Patrick McGoohan has died, the actor best known (well, to me) for his role in the 1960′s CBS serial, “Secret Agent,” which is today perhaps best remembered by others for the unforgettable Johnny Rivers theme, “Secret Agent Man.” McGoohan (and the Rivers’ riffs) epitomized that Sixties cool, when Miles Davis and James Bond both wore slim suits and it worked for them both. The sensibility does seem to be making a comeback with “Mad Man,” but their “undercover” exploits are far seedier than these pre-”24″ agents of the 1960s.
Speaking of seedy, I did not know until reading the obituaries–“Wired” has a very good one–that McGoohan turned down the role of both James Bond and “The Saint,” another favorite of the era that opened a pathway for Roger Moore.
Nor did I know that McGoohan had studied for the priesthood (or that he was born in Queens! His family emigrated to Ireland then England when he was a child). According to Wikipedia’s bio, McGoohan big break came in 1955 when he starred in a West End production of a play called “Serious Charge,” in the role of a priest unjustly accused of molesting a young man.
McGoohan’s Catholic culture continued to influence his roles. While James Bond was a womanizer, “Secret Agent” John Drake was decidedly not, and on purpose. McGoohan also insisted that Drake use his brain before his gun. Depsite the lack of sex and violence, “Danger Man,” as it was originally called, became the No. 1 hit in England.
Film and TV buffs have rightly highlighted McGoohan’s broader body of work, in particular the surrealist series “The Prisoner,” and they reflect on it better than I can. Others may remember him in Disney films like “The Three Lives of Thomasina,” and he was a voice in a 200 episode of “The Simpsons.” (I like John Murphy’s post at “Catholic Film Reviewer.”) In short, McGoohan’s life and work was not as well known as it deserves to be.
McGoohan was 80, and died in Los Angeles. (H/T to CNS.) He is survived by his wife of 57 years, and his three daughters and five grandchildren. And last June, he became a great-grandfather.
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