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March 31, 1924 to August 15, 1982
Patrick McGee was born in Armagh, Northern Ireland, and
attended St. Patrick's Roman Catholic College in County Armagh there. He later
changed his last name to Magee for the stage which still causes confusion to this day
when looking for information on him. From 1951-53 Patrick worked with Harold
Pinter when he was in an Irish touring company run by Anew McMaster where
they did many Shakespeare plays like Othello.
In the late 50s he was brought to London by Tyrone Guthrie for a series of Irish plays. Nobel-Prize winner Samuel Beckett had met Patrick in 1957 before when he recorded some of his prose for the BCC. He was so excited by Patrick's voice that he wrote the play 'Krapp's Last Tape' specifically for him. It was written in three weeks in 1958 with the working title 'Magee Monologues'. Harold Pinter was in attendance for the premiere and would cast Patrick for his play six years later. Patrick said of the role, "After all, it's not the story of a poor old age pensioner! Sam was very insistent that 'not with the fire in me now' should be firmly delivered with the emphasis on 'fire'". Beckett's biographer Anthony Cronin wrote: "There was a sense in which, as an actor, he had been waiting for Beckett as Beckett had been waiting for him." The play was later filmed for American TV with Jack McGowan instead of McGee, but never aired.
Patrick made a name for himself on the stage back then, but is almost forgotten on the screen except to Kubrick fans because he starred in two Kubrick's greatest films - A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon playing very diverse roles. The problem is being a star of the stage back then makes you nearly invisible in the future because there is no visual record or your performances, it is lost to the memory of the few who saw them in person and can't be revisited.
He lived for the theatre and considered film or TV a job to earn a living. He enjoyed radio work, but most often that was Pinter or Beckett both of whom he adored as dear friends and play writers
In his second film, The Criminal (1960), he played the Chief Guard at a prison who was content to turn his back on the violence around him as long as no one was killed. It is a testament to his acting skills that he could pull off a mature roll like this at the age of only 35. He easily could've passed for 50 there. He played doctors, military men, husbands, police and other officials with extreme authority so well and so often while other actors who played them were older than he was when he died. From his beginning to his death he seemed ageless on screen with his age impossible to pin down.
He married Belle, a girl from his home town Armagh, they had twins Mark and Caroline who were born in London in February 1961. The wild eyes are a family trait, and if Mark walked into a room today, you'd definitely know he was Patrick's son! The family moved to Hammersmith in West London in the mid 1960s.
He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1964. When Harold Pinter directed his own play 'The Birthday Party', he specifically cast Patrick and said he was the strongest in the cast. He first worked with Malcolm McDowell in 1965 on the play 'Squire Puntila and His Servant Matti'. Magee had the lead roll of Matti, while Malcolm was basically an extra. When the pair reunited for A Clockwork Orange their roles were reversed. He also won the Tony Award for best dramatic performance as the Marquis de Sade that year. It is a role he would play again in New York, on TV and in film. Other RSC plays he appeared in were Beckett's 'Endgame' and Charles Dyer's 'The Staircase' with Paul Schofield. During the 1960s he began doing readings for BBC Radio. He would continue this for over a decade with the memorable 'Lord of the Rings' parody called 'Hordes of the Things' in 1978.
In 1963 he played a doctor in Frances Ford Coppola's first film Dementia 13. In 1965 he did the film 'Die, Monster, Die!' in which he worked with two ACO actors - Shelia Raynor and Paul Farrel. In 1968 he would reprise his role from 'The Birthday Party' for the film version. When approached for an autograph, he found it quite peculiar that anyone would want such a thing!
He was fascinated by Kubrick and his "research" for A Clockwork Orange involved dragging his children, then around 7, to see 2001: A Space Odyssey, but was a little disappointed that his kids didn't understand it!
Here is what Malcolm McDowell said about Magee on the set of ACO: "Patrick Magee as the writer is wonderful. He’s Irish and a bit of a drinker - and known for it. Not that all Irish are drinkers - I’m Irish myself! Patrick kept saying to me, ‘What is with this man (Kubrick)? Do you understand him, Malcolm? Because I don’t! He has no Guinness on the set.’ I go to Stanley, ‘Why don’t you provide just a few little Guinness's for Pat?’ He said, ‘Can’t have liquor on the set!’ I said, ‘Why not? It’s a legal drug, you know; you can buy it at a pub.’ So they got a crate of it in for him, and Kubrick took me aside and said, ‘Malcolm, that was a very bad idea of yours. It’s only been two days, and there’s no more bottles left.’ I said, ‘But look at the performance you’re getting!’ Like 'Food all right? Try the wine!' Laughing, McDowell added, "That was also ad-libbed, all that stuff. We kind of worked that out as we went, all that whole section,” said McDowell, adding, “Patrick Magee said, ‘I don’t understand him. He has me sitting there like I’m taking a shit!’ I said, ‘Yeah, but it is very effective!’
Right after ACO he did 'Demons of the Mind' which reunited him with four ACO actors - more than any non-Kubrick film. Once again he plays a doctor who is a bit nutty and steals the film with incredible scenery chewing in the best scene involving a spinning hypnosis candle.
In 1972 when he made 'The Asylum' he returned to a wheelchair role and once again played a doctor. He runs a small asylum and instructs a new doctor that there are four patients in the mental ward and one of them in the doctor he came to replace. If he can figure out which patient is the doctor by interviewing them he can have the job. It is a horror classic also starring the great Peter Cushing whom he would work with again in 'And Now the Screaming Starts!'
In 1975 he reunited with Kubrick and four other ACO actors on the epic 'Barry Lyndon'. A funny story from the making of the film is that Magee could not say his a line right during the card game, due to the distraction of wearing an eye-patch. When he did get the line right, his hands were not doing what Kubrick wanted and a hand-model was brought in to shuffle and deal the cards in Magee's place. Then shot continuity became a problem because the hand-model had smooth hands while Magee's hands were hairy. To match the shots Magee had to have his hands shaved to match the models.
In 1981 he made one of his last films, 'The Black Cat', another horror movie based on the Edgar Allen Poe story. He was his classic crazy man role locked away in a house dueling with an evil cat. The film is pretty weak, but he steals the show when he is on camera with his piercing eyes. One funny note is back then he was featured with some frequency in the NY Times crossword puzzle!
He used the money he made from film work to finance his first and true love - the stage. His strong booming voice was perfect for the theater. His family says at times he was a pain in the arse, but always lovable. He died of a heart attack in London way before his time at the age of 58. His wife Belle passed away in September 2006.
Ever since I first saw his brilliant performance in ACO I have attempted to track down his films whenever possible. I have seen a bunch, but information on the man just doesn't exist. Finding an interview, quote or bio is like searching for the holy grail. He died long before the Internet explosion and was never a handsome leading man in film, so he wasn't ever profiled or did movie promotion. One problem I found is people confusing him with Patrick McNee because their names sound similar which makes it even tougher to find information. It is with this page that I hope to keep interest in the great actor alive and wish to find out more about him and sharing info with his fans who know him from ACO. If there is anything you can share, please contact me.
Much thanks to his daughter Caroline McGee for information.
- Krapp's Last Tape
1965 - Squire Puntila RSC program cover
1971 - A Clockwork Orange: Try the Wine!
In 1978 I was an exchange student living in a drab suburb of London (Ravenscourt Park, in Hammersmith) and glimpsed Mr. McGee wandering around the neighborhood a couple of times. He was wearing a rumpled wool overcoat, and looked very much like one of the characters he portrayed on film. He was alone, seemed to be muttering to himself and brooding. He was almost oblivious to what was around him and could have passed for a homeless man. I'd have shrugged it off as a hallucination, but several of my fellow students reported seeing him also and in pretty much the same state. As you point out he was a pretty great actor, but I've never figured out what he was doing in that neighborhood and always by himself. - MJ
Excerpt from Stephen Berkoff's Autobiography.
I liked Stanley Kubrick from the start. He had a warm, benign nature and
offered himself to you as a friend and ally. He seemed to possess no airs or
attitudes, neuroses, or predilection towards tantrums. He appeared in real life
as I had seen him in photos: beady-eyed, with dark matted hair and a
free-growing beard, always seeming to wear the cumbersome jacket with a hood
that is much beloved of movie directors.
Stanley's way of identifying himself on the telephone was to speak one of my lines from A Clockwork Orange: "So who's been a naughty boy then?" Perhaps he had become tired of calling people and saying "This is Stanley Kubrick here," in case he was met with "Sure, and I'm Napoleon!" Or maybe he just liked a little game.
He was casting Barry Lyndon, the great, unwieldy Thackeray novel and a most extraordinary choice. I was first up for a larger role, but it went to Hardy Krüger and I ended up with the cameo part of Lord Ludd. I took fencing lessons for my duel with Ryan O'Neal, who was to play Lyndon, and I took the whole thing deadly seriously. But first I had a scene with O'Neal and his accomplice, played by the fiery Irish actor Patrick Magee. Magee was one of Stanley's group of actors, having played brilliantly in A Clockwork Orange. I had never known another actor where the tides of blood could actually be seen going in and out of his face. But now Magee, the poor fellow having been forced into 18th-century costume plus eye patch and coerced to play not only in German but in French, was stressed to bursting point.
We were set to shoot the gambling scene where I - a wonderfully decadent aristocrat surrounded by a bevy of beauties - am fleeced. The camera was on Magee and he had only to say: "Faites vos jeux, mesdames, monsieur", deal the cards, and look suitably professional. For some silly reason, doing two or three things at once, one of the things is apt to stumble and so it was in Magee's case. Stanley would correct him in a most kindly manner, like a benevolent professor, saying: "Pat, you're saying 'Faites vos yeux'; make your eyes. So try to say jeux.'"
By the 10th take, Magee had at last nailed down the jeux, but the stress had caused perspiration to appear on his hands, and the cards were not flying from the fingers the way you would expect from a professional dealer. The hands were duly powdered, dressed and made up, and he continued for another 15 or 20 takes, but now the "missing" eye was twitching under the patch, which provoked Stanley to request that Pat not move his eyeball. So now our poor harassed actor had to deliver the cards, speak French, be aware of his eyeball, which twitched in compensation for the amount of concentration he was giving out, and look at me. All this would be too much for any mortal being. After a few more takes Stanley wisely decided to call it a day.
During all this, I noticed that Stanley remained perfectly calm, and I sensed that he might even have experienced a twinge of pleasure in watching what a human being goes through, as might a scientist in the lab. This disintegration of Magee could perhaps have been prevented, but it seemed to have been extended instead. You might say Magee was miscast. I don't think Stanley could help it. He was an investigator of the human soul and we were experimental animals to be taken apart.
|Othello||?||1951||Irish Touring Company|
|Cassio||?||1951||Irish Touring Company|
|Iago||?||1951||Irish Touring Company|
|All That Fall||?||1/57||Beckett Play|
|Krapp's Last Tape||Krapp||10/28/58||Royal Court, London|
|Here Lies Miss Sabry||Jason||1960||TV Series|
|The Criminal||Chief Guard Barrows||1960||On Anchor Bay DVD|
|Armchair Theatre||Mr. Morgan||12/3/61||Episode - Murder Club|
|A Prize of Arms||R. S. M. Hicks||1962|
|The Very Edge||Simmonds||1962|
|Never Back Losers||Ben Black||1962|
|Z Cars||Mr. O'Conor||1/23/62||Episode - Stab in the Dark|
|The Boys||Mr. Lee||1962|
|Dementia 13||Dr. Justin Caleb||1963||On DVD early Francis Coppola|
|The Young Racers||Sir William Dragonet||1963|
|Moonstrike||?||6/20/63||Episode - The Escape|
|Zero One||Gallegos||8/21/63||Episode - Stopover|
|The Sentimental Agent||Major||10/12/63||Episode - Express Delivery|
|The Avengers||'Pancho' Driver||3/23/63||Episode - Killer Whale|
|The Avengers||J.P. Spagge||11/9/63||Episode - Gilded Cage|
|Dixon of Dock Green||Jack Mullen||3/21/64||The Fire Raiser|
|Dixon of Dock Green||Jack Mullen||3/28/64||The Witness|
|Zulu||Surgeon Maj. James Henry Reynolds||1964|
|Séance on a Wet Afternoon||Superintendent Walsh||1964|
|The Masque of the Red Death||Alfredo||1964|
|The Birthday Party||Shamus McCann||6/18/64||RSC Play, directed by Pinter|
|Afore Night Come||.||1964||RSC Play|
|The Marat/Sade||Jean Paul Marat||1965||RSC Play|
|The Staircase||.||1966||RSC Play, Aldwych|
|Squire Puntila and his Servant Matti||Matti Altonen, chauffeur||7/15/65||RSC Play, Aldwych|
|Birth of a Nation||Narrator||1965||Directed by Alfred Leslie|
|Play of the Month||Hans||10/19/65||Episode - Luther|
|The Skull||Police Surgeon||1965|
|Portrait in Terror||?||1965|
|Die, Monster, Die!||Dr. Henderson||1965||3 ACO actors!|
|The Persecution and Assassination of Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade||Marquis de Sade||1966||Play Martin Beck Theater, NY|
|Marat/Sade||Marquis de Sade||1966||Film version|
|The Wednesday Play||James Player||5/3/67||Episode - Message for Posterity|
|Thirty-Minute Theatre||.||1/3/68||Episode - A Private Place|
|Decline and Fall...of a Birdwatcher||Maniac||1968|
|The Birthday Party||Shamus McCann||1968||dir William Friedkin|
|The Wednesday Play||Arnold Jesse||11/6/68||Episode - Nothing Will Be the Same|
|The Champions||Pedraza||11/20/68||Episode - Iron Man|
|Destiny of a Spy||John Flack||1969||TV|
|Cromwell||Hugh Peters||1970||by Ken Hughes|
|You Can't Win 'Em All||The General||1970|
|King Lear||Cornwall||1971||by Peter Brook|
|The Trojan Women||Menelaus||1971||by Michael Cacoyannis|
|A Clockwork Orange||Frank Alexander||12/71|
|The Fiend||Minister||1971||AKA Beware My Brethren|
|Tales from the Crypt||George Carter||1972||Segment - Blind Alleys|
|Thirty-Minute Theatre||9/4/72||Episode - Thrills Galore|
|Demons of the Mind||Falkenberg||1972||5 ACO actors!|
|Thirty-Minute Theatre||Krapp||11/29/72||Episode - Krapp's Last Tape|
|Pope Joan||Elder monk||1972|
|Young Winston||General Bindon Blood||1972|
|Asylum||Dr. Rutherford||1972||On DVD|
|Caucasian Chalk Circle||1973||TV|
|Lady Ice||Paul Booth||1973|
|The Final Programme||Dr. Baxter||1973||AKA The Last Days of Man on Earth|
|And Now the Screaming Starts!||Dr. Whittle||1973||On DVD|
|Great Mysteries||Sergeant Morris||1973||Episode - Monkey's Paw|
|The Protectors||Gardner||3/2/73||Episode - Chase|
|The Adventures of Black Beauty||Cpl. Donovan||3/3/74||Episode - The Last Charge|
|Quiller||Vamvakaris||11/7/75||Episode - Mark the File Expendable|
|Thriller||Dr. Carnaby||2/1/75||A Killer in Every Corner|
|Thriller||Dr. Carnaby||2/8/75||Where the Action is|
|Barry Lyndon||Chevalier de Balibari||1975||6 ACO actors!|
|King Lear||King Lear||1976|
|Beasts||Leo Raymount||11/12/76||Episode - What Big Eyes|
|Play of the Month||?||10/30/77||Episode - You Never Can Tell|
|Who Pays the Ferryman?||Bernard Kingsley/Duncan Neve||12/12/77||Episode - The Well|
|Hordes of the Things||The Chronicler||1978||BBC Radio Play - LOTR parody|
|Kidnapped||Ebenezer Balfour||12/8/78||TV Mini Series|
|The Bronte Sisters||Reverend Brontë||1979||French|
|Churchill and the Generals||Gen Archibald Wavell||1979||TV|
|Oresteia||Kalchas||3/7/79||TV Mini Series|
|Play for Today||Caleb Line||2/13/79||Ep - The Last Window Cleaner|
|Rough Cut||Ernst Mueller||1980|
|Play for Today||Caleb Line||12/9/80||Ep - The Flipside of Dominick Hide|
|Sir Henry at Rawlinson End||Rev. Slodden||1980|
|The Monster Club||Innkeeper||1980|
|Hawk the Slayer||Priest||1980|
|The Black Cat||Prof Robert Miles||1980||On Anchor Bay DVD|
|Chariots of Fire||Lord Cadogan||1981|
|Dr. Jekyll and His Women||General||1981||French|
|The Sleep of Death||Marquis||1981|
|Play for Today||Caleb Line||12/14/82||Episode - Another Flip for Dominick|
|Samuel Beckett: Silence to Silence||Himself (Voice)||1982||Reads excerpts|
|The Rough Field (CD)||Reads Poetry||7/01||by John Montague - vintage recording|
This page © 2002-08 Alex D Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net