Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: Patrick McGoohan and Ricardo Montalbán

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Patrick McGoohan and Ricardo Montalbán

Notoriously difficult but ultimately rewarding as an actor, Patrick McGoohan didn't just perform in front of the lens, he ferociously confronted it. One always got the sense that he was haunted by some powerful demons that only his oft-hooded eyes kept at bay. But they would rear their head from time to time in explosive and dynamic bursts that would pepper most of his performances. Most famous for his cult TV series, The Prisoner, McGoohan had a bit of the auteur streak in him, not just producing the series, but often writing and directing some of its episodes under various pseudonyms. A devoted Catholic, he was also famously demanding of his bosses, strictly forbidding his Danger Man/Secret Agent character John Drake from carrying a gun or getting involved with women casually. In his career he was surprisingly eccentric, turning down roles that could have brought him greater acclaim such as James Bond of the 007 series, Gandalf of The Lord of the Rings series, and Dumbledore of the Harry Potter series. But as a frequent villain on his friend Peter Falk's series, Columbo, and onscreen in Don Siegel's Escape from Alcatraz (1979) and Mel Gibson's Braveheart (1995), he could energize the film in even the briefest of appearances. A particularly noteworthy performance is his role as drummer Johnnie Cousin in Basil Dearden's All Night Long (1962). Unavailable in the U.S., the film occasionally plays on Encore and TCM, and is worth looking out for. A variation on Shakespeare's Othello set in the jazz world, McGoohan plays its Iago, trying to seduce his friend Rex's wife Delia into joining a rival band he is setting up. The film also features such jazz notables as Dave Brubeck and Charles Mingus giving some great performances as themselves. Patrick McGoohan died Tuesday at the age of 80. Be seeing you. Recommended Films - All Night Long, Ice Station Zebra, Escape from Alcatraz, Scanners, Braveheart Ricardo Montalbán was somebody I personally looked up to. As a Latino, I was proud to see him appear in a wide variety of roles. Whether it was a cop (John Sturges' Mystery Street), an Indian chief (John Ford's Cheyenne Autumn), or caretaker of life's ambitions (Fantasy Island), Montalbán was always flamboyantly mesmerizing. As a huge fan of Star Trek - a genre show that served as my original portal into my fascination with science fiction, and ultimately film - it was even more gratifying to see him return for a second round as Khan Noonian Singh in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), the most well-regarded of the film series. His scenery chewing theatricality made him a formidable enemy for the larger-than-life crew of the starship Enterprise. Director Nick Meyer utilized this to great effect, allowing Montalbán to grandstand, knowing this would make up for the fact that Khan never interacts face-to-face with Kirk and Spock, often overlooked by even the most stalwart of Trekkies. This classical form of acting lent itself to sci-fi rather well, and he would later appear in Robert Rodriguez's Spy Kids series. But earlier, perhaps another significant role was as Armando in both Don Taylor's Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) and J. Lee Thompson's Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972). As the humane circus owner who protects the future ape king, Caesar (Roddy McDowall), he imparts wisdom tempered with tenderness to the simian progenitor of the titular monkeys. Ricardo Montalbán died yesterday at the age of 88. Recommended Films - Mystery Street, Battleground, Sayonara, Cheyenne Autumn, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan


Chuck W said...

It's sort of weird. I am recently winding down on a marathon viewing of The Prisoner (first time watching the show), and as I approach the conclusion of the series--well, this happens. McGoohan's smirk-and-scowl school of acting is a large part of the show's infectious charm, and it's a damn shame to see him go.

Your write-up is excellent, of course. Gives some good insight as I make it towards the show's conclusion.

Tony Dayoub said...

McGoohan's mannered style was very exciting considering he was a Brit. But he was working class like Malcolm McDowell and Sean Connery, so there was more of a kind of freedom there than you usually got from the RSC types.

Thanks for posting and welcome to the site, Chuck.

Anonymous said...

Dos Equis should have hired Ricardo Montalban to do a few ads for them, he could have done their "most interesting man in the world" bit perfectly (he has a Spanish accent too)