UNMUTUAL WEBSITE - VILLAGE PEOPLE
CAST & CREW PROFILES
ANGELO MUSCAT - THE BUTLER. Profile by Howard Foy.
October 1977, diminutive actor Angelo Muscat died in St Bartholomew's Hospital
in London. The doctor's report was "natural causes", even though Angelo
was only in his 40s. He died practically penniless and almost forgotten, living
alone in a basement flat in North London. In the last few years of his life,
he worked infrequently. For some time, he let his Equity actors' union subscription
lapse, partly because he felt there were no worthwhile roles for midgets any
more. Even for the few stage and screen acting opportunities that came along,
Angelo - a mature and experienced actor - found himself competing with children
for the parts. It was a sad and undignified end for someone who will always
be held in great affection by Prisoner aficianados around the world. Ironically,
his performance as the Village Butler, his only real "starring role"
in a long career as an actor, was a non-speaking part.
Angelo was, of course, along with Patrick McGoohan and Peter Swanwick (the Supervisor), one of only three "regular" characters in "The Prisoner" and appeared in almost every episode. On the frequent occasions he is seen with McGoohan, the pair made a very odd couple indeed, with PMcG, a broad-shouldered 6ft 2in, towering over the 4ft 3in Angelo. Among the many images from the series that etch themselves on the mind, the sight of the two men running to catch the bus at the end of "Fall Out" is one of the most memorable.
Angelo was born in Malta, and his size was a true freak of nature. Both his parents were over 6ft in height. So were all his three brothers. One brother became a policeman (like Angelo's father) while another went into the Navy. But there were not many opportunities for work for a man of Angelo's stature. He got a job with the Royal Air Force at one of their bases in Malta, first as a kitchen porter and then as a stoker. Then both his parents died within a short time of each other and the little man was heartbroken. He decided he needed a change of scenery and came to England, getting a job in a zip-fastener factory. Angelo's love of the theatre dates back to his early friendship with an actor in the Maltese State theatre Company, and his first-ever part, a non-speaking role, came in one of their productions.
Then, in 1961 in Britain, he heard that a search was being made for little men to appear in a touring production of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". It was a perfect opportunity for Angelo, and from then on, he hardly looked back. His first TV role was a small part in an early episode of "Doctor Who" ("Galaxy Four" with William Hartnell, the episode no longer exists), and he played the part of a clown in the ITV series "Emergency Ward 10" and an appearance in a TV production of "Alice In Wonderland" (alongside Leo McKern). Then his big break came - when his agent, Terry Denton Degray, told him he had been booked for a new series called "The Prisoner". According to an official ITC press release at the time, Patrick McGoohan personally selected Angelo for the part, choosing him from a vast batch of photographs. The weeks he spent working on the series were undoubtedly the pinnacle of his career. As one of the few regular characters - and a non-speaking one at that - it was perhaps inevitable that when "The Prisoner" was first broadcast there was much speculation that Angelo himself was the mysterious "No.1" running the Village.
Certainly, Angelo basked in the glory that surrounded his charismatic and intriguing role. He said at the time: "I always feel lonely. I feel that people don't want to know me. Girls don't fancy me. I'm tiny and I'm nearly bald, but I'm only in my 30s. That's why I'm so grateful to Patrick McGoohan. He has given me responsibility for the first time in my life. I'm playing an important part in a big series. I am something - for the first time ever. I could hardly believe it when he chose me. I have always been a fan of his and never missed a Danger Man episode. When he chose me, I went so red in the face I thought I was going to catch fire."
At the time of Angelo's death, George Markstein said: "I was extremely sad to hear that he had died. He never said a word throughout the series, and yet in a way he was as important, or perhaps even more so, then No.6 himself. Angelo was a genial little man - he always had a smile, even on the set at 8 o'clock in the morning he had a marvellous knack of being cheerful. I think one of the nicest things about the whole series was the fact that it gave Angelo a niche and a certain amount of worldwide fame."
Angelo's agent, Degray, said: "He was a very dignified little man. He enjoyed the filming and liked Patrick McGoohan. I gained the impression that he was the "mascot" of the production team. Everyone was fond of him." After "The Prisoner", more TV and film roles came Angelo's way, including an appearance in The Beatles' imaginative and controversial 1967 TV film "Magical Mystery Tour" and as an Oompa Loompa in "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate factory". Ironically, for an actor whose biggest role was set in a fantasy prison, Angelo augmented his income in the final months of his life by making ornate birdcages. Shortly before his death, he agreed to make a replica of the Embryo Room cage from "Once Upon A Time". It was his final commission - but he didn't live long enough to start work on it.
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