Monday, February 23, 2015

Patrick McGoohan and The Prisoner, Part 1

This series is cross-posted to Save Versus All Wands, my gaming blog.

I was first exposed to Patrick McGoohan and The Prisoner when I saw a re-run of the show on English television in 1983-84 while I was an undergraduate in London. When I returned to the States I became an evangelist for the show among my friends. I loved The Prisoner (which originally ran in 1967-68) and still think it is one of the finest series television has produced. At the time I was also a newbie "libertarian" and hung out on the fringes of the Libertarian Alliance folks associated with the Alternative Bookshop (closed long ago) in London. One of the LA founders, Chris Tame, wrote a paper called "Different Values" where he identified The Prisoner as quintessentially libertarian and individualist (which is sort of an obvious point, but it's wonderful essay) and cited McGoohan for playing other great individualist characters such as the title character of Ibsen's Brand on the London stage in 1959 (also videotaped by the BBC and available on DVD as well as YouTube) and John Drake in Danger Man (aka Secret Agent), 1960-62, 64-68, the forerunner of The Prisoner. McGoohan quickly became one of my heroes.

For the fun of it, here's the famous three-minute opening sequence. Absolutely brilliant:

I didn't know McGoohan's formal politics (if he had any). I did remember seeing an interview with him as a grumpy old man where he made grumpy old man snarks at Ronald Reagan. (In checking into it, I discovered that the interview I saw was made in 1985, when he was only 57 or 58. It's available on YouTube in two parts here and here). So I always imagined that the actor's politics were at least vaguely leftist.

And I still don't know precisely what his formal politics were (McGoohan passed away in 2009). And do be honest I didn't care then and I don't care now. But today (sort of randomly), I found out something fascinating that I never knew.

McGoohan was a devout Catholic.

On that tantalizing note, I'm going to leave things here. This will be a three part series of posts (this one is the first). The second part will discuss McGoohan's Catholic Faith and how it influenced his acting career. The last will discuss the individualism expressed by The Prisoner as well as by McGoohan himself in his acting choices. Is it necessarily libertarian? Can it be Catholic (presumably McGoohan thought so)? And what of the relation between libertarianism and Catholicism. Are they opposed? Can they be reconciled? I think this will be fun. But for now

Be seeing you...

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