seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

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Birth of Actor Arthur Shields

arthur-shieldsArthur Shields, Irish actor on television, stage, and film, is born on February 15, 1896, into an Irish Protestant family in Portobello, Dublin. Shields starts acting in the Abbey Theatre when he is 17 years old. He is the younger brother of Oscar-winning actor Barry Fitzgerald. They are the sons of Adolphus Shields, who is well-known in Dublin as a labor organizer although the 1901 census lists his occupation as “press reader,” and Fanny Sophia Sheilds.

An Irish nationalist, Shields fights in the Easter Rising of 1916. He is captured and held for six months in the Frongoch internment camp in Frongoch, Wales. His obituary in the San Mateo County Times of San Mateo, California, reports, “upon his release he was decorated by the Republic of Eire.”

Shields returns to the Abbey Theatre and has a varied career there from 1914-1939 as actor, assistant director, director, and stage manager. He appears in more than 300 roles in 350 plays while he is at the Abbey. Three of the productions he appears in are by Irish playwright Teresa DeevyThe Reapers, Temporal Powers, and Katie Roche. Three times he brings the Abbey Company to the United States.

In 1936, John Ford brings him to the United States to act in a film version of The Plough and the Stars in the role of Patrick Pearse. Some of his memorable roles are in Ford films. Shields portrays the Reverend Playfair in Ford’s The Quiet Man, opposite John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, and his brother, Barry Fitzgerald. He plays Dr. Laughlin in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon with Wayne and Joanne Dru, and appears yet again with Wayne and Barry Fitzgerald in Ford’s The Long Voyage Home. His other films include Little Nellie Kelly, The Keys of the Kingdom, The Fabulous Dorseys, Gallant Journey, The Shocking Miss Pilgrim, Drums Along the Mohawk, Lady Godiva, National Velvet, and The River. He also makes television appearances including a 1958 role on Perry Mason as Dr. George Barnes in “The Case of the Screaming Woman.”

Shields dies of complications related to emphysema on April 27, 1970, in Santa Barbara, California. He is survived by his wife, actress Laurie Bailey, a daughter, a son, and four great-grandchildren. His body is cremated, with the ashes taken to Dublin, where a burial with full military honors takes place.

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Death of Irish Actor Barry Fitzgerald

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporationBarry Fitzgerald, Irish stage, film, and television actor, dies on January 14, 1961.

Fitzgerald is born William Joseph Shields in Walworth Road, Portobello, Dublin, Ireland, on March 10, 1888. He is the older brother of Irish actor Arthur Shields. He goes to Skerry’s College in Dublin before going on to work in the civil service while also working at the Abbey Theatre.

Unknown to many, Fitzgerald is also a patriot. In 1916 he is a member of the Irish Volunteers and is prepared to fight on Easter Sunday when the orders are countermanded. On Easter Monday the revolution is on again, and Shields goes to the Abbey Theatre and retrieves his rifle from under the stage. He goes around the corner to Liberty Hall and joins with James Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army.

He then marches to the General Post Office on Sackville Street where he fights before evacuating on Friday. He is sent to Stafford Prison in England with another famous rebel, Michael Collins, and from there they are both sent to the Frongoch internment camp in Wales. Both return to Dublin by the end of 1916, Collins to terrorise the British and Shields to return to the Abbey Theatre stage.

By 1929, he turns to acting full-time. He is briefly a roommate of famed playwright Sean O’Casey and stars in such plays as O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock and the premiere of The Silver Tassie.

Fitzgerald goes to Hollywood to star in another O’Casey work, The Plough and the Stars (1936), directed by John Ford. He has a successful Hollywood career in such films as The Long Voyage Home (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941), And Then There Were None (1945), The Naked City (1948), and The Quiet Man (1952). Fitzgerald achieves a feat unmatched in the history of the Academy Awards. He is nominated for both the Best Actor Oscar and the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the same performance, as Father Fitzgibbon in Going My Way (1944). He wins the Best Supporting Actor Award. This feat will likely never be matched as the Academy Award rules have since been changed to prevent this. During World War II, Oscar statues are made of plaster rather than gold due to wartime metal shortages. Being an avid golfer, Fitzgerald later breaks the head off his Oscar statue while practicing his golf swing.

Fitzgerald has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for films located at 6220 Hollywood Blvd. and one for television located at 7001 Hollywood Blvd.

Fitzgerald returns to live in Dublin in 1959. He dies of heart failure on January 14, 1961 and is buried at Deansgrange Cemetery in Dublin.