PRODUCER AND DIRECTOR
In an interview for The Stage and Television Today, published on 5th January 1961, Patrick Macnee said, that when he arrived (home) in England, he "was asked to produce the Churchill series. It was wonderful. I got such a kick out of it that I intended to forget acting completely. I only intended spending a month here with the children."
In 1960 Patrick Macnee worked on the American Broadcasting Company production The Valiant Years, a documentary series about the British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Patrick was engaged as a London-based associate producer. The production was screened first in the USA from 27th November 1960 and was acquired for broadcasting in the United Kingdom by the BBC who ran the series from February 11th to August 5th 1961. The Valiant Years was very well received and was repeated following Churchill’s death in 1965 at the age of 90. It has yet to be issued on any home video format.
Although Patrick Macnee has several hundreds of credits as an actor, a little know facet of his career is as a director.
He did at least three productions in the United States.
A Sleep of Prisoners
Westwood Methodist Church, Los Angeles, USA (May 1959)
Cast: Charles Gray, Wright King, Clay Bradley, William Keene
Writer: Christopher Fry
Look Back in Anger
Laguna Playhouse, Laguna Beach, California, USA (21 - 26 July 1959)
Main Cast: Don Harron, Marcia Henderson, Roberta Haynes, Nelson Welch
Writer: John Osborne
Laguna Playhouse, Laguna Beach, California, USA (25 - 30 August 1959)
Main Cast: Michael Gibson, Paul Maxwell, Carolynn Fonseca, Vera Newcomb
Writer: Ben Hecht Settings: Homer Greathouse
In an interview that appeared in the 21st April 1961 edition of TV Times, Patrick Macnee spoke about his work as director of Ben Hecht’s play Winkleberg in the United States.
“In 1959 I directed Ben Hecht’s play Winkleberg in the States. It was all about the Chicago flop houses. Hecht could never get over the fact that an old Etonian could know so much about the Chicago slums... He didn’t know that in 1955 I was so broke that I was living in them for a time."
It appears that Hecht was quite impressed with Patrick’s work on the play. His biography, The Five Lives of Ben Hecht, written by Doug Fetherling, is inscribed on front free endpaper to Patrick Macnee “whose knowledge of the subject is first hand”.
His contribtion to this play was also praised by a critic in the August 26th 1959 edition of the Los Angeles Times, who wrote that: "Special mention should be given to Patrick Macnee's direction and Homer Greathouse's set design, for their combined work resulted in a very effective staging of an otherwise uninteresting vehicle."
Hecht's play was staged at the Laguna Playhouse in California, where Patrick Macnee had previously directed John Osborne's play Look Back in Anger in July 1959. Critics were again very positive about his work, as evidenced by the review in the Los Angeles Times of July 24th which stated that: "Patrick Macnee does a fine job of directing the John Osborne drama..."
Coincidentally, Patrick also worked as an actor at the Laguna Playhouse in August 1959, playing the military commander in Don Juan in Hell by George Bernard Shaw.
Earlier that same year Patrick directed Christopher Fry's A Sleep of Prisoners which was presented in the Westwood Methodist Church on May 3rd 1959.
Patrick Macnee also mentioned in The Stage and Television Today (5th January 1961) that he "did some directing in Canada."