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.


  1. I'm not really convinced by some of this. Not necessarily in your conclusion, but in your marshalling of "evidence".

    One of those cuttings says, in black-and-white, that Koroshi is "the first of the new Danger Man colour television series".

    Not a special, not a one-off, but the first of a series.

    So how this "proves" that "this small ITC colour project was never part of any 'fourth series'" is beyond me, when it lends credence to (though certainly doesn't prove) the very opposite.

    You can't conclude that anything which doesn't match your view of things is just the result of "confusion" when other quotes which support your hypothesis are taken as gospel.

    The Tony Gruner piece suggests that The Baron, Danger Man and The Saint are dead in the water. We know for a fact that he got that wrong in regard to The Saint, because they made loads more, so how reliable his source for any of that is, is perhaps debatable.

    McGoohan himself said, "We'd done enough of the Danger Man episodes, I thought they were beginning to get repetitious and somewhat tired" and "[the series] was tiring, it was time to stop it."

  2. I imagine we concur that Tony Gruner did not have all the answers, any more than Daily Cinema knew all the precise details of what exactly was happening vis-a-vis Koroshi.

    My hypothesis is merely that McGoohan was telling the truth and you are quite right that in later interviews he consistently down-played any drama about why he did what he did. The question that might reasonably be asked is why would he have down-played the circumstances? Judging by the conventional stories told about him in most published histories, a dramatic and arrogant resignation would seem to be right up his street - why would he not have been proud to announce it?

    His low-key approach to the entire creative process seems in keeping with a man who knew exactly what was going on and felt no urgency to impress anyone in his later years.

    His statements from the time, as the header of my blog emphasises, indicates clear contemporary evidence that without American investment, Danger Man would not continue. One of my earlier blogs mentions that this issue was also referred to in December 1965, so it really was nothing new, or sudden and nobody resigned over anything.

    The idea that Markstein created a format reactive to some resignation is patent nonsense given that Koroshi was in production in the first week of April, 1966 and Grade gave McGoohan the go-ahead for The Prisoner on Saturday April 16. The project had evidently been on McGoohan's mind for quite some time and the silent Americans gave him the perfect opportunity to suggest it to his financial backer.

  3. The American and British press of April-July 1966 cited throughout the blog make clear that the character of No.6 was not John Drake from the series very inception and yet that is the script editor's entire premise for any claims of being the creator of The Prisoner.

    The script editor's interview makes clear he had no idea who was No.1 except as a vague concept as someone who ran The Village.

    If the script editor actually went about for close to a year during the series production insisting to all who would listen that No.6 and John Drake were one and the same this would have had a very disruptive influence on the creative process of The Prisoner.


  4. I doubt it was as long as a year Anon. The show kicked into life in latter April, 1966 and Lewis Greifer is quoted as saying his friend George had little to do with the process after Xmas of that year... 7 months?

    Mr.Greifer is possibly more responsible than George for the persistence of this mythology to be honest. Without the corroboration of such as he (who was undeniably a very experienced Script man), I daresay Mr.Markstein's claims would have been politely lost in the mists of memoir at the time they were first made.

    One of the difficulties with unravelling this skein is that many of these early fan-club interviews were never properly recorded. I have gathereed for instance that the so-called Goodman interview of McGoohan was acrried out at about the same time as an earlier interview with George Markstein, but whereas the McGoohan interview is available verbatim on tape, the one with George seems never to have been recorded properly in any way at all.

    There is a guy here:


    who has blogged some of the earliest notes about Markstein, and they are pretty unconvincing. many of his bogus claims to prior TV work to Danger Man seems to have first surfaced in the fanboy archives.

  5. I wouldn't disagree at all with your comments about Markstein creating The Prisoner per se, I think the basic idea has to have come from McGoohan, hence all the stories told about McGoohan's 6.30am visit to Lew Grade on a Saturday etc etc.

    But equally, looking at McGoohan's work as a scriptwriter, he's not very good on structure and logic, and I can see a lot of gaps having to be filled in by George to make things hang together.

    And if McGoohan's file, as he claims, was so full of story ideas I can't believe they were struggling so quickly.

    But this is irrelevant to this particular piece. None of the "it was George!" "It was Patrick" arguments have anything at all to do with the reasons behind the cessation of Danger Man. If anything, the idea that McGoohan had built up a big file containing story ideas, set designs and so on for his next project by or before spring 1966 only serves to weaken your assertion that DM was *only* cancelled because CBS didn't want any more.

    And as I said above: one journalist's report of something McGoohan allegedly said; another journalist's speculations (subsequently, provably, incorrect in part); and another clipping which clearly states the opposing view does not in any way, shape or form, constitute anything remotely approaching "proof". Particularly when McGoohan would visibly (and audibly) state the exact opposite on numerous occasions.

    That's not to say I think your basic hypothesis in this blog entry is wrong, merely that it's remarkably hypocrital to claim such flimsy evidence is *proof* of anything when the whole tenet of the blog is how Six of One, and others, have swallowed other falsehoods and half-truths.

  6. I cannot imagine a journalist making up a quote that is so specific as to state a date of March 11, but I accept that history is inevitably an assessment of evidence and which evidences are most credible.

    One of the problems Markstein himself created, and his followers have exacerbated, is that so much of what he either said or that has been claimed on his behalf is so palpably untrue that it can only have been 'made up' or, to put it bluntly - be a bare-faced lie. I think it is fair that once actual lies are detected (rather than just exaggerations or muddle) then much else of what is associated with that *evidence*, is to be disbelieved on a default basis. That does not mean some it may not turn out to be true.

    I cannot quite see why you simultaneously accept McGoohan as the prime mover, whilst simultaneously deny the possibility he would have a file ready for Lew Grade. If, as David Tomblin once suggested, this was a project they had tlaked about for years, then I can see no reason McGoohan would not have had material ready. We do know that Grade was not interetsed in looking at it, so exactly what it was seems moot; however we do know it was no John Drake scenario because Grade claimed that he never understood a word of it. What does seem certain is that Markstein had no time, nor would his "Adventures of Johnny" have been in any way unintelligible to Grade.

    Insofar as Markstein filling in gaps, I assume he was there for something. McGoohan was unlikely to have been paying him just for moaning behind his back constantly, even if that is all he did do, and I am still ambiguous about that. I recall Andrew Pixley once suggesting Markstein's contribution to Arrival was just the "girl sub-plot", which has the ring of truth, knowing Markestin's predeliction for interesting women as evidenced in some of his novels.

  7. From some accounts from McGoohan/Tomblin through say Ian Rakoff Markstein was a presence from April 1966 when Arrival was being written till some of the final footage was shot in April 1967...I believe that is one year all total.... Ian Rakoff gives an account of Markstein in his first meeting as belly aching about how he 'created' The Prisoner from his ascribed (read non-existent) British Intelligence work.

    Hardly helpful.


  8. Ah yes Anon. He was undoubtedly around the place, as Mr.Rakoff attests. The quote I referenced from Mr.Greifer only indicated whether Markstein was exerting any actual influence. I have to admit that it is quotes attributed to Lewis Greifer however that have long given some credibility to Markstein's claims to importance.

    He is supposed to have said that he and George were discussing The Prisoner even before Danger Man was over, but this makes no sense at all if Markstein claims to have thought it all up on the train one day after Danger Man was suddenly abandoned.

    It's a self-consuming can of worms, but as I mentioned in an earlier response there are no proper transcrips of any of the things that are supposed to have been said years and years ago - years and years after the events they are referring to. However, it is quite possible that things were said that were then 'interpreted' as meaning something else entirely from what was intended. It is tough to figure out now and so I am cautious about criticising people who may simply have been misquoted. But this is also why I put such weight on newspaper articles. They are not only contemporary but also frozen in time and not subject to revision later. As with any archival evidence though, it has to be weighted for meaning too.

    However, there seems no reason to think Markstein was misquoted generally. The original fan club material at David Stimpson's blog seems to indicate a huge ego at work, with his claims to have initiated the idea behind every single script other than the ones McGoohan wrote himself. This is directly contradicted by virtually every single script writer on the record, some of whom speak at length about their own ideas and how they brought those to the project. But then, many of these same writers also evidently liked George Markstein an awful lot. George did have a very successful, late-blooming TV/Novelist career after The Prisoner and was clearly influential within the Writers Guild even before that, since it was his contacts there that McGoohan himself frankly admits were the motivation for making him script editor in the first place, and it has to be added that McGoohan expressed satisfaction with the job George did in that respect. I guess this is the biggest gap Markstein unuestionably filled.

    Supposedly Lewis Greifer did once say that McGoohan asked HIM to be the script editor and it was Greifer who recommended George, but this confuses the timelines hopelessly, unless Mcgoohan had the Prisoner project in mind from prior to the filming of Koroshi, which seems quite possible - given the thrust of my blog above. This would also explain how Greifer could have been talking to Markstein "about The Prisoner" before it even started production.

    Thanks for the thought process Anon. There is probably some sense to be made out of this tangle, but it certainly isn't the "generally accepted story".


  9. The assertion that the nod from CBS was behind the cancellation of Danger Man is rather illogical when you consider that only 13 episodes of The Baron were sold to ABC and likewise with The Champions.Department S was not sold in the US at all, until later when it was in the bargain bucket-likewise with Randall & Hopkirk.
    By 1966 the rest of the world had also embraced television and new markets were opening all the time to recoup costs on these productions.
    Mcgoohan (because of the nature of Danger Man) was possibly in every frame? unlike other long running series where sometimes the leading man/woman is not even in an episode.This must have been a collosal weary making pressure on him and he probably thought he had took the character as far as he could go with it?

  10. Hello Fellow Anonymous

    Michael Dann program director at CBS supported a new series with McGoohan but was also responsible for the cancelation of Secret Agent in the US. In an interview in the Chicago Tribune he said the ratings simply did not support the economics. So he purchased The Prisoner and CB S capital helped develop the series.

    McGoohan understood that without the American market Secret Agent simply could not continue and go to color and improve. He stated this in an American interview in December 1965. It images perfectly logical business sense.

    The script editor's tall tale M cGoohan resigning while Secret Agent still had the support of the American market is a myth.


  11. Hmm.... There seems to be more than one Anon, but moor of that anon..... :-D

    I take the point about Danger Man not HAVING to be cancelled. It could have continued, and in a way it probably did, but Sidney Cole titled it "Man in a Suitcase" instead. The article by Tony Gruner does not claim the various series CANNOT continue, he is merely pointing out that the lack of American interest is of great concern to UK producers.

    I think the thrust of my blogging on this matter is more subtle than CBS controlling matters. For whatever reason of his own McGoohan determined that without the American money (perhaps he personally just wanted the US exposure to be guaranteed) he would not continue. His quote at the head of the blog is quite unequivocal.

    I would think it reasonable to guess, with the speed in which MiaS was put into production, that this eventuality was also being foreseen by Grade and Cole too.

    McGoohan had choices and made them - it is the story of some peremptory *resignation* that lies at the core of the mythology of the genesis of The Prisoner. If that resignation never happened, then Markstein's entire story about his moment of "genius on a train" is immediately shown to be false, but to be fair there seems hardly anyone who ever believed that ever happened anyhow.

    One addendum I should make is that my friend the Sheriff, without whom this blog might have been impossible, has pointed out that it was "hated rival" ABC who broadcast Koroshi in the USA, not NBC.

    So..... NBCnu...... :-D

  12. Anonymous27 April 2012 at 00:10:

    Whether on not Grade always managed to sell his shows to a US Network is slightly beside the point. He was always aiming to.
    Generally, as soon as it became apparent that there would be no US sale he stopped producing a show even if he had risked a series on spec.
    Grade had always gone for the world, and specifically US market, with his filmed shows - and was never shy of saying so.
    For a start they were shot on the very expensive 35mm film because the US Networks wouldn't accept anything else in the days when standards conversions between UK and US video rendered poor results.
    Those series were shot in film studios under film-like "buy out" contracts especially so there would be no residual payments to cut into foreign sales receipts.
    Contemporary critics often criticized the "trans-Atlantic" nature of his shows and indeed Danger Man started out with an American accent and only changed when James Bond made British accents acceptable in the US. The Saint did a similar thing - despite being a fairly well-known actor in the US, Roger Moore's accent is noticeably more American in the earlier series. The Baron, Department S, The Champions, UFO, Space 1999, The Protectors and The Adventurer all had US actors in leading roles.
    Man in a Suitcase, most relevantly, had a US lead actor. Perhaps with the waning of interest in Danger Man vs. shows like Man from UNCLE another British-led series not too dissimilar to DM was thought too much of a risk without.

    It's worth noting in regard to other non-US markets that the show perhaps most seriously aimed at them was Jason King. While Department S hadn't been a hit in the US it had been popular enough elsewhere in the world to risk a spin off series, however it clearly had to be made on a much smaller budget - most obviously switching to the still far inferior 16mm film. That option wouldn't have been possible as early as Danger Man (The Saint had tested shooting on 16mm at one point in the 1960s and rejected the idea on quality grounds) so Danger Man would have had to die of a thousand cuts elsewhere.
    One can imagine the lack of enthusiasm all round for making an inferior product seen in fewer places.
    Even if Grade hadn't already said he would cancel Danger Man, McGoohan, who knew the business far better than most actors and who was on good terms with Grade could probably see it coming.
    For Grade, using one of his most popular stars in a fresh series with the renewed prospect of a US sale must have been far more appealing than wasting him on a declining series - however much he might have been baffled by the new concept.

  13. Simon Coward:
    "But equally, looking at McGoohan's work as a scriptwriter, he's not very good on structure and logic, and I can see a lot of gaps having to be filled in by George to make things hang together.
    And if McGoohan's file, as he claims, was so full of story ideas I can't believe they were struggling so quickly."

    As you imply there is a huge difference between having the basic premise for a story and completing a polished, coherent TV-hour's worth of drama.
    I would have thought that a great deal of the problem was that GM wasn't being of much help in crafting basic ideas into finished scripts (otherwise the structural problems wouldn't be evident and McGoohan wouldn't have to be doing that job himself).
    There would also have been less of a problem with a shortage of scripts if GM had been able to step into the breach more.
    Take a look at the credits of script editors on other ITC series like Tony Williamson (Department S, Jason King, Randall and Hopkirk) or Dennis Spooner (The Baron, Man in a Suitcase, The Champions) they wrote or co-wrote numerous episodes of the series they were editing. I have no doubt at all that if either of them had been script editor on The Prisoner they would have been credited on at least a handful of episodes themselves, especially if there was a critical shortage of scripts.

    Compared to them, it's difficult to figure out what GM did all day other then leave potential writers baffled as to what was actually required.

    I know it sounds harsh, but I suspect that he was out of his depth. He had come in at the tail end of the long-established Danger Man when everyone must have known what was required and just got on with it regardless of GM. He hadn't set up a new series before and, critically, I suspect he didn't understand a lot of what McGoohan wanted and what he did understand he didn't much like. That's why there was no series "bible", because he hadn't internalised and embraced the ideas of the series enough to write one and that's why he left writers floundering in the dark. It wouldn't surprise me if a number of potential writers declined to work on the series at all for this very reason.

    It seems that even the most basic functions of a script editor were not being done. When this became apparent he was side-lined.
    It seems that his response to all this, when asked about it later, was to shape a story which absolved himself at the expense of PM.

    The world of TV/Film production is tough, relentless and full of personal conflict and it's not for everyone. It seems that GM eventually found his ideal niche in writing novels where he could be much more his own boss and with fewer of the pressures of working with other people under brutal time schedules.