Tuesday, 18 September 2012

McGoohan's own words: "I dread wasting other people's money. In every film there is so much waste."

My last Blog became truncated when a co-respondent pointed out that there was an anomaly about some apparent ‘original’ archive material I was referring to. As a result I revisited the publicly available material that is accessible. There is an awful lot of it actually, which makes the task both rewarding and discouraging. Various books have been created based around such material of course and many more books written that have been based around previously-published interpretation of that material. In this way are both short cuts taken in the cause of the advancement of knowledge and errors introduced that get perpetuated endlessly. A published book has both the advantage of being undeletable but also the difficulty that once in print, it’s errors can pass down the years, and the generations.

The conclusion of my last blog concerned a document that was made available in 1991, via the fan club, presented over four pages, and termed a “Writers Guide”.
The confusion began when I was passed a supposed facsimile of the original ITC Production Guide and in this the same document is described as "Original Synopsis-6 pages". I made a small joke about six seeming moor apposite than four, but then realised that something about all this made no sense.

What struck me as especially odd is that when this document has been presented in official books further credence has been given to it as having been originally “typed on George Markstein’s own typewriter”. When my co-respondent pointed up the anomaly between the four pages and the six pages, I truncated my blog so I could try and check into the mystery (as it seemed to me). Naturally, as an enthusiastic amateur I can only get access to publicly available material and one of my first thoughts, was to go to the pdf extras released as part of the Network dvd set in 2008. As with many such “bonus” materials on dvd’s these days, I was aware of their existence, but had not delved into them with any purpose.

All this time later, now I had a reason to explore the content with some actual purpose in mind, I find myself very pleased that I have finally gotten around to it. This is what is there, in case you do not know:
I was especially pleased to find a pdf of the original of an ITC Production Guide but there was no sign of the particular document I was hoping to see – this “Writers Guide/Original Synopsis” a discussion of which I almost ended my last blog with, but instead have begun this blog with. 

So, the question remains, if it was a four page document, which seems indicated in recent “official” books, then why is a six page document presented when it accompanies a facsimile of the ITC Production Guide? A further question also developed in my mind. The actual content of this “Writers Guide/Original Synopsis" is actually fairly limited in physical extent. If typed as any normal person would type it – on a sheet of A4, would it even fill more than one page of A4 paper?

 Wherever the original is, it certainly seems to be hidden by history now. Why should any of this matter, I can hear my last, very determined, reader, asking. In my view it matters insofar as so much importance has been ascribed to this document by recent TV history books. It has been claimed to somehow prove that George Markstein, rather than Patrick McGoohan, lay behind the creation of The Prisoner and this is “the documentation”. What is especially puzzling in this regard is that one of the “authorised” books that gives most credence to this myth also dates this document as being from 1967 – at which point the TV series was virtually completed. 

Another quite intriguing idea came to my mind however. Could this “Original Synopsis” actually have formed a part of what Patrick McGoohan took with him, to present to Lew Grade on April 16th, 1966, when they formally agreed to make The Prisoner. Grade took little interest, only wanting to listen to his protégé, but it is glaringly obvious that Patrick McGoohan would have taken some substantial documentation with him to that meeting – after all, he was asking Lew Grade to commit to something in the region of £10,000,000 in today’s moneys-worth; and as his 1995 comment that heads up this Blog confirms - asking for financial backing was not something Patrick McGoohan took lightly. When relating the events of April 16 1966 to Warner Troyer (and others later), Mr. McGoohan spoke of taking around forty pages into the meeting with him. That this "original synopsis" may have played some part in that file is supported by the fact that elements of that synopsis never actually made it to the finished show. There are references to deep mines and a Palace of Fun, not to mention Theatricals - an element close to McGoohan's heart perhaps, but not one he took any further within the village.
The Network dvd contains a variety of pdf versions of "shooting scripts" used in the series, as well as pdf’s of the couple of scripts that were never filmed. Over the years many magazine articles and more than one book have analysed these scripts and interpreted the changes seen between those written forms and what eventually appeared on-screen. This careful analysis has created an impression that the writers wrote and the directors directed and the actors acted, but the process of the creation of The Prisoner was overseen in almost every aspect, by Patrick McGoohan himself. It was only to be expected that by the time any script was ready to be passed onto either director or actor, then it had first passed the black-line phase with McGoohan, the Producer.
Comparison of a couple of pages of one extant script that did not get filmed with a couple of pages of a script that was eventually filmed is illuminating in this regard. In my image below the upper pair of script-pages are from the unused script, Don't get Yourself Killed, whilst the lower two pages are from Dance of the Dead. I have not selected exceptional pages from either script. If you have the dvd’s you can check out for yourself that the copy of Don't get Yourself Killed is riddled by those blackouts. Many stories seem to have been made up about why certain scripts did not get past McGoohan, but as seems clear, some scripts never got anywhere because by the time McGoohan had removed what he viewed as “extraneous” material – there was very little script left at all. It’s interesting to reflect that those black lines are almost certainly the autograph of Patrick McGoohan. Of course, earlier versions of Dance of the Dead may have been similarly over-scored but the paper would inevitably have been consigned to the dustbin after the re-writing and so they are naturally no longer extant.
The unfilmed scripts seem not to have been completely unused however. It is clear from a browsing of Don’t Get Yourself Killed that elements of that script show up in The General. How did these ideas about subliminal education turn up in more than one script? It cannot have been via Briefings because nearly every script writer denies being “briefed”. However they all speak of re-writes and it is easy to imagine the Producers suggesting this change here, or that concept there, to a writer, for him to work into his initial ideas. The scripted dwelling of Number Two being “the Georgian House” rather than the “Green Dome” proves that Don’t Get Yourself Killed was an early commissioned script so it certainly predated The General. This early but unfilmed script also includes a Judo-playing Number Two – a concept shared by the Number 2 in another later episode, It’s Your Funeral, so it very much seems that Don’t Get Yourself Killed was not so much rejected as cannibalised. Gerald Kelsey would have received his submission fee regardless of course, and anyway his other script, Checkmate, is classical of the series.

 It’s Your Funeral also brings to mind a tale told by Peter Wyngarde, via fans, that McGoohan wanted him to be the regular Number Two; oddly enough, a tale also reportedly told by Derren Nesbitt. This has led to a fairly popular myth about The Prisoner, which says the changing No2 was a development in ideas rather than the intention at the outset, partly caused because Guy Doleman became ill and could not complete his part in Arrival. A quick glance at the pdf scripts for Arrival seem to prove the concocted tale by various fans to be arrant nonsense. Most of the pdf’s are undated but versions of Arrival carry a date in June, 1966, and the new No2 appears halfway through the screenplay, pretty much as it would eventually be shot – long, long before filming even commenced, that September.

 Another script that was not used is in some ways the more famous of the main two. This was The Outsider. The scriptwiter, Moris Farhi himself recounted being told by George Markstein that his script had been rejected by McGoohan. One reason for this that has come down the fan trail is that this rejection occurred because The Outsider included a scene where No6 sweats, and the claim is made that McGoohan rejected the script with a comment, “Heroes don’t sweat”. This would be a curious thing for Markstein to have claimed, since the only script he was personally involved in, which was Arrival, has that script referring to No6 sweating!! A very similar version of fan legend says that Don't get Yourself Killed, which includes a sequence where No6 studies the migration patterns of birds, has Markstein saying that McGoohan rejected that script because, "Heroes don’t bird watch!”  The curious thing - aside from the similarity of these two fables - is that in Change of Mind No6 does indeed bird watch, in one of the softer moments of the whole series; where No6 watches wistfully as a flock of geese fly away on their unknowable journey of freedom. Myths and legends abound nonetheless, as in all the best Cults.

Personally, I found the most intriguing thing about The Outsider to be that Mr. Farhi seemed to be dropping far too many heavy hints about the possible identity of Number One, which also raises the question of exactly how mysterious was McGoohan’s allegorical concept about No6 and No1 being one and the same person to the writers? Morris Farhi certainly seems to have absorbed some notions about Number Six being closely akin to Number One, or having ambitions in that direction.
  One script that certainly caught my eye and made me laugh was the one that seems to have had a mild Identity Crisis about Number Six. This is seen in one pdf version of Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, where P is revealed to be not John [Drake] but.... Patrick [McGoohan]!!
 A member of the Prisoner production crew, who had kept the scripts he had used for work all those years ago, kindly donated this script to be used by Network. Oddly enough a crew member has also been reported at one fan convention as saying that he had seen an old “Call Sheet” wherein P was typed in as Drake! Clearly more than one person back then may have struggled with the McGoohan/Six/Drake paradigm! Not unexpectedly, there is no more sign of that "Call Sheet" being amongst the pdf material than there is of the “Writers Guide” that started me on this archival trip.

 The whole Drake/Six paradigm of course rests on claims made by various members of the fan base for this show. That built up on the notions created by George Markstein’s (largely unrecorded) interviews with the them between 1979 and 1984. Whether the character’s can be perceived as the same or similar is not my concern in this Blog – it is the notion that The Prisoner began production as a mere sequel to Danger Man – an idea dreamed up by George Markstein to “save the jobs of the ITC crew", that concerns me in this Blog.
 What a lot of the people in the studio wanted was to keep their jobs! They hoped he'd go on doing a series and so I sat down at the typewriter one day - you know, any port in a storm - and typed a couple of pages. They were about a secret agent - and after all Drake had been a secret agent - who suddenly quits without any apparent reason, as McGoohan had quit without any apparent reason, and who is put away! 

 The fan-story then follows that after starting production as just The Further Adventures of John Drake, McGoohan then increasingly “took over” the idea. All palpably stupid, but it holds such an attraction for the cult mind that in some of those minds it seems unassailable Belief. Many of my Blogs have thoroughly debunked various aspects of this with incontrovertible fact. I have shown many proofs and the foregoing are available to anyone with a copy of the fine 2008 Network dvd set. However, in my own personal researches I frequently still come across new documentation of the truths of what I am saying on this trivially arcane, yet nonetheless fascinating subject. A subject that is certainly important to the memorial of the man who gave the world the show that claims both affection and respect. That man was Patrick Joseph McGoohan.

 Take the claim made above by the erstwhile Script Editor of this show, and that claim so amplified by the authorised and official texts that abound on the origins of this show. Then take a look at this page from September 1966, wherein already there is speculation that McGoohan is making something so unique that he is keeping the whole thing a secret. It was his secret, but Secrecy it seems, can sometime carry a price. That price seems to be that nobody else knows what on earth they are talking about!!
Be seeing It....
Be seeing You.....

Sunday, 5 August 2012

McGoohan from his own Quotes: Part of that fight is to keep from being subtly brain-washed and lulled into accepting dissipated truths, total untruths. Accept nothing. Look into it yourself.

In 1970, Patrick McGoohan was two years down his own road from the show he had finished in the early months of 1968, called The Prisoner. To read some recent attempts at biography of McGoohan the reader gets the impression of a man in full flight either from overwork, himself, County Council Planners or perhaps the great British public!  In fact, he was doing none of the above. As my earlier Blogs have highlighted, he had said from the beginning that The Prisoner would be his last TV project for the foreseeable future, and by the time 1966 changed to 1967 he had established that 17 episodes would be the number agreed with CBS, upon whom much of Lew Grade’s financial logic relied. Patrick McGoohan's energies were undiminished after completion of his Everyman project however, and interviews with him by American pressmen in Hollywood in 1969 and 1970 speak eloquently of his unabated enthusiasms.

What is quite bizarre is how these facts of history have been rewritten in published books, in the decades since 1970. One official book has this passage:

“McGoohan left England for Switzerland, making light of his decision to emigrate…The truth is rather more complex. At the time of it’s premiere, The Prisoner was a commercial and critical failure, which must have come as a considerable blow to his confidence after the runaway success of Danger Man…”

The Truth? To paraphrase Jack Nicholson, some experts have no idea of the truth. It is clear from the comment in the “Hollywood Special” below, that The Prisoner was a huge success at the time, and highly-regarded in the USA, just as it had been in the UK, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and the various Latino countries where McGoohan had gained popularity in these years of the 1960’s.
The reason the so-called experts prate this kind of utter tosh seems to be because they follow the line adopted by the cult fans of McGoohan’s show. As I have suggested in previous blogs, it seems that in order to give themselves some kind of ownership of the show, these 'experts' disassembled actual history in order to create the illusion that they had somehow rediscovered and almost re-invented the show themselves, ten years later. They then educated others about what a great show it really was. This delusion has then percolated into the consciousness of real history. Not content with the talking about the programmes they also reinvented the actuality of how the show was created. They pressed the then novitiate Script Editor into the primary creative source and then relegated Patrick McGoohan into some kind of pirate who tried to steal the show. The official book quoted earlier also contains this line, when referring to McGoohan’s role in the “commercial and creative failure”

“He had presented himself as (and in the end became) the series’ driving force… These words returned to haunt him following the adverse reaction to the series. After a charmed rise to fame, he may have felt that the show’s perceived failure damaged his credibility as an artist in England”

This sort of shockingly untrue record of events seems to have almost taken over in official or published works about the making of The Prisoner nowadays. The actuality of what was motivating McGoohan, always had motivated him, and would continue to motivate him, is set out in his own words, in the same contemporary article from 1970:
 Two years after The Prisoner had become one of his past projects, Patrick McGoohan was not being haunted by anything. He was working hard as ever, and was involved in a number of ongoing projects. The sort of insultingly untrue things being written about him in the first decade of the 21st century meshed with the kind of thing the fans had generated about him in the final decade of the 20th Century. In 1990 the UK cult was also generating intellectual treatises, mirroring the Canadian College courses that had existed back in 1977, culminating in McGoohan’s personal interview by Warner Troyer for CBC. By 1990, a decade and more on, this footnote appears in a paper in the “Media & Society Series”

“Mike Gold reports that McGoohan originally wanted to do a seven-part serial but Lew Grade wanted 26 episodes so that he could sell them on a package deal to CBS on a first season basis. They compromised on 17 episodes, McGoohan adding the additional ten plots over one weekend. However Gold’s information appears dependent upon later myths about the series built up by McGoohan in his later presentations before North American college students” 

There it is, the unambiguous allegation that Patrick McGoohan was not a man to be trusted. This is not something the academic author has come up with on his own, he is continually refrerencing *experts* in the story of the prisoner show. The fans were of course labouring under the delusion that everyone wants to be famous – the celebrity culture that so infuses the modern Western world. As McGoohan’s quote in the afore-mentioned article makes plain, fame was never his spur. I am reminded of a quote from one personal friend of Patrick McGoohan : Paul Eddington. Back in 1968 he commented about his old friend from Sheffield:

“The trouble with talking about Pat is that one is apt to sound so pious because he is the sort of person one can so easily admire. He has so many admirable traits to his character. He is, in every sense, a good man”

A Good Man and True perhaps, as opposed to a good man who makes myths up. Strangely enough, the references to McGoohan’s ongoing projects in South Africa two years after The Prisoner involved Kenneth Griffith, whom McGoohan seemed to have financially enabled to change career path from being a reputable character actor, into a Documentary Producer. Mr. Griffith became a regular guest of Prisoner fan conventions over the years, and became one of their sources of wisdom about George Markstein, who he claimed to know so well. In an official companion to The Prisoner there is this quote at the end of a shambolic biograph of Mr. Markstein; it is ascribed to Kenneth Griffith in 2001.  

“George Markstein… carried in him the dark vision of Jews and Nazis. I have always been convinced, since the day I first saw The Prisoner, that is where 'I am not a number’ was born”

There is a properly researched biograph of George Markstein three blogs ago, on my Roll, and it is quite evident that not only are the official books writing gibberish, but also their source on this occasion, Mr. Griffith, was also spouting balderdash. It is a known fact about George Markstein that he was somewhat right wing and a quoted believer in the ‘great days’  of the old British Empire. He was the son of a Viennese Jewish émigré certainly, but seemed never to have taken any great interest in his ancestry and continually falsified his own biography. In the ITC Production Notes that were published in 1968, this is the description given about him: 

“The Script editor is GEORGE MARKSTEIN, a recruit from journalism. London-born, he began his career on provincial newspapers and then specialised in crime reporting in Liverpool and next in London”

The rest of the blog that initially followed here, proved to be an error in understanding about the contents of the ITC production Notes that were provided to me at the time, and I have accordingly deleted the confusing information I originally posted, and this Blog entry now ends here. 

My thanks to the respondent who pointed out my error and assisted me to view the correct materials. I'm Obliged.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

McGoohan from his own mouth: From the beginning of the series, the character called No1 was responsible for death, torture, war. So the worst enemy of man is surely himself; the evil in him the worst thing on earth.

In 1968, in an interview shortly after the prisoner project was complete, Patrick McGoohan made the comment heading this blog to an interviewer, during the course of a conversation about his thoughts on "the permissive society"..

In first of the two biographies written about Patrick McGoohan since 2007, there is this quote on page 109:
However, in the early days, there was...probably no plan on the part of the star or his team to create...something as cryptic as The Prisoner.

The notion that the development of The Prisoner was more or less accidental ties in with the perception of it as being some epitome of a Sixties Happening. Yet, right from the beginning Patrick McGoohan had plainly stated that the programme he was making was intended to be something out of the ordinary, and shortly after production ended, he was re-emphasising that. Whilst The Prisoner might nowadays be seen as somehow typical of the Sixties, the contradiction is that Patrick McGoohan was by no means a typical man of the Sixties. His conservative views about the world around him were expressed by him in the real world of 1968 in such comments as these:

The object of the television series, The Prisoner was to create a feeling of unrest about life today. It was an abstract impression of the world we are living in and a warning of what would happen to us when gadgetry and gimmickry take over from creative people.

...scientific knowledge and massive impulses are pouring in on us from all directions. And whether it’s cinema, TV, radio, the noises that are in the air, the cars tearing by, the bright lights around us – these impulses are frightening. There’s no time to stop. Even to live. I think we are going too fast but I don’t think we have any choice

We are our own worst enemy. We want more goods, more wages, bigger motor cars, faster motor cars, bigger washing machines, bigger refrigerators. As long as there is that demand, then the society we are living in, and its legislators, must keep up with it… When this can occur, it’s democracy, but democracy actively strangling itself

Whenever you get massive material development, you get a breakdown in morality. The Roman Empire was at the height of its material power when its destruction was caused by moral breakdown. Every human being has a responsibility to society and to himself. I think one should be aware of what is happening, that every responsible person should try to resist it.

One of the reasons that the production of  The Prisoner gets portrayed as some crazy, wacky accident is because Patrick McGoohan's world-view does not fit with the modern interpretation of his show as encouraging revolution against conformity and the fight for the right of the individual to be individualistic. It's as if No6 was wholly intent on breaking the chains of a previous conformity. Perhaps the very the modern view of the Fifties as being some corsetted time of repression to be revolted against is responsible for this. In many ways this is actually a reversal of what was actually on McGoohan's mind and it has long seemed to me that this misinterpretation lies at the heart of the fan ideas that McGoohan had no idea what he was intending to do at the outset of the production. The notion that McGoohan was making a plea for freedom is completely wrong in one way. What he was also doing was shouting about the freedom he perceived was being lost in the new Consumer Boom society of the Sixties!! He made that a little clearer in 1977, when he made various comments to Warner Troyer a decade later:

I think progress is the biggest enemy on earth, apart from oneself, and that goes with oneself, a two-handed pair with oneself and progress. 

we're run by the Pentagon, we're run by Madison Avenue, we're run by television, and as long as we accept those things and don't revolt we'll have to go along with the stream to the eventual avalanche. 

As long as we go out and buy stuff, we're at their mercy. We're at the mercy of the advertiser and of course there are certain things that we need, but a lot of the stuff that is bought is not needed.

Because McGoohan's anti-Consumer Society attitudes are so at odds with our modern perception of the freedom that material gains made for western civilisation in the 1960's, his evident angst can be portrayed as evidence of some kind of personal paranoia of his own, but this is because the modern viewer actually has lost all grasp of what it is that this man of the Fifties felt was being lost to the Sixties world of "anything goes" and material excess. Patrick McGoohan was of course just an actor and best expressed himself through his drama and allegory, not through reasoned, academic political philosophy. So it was that I was intrigued to recently come across a 'philosophical' treatise that seems to exactly mirror some of McGoohans blues about the modern society he was living through by the mid-1960's.
 This article was written not in 1967, but in 1957. Some of the quotes from it seem to exactly mirror those of McGoohan ten years later, as he mused over what his show had been about, behind the superficial telling of an off-beat spy story. Friedrich Sieburg was a  full generation older than McGoohan, and in fact died in 1964. It is not my suggestion that Patrick Mcgoohan ever read this article, but my only intent is to show that the notions of the modern man of 1967 being his own worst enemy was nothing revolutionary, but rather a worry of the Fifties generation about those youngsters of the Sixties. Patrick Mcgoohan reached 40 in 1968; he was not the young man of Alexis Kanner's age, but rather the younger brother of Leo McKern's older member of regular society.

Anyhow, if you have the will to listen to a man from the past, these are some the things Friedrich Sieburg wrote, back in 1957, as translated from his native German by Eric Mosbacher, for the US magazine Atlantic.
It has been demonstrated that the overcoming of the problems of the modern age is inconsistent with an unrestricted measure of freedom… the Western world has become deeply pessimistic, and in the long run that is inconsistent with the democratic organisation of society. It is possible that man may be good, but we had better not put that to the test...Since 1914 so many new tasks in the economic and social field have accrued to the state that it has been forced to change its essential nature to be able to perform them. Thus it has become second nature for it to want to think and act for the individual… The state acts continually under an impulse, which brings it into ever closer contact with the individual and positively forces it to encroach upon the private field. Whatever the impulse may be, even if it is a belief in liberty, in the hands of the ruling authorities it is bound always to assume the form of power...Bit by bit we are abandoning what used to constitute the sovereignty of Western man. The private sphere, which was once surrounded by a certain sanctity, is dwindling. Man evacuates one field after another, and the state cannot be expected not to move into the empty space, which we are unable to fill.

If I do not know what to do with my spare time, I call in the state. If I am incapable of looking after the produce of my field, or educating my children, the authorities are immediately at hand to act in the public interest.
Thus our tyrants are involuntary tyrants of our own creation. Our subjection to mass rule is not in the least inconsistent with this. For the masses are a tyrannical fiction. The human beings of whom the masses allegedly consist play only a small part in them. Never was a more hypocritical instrument for the disarmament and diminution of the free personality than this concept of “the masses”…

The more selfishly and inhumanly this struggle for power is conducted, the more necessary it is to keep referring to the masses, for whose interests each group claims to stand. Whether sympathy for the masses is prompted by a genuine interest in the lot of mankind or whether it is only an excuse, obeisance to the masses must be made. The securing of justice for the masses, which should be a worthy object of public concern turns into a form of idolatry, the cult of a tyrant who has completely forgotten that he is dealing with living human beings. It is a form of demagoguery without which nowadays no one dares make a public utterance.
            Mass needs are called into being out of which much money is earned and power acquired. But in reality, perhaps, these needs have no real existence. The precipitous driving down of the level of taste, the unrestricted competition in offering more and more banal illusions and more and more stupid entertainments with less and less intellectual content, take place as an apparent service to the “broad masses”, about whose impulses the boldest theories are put forward…

Man is now digging his own grave; the evil is the individual’s participation in what he takes to be civilisation. All ideas of progress and improvement in living centre around buying the things which are dreamt about by those who believe themselves to be on the ladder of progress.
            What ranks as the civilisation to which everyone has a right is the possession of certain objects and gadgets, access to certain forms of stimulus and entertainment, use of all the goods, commodities, and amenities characteristic of modern life. Tremendous industries and elaborate organisations exist to satisfy needs that they have themselves created – needs for materials, pictures, scents, new luxuries, drugs and games; in short, all the things which are recommended to the individual on the ground that the masses want them. In relation to these needs no man is free, unless he feels capable of living the life of an outcast…

How can one suggest to him the dreadful truth that he is continually declining, that his inner being is shrinking, and that with every new refinement in his way of living he is sinking deeper into the condition of a new barbarism, the chaotic crudity of which cannot be conjured away by any pharmaceutical product, or increase in speed, or improvement in the means of communication? It would certainly be idle to try to dissuade one’s fellow from the use of narcotics or television sets, but perhaps it may still be worthwhile to call on him not to let himself be the slave of a civilisation of which he is called the master.
            Once upon a time savages were identifiable by their terror of blunderbusses and belief in the power of the medicine man. Today the place of these things has been taken by the number of tubes, the cubic capacity of cylinders, and the effectiveness of sleep-inducing drugs; in other words, things intended to drive away fear at the passage of time and the certainty of death…

That final line reminded me very much of the lines in probably the first episode of The Prisoner to be written, Free For All

Labour Exchange Manager:... That shows you're afraid.
No6: What!?
Labour Exchange Manager: You are afraid of death.
No6: I'm afraid of NOTHING!

Indeed, it is Free For All that completely disproves the notion that, 
there was...probably no plan on the part of the star...something as cryptic as The Prisoner  
This episode from the pen of "the star" and written even before Arrival was finished serves to demonstrate how cryptic McGoohan was planning to be, and like Sieburg how frustrated and despairing of the masses he had become, and how his allegory about the contemporary human condition was wrapped within the shell of an exciting Spy v Spy tale. The fact that such a pre-eminent 'fan' as a biographer can can have been so deceived about McGoohan and The Prisoner by all the cultish fan babble that denies the man any credit for knowing what he was doing from the very beginning... speaks volumes.

I am not a number. I am a person
In some place, at some time, all of you... held positions of a secret nature and had knowledge that was invaluable... to an enemy. Like me, you are here to have that knowledge protected...or extracted. Unlike me, many of you have accepted the situation of your imprisonment and will die here like ROTTEN CABBAGES

It is also in this very first script of the series that you can see the proof of what McGoohan said in that interview in 1968 that heads up this blog, that from the very beginning he was writing cryptically but knew who exactly Number One was, from the very beginning.
Number Two:
If you win, Number One will no longer be a mystery to you, if you know what I mean...

In Fall Out, No6 had 'won', and No1 was revealed to him. If you see what I mean, and what the script-writer meant.

Of course the cultish biographer was inevitably influenced by the prisoner-cult contention that McGoohan did not think the show up himself, and that he only wrested control of it from someone who the masses of fans had decided was the true instigator of their favourite show. Like rotting cabages they had accepted the imprisonment of their own beliefs, which were largely the result of the deceits and errors of the leaders they listened to, about how the show was first thought up, and why and who by. Someone should make a TV show about how cults have their own agendas. In some ways that may be exactly what Patrick Joseph McGoohan, in 1967, did do. Such a splendid irony. Someone else should write a book about it, but who would want to read that?

You cannot really expect to understand the creative nuances of The Prisoner unless you have some grasp of the nuances of the times that lay behind it. Those times were the 1950's and although nowadays those years are painted to us as being as monochrome and grainy as their old TV pictures showing a world of austere conformity, to those who lived the transition there seemed to be the loss of a certain type of personal freedom, which was  being replaced by an enslavement of a colourful and exciting kind, but an enslavement nonetheless, and the curious thing was that the people were doing it for themselves. They were their own worst enemy. They had a thirst for Progress.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

McGoohan from his own lips: "The network must let us know by March 11 if it wants additional episodes. If so, we will continue to film, but in color. But, if not, we won't do another season in England."

In a Blog last September I made the point that Patrick McGoohan had long directly contradicted a central tenet of Prisoner fan-lore and that was that he, as an actor, suddenly resigned from a putative fourth series of Danger Man, and this sudden resignation was somehow replicated in the way Number Six opens the action in The Prisoner by suddenly and violently resigning.

Like much else of the entirely false history created about the genesis of The Prisoner, this resignation fable rested largely on the fan-club statements made by George Markstein in the late 70's/early 1980's:
 McGoohan quit! He got fed up. We all thought the series would go on. It was very successful, it had gone into colour, it was showing in America, but the pressure was enormous - a series turnaround puts an incredible strain on an actor and I can quite understand that he'd had enough - and he gave it up.
 after all Drake had been a secret agent - who suddenly quits without any apparent reason, as McGoohan had quit without any apparent reason, and who is put away!

The statement by Patrick McGoohan that heads this Blog is actually from an American newspaper dated January 14, 1966. It is clear from this that far from quitting, McGoohan was as much a victim of TV destiny at the time as anyone else was. Several of my Blogs over the course of this Roll have referred to American newspaper material and to how actual contemporary facts constantly prove the "established production histories" of The Prisoner to be entirely wrong in their conclusions. It is obvious to anyone who has perused a smattering of my Blogs that much of this erroneous writing stems from the gullibility of writers about the various statements made in the past by George Markstein and promoted by his indirect fan-club. Nevertheless it is inevitable that when "published history" is challenged by a mere "Blog", there is largely a conspiracy of silence about it and a refusal to accept that most books on the subject require a major rewrite.

It is also a fact that most recent publications on the subject originate from British sources and not unexpectedly British sources tend to be a bit sniffy about taking notice of 'foreign' information, especially when it comes from America. I once had an enjoyable forum conversation with a web-id named Ignis Fatuus who long contended that the US market had no relevance to the making of shows such as Danger Man. This sort of chauvinism is fairly common in the tight circles of those interested in Archive TV. It is a small speciality and naturally people in it like the idea of a small world. As an internet-based writer, I am of course only too open to the broader influences and information available from the world-wide web. However, the nicest way to beard a bear can be to beat him up in his own den, so I was especially delighted when I turned up some British information that completely confirms all that I have contended on this matter. This clipping comes from the British Kine Weekly of March 1966, nine days before McGoohan's stated deadline of March 11.

Read almost any published source on the subject of the segue between Danger Man and The Prisoner and you will read that there was a fourth series, going into colour, and that this series was aborted by the pre-emptive resignation from the role of John Drake, by Patrick McGoohan. Every time you read that in future, you can now know that the story is completely untrue. There would be no fourth series of Danger Man because the Americans were not interested. There would also be no fourth series because McGoohan had said so, but far from any sudden resignation by him, it had been publicly stated by him since January of 1966, that no new series of Danger Man would be made if CBS did not renew it's option.

There is a further controversy about the colour filming that did take place for Danger Man. Patrick McGoohan long stated that he agreed to make the film Koroshi to satisfy Lew Grade and give him something to sell. but McGoohan was canny enough to recognise that this would also give him and his closer colleagues the chance to gain some hands-on experience of filming in colour, before embarking on The Prisoner. His statement has long been dismissed in Prisoner interest circles as just his own post-hoc self-aggrandisement, and the myth is maintained in published works that Koroshi was a film hurriedly cobbled together out of two episodes of a *new* colour series that was unexpectedly abandoned. Once again, with access to original material from the time, in this case a copy of Daily Cinema from April 1, 1966 it is evident that whilst there is still confusion in the journal about exactly what was going on, it is clear enough that Koroshi was conceived as a two-hour project.

What becomes most apparent from all this, is that a keystone of prisoner fan-lore is entirely wrong. There was no sudden resignation on a whim by Patrick McGoohan, the script editor claiming this seems to have either made the whole thing up or, probably more likely, to have had absolutely no idea about what was going on at the time. Whilst often cast as a co-creator of The Prisoner by fans, in the years since, George Markstein was not even in the loop about the fate of Danger Man and the creation of The Prisoner. Many other myths about the latter show have emanated from fables told by Mr. Markstein and promulgated by the fan-club he influenced. Whilst McGoohan had some important supporting relationships when embarking upon the Prisoner project, which was actually commissioned on April 16, 1966, one of them was certainly not his erstwhile script editor.

Still on the subject of Koroshi and to emphasise how this small ITC colour project was never a part of any "fourth series": This film was evidentially never made as part of any American deal with CBS, because when it was eventually shown as a movie in the USA, it was broadcast by CBS's hated rival NBC. Lew Grade didn't mind who he sold his shows to, but there is no way CBS would have funded Koroshi and then allowed NBC to broadcast it, and Patrick Mcgoohan had long stated that without US commitment there would be no colour series of Danger Man. It's a sort of circularity, but it all holds together.

Moor next time. The truth is never a burden, it just goes for a burton - from time to time.
This Blog would have been impossible without my friendly neighbourhood Sheriff. Howdy pardner.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

George Markstein in his own words: “I am such an ordinary, insecure man, myself, that I like to imagine getting attractive girls into trouble or strong men into danger”

The title of my Blogroll, Number Six was innocent, was largely predicated upon the strange tendency I had noted that a whole sub-cult of The Prisoner had grown up over the years, which seemed to adopt a J’Accuse mentality towards the central figure of Patrick McGoohan - Producer, Director, Writer and Actor, who had made the object of their affections even conceivable in the first place, not to mention possible to even exist. Patrick McGoohan's key role in the The Prisoner was to be diminished.
These revisionists would have you believe that it was not Patrick Mcgoohan who was the instigator of The Prisoner. Not only that, but they would claim and infer that Patrick McGoohan was both liar and serial copyright thief, since this same sub-cult also insisted Mr. McGoohan only avoided explicitly making his prisoner John Drake, in order to swindle Ralph Smart from receipt of Danger Man royalties. Serious crimes indeed, but how to find a witness for the defence? Step forward blogger Moor Larkin - it seemed there was no jury in town, just a bullying lynch-mob so the only answer was to refuse to live in harmony with them. Fortunately villager Larkin had the Sheriff on his side, so all was not hopeless.

For some strange reason this sub-cult of The Prisoner gained the ability to resonate their peculiar version of history into the mainstream, and most published books seem to mirror their distortions and often their downright myths and untruths. I have highlighted the way this cult history has influenced otherwise dependable authors and lulled them into publishing statements that are not only palpably untrue but also completely fictitious. My last blog before this one summated how and when this had broken out into the mainstream, back in 1982, and I had thought my Blogroll would end with that one. 

However, by a strange quirk of fate, my final two blogs attracted the attention of a gentleman who was a contemporary of George Markstein. His name is Sidney Allinson. Whilst most accounts label Mr. Markstein a man of mystery who might have been even a member of British Intelligence [!], Sidney labelled him as an American, “When I knew George, he was known as an American citizen, and certainly had an authentic-sounding strong American accent. Also, I recall him strongly hinting that he had been in the US Office of Strategic Services (precursor of the CIA.) Likeable as he was, George's co-workers took that with a pinch of salt.”

 At first I was dubious about this new and quite conflicting information, but the very strangeness of it gave me pause for thought, and then I suddenly realised there was something very familiar about it too. In an official Prisoner book of 2005 this passage appeared in the pages that purported to tell the biography of George Markstein:

Many of my series of blogs have touched on the absurdity of much of the official biography proffered for Mr. Markstein. However the strange concurrence of Mr. Allinson’s memoir about Mr. Markstein passing himself off as an ex-spy, and that given in the *official* Companion, where he is again suggested as a ex-spy, suddenly struck a chord with me about an interview that George Markstein gave in 1973, just prior to the release of his 1974 novel that was based on “Inverlair lodge”, The Cooler. The quote heading up this blog is taken from that interview. Clearly this man made no even pretence to be a spy to anyone in the public, wider world, where his claims could be dissected.... and checked.
 One thing that is also noticeable, is that in this interview, which was all abut George's new debut wartime Secret Agent novel, The Cooler, no mention was made of either Danger Man or The Prisoner. What is missing can often be just as significant as what is there, as Chesterton's Father Brown may or may not have said.

Together with my fellow-researcher I used the main clue given by Sidney Allinson to try to run this story finally to ground. After all, much of my Blogroll, where it appertained to George, had been wholly negative – stating how he had said (or been reported as having said) things that were evidentially untrue. I thought it time I redressed my balance and actually found out what WAS true about George Markstein. I recognised that if Sidney Allinson’s recall was genuine, then the obvious place might be to start with his recollection of George Markstein being employed as a journalist in Southport, England, in 1947, and aged somewhat older than he has always been reported as being. His birth-date has long been accepted as 1929, but this would have made him barely 18 in 1947. His presence in that Lancashire coastal resort, working for a small local newspaper would also make it impossible that he had been gallivanting around Europe working for MI5, just as his age would make it impossible that he had been working for the OSS. Following the clues so given, I discovered first that George Markstein was an active member of not any Intelligence service, but in fact, the Union of Journalists in the UK. This led to a record of his having obtained work in Reading in Berkshire, transferring from the Southport Guardian, in the same year that Sidney Allinson had known him – 1947.

What I next stumbled across is none of my work, but actually reinforces one of my most serious objections to all the false history-making that has been concocted in order to bolster the claims made by those Prisoner fans claiming some hidden mystery about the nature of the creative process that led to The Prisoner being produced. The background of George Markstein has been enormously embellished purely in order to add credence to the idea that a man with no experience in creative writing (George Markstein) had his genius stolen by a mere egoist actor (Patrick McGoohan). What is especially wrong about this, besides the fact that most of it is untrue, is that all this nonsense has served to mask an incredible TRUE story about the very same man - George Markstein - and his childhood and early adulthood.

Remarkably that story was already told, back in 1999, several years before the Noughties rash of official books about The Prisoner. The true tale of George Markstein’s background and early life is far more interesting that the fan-fantasy version. Perhaps it does not make George Markstein a hero, but it goes quite some way to explain why he was the secretive and mischievous man he became. It also makes his grabbing of the opportunity Patrick McGoohan gave him - providing him with his entrée into TV Script Editing - into an admirable use of the life opportunities that may only come to any of us, once in a lifetime. Mr. Markstein’s eventual final metamorphosis to become a successful novelist furthermore cements his real life story into one that is inspiring to anyone reaching forty and wondering if their life can ever become a little more exciting.

If you want to know the truth about Gustav Georg Markstein, born August 26th 1926 in Berlin, then I would urge you to get a copy of a book that demonstrates what research about the past is really about – scholarship and five years hard work. Michele Zackheim’s book is freely available at   
 Her search for the ‘lost’ daughter of Albert Einstein led her on an entertaining diversion to the apparent fantasist (but courageous woman nonetheless) Grete Markstein, an actress who was once with the prestigious pre-war Berlin National Theatre . She was the mother of a son, Gustav Georg, whose name later became anglicised to George. The book even includes a picture of George, aged 10.
Grete Markstein, George's mother, was a single-parent and left Germany as part of the Jewish exodus in the 1930's; but also in part because she was apparently under threat from George's biological father. On her journey across Europe, she met a Polish Chemist, Sigismund Herschdoerfer, and as a couple they arrived in England in 1935 and were married in London, with George becoming adopted by Sigismund. He was 9 years-old by then. Sigismund was employed by Lever Brothers and the family eventually settled near Lever's world base at the time, in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. After the tragically early death of his mother in 1943, George became estranged from his stepfather and once he reached his then legal age of accession of 21, in 1947 he appears to have had nothing more to do with him. His location at the time in Southport is explained by his step-father's house being in Bromborough, Cheshire - Southport being a short train journey away via the network of local railways based in and around Liverpool. Ms. Zackheim's book is primarily concerned with Grete Markstein's attempt, after 1935, to claim that she was actually the daughter of Albert Einstein. This would of course have led George to think he was the grandson of one of the most famous men of the 20th Century. Imagine his disappointment when he came to realise this was only a strange fixation of his mother, after all.

Michele loses track of George in 1947, just as Sidney did. He was last heard of in Michele's book, having absconded without repaying a £35 loan to his mother's oldest and best friend (equivalent to around £1,000 in todays's monetary value). I picked up his trail in Reading. My earlier blogs have explained his later arrivals in London, and his interest in writing for the 3rd US Airforce magazine in Ruislip in the mid-1950's, a fact made moor interesting now, with his 1947 associate Sidney Allinson's recollection of George Markstein being able to convincingly pass himself off as an American, despite being Austro-German by birth, and British by later naturalisation. A man of talent, who only need a direction it seems.

As I have continually discovered in my trek to ‘prove’ the innocence of Number Six, the truth is often hiding in plain sight – all you have to do is to ignore the self-proclaimed experts and find it. The truth about the man who was George, is radically at odds with much of his popularly-believed biography (check out his wiki-page if you want a good laugh). His background is also completely at odds with what he either told Prisoner fans, or allowed them to infer for themselves. Like most human beings however, his story is both poignant and fascinating and redolent of what motivated Patrick McGoohan when he led his team of contributors to create his paean to the glory of the Individual, whilst simultaneously mocking the very idea that any man can be truly free. The creation and perpetuation of so many untruths about George Markstein have done him no benefit whatsoever. Once revealed, falsehoods rightly make us distrustful of the sources of those deceits. Revealing the source is often difficult however. Mr. Markstein certainly had some circularities of his own to rotate the truth upon, but it can also be difficult to separate the fictions he created from the stories woven by his later cult followers.

I’ll be seeing you, in all the old, familiar places.