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94 EVERGREEN Autumn

94 EVERGREEN Autumn Gadgets, such as the lighter which doubled as a camera, were essential tools for Drake. (continued) the American networks. A second series was not commissioned so McGoohan pursued other projects for the next three years. The immense popularity of the James Bond films in the early ’60s no doubt prompted the decision to revive Danger Man in 1964, with extensive changes to the original concept. From being an American NATO agent, the new Drake spoke with a British accent and worked for M9 in the British Secret Service. The character’s sports car from the earlier series was replaced by an inconspicuous Austin Mini Cooper. Danger Man returned in October 1964 and the memorable new opening sequence featured McGoohan’s figure — shown briefly in negative — walking towards the camera. A sparkling harpsichord theme tune “High Wire”, written by Edwin Astley, accompanied both opening and closing titles. In the new series Drake’s maturity had given him a greater understanding of people, and he rebelled against some of his assignments sometimes clashing with his deceitful and ruthless M9 boss, Admiral Hobbs (Peter Madden). Arguably the most important change was the expansion of episodes to 50 minutes. This allowed for more complex storylines and greater character development. In 1964 Grade successfully sold Danger Man to American television reputedly for more than a million pounds. There, the series was retitled Secret Agent and given an additional theme called “Secret Agent Man” sung by Johnny Rivers. The third and final series, filmed mostly at Shepperton studios, began in autumn 1965 and ended the following April. After completing two colour episodes in spring 1966, McGoohan decided to quit his role as John Drake. Although Danger Man had made him an international star and the highest-paid actor on British television, he wanted to move on. Throughout his time at NATO and M9, Drake dealt with double agents, assassins and defectors. He was a highly skilled undercover operative and to combat his enemies he was an expert in the use of

2017 EVERGREEN 95 John Drake with the traitor Rawson, played by John Fraser, in an episode broadcast in 1964. covert gadgets. These were Drake’s tools of the trade and supported his acute observation and intuition on assignment. Two gadgets he often used were his Philishave electric razor that doubled as a mini tape recorder and his lighter, which secretly snapped a picture as the lighting button was pressed. Behind the scenes, Danger Man’s high production standards, excellent directors and storylines contributed to its international success. Its writers endeavoured to reflect real events and tensions in the world. A popular theme was the independence of Britain’s colonies and a number of episodes were set in Africa. Other episodes alluded to the Profumo scandal and the theme of compromised or corruptible Establishment figures. Intriguingly two Danger Man episodes appear to have influenced McGoohan’s later series The Prisoner. In “Colony Three”, Drake was sent to a replica of an English village that instructed communist agents in the British way of life. Residents were free to roam the village but no one could leave. “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove” was a surreal visualisation of Drake’s nightmare in which he feared blackmail and exposure as an agent. Danger Man was one of the first television series in the ’60s to have tie-in merchandising including a board game, jigsaws and books. In 1967 Lew Grade won the Queen’s Award for Industry for earning Britain £35,700,000 in television sales and without doubt it was Danger Man that contributed largely to the figure. Danger Man was British television’s first modern secret agent and set the bar for the many spy series that followed. It was truly a trailblazing series — dominated by the compelling and inimitable Patrick McGoohan. RAY MARTIN Further information and picture acknowledgements: www.danger-man.co.uk

Evergreen Autumn 2017 online
Evergreen Autumn 2017 online
Evergreen Autumn 2017 online
Evergreen Autumn 2017 online
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