Going on the Account: Sewing Closed the Weighted Hammock

By now, most of you have heard that Patrick McGoohan has passed away.  It may seem strange to note the passing of this actor/director/writer in the midst of a tale about pirates; then again, between the remake of JAMAICA INN, THE PHANTOM and TREASURE PLANET, there’s more than enough justification to be offered here for this…

 

How McGoohan earns mention here is through his work on the series he was best known for, THE PRISONER.  If you’ve never seen this series, I do highly recommend it.  (And if you’re in the the US, you can currently watch all episodes of this series online at AMCtv.com.)    What deserves mention here, though, is how the series came about.

 

By 1966, McGoohan had finished three years of staring in the spy series DANGER MAN, playing a secret agent/adventurer very much in the mode of James Bond and Simon Templar.  These two roles in fact would be offered to McGoohan in large part thanks to DANGER MAN, which probably convinced him that he was in danger of having his career being tied to a very limited number of options.

 

And in fact, tragic typecasting stared him in the face, as he found his next big offer that year to be… a fourth go round with the series.  Some people, faced with their lives closing in around them, go into suicidal spirals, or worse still psychic petrification, allowing circumstances to get the better of them and accepting smaller horizons.

 

McGoohan’s response, however, was brilliant:  He counter-proposed a project to take his fate in a different direction.  He pitched to Lew Grade at ITV a new series, one where he’d still play a spy (who suggested his DANGER MAN character without naming him, thereby losing creative and editorial control of the project) who resigns from his job, and for his troubles is then kidnapped by shadowy jailers intent on breaking him to find out why.  And along the way, the project went from being a straightforward spy-in-danger story to a rich allegorical tale concerning the individual and his place in society, a society just learning to grasp and use the tools of the Information Age for its own ends.

 

And as he got into the project, he stretched out his creative muscles, becoming a writer and director for many episodes, as well as executive producer for the series.  Ironic or laden with meaning, his production shingle read, “Everyman Films;” take of that what you wish…

 

And through this, an act of refusing to allow others to define him, he helped inspire legions.  Much like the pirates of the period in this novel, he dared to challenge the established order and make his fate his own.  And he further inspired by example, by seizing the means to define himself and presenting his own vision, a dictum well appreciated in this harbor.

As for others inspired by McGoohan, the tribute page at io9.comis bringing out a lot of outpourings on the man’s work and how it touched them.  There’s a lot of comments regarding THE PRISONER, of course, which all said even without the wide breadth of work he’d done from THE THREE LIVES OF THOMASINA through ICE STATION ZEBRA and both runs of COLUMBO, is not a bad thing to be remembered for.

 

Patrick McGoohan:  Never a Number, a Free Man to the end…

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