Thursday, 18 June 2009

McGoohan on My Mind: Six, Sex, Romance and Chivalry

One webituary I read, back in January, of Patrick McGoohan, carried comments, and I had a grin amidst my feelings of regret, when I read this one:

"Sex on feet"? Haven't heard that one before, but a
lot of women seem to react to Patrick McGoohan that way.

In one interview once, Patrick McGoohan remarked that for Number Six to have a romantic relationship in the village would be impossible for without trust how could there be any romance? I'm probably paraphrasing him, but that was the tone of his comment. Notwithstanding such a perfectly logical statement, many fans have commentated on Number Six's *difficulties* with women and this has led to frequent suggestions of misogyny and even for one or two extremists, notions of closet homosexuality! A Serious Charge indeed, but one that the actor would be amused by especially, perhaps.

Personally I have always been baffled by the idea that Six didn't like women. He seems to be involved with at least one almost every episode, sometimes more than one !! He also seems to have the softest of hearts for what used to be called "Ladies in Distress". However he also had more reason than most of us men to be wary of any woman who *seemed* to find him attractive. I thought it would be fun to meet some of them. As I don't subscribe to any of the cock-eyed episode-shuffling theories, I can start at the beginning and Six's relationships even show a steady progression throughout the series run.

The first female prisoner Six gets to touch is the tragic woman with no number. To his certain knowledge she has been implicated in the death of a personal friend of his, but he still is willing to believe her and accepts her offer to help him escape. There is no romance of course. There was neither time nor opportunity. No doubt her tears helped. As Six's romantic adventures continue, tears often play a role.

In Episode Two, Number Six befriends a new prisoner. She at least has a name: Nadia. Six doesn't exactly trust her, but he is not averse to playing along with the village, and puts on a good show of romancing her in the moonlight. A crucial piece of information does get provided to the viewer too. As Nadia seeks to elicit information from Six in her flirtation in the shipping crate, he relaxes enough to confirm that whilst he is not married, he is actually engaged to somebody. After the adventures and apparent success of their escape together, Six has come to trust this woman and in a terse exchange with his superior, he endeavours to secure her safety: Political Asylum for the girl!.......... That depends.......... It depends NOTHING! It's GUARANTEED!.......... Alright, so long as you keep your side of the bargain

The village's initial attempt to use the female seductress technique to get Six to open up illustrates that they deemed him as vulnerable to romantic love as any other man. Perhaps they did not bargain for his taking his *engagement* so seriously, or at least that was at the back of the script-writers minds....

By Episode Three we even see that Six dreams of women and they dream of him

Madame Engedine reminds Six, "Remember! You're mine! Be horrible to other women"

By the time the village attempt their doppelganger trick on Six, he has been in the village long enough to even find an intimate relationship, with another woman, who has a name.

The resolution of this episode plot relies upon the mind-reading Alison keeping silent when her friend almost escapes, after his mental abuse by the village. Their mental bond is sufficient that Six clearly believes her when she assures him that, "If I had a second chance, I want you to know that I wouldn't do it again." She is speaking of course, of her treachery of him. Nonetheless Six evidently accepts her apology and once again trusts this woman, so deep is his instinct to do so.

When Six finally escapes back to London he is of course met by the an arch-seductress of yore: the happy widow, who also is a woman with a name!

Whilst not entirely convinced perhaps, Six feels comfortable in her company and secure enough of her friendliness to not only accept her sandwiches, but also her dead husband's clothes.

It is important to notice that Six's attitude to the feminine side is not limited to flirtation or possibilities of romantic attachment. Before he met Mrs. Butterworth he had cause to put aside his anger and frustration to offer compassion to a bereaved widow, in a simple, but poignant scene, following his demolition of her husband's computer and the professor's consequent death.

He is a man of depth and is not afraid to offer the hand of comfort to the female sex and even brave enough to face the reponsibility of what he has done to her personally.

And so we come to roughly halfway in the series narrative and perhaps the most sophisticated sexual/romantic relationship we see in the story. Six is at the younger end of middle-age and is confronted by a woman, who plainly finds him attractive and is not afraid to show it. What is a man to do?

The sexual tension throbbing throughout this particular episode, never better exemplified than in this scene, should be watched, rather than written about. I guess you will either get it, or you won't................ just like real life, perhaps.

The village rarely lets up on the pressure upon Six's emotional side and the next episode sees them force a woman to love him, and he has to deal with her infatuation. At first he thinks it is a joke, then he feels sorry for the woman; later he gets angry. How annoying must it be for a woman to pledge her undying love to you, when you care not a fig for her? Yet, at the end of his anger at the Queen, and her genuine tears of sadness, Six cannot help himself and offers some small words of comfort.

Her gratitude is both touching and a little awkward, since they are both ready for bed.

The next episode shows the depth of Six's ethics when it comes to the *weaker* sex. Peter Pan certainly left us with no doubt that Six knows that women can be even stronger than men, but when he finds a young woman driven to suicide by a bullying No2, the savage side of Six is revealed and he becomes an implacable foe.

Six turns the principles of mind-control right back onto the current leader of the village, and driven by righteous vengeance for the young woman's needless death, Six is merciless, until the very end, when he seems mildly regretful as the anvil shatters. The significance of course is that Six had seen several men die or be tortured by this time, but he was only shaken by those, not stirred to retribution, as he became following the effective murder of No. 73 - a female of the species.

The next episode continues the serious times for Six as he opposes the assasination of a No2, notwithstanding his so recent willing demolition of one. I will not labour his dalliance with the watchmakers daughter. I'm sure the viewer can see what makes Six tick. However I would like to stop awhile to see how a woman can have a change of mind.

Poor, drugged-up No86 is yet another example of lovely female prisoners seking to bewitch Six. He remains physically kind to her though, even after drugging her with her own potion. He seeks no advantage despite an interesting aside between the Supervisor who asks No2 if the young woman is

looking after Number 6?

The supervisor is referring to surveillance, but the No2 injects the charged rejoinder


A reply that perhaps hits a little too close to home for the embarrasssed voyeur and procurer who is the Supervisor. No.86's physical beauty is of course plain to see, but Six has a good eye for soul, and never falls for her, as he did for some others as I have described. He is also learning of course. He has been bewitched befuddled and betrayed so many times already in this village. He is not a fool is he. Once bitten.............

And so the sexual journey of Number Six takes it's cruellest turn. The village sends him to meet his fiancee. The woman he loves, or at least the woman he loved. How can he know anything anymore? He barely even knows what he looks like and Janet, his lover, does not even recognise him.

How heart-breaking must that be? But to expose himself to her would put her in mortal danger - but even the discipline of Six cannot resist a moment of love as he says to her,

When I arrived, they were playing a waltz. The first I danced with my love, my dear love, in Kitzbühel

For a moment, Janet sees him, perhaps. Perhaps that moment is enough for Six. Who knows? Not I.

The journey of Six's heart ends in the 14th episode. This whole episode is an allegory of an allegory of course, a delusion built in a village of illusion. But is love any the less for being only in the mind?

Prisoner cult fans love this Western of course, with all the stories they have made up about Vietnam and suchlike nonsense - see earlier blogs - and especially because Alexis Kanner told them a story once about how the crew had to cover up Valerie French's decollette because *Puritan Pat* wouldn't like it. Looking at the above screenshot I'm wondering exactly how naked Alexis thought Valerie had to get! Perhaps the next picture gives us an idea of what was on Alexis' mind!

Anyhow, Six takes a good old beating right through this episode and still refuses to buckle on a gun; until the saloon girl is foully murdered, largely because she was going to leave town with him! Number Six, the man with no sex.

When Six finds out, he knows that a man has gotta do what a man has gotta do, so he straps on his gun and BANG the Kid is dead. Of course none of this really happened, like love itself, it was all in the mind.

Or was it? The village operative who was Cathy died in the real Number Six's arms sighing,

"I wish it had been real"

So next time you read someplace that The Prisoner had misogynist tendencies, remember that that is all in some cult's mind......... It is not reality ........

So that's religion and sex ticked off my list. Be blogging you some moor politics next time.......


  1. I think what you quoted from that interview, that without trust there can be no romance, is so *obvious* that I feel ashamed it had not occurred to me in the first place! If one views the series with that point of view, 6's reluctance to get involved (deeply involved) with women makes perfect sense. I mean, would you fall in love with your prison warden? Thank you, Moor, for this fascinating insight.

  2. Like you katta, I had not thought that deeply either, but evidently McGoohan always did.

  3. Good blog.. :)

  4. Apparently I had read a report from some female actress who appeared in The Prisoner and she stated how much she HATED McGoohan. She was someone who was a serial dater of guys like George Best, Benny Hill and others, and I am surprised Moor you do not know about this woman. She claimed that when they were filming the show, he never gave her eye contact and he just cut her lines and all that jazz. Great blog by the way and I hope you can discuss McGoohan from other sections of his career too.
    I have read one internet saddo report claiming that McGoohan was in reality a closet homosexual but then SO DAMN WHAT!!!
    McGoohan was a sexual man, but his appeal was that he did not want to be involved with the ladies because he wanted a show the kids can watch, and that is good enough for me.
    BTW, I do not think McGoohan would of been a better Bond than Connery or even Lazenby, because those men had the dymanic sexuality.

  5. McGoohan had the sexuality too, but he would of ended up getting typecast if he took Bond.
    I will say the ladies actually looked like ladies in the 60's didn't they Moor.

  6. A great blog Moor, but you need a DangerMan blog as well. Now that is a cult classic.
    So lucky was McGoohan to get the DangerMan role because some faceless bigwig nearly got someone else to play John Drake because of the 'no kissing and no violence' stance.
    This is the real reason I love McGoohan.

  7. I think I would have trouble making eye contact with a woman who serially dated both George Best and Benny Hill. What a little Miss Chief you are Tiswas.

    I hope you read the blog thoroughly before you commented however...... three times...... You'll find a fair amount of my blog is as much about Danger Man as it is about The Prisoner. I was watching an episode the other day where Drake is in conference with a *criminal type* and the guy denies drug smuggling, so Drake asks him about other possible criminal pursuits by suggesting pointedly, "Pimping perhaps?" Cathy in Living in Harmony seemed to be being pimped, but then such was the fate of the saloon girl. Sex and Violence are a many-stranded web m'dear.

  8. > the tragic woman with no number

    Not strictly true. She's never referred to by a number (or a name, come to that), but she wears a numbered badge like most of the other villagers. She's Number 9.

  9. " Prisoner cult fans love this Western of course, with all the stories they have made up about Vietnam and suchlike nonsense - see earlier blogs - and especially because Alexis Kanner told them a story once about "

    That kind of cheap, theatric argument (which you commit three times in this post) ruins any credibility you had been building.

    Unless you're trying to become another Glenn Beck or similar individual who thinks a snide dismissal is a valid rebuttal, you need to learn to stop doing that.

    This could have been a good post. When you have learned how to argue with dignity, it might yet.

  10. I guess style is far more important these days than substance.

    I also guess you must know the subject matter to take such offence, so if you know anything I wrote is a lie, feel free to point it out.

    The published stories about 'Living in Harmony' being banned by CBS back in 1967 are untrue. The tale told about McGoohan and prudishness about the decolletage of Valerie French is evident nonsense to anyone who has actually watched the programme. Nothing snide about facts, just discomfort for those who mislead or those who have ben misled.

    Much of the rest of this particular blog entry is just my opinion about how the prisoner is constantly involved with women and whilst he may be somewhat idealistic about them, he is never misogynistic. I'm obliged for your attention however and thank you for your comment, even if we cannot agree about the importance of being nice.

    1. Regarding the cleavage:(!)
      McGoohan, given his much greater experience may have been aware of what Kanner and some others on the set may not have been: the puritanical standards of US Network TV.
      They could be very censorious about cleavage - far more so than UK TV. One US show I saw had the silhouette of a bed frame superimposed in order to cover an actresses cleavage. One episode of Hart to Hart, (hardly the raciest series) had a shadow optically printed over the lead actresses cleavage - and this was maybe 20 years after The Prisoner.
      McGoohan may well have been aware that showing "too much" cleavage could have resulted in expensive re-shoots, ugly optical work or shots being cut in order to be acceptable to US TV.

    2. Elsewhere I've touched on the fact that whilst McGoohan hardly kow-towed to Mike Dann, the CBS top man, he certainly knew that it was from America that the big money was coming from. It is another oddity that "Harmony" was the episode not shown in 1968 showing in the USA. I suppose I could try and replace the mythos of "Vietnam" with "too much bosom". McGoohan's shows in the USA press were often commented as being especially tasteful. A move against excessive violence was one reason his Danger man shows were especially well-received. Watching the Prisoner again however, I have to imagine it was violence with weapons such as guns and knives they reacted against because McGoohan's fist-fights and being beaten up are often very brutal to watch in 2015. No gore of course but the thuggery is quite noticeable. perhaps the slapping in Free For All, followed by the beating-up is one of the most brutal sequences of all; and that episode is all McGoohan.