser-known bits of infotrivia about this show. Reclusive and with a reputation for being "difficult", his abruptness is evident, nevertheless it has been reported that he was pleased with the new production.

I must be missing something because I can't find a link to this interview in the post. Google came up with this, though.
posted by dropkick queen at 11:24 AM on January 14, 2009


dur, just saw the link to the 1977 interview briank posted halfway down.
posted by dropkick queen at 11:25 AM on January 14, 2009


.

Thank you Patrick for creating my favourite TV show, which led me to discover Portmeirion - now one of my favourite places.
posted by kar120c at 11:28 AM on January 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Damn! Damn! Double Damn! I thinks it's time for all the major networks to get together and honor all the old Movie and Television people. The Fred and Ethels, the Barny Fifes, and all of the sidekicks from the past that we've grown to love. They are a dying breed. They are our
extended families. What would Lucy have done without Fred and Ethel? What would Andy Griffith have done without Barney. What would the Skipper done without Gilligan? What would Patrick MaGoohan have done without that damned balloon hounding him?

I'm not saying that Patrick was a side-kick or a supporting character, just that all of our
movie stars, musicians, and television stars are aging. Many get overlooked or forgotten until they die. Let's remember them now and honor them. Like now, it's far too late.
posted by doctorschlock at 11:29 AM on January 14, 2009


As sorry as I am to see McGoohan go, at last there's a chance for someone other than him to be the World's Kosho Champion.
posted by Legomancer at 11:30 AM on January 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hell Drivers is fucking great.
posted by Artw at 11:41 AM on January 14, 2009


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posted by GuyZero at 11:43 AM on January 14, 2009


oO
posted by scody at 11:50 AM on January 14, 2009


.

When I saw this on the front page of MeFi, I let out an inadvertent yelp.
posted by andraste at 11:50 AM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


The return to London, silent midget butler at his side, with soundtrack swelling and everything given a rosy tint... now suddenly seems like a portrayal of death, the fabled "Life Review," and heavenly ascension.

Odd.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:51 AM on January 14, 2009


Who is number 1?
You are, number 6.

The comma has always been controversial.


Controversial in the sense that it isn't there? Go back and watch the openings again. This part was re-recorded for each episode by the actor playing Number 2. I have never heard a pause at that point in any of them.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:03 PM on January 14, 2009


"The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh," (Christopher Syn) impressed me as a child. Rather dark, for a Disney feature.
posted by SPrintF at 12:05 PM on January 14, 2009


George, according to Wikipedia ...

In a 1970s television interview with British television presenter Mike Smith, Patrick McGoohan stated: "The reason that it was confusing, and that [the viewers] were disappointed, I think, was that they expected the ending to be similar to a 'Bond' thing, with this mystery man, the head man or whatever they call him in Bond; and of course it wasn't about that at all. It was about the most evil human "being", human "essence"; and that is ourselves, because within each of us, that is the most dangerous thing on Earth, is what is within us. And so therefore that's what I made No. 1: One's 'self', an image of himself that he was trying to beat." McGoohan planted clues to this throughout the series, including the Prisoner's residence in London bearing the numeral "1" on the door, and that the phrasing of No. 2's response to the Prisoner's question, "Who is No. 1?" can be taken either as a non-response - "You are No. 6." - or as an answer - "You are, No. 6."

No cites. Deliberate ambiguity is fun.
posted by adipocere at 12:16 PM on January 14, 2009


GOD DAMN IT.

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posted by tkchrist at 12:19 PM on January 14, 2009


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posted by webmutant at 12:22 PM on January 14, 2009


Guess we won't see you again this time, Mr. Walker.

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posted by Samizdata at 12:24 PM on January 14, 2009


:( be seeing you.
posted by eatdonuts at 12:30 PM on January 14, 2009


Well...damn. I actually said "NOOO!" when I read this. Rover can't get him now, anyway. :(

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posted by biscotti at 12:32 PM on January 14, 2009


One of my favorite things about the movie High Fidelity is the part when John Cusack is talking with Denise Huxtable and he stops to ask Jack Black to remind him the name of the actor from The Prisoner and Jack Black is nearly overcome with contempt and he bellows, "McGoohan!" at him, instantly.

You don't forget Patrick McGoohan.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:40 PM on January 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


That moment in A, B and C when he was walking along, holding a key and tapping on it with his finger sticks with me in this weird way. It's such a lovely bit of subtle acting and communication. Guess I'll be rewatching the series this weekend, and/or getting around to watching that porduction of Ibsen's Brand with him in it.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:45 PM on January 14, 2009


♫♪ Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones... ♫♪

Be seeing you.
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:46 PM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Matt, can we go by our numbers instead of names just this once?
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:52 PM on January 14, 2009


*cries*
posted by Space Kitty at 12:55 PM on January 14, 2009


Ah, no. He made quirks seem ok to me. RIP.
posted by mdoar at 1:21 PM on January 14, 2009


Aw, boo. My co-worker's air vent sounds just like Rover, so I've been thinking about the show and McGoohan a lot lately.
posted by queensissy at 1:27 PM on January 14, 2009


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posted by Gary at 1:30 PM on January 14, 2009


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posted by lalochezia at 1:35 PM on January 14, 2009


1. He was also in the Disney film The Three Lives of Thomasina. It's double take-worthy to see Number Six in that one.

2. In one of the Prisoner episode guide books (there's several), it was revealed that he wrote Fall Out, the infamous last episode, over a one (or was it two) day sleepless period on a harsh deadline. It also said that, after it was first broadcast in the UK, that the furor caused him to suddenly decide to leave the country for a bit.

3. My favorite thing about the show is how loaded with double-meaning in the introductory speech at the beginning of most episodes:

"What do you want?" Information. INFORMATION. INFORMATION!!!

("In formation." Not as much what he has to say, as that he must toe the line.)

"Who's side are you on?!" That would be telling.

(It is telling, indeed.)

And my favorite, the big revelation of the final episode was repeated all along:

"Who are you?" The new Number Two. "Who is Number One?" You are Number Six.

Who is Number One? YOU ARE, NUMBER SIX!
posted by JHarris at 2:11 PM on January 14, 2009


...and then the freakout montage in the last episode where he takes off number one's mask to reveal... a monkey ... and then 6 shakes his head ... and takes off that mask to reveal ... himself.

I want his cottage in the village. Still waiting for my doors to open the way they do there...
posted by armacy at 2:53 PM on January 14, 2009


My favorite thing about the show is how loaded with double-meaning in the introductory speech at the beginning of most episodes:
posted by JHarris


In addition to the ambiguous commas and such, one thing a lot of people miss is the fact that, although Number Six is ostensibly in The Village to be interrogated ("We want information"), it's he who asks all the questions.

The opening dialog consists of seven exchanges between Number Six and The New Number Two, five of which are Number Six's questions and Number Two's content-free responses:

6: Where am I?
2: In The Village.

6: What do you want?
2: Information.

6: Which side are you on?
2: That would be telling. We want information...

6: You won't get it.
2: By hook or by crook we will.

6: Who are you?
2: The new Number Two.

6: Who is Number One?
2: You are Number Six.

6: I am not a number. I am a free man.
2: [Laughs]

Nobody ever really gets the answers they want, but then:
"Questions are a burden to others; answers a cage for oneself."
posted by Herodios at 3:01 PM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 3:11 PM on January 14, 2009


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posted by OolooKitty at 3:21 PM on January 14, 2009


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posted by crossoverman at 3:30 PM on January 14, 2009


"The trouble with Scotland ... is that it's full of Scots!"

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posted by bwg at 3:32 PM on January 14, 2009


He was also a cultured, yet chilling villain in Silver Streak.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:07 PM on January 14, 2009


I just realized I had titled my "Entire Original Prisoner Series Available Online" post from less tha a week ago "Be Seeing Him". Freaky.
posted by wendell at 4:32 PM on January 14, 2009


I'm eleven, waiting for my favorite new spy series to come on. It's got a ton of technology that 's both familiar (little custom George Barris-ey transports) and futuristic (two guys on a seesaw/carousel with scopes, in a control room, looking at wha?) and the star is manly cool in a swinging sixties black suit-thing. I can't wait.
And the a western starts.
I grab the tvguide, it's says it's supposed to be on, so, I study the anomalous western... noticing that is is a "westernized" version of the show's opening... with the star in western garb.

Holy Cow. This is the coolest TV show ever.

Thank you Patrick for blowing my young mind. "Living in Harmony" really changed my views on storytelling.

(does this mean that the first MATRIX looked like Texas?)

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posted by djrock3k at 5:11 PM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by notclosed at 5:42 PM on January 14, 2009


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posted by shirobara at 5:44 PM on January 14, 2009


/sigh

:(

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posted by perilous at 5:52 PM on January 14, 2009


He didn't die. He escaped.
posted by The Man from Lardfork at 6:59 PM on January 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is this where we come to get the scraps from Longshanks' table?

(Never really watched much of the Prisoner, but his Longshanks remains a quotable favorite)

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posted by Ghidorah at 7:04 PM on January 14, 2009


I'm sad that Patrick McGoohan has died. I'm grief stricken that Jim Caviezel is going to be in a remake of the Prisoner as #6.

Hear, hear.

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posted by homunculus at 7:07 PM on January 14, 2009


Damn. I got so into this show when I was 13 or so. The series holds up well upon repeated viewings, too. (Obviously.)

The production photos at AMC's site are pretty fun.

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posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:43 PM on January 14, 2009


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posted by Mael Oui at 8:50 PM on January 14, 2009


......
posted by grouse at 9:12 PM on January 14, 2009


Had he discovered who is a prisoner, and who is a guard?

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posted by Snyder at 9:33 PM on January 14, 2009


I watched some of the Prisoner episodes with my dad when I was way too young and I think it messed with my head some. I finally watched them all on my own a few years ago and was amazed. The Prisoner and John LeCarre's George Smiley series with Alec Guinness will probably always rank as my favorite shows for sheer intrigue. He will be missed.

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posted by sapere aude at 10:50 PM on January 14, 2009


Damn damn damn.

This guy was the freakin' coolest. I will miss him.

Gonna break out my Prisoner DVD's for a memorial marathon this weekend.
posted by BobFrapples at 9:07 AM on January 15, 2009


I'm so sad about this.
Not only is The Prisoner one of the best television series I've ever seen, even McGoohan's guest spots on Columbo were great (and he directed most of them! What a badass).
posted by zusty at 10:26 AM on January 15, 2009


.

Who is number one?

Oh yeah. Right. Forget I asked.
posted by Pronoiac at 2:50 PM on January 15, 2009


One of his smaller roles—but still acted with authority & intense presence—which has not yet been mentioned & which must have felt a bit ironic to him was as the Representative Of The Crown, a sort of seventeenth century Number One, who is sent to hear the story of the 1692 Salem, MA Witch Trials from one of its victims in the 1985 production of Three Sovereigns For Sarah. The title refers to three gold coins McGoohan's character was authorized to pay the victim as recompense for her suffering and for the execution of her sisters.

I've always wanted to see him in All Night Long, a 1962 British jazzed-up version of Othello, with soundtrack by Charles Mingus & Dave Brubeck.

His work helped me become myself. Thank you, Mr. McGoohan.
posted by Forrest Greene at 4:09 PM on January 15, 2009


Prisoner on Second Avenue, from Evan Dorkin.
posted by Artw at 2:05 PM on January 16, 2009


Oh Wow, Jack Kirby Prisoner, more here.
posted by Artw at 4:00 PM on January 16, 2009


Even more of it here.
posted by Artw at 4:04 PM on January 16, 2009



posted by piratebowling at 8:20 PM on February 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just fantastic beyond belief on like 36 different levels of brilliance and fun and killer style and metaphysical surreal wonder. Great art direction, incredible music and the coolest most uncompromising role model of all time. Fuckin' A. Be seeing you, No.6.
posted by Skygazer at 12:37 AM on February 8, 2009


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