‘Silver Streak’ with the Villainous Patrick McGoohan

Silver Streak, a comedy-thriller from 1976, was not only a hilarious vehicle for the pairing of funny guys Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, but featured Irish-American actor Patrick McGoohan in the part of the evil Roger Devereaux.

When George Caldwell (Gene Wilder) meets the beautiful Hilly Burns (Jill Clayburgh), sparks fly. Hilly is secretary to an art historian who has “the Rembrandt letters” that Devereaux wants destroyed. This all takes place on a train bound from Los Angeles to Chicago, giving the film a certain familiarity with a Hitchcock film that also involves suspense and romance on a train. Can you guess which one?

Scene from “Silver Streak”

Scene from “North By Northwest”! 🙂

As for the Rembrandt letters, can you say McGuffin? 🙂

In any case, when the art historian disappears and George finds thugs searching his compartment, he gets unceremoniously tossed from the train.

In fact, George falls off the train a few times (and goes through all manner of hell to get back on it) before he finally confronts Devereaux. At this point, he’s assisted by Pryor, who plays a thief named Grover T. Muldoon. This leads up to one of the most memorable scenes in the film.

The steely-eyed McGoohan not only uses racial slurs with impunity, but shows no mercy to his own crew when the chips are down.

Well, after killing a few people, Devereaux gets his just desserts.

McGoohan uses his fantastic, clipped delivery to great effect in this film. He also shows us the depth of Devereaux’s evil in the sharklike stare of his eyes. He even has the gall to slap Jill Clayburgh silly in one scene.

McGoohan mastered the look of a sociopathic killer with those eyes, the set of his jaw, and his distinctive accent. He was an actor of great depth, as I’ll be discussing in my next entry in the Great Villain Blogathon 2017.

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14 Responses to ‘Silver Streak’ with the Villainous Patrick McGoohan

  1. Judging by the clips you’ve posted, Patrick McGoohan looks like the PERFECT villain. Suave, sophisticated and chilling. Thanks for the introduction to this film – I’d never even heard of it before.

    And thanks for joining the blogathon. Looking forward to Part 2! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. maddylovesherclassicfilms says:

    Such a funny film. Never get tired of watching this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I finally saw this film last year. Loved it! Also loved Patrick McGoohan. I found myself thinking he reminded me a little of Burton. Great film and great choice.
    I like a villain who can be strong and quiet, and slowly ease the knife in while you are not looking

    Liked by 2 people

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  5. I saw this on the big screen when it was released in 1976. At the time, I didn’t know who Patrick McGoohan was and therefore did not remember him being in the movie. I will have to watch it again and get it added to Classic Movie Treasures. Hope to see you again this week at the link party.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      I also saw this on the big screen, but knew about Patrick McGoohan from his work on Secret Agent Man and The Prisoner. Two fantastic 60s-era TV shows! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Chris says:

    Thank you for covering one of my all- time favorite films, and for pointing out the homage to North by Northwest…Gene Wilder once said that Cary Grant himself complimented Wilder on his performance. Indeed, McGoohan is a super elegant villain….and I love all the character actors in this too, from Richard Pryor to Lucille Benson to the wonderful Ned Beaty, Ray Walston and Valerie Curtin.

    Love your blog!
    – C

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      Thanks so much, Chris! 🙂 I didn’t know that about Cary Grant and Gene Wilder. Really interesting. Thanks for sharing that! 🙂


  7. Patrick McGoohan could do anything, and make us believe anything. Great choice for the blogathon.

    Liked by 1 person

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