Patrick McGoohan, whose TV series The Prisoner became one of the most acclaimed and celebrated series in history, has died at age 80 after a short illness. The press-shy McGoohan gave few interviews and only fleetingly involved himself in the acting profession in recent years. Although Irish by ancestry, McGoohan was actually born in America. His family relocated to Ireland when he was very young. McGoohan made an impression in his first appearances on stage and later transitioned into TV and theatrical films in the 1950s. After a series of bit parts, he gained notice for his performance as the heavy in the 1957 British film Hell Drivers which has become a cult classic over the years. McGoohan acted opposite such future stars as Stanley Baker, Sean Connery and David McCallum. In the 1960s, McGoohan had the starring roles in two Disney TV hits: The Three Lives of Thomasina and the 3-part classic The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. (The latter has just been released on DVD and was Disney's most-requested title for the home video market.) However, it was his portrayal of intelligence agent John Drake in the British TV series Danger Man that saw McGoohan's star rise. The show, which aired in the early 1960s, was brought to American television under the title Secret Agent to capitalize on the James Bond phenomenon. The series also spawned Johnny Rivers' hit theme song. McGoohan had been on the short list to initially play 007, but was not interested because of the emphasis on sex and violence. He prided himself on the fact that his portrayal of John Drake relied on the character's use of intellect rather than weaponry to get out of death traps.
In 1967, McGoohan was the creative force behind the 17 episode TV series The Prisoner, which was one of the most off-beat and thought-provoking series of all time. In it, McGoohan played an unnamed MI6 agent who resigns in anger for reasons never specified. He is kidnapped and awakens in a mysterious village that combines elements of old-time England with futuristic technology. Throughout the series, the character - assigned the dehumanizing "name" of Number 6- continues to rebel against his captors while he tries to determine whether he his being held by his own bosses or a foreign intelligence agency. The show was Kafkaesque in its attempt to bring social commentary into the storylines. McGoohan said that the series' legendary final episode was so bizarre that it forced him to go into virtual hibernation for an extended period of time to get away from irate fans who wanted a more conventional explanation to tie up the loose ends. Nevertheless, the series quickly became a cult phenomenon with fans and the show has been the subject of countless conventions and university seminars. McGoohan rarely discussed the specific meanings of the series, preferring to let viewers make up their own minds.
McGoohan continued to work in theatrical feature films, including MGM's big budget 1968 spy movie Ice Station Zebra. He was also cast as the villain in the hit comedy adventure Silver Streak. He won two Emmys for appearances on the Columbo TV series opposite Peter Falk. He also starred in the short-lived 1977 TV series Rafferty. McGoohan kept a low-profile and rarely engaged in publicity events, though he he did seem to enjoy the iconic status The Prisoner afforded him. In a famous episode of The Simpsons that spoofed the series, McGoohan provided the voice of Number 6. In more recent years, McGoohan chose to only work sporadically in films and TV. In the mid-1980s, he won praise for his return to the stage with his performance in the Broadway production of the epsionage drama Pack of Lies. He also won great reviews for his portrayal of King Edward I in Mel Gibson's Oscar-winner Braveheart. - Lee Pfeiffer For more click here