Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Holding a Big Tea Cup Like McGoohan

Tonight THE FUTURIST! learned of the death of actor Patrick McGoohan who was best known for starring in the British television show The Prisoner. THE FUTURIST! had remembered seeing reruns of this program on public broadcasting in the New York area, but recalls the show was originally broadcast on WCBS-TV as a Summer replacement series years ago. It was a strange show that boggled the mind of THE YOUNG FUTURIST! He remembers the odd storyline and the village where McGoohan's character (an ex-spy) was imprisoned. He was continually trying to escape from a this quaint English hamlet with tea parties and cricket games and polite citizens who were all prisoners of some secret organization ... and all known by a number. Truly Kafkaesque. If he tried to escape, a giant white ball would chase him and envelop him and re-deposit him in the village. McGoohan was Number 6. The show had a fantastic opening to each episode that showed how McGoohan came to be in the village; an opening in visuals and jaunty 60s styled music, but no words. Here it is, courtesy of YouTube:


THE FUTURIST! always thought McGoohan appeared so clever, so cultured and had this great articulate speaking voice. Each word, every syllable honed like a razor sharp weapon. He had an explosive anger, when displayed, and a sly smile when he knew he had the best of you. THE FUTURIST! remembers him most of all from his appearances on the detective show Columbo. He guest starred 3 times, and won an Emmy twice, as a a murderer who matched wits with Peter Falk's rumpled sleuth. He appeared as a decorated Colonel who was the dean of a boys' military school, a secret C.I.A. operative and a mortuary owner; each one a killer who thinks he has the upper hand until Lt. Columbo appears to play cat and mouse. The Columbo series was superlative in script and acting, but was always classier with Mr. McGoohan guest starring. One could even see Peter Falk enjoying each minute of the mystery even more when sharing a scene with Mr. McGoohan.

Mr. Goohan made a very eccentric impression on THE YOUNG FUTURIST! a long time ago. THE FUTURIST! remembers watching this grand long spy thriller set on a submarine on a secret mission to the Arctic or some cold cold frigid locale. The movie was Ice Station Zebra and it bares distinction for being, supposedly, Howard Hughes' favorite film. He was rumored to have watched it endlessly in his Las Vegas hotel room in his old age. THE FUTURIST! does not know why Hughes found it so fascinating, but he does know that one scene did make an impression on the young mind of THE FUTURIST! There is a tense scene in the stateroom of the sub's commander, who is played by Rock Hudson.
McGoohan has a very prickly relationship with Hudson's character and they come to sharp words quite a bit. In this scene McGoohan is wet and wrapped in a Government issued Navy blanket and shivering (don't ask why, THE FUTURIST! can't remember.) Hudson is questioning him and they are having a very aggressive verbal confrontation. McGoohan stays calm, though his words are terse and suggest a fuse about to ignite a temper tantrum. He eventually does explode and bangs the table and screams with a demand. THE FUTURIST! recalls the histrionics, but the most significant detail he took away from this was the way McGoohan held onto his tea cup. It was a big tea cup and it might have very well held coffee. It was some warm brew that was steaming and was given to McGoohan to raise his body temperature due to his being so wet. McGoohan held the cup with the handle pointing toward Rock Hudson and used both hands to encircle the the entire cup. He would hold it and bring it to his lips to sip the liquid and the grip of his hands around the outer shell of the cup indicated he was trying to absorb every hint of radiant heat he could as he shook with cold. It was a mesmerizing piece of acting to THE (then) YOUNG FUTURIST! It so impressed him , that for days afterward, he would hold his tea cup the same way. He would grip it with both hands with handle pointed from him and toward his Mother or Father. He sipped with the fervor displayed by McGoohan and imagined he was in that submarine beneath the Arctic waters. He thought it was a wonderful thing to emulate. THE FUTURIST!'s mother told him to knock it off and act sensibly. He stopped doing it, eventually, and acted as normal as expected. A little bit of magic was lost after the reprimand ... but the happy memory of that scene and how, for some weird reason, it influenced THE FUTURIST! as a young lad came back to him when he heard of McGoohan's passing. Tomorrow THE FUTURIST! will find time to have a cup of tea or coffee and hold it in that same way and sip slowly and salute the magic spell of a passed thespian.

THE FUTURIST! presents the trailer to Ice Station Zebra ...
A brief moment of the Big Tea Cup scene appears at approx. 53 seconds into the trailer.



JD said...

I grew up with Patrick MCGoohan in a way. Watched The Prisoner when it aired on PBS in the second grade. Loved it.
Loved Ice Station Zebra too.
Great blog, my friend,




THE FUTURIST! is glad you commented. Movie Geeks are welcome. Especially if they are United.