Good-bye Patrick McGoohan. Good-bye SCARECROW. And thanks



McGoohan as Dr. Syn

It was reported today that actor Patrick McGoohan passed away. He was 80 years old. McGoohan won two Emmys for his work on the Peter Falk detective drama “Columbo,” and more recently appeared as King Edward Longshanks in the 1995 Mel Gibson film “Braveheart.”

For lovers of fantastic heroic fantasy on television, Patrick McGoohan holds a very special place. He starred in “Danger Man/Secret Agent”, he starred most famously as Number Six in the classic British series “The Prisoner,” but for me and many other funny book fanatics he’ll always be “Dr. Syn, alias the Scarecrow.”

Dr. Christopher Syn was one of the first fictional masked crimefighters and had much in common with Robin Hood as he was protecting poor villagers from an oppressive government. Set during the 1700s, Russell Thorndike’s first novel featuring Dr. Syn/the Scarecrow was published in 1915, pre-dating the dual-identity superheroics of Superman, Batman and others by more than twenty years. Dr. Syn was a vicar in Dymchurch, in the Romney Marsh area of England. (He was a doctor of divinity.)

McGoohan as The Scarecrow

McGoohan as The Scarecrow

Several movies were made featuring the character, but McGoohan was in the most memorable one, produced by Walt Disney Studios of all places. While Disney took many liberties with the original Russell Thorndike stories, most comic fans in my age bracket remember this McGoohan vehicle as thrilling and exciting. Just what a young fanatic wanted to see on television. To this day, I’ll often go searching for reading copies of the Thorndike novels. I re-read Dr. Syn on the High Seas two years ago.

The paperback of the Disney SCARECROW

The paperback of the Disney SCARECROW


Fanatics that are my age can usually sing the theme song. “Scarecrow! Scarecrow! The soldiers of the King feared his name.”

Produced in 1963, the version that I remember was a 3-part adventure that aired on the Wonderful World of Color. It was edited together as a feature film for international release. Disney/Gold Key made some comics released in 1964. A “Walt Disney Treasures” DVD of the McGoohan’s Scarecrow material was also recently made available. I’ll be ordering my copy before I go to sleep.

Good bye Mr. McGoohan … and thank you. Your will always have a special iconic place in the pantheon of my imaginary heroes.



Poster for the Disney feature film

Poster for the Disney feature film


Walt Disney with SCARECROW masks on his desk

Walt Disney with SCARECROW masks on his desk


The Gold Key comic from 1964

— Dave Olbrich (DWO) Wed. Jan. 14, 2009



Filed under Fanatic General, Point-of-view

5 responses to “Good-bye Patrick McGoohan. Good-bye SCARECROW. And thanks

  1. Tom Mason

    Man, that’s a shame. I always liked his work and wished there had been more of him in recent years. His command of the screen and his quirky, clipped delivery were unique. I wish he’d been able to follow up “The Prisoner” with something equally ground-breaking, visionary, and weird. I always saw “The Prisoner” as an extension of “Danger Man” and that the Village was exactly the kind of environment a government would pick to “retire” an agent. The AMC website has all “The Prisoner” episodes available for viewing, free of charge.

    McGoohan’s “Columbo” episodes are terrific examples of the cat-and-mouse detective series at its best; he underplayed his parts and seemed to revel in the game without resorting to the scene-chewing theatrics of, say, William Shatner or Robert Culp whenever they appeared.

    I saw “The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh” on the Disney Channel many years ago and it may be the scariest thing that the Disney Studio has ever made. McGoohan’s costume and his simple, handmade mask beat any contemporary CG effect for absolute spookiness.

    I also liked his role as Roger Devereaux in “Silver Streak,” but I don’t think that movie has aged well. He was at one time rumored as a potential James Bond back in the 1960s and wouldn’t that have been an interesting role?

  2. Dave Olbrich

    Tom –

    I didn’t have a lot of time to cobble together this tribute to McGoohan, but it could have been much, MUCH longer and more involved.

    Why someone hasn’t tried to do something more with the Christopher Syn character since the 1960s is beyond me. Part Robin Hood, part Zorro, part Blackbeard, part Dukes of Hazzard, this character has all the potential to really speak to today’s audience. Despite the Disney version, the original character had ICE running through his veins. A truly inspired creation.

    Maybe FANATIC will have to revisit this topic again really soon.

  3. Pingback: Miscellaneous Monday: Feb. 9, 2009 « Funny Book Fanatic

  4. Mike Koffink

    Being a big fan of the Scarecrow of RM as a kid I was drawn to your tribute and I too can’t believe they have not revisited this character for film. I also cant believe it has taken Disney so long to release it on DVD. I think I had nightmares about that mask for years!
    As this is a comic book fan site I thought I should point out that the comic book you have pictured above and labled as “a GoldKey comic book from 1964” is incorrect. The book you have pictured is the 1979 reprint by Western publishing of “Walt Disney Showcase” features. The original 1964 version would be marked 12 cents instead of 60 cents and was not a double feature with Texas John Slaughter. Nor would there be a UPC code.
    I enjoyed your tribute.
    Mike K

  5. randy

    McGooan was also the capable but emotionaly distant veterinarian in Disney’s 3 lives of Thomasina

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