Danger Man (1960-1962, 1964-1968)
Cast & Characters
Patrick McGoohan is suave and mysterious M9 Agent, John Drake. Set against the backdrop of the brewing Cold War, "Danger Man" is a serious and simple spy thriller. Posing as anything from a Butler to a Radio DJ, Drake is a respectable and efficient secret agent.
Number of Episodes: 86
First Broadcast: 11th September 1960
Last Broadcast: 12th January 1968
Broadcast Channel: ITV (UK)
Production Company: ITC
Running Time: 30 minutes (1960-61); 60 minutes (1964-68)
Created By: Ralph Smart
Produced By: Ralph Smart, Sidney Cole, Barry Delmaine, Aida Young, Ian Stuart Black et al
Directed By: Philip Broadley, Michael Truman, Charles Frend, Peter Graham Scott et al
Written By: Ralph Smart, Brian Clemens, John Roddick et al
Edited By: Lee Doig, John Glen, Derek Chambers et al
Guest Stars Included:
Donald Pleasence, Charles
Gray, Zena Marshall, Desmond
Llewelyn, Honor Blackman, Patrick Troughton, Anthony
Burt Kwouk, Walter Gotell, Mike
Pratt, Dawn Addams, Patricia Donahue, Bernard
Lee, James Maxwell, Nadim Sawalha.
UK Locations - St. Paul's, London, UK; Totteridge,
London, UK; Hatfield, UK; Alexander Palace, London, UK; Admiralty
Arch, The Mall, London; Fulham Football Ground, London, UK; Elstree
Aerodrome, UK; Trawsfynydd Power Station, Gwynedd, Wales; Penmon
Point, Anglesey, Wales; Wormwood Prison, London, UK; Maidenhead
Station, Berkshire, UK; Britannia Bridge, Wales; Ettington Park,
Warwickshire; Betws y Coed, Wales; St James's Park, London, UK;
New Bond Street, London, UK; Whitstable, Kent, UK.
International Locations - Prague,
Czechoslovakia; Athens, Greece; Beirut, Lebanon; Sankt Gilgen
Rathaus, Austria; Capri, Italy; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Venezuela;
The first series was comprised of 39 half hour episodes. McGoohan was in the
starring role but it is implied that the Secret Agent, John Drake, is American
(Episode 9 suggests that Drake is Irish-American). Three years later McGoohan
returned to the screen in 32 hour long episodes, speaking with a natural British
accent. Drake says the phrase "I'm obliged" in virtually every
episode; the catch phrase did not return in the later 1964 series.
"Danger Man" refers to the title character, John Drake's dangerous
job as a Secret Agent for M9 Intelligence. It was decided that outside the UK,
the title should be changed to "Secret Agent" for a more universal
Above: John Drake, aka "Lone
Wolf". His codename gets merely
a passing mention in the series, but was mooted to be the
early in production...
The memorable title song was written by P.F.
Sloan and Steve Barri, two American composers and the lyrics
(sung by Johnny Rivers) reflect the international title, "Secret
Agent", rather than the original UK one.
The Bond Connection
With a cast lead
by the brooding Patrick McGoohan - who reportedly screen-tested
the role of 007 prior to the making of "Dr
No" - "Danger Man" is a small-screen secret
agent spectacular. Ian Fleming's first novel had recently met with
some success on a special adaptation by US Television station CBS
and with spy-fiction mania growing British filmmakers wanted to
capitalise on the success of spies like James Bond. McGoohan is
arguably a perfect small-screen counterpart to James Bond's phenomenal
success and "Danger Man" flung the actor into international
acclaim. According to some sources, Fleming consulted
on the pilot of "Danger Man", assisting the capable
Ralph Smart with his creation. Several would-be Bond stars appeared
guest-star roles throughout the series including, Bernard Lee
[M] and Donald Pleasence [Blofeld].
John Drake originally began his secret agent life working as a
liaison to NATO from an unknown Washington-based agency. In later
series, when the format is reworked, John Drake becomes more
British, operating out of a London office, speaking with a British
accent and working for the M9 (a play on MI5/6). Ralph Smart,
the producer and creator of the series was recruited by media-mogul
Lew Grade, owner of ITC (Incorporated Television Production Company).
Grade was looking for a series of television successes to rival
the monopoly of the BBC at the time. The productions of ITC were
geared not only to be successes in the British Isles but to make
money and fame abroad as well.
Smart had previously worked on a slew of scripts for various period-piece and classic hero stories such as "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1955-60), "William Tell" (1958) and "Invisible Man" (1958). He was a qualified and competent screenwriter, nevertheless, "Danger Man" would be a departure from regular half-hour flicks - arguably, something not seen on television before or since.
The new responsibilities of being a series creator
and heading up a team were not taken lightly by Smart. One of
his most interesting acts was to get the lead actor involved
from an early stage. He found Patrick McGoohan after seeing the
30 year-old steal the spotlight in a nondescript ITV Play of
A team was assembled to produce a pilot, "View
from the Villa",
which included Brian Clemens, working alongside Smart to pen
the screenplay. Clemens' past writing-history was similar to
that of Smart's with credits including "The Invisible Man", "The
Vise" and "Dial 999". His career after "Danger
Man" took off, scripting the 1961 TV hit, "The Avengers", "Quiller" and
smart '70s spy-fi "The Professionals".
The series had a phenomenally small recurring cast. Aside from McGoohan, Richard Wattis would play Drake's superior in the first season and that was all. The rest of the cast come and go as various characters. The second season saw Peter Madden cast as Hobbs - he appears in a few episodes as M9 chief.
Above: McGoohan is rarely seen in colour, with only two episodes ever produced in the new format...
McGoohan had ideas about
the character and scripting of the pilot. One of his more
drastic requests for the filmmakers was that Drake never
found himself romantically involved on-screen. He also
requested throughout the course of the filming that they
remove any lasting traces of sadism from his character.
McGoohan wanted the character to be rough, capable but
likable and when he returned to the screen in '64, the
producers had just about made it.
The on-screen gadgetry featured in the series was indeed ahead of its time. James Bond would not meet this level of wizardry until 1963 and the memorable "From Russia With Love" attaché case. From the early days, Drake's surveillance equipment was state-of-the-art: cameras in tie-clips or lighters and shavers that recorded audio were early examples of the imagination of the screenwriters. It was not all fantasy either, McGoohan's on-screen antics reportedly spurred the sales of folding binoculars and underwater cameras - simple tools that many could get their hands on.
The first season ran to 39 episodes - a long
season for British drama - and scooped $2 million from the American
market in the process. However, this was not enough to keep the
production viable for the moment. After less than a year of screening, "Danger
Man" took a hiatus.
Whilst they were off the air the popularity
of the spy-fi genre began to gain pace. James Bond shocked the
world with big-budget successful outings, and in parallel "The
Avengers" was making its debut on British TV. "Danger
Man" was relicensed by several territories. All of this amounted
to the re-commissioning of "Danger Man" and the series'
return to the screen in 1964.
A few production team-members returned to the crew to work on the new series, including, Aida Young [associate producer], Brendan J. Stafford [cinematographer] and of course Ralph Smart. Smart and McGoohan made a further 47 episodes of the ultimately successful series, as well as what was intended to be a two-part colour episode. Before this had time to be fine tuned, McGoohan stepped down from the project (in order to work on "The Prisoner") and the colour episodes were strung together to make a made-for-TV movie, known as "Koroshi" (1966).
Beyond Bond Index