seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, American novelist, essayist, short story and screenwriter, is born into an Irish Catholic family on September 24, 1896 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He is best known for his novels depicting the flamboyance and excess of the Jazz Age, a term he popularized. During his lifetime, he publishes four novels, four collections of short stories, and 164 short stories. Although he achieves temporary popular success and fortune in the 1920s, he receives critical acclaim only after his death, and is now widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.

The son of middle-class Irish Catholics Edward and Mary McQuillan Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald is raised primarily in New York. He attends Princeton University, but owing to a failed relationship with socialite Ginevra King and a preoccupation with writing, he drops out in 1917 to join the United States Army. While stationed in Alabama, he romances Zelda Sayre, a Southern debutante who belongs to Montgomery‘s exclusive country-club set. Although she rejects Fitzgerald initially, because of his lack of financial prospects, she agrees to marry him after he publishes the commercially successful This Side of Paradise (1920). The novel becomes a cultural sensation and cements his reputation as one of the eminent writers of the decade.

Fitzgerald’s second novel, The Beautiful and Damned (1922), propels him further into the cultural elite. To maintain his affluent lifestyle, he writes numerous stories for popular magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s: The National Weekly, and Esquire. During this period, he frequents Europe, where he befriends modernist writers and artists of the “Lost Generation” expatriate community, including Ernest Hemingway. His third novel, The Great Gatsby (1925), receives generally favorable reviews but is a commercial failure, selling fewer than 23,000 copies in its first year. Despite its lackluster debut, The Great Gatsby is now widely praised, with some labeling it the “Great American Novel.” Following the deterioration of his wife’s mental health and her placement in a mental institute for schizophrenia, he completes his final novel, Tender Is the Night (1934).

Struggling financially because of the declining popularity of his works amid the Great Depression, Fitzgerald turns to Hollywood, writing and revising screenplays. While living in Hollywood, he cohabits with columnist Sheilah Graham, his final companion before his death. After a long struggle with alcoholism, he attains sobriety only to die of a heart attack on December 21, 1940, at the age of 44. His friend Edmund Wilson completes and publishes an unfinished fifth novel, The Last Tycoon (1941), after Fitzgerald’s death.

At the time of his death, the Roman Catholic Church denies the family’s request that Fitzgerald, a non-practicing Catholic, be buried in the family plot in the Catholic St. Mary’s Cemetery in Rockville, Maryland. He is buried instead with a simple Protestant service at Rockville Union Cemetery. When Zelda Fitzgerald dies in a fire at the Highland Mental Hospital in 1948, she is originally buried next to him at Rockville Union. In 1975, Fitzgerald’s daughter Scottie successfully petitions to have the earlier decision revisited and her parents’ remains are moved to the family plot in Saint Mary’s.


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Death of Irish American Actor Gregory Peck

Actor Gregory Peck dies at his home in Los Angeles, California, from bronchopneumonia at the age of 87 on June 12, 2003.

Peck is born in La Jolla, California on April 5, 1916 to Bernice Mary (Ayres) and Gregory Pearl Peck, a chemist and pharmacist in San Diego. Through his Irish-born paternal grandmother, Catherine Ashe, Peck is related to Thomas Ashe, who takes part in the Easter Rising fewer than three weeks after Peck’s birth and dies while on hunger strike in 1917.

Peck’s parents divorce when he is five years old. An only child, he is sent to live with his grandmother. He never feels as though he has a stable childhood. His fondest memories are of his grandmother taking him to the movies every week and of his dog, which follows him everywhere.

At the age of ten Peck is sent to a Catholic military school, St. John’s Military Academy in Los Angeles. While he is a student there, his grandmother dies. At 14, he moves back to San Diego to live with his father and attends San Diego High School. After graduating he enrolls for one year at San Diego State Teacher’s College (now known as San Diego State University).

Peck studies pre-med at the University of California, Berkeley and while there is bitten by the acting bug and decides to change the focus of his studies. He enrolls in the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City and debuts on Broadway after graduation. His debut is in Emlyn Williams‘ play The Morning Star (1942). By 1943, he is in Hollywood, where he debuts in the RKO Pictures film Days of Glory (1944).

Stardom comes with Peck’s next film, The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), for which he is nominated for an Academy Award. Peck’s screen presence displays the qualities for which he becomes well known. He is tall, rugged and heroic, with a basic decency that transcends his roles. He appears in Alfred Hitchcock‘s Spellbound (1945) as an amnesia victim accused of murder. In The Yearling (1946), he is again nominated for an Academy Award and wins the Golden Globe Award. He is especially effective in westerns and appears in such varied fare as David O. Selznick‘s critically blasted Duel in the Sun (1946), the somewhat better received Yellow Sky (1948) and the acclaimed The Gunfighter (1950). He is nominated again for the Academy Award for his roles in Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), which deals with antisemitism, and Twelve O’Clock High (1949), a story of high-level stress in an Air Force bomber unit in World War II.

With a string of hits to his credit, Peck makes the decision to only work in films that interest him. He continues to appear as the heroic, larger-than-life figures in such films as Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. (1951) and Moby Dick (1956). He works with Audrey Hepburn in her debut film, Roman Holiday (1953).

Peck finally wins the Oscar, after four nominations, for his performance as lawyer Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). In the early 1960s, he appears in two darker films than he usually makes, Cape Fear (1962) and Captain Newman, M.D. (1963), which deal with the way people live. He also gives a powerful performance as Captain Keith Mallory in The Guns of Navarone (1961), one of the biggest box-office hits of that year.

In the early 1970s, Peck produces two films, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine (1972) and The Dove (1974), when his film career stalled. He makes a comeback playing, somewhat woodenly, Robert Thorn in the horror film The Omen (1976). After that, he returns to the bigger-than-life roles he is best known for, such as MacArthur (1977) and the monstrous Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele in the huge hit The Boys from Brazil (1978). In the 1980s, he moves into television with the miniseries The Blue and the Gray (1982) and The Scarlet and the Black (1983). In 1991, he appears in the remake of his 1962 film, playing a different role, in Martin Scorsese‘s Cape Fear (1991). He is also cast as the progressive-thinking owner of a wire and cable business in Other People’s Money (1991).

In 1967, Peck receives the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. He has also been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Always politically progressive, he is active in such causes as anti-war protests, workers’ rights and civil rights. In 2003, Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch is named the greatest film hero of the past 100 years by the American Film Institute.

Peck dies in his sleep at his home in Los Angeles, California from bronchopneumonia at the age of 87 on June 12, 2003. He is entombed in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels mausoleum in Los Angeles. His eulogy is read by Brock Peters, whose character, Tom Robinson, was defended by Peck’s Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.


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The Dromcollogher Burning

drumcollogher-cinema-fireForty-eight people die when a fire breaks out in a make-shift cinema on the upper floor of the village hall in Dromcollagher, County Limerick, on September 5, 1926.

The conversion of village halls into makeshift cinemas is a common practice in many rural villages in Ireland, right up to the 1940s. Prints are often borrowed from cinemas in larger towns or in Cork city, and then bicycled over to smaller venues (sometimes surreptitiously).

During the Irish Free State period (1922-1937), the exhibition of films is still governed by legislation put in place by the British government in 1909. The Cinematograph Act 1909 stipulates that cinema owners must apply for a license to screen films, and that venues must observe strict safety standards. Such standards include encasing projectors in fireproof booths, ensuring that the highly-unstable nitrate film, then the industry standard, be properly stored and handled, and fitting out venues with several fire exits. The regulations are generally observed by established cinemas but they are often ignored by operators of ad hoc venues/makeshift conversions.

The consequences of such indifference to patron safety are tragically realized in the small town of Dromcollogher in West Limerick in 1926. Situated a few miles from the County Cork border, its population is around 500 at the time, hardly enough to sustain a full-time cinema. However, local hackney driver, William Forde, identifies a business opportunity that seems too good to pass up. Through a contact, Patrick Downey, who works as a projectionist in Cork city’s Assembly Rooms cinema, he arranges for a print of Cecil B. DeMille’s Biblical epic The Ten Commandments to be bicycled over for an unofficial one-off screening.

Forde rents the upstairs room of a venue on Church Street, later described by the Leinster Express as a wooden two-story structure, and advertises his evening’s entertainment. He finds a readymade audience among the churchgoers that come out of the service in the adjacent Catholic Church and straight into the hall, many with their rosary beads still entwined in their hands. It is estimated that 150 people crowd into the room and ascend the ladder to the upstairs room. Though Forde has been informed by one local Garda that he cannot run a screening unless the venue is equipped with fire blankets and exits, he and Downey disregard the advice and, in a bid to reduce the weight for the cyclist bringing the reels from Cork, instruct that the fireproof metal cases be left behind in the city.

A generator hooked up to a lorry is used to power the borrowed projector, and candles to illuminate the makeshift box-office. It is one of those candles, placed in close proximity to an exposed film reel, which sparks off a series of small fires that quickly developed into an inferno. Some of those seated closest to the main exit manage to escape, but those nearer the screen find themselves trapped and iron bars that had been placed on the few windows in the hall windows seal their fate. Whole families are wiped out and the final death toll comes to 48. As newspapers of the time report, 1/10th of the town’s population is lost.

Newspapers around the world carry reports of the tragedy and a relief fund is set up for the survivors with Hollywood star Will Rogers being one of the contributors. President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State William T. Cosgrave later travels to the town to attend the mass funeral service held for the victims.

As for Forde and Downey, they are later charged with manslaughter but the State chooses not to pursue the prosecutions. Forde apparently later immigrates to Australia and possibly accidentally poisons himself, and two others, while working as a cook in the Outback.

The “Dromcollogher Burning”, as it becomes known, holds the dubious honour of Ireland’s worst cinema fire. Sadly, it is not the last time safety regulations are disregarded in an entertainment venue: 75 years later the devastating Stardust Nightclub fire in Dublin also claims the lives of 48 patrons.

(From: “The Dromcollogher Cinema Fire,” http://www.corkmoviememories.com | Image Source: National Library of Ireland)


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Birth of Actor Colin Farrell

colin-farrellIrish actor Colin James Farrell is born on May 31, 1976 in Castleknock, Dublin.

Farrell is educated at St. Brigid’s National School, followed by secondary school at Castleknock College, an exclusive all boys private school and then Gormanston College in County Meath. He unsuccessfully auditions for the Irish musical group Boyzone around this time.

Farrell is inspired to try acting when Henry Thomas‘ performance in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial moves him to tears. With his brother’s encouragement, he attends the Gaiety School of Acting, dropping out in 1998 when he is cast as Danny Byrne on Ballykissangel, a BBC drama about a young English priest who becomes part of an Irish rural community.

Farrell makes his film debut in the Tim Roth-directed drama The War Zone in 1999, and is discovered by Hollywood when Joel Schumacher casts him as the lead in the war drama Tigerland in 2000. He then stars in Schumacher’s psychological thriller Phone Booth (2003) where he plays a hostage in a New York City phone booth, and the American thrillers S.W.A.T. (2003) and The Recruit (2003), establishing his international box-office appeal. During this time, he also appears in Steven Spielberg‘s science fiction thriller Minority Report (2002) and as the villain Bullseye in the superhero film Daredevil (2003).

After starring in the independent films Intermission (2003) and A Home at the End of the World (2004), Farrell heads Oliver Stone‘s biopic Alexander (2004) and Terrence Malick‘s The New World (2005). Roles in Michael Mann‘s Miami Vice (2006), the adaptation of John Fante‘s Ask the Dust (2006), and Woody Allen‘s Cassandra’s Dream (2007) follow, underscoring his popularity among Hollywood writers and directors. However, it is his role in Martin McDonagh‘s In Bruges (2008) that earns him a Hollywood Foreign Press Association Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.

Farrell stars in the black comedy film Horrible Bosses (2011), for which he receives critical praise, along with the comedy-horror film Fright Night (2011) and the science fiction action film Total Recall (2012), both remakes, and McDonagh’s second feature, the black comedy crime film Seven Psychopaths (2012). He also stars in the Niels Arden Oplev action film Dead Man Down (2013), and as Travers Goff in the period drama Saving Mr. Banks (2013). In 2014, he stars as Peter Lake in the supernatural fable Winter’s Tale, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Mark Helprin. In 2015, he stars as Detective Ray Velcoro in the second season of HBO‘s True Detective, and also stars in the film The Lobster, for which he is nominated for his second Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. In 2016, he plays Percival Graves in the Harry Potter spin-off film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

In December 2005, Farrell checks into a rehabilitation treatment centre for addictions to recreational drugs and painkillers. He speaks about it on the Late Show with David Letterman after coming out of rehab and continues to do so in the years following. “There was an energy that was created,” he says of the time when he was addicted, “a character that was created, that no doubt benefited me. And then there was a stage where it all began to crumble around me.”

In 2007, Farrell joins other celebrities as a spokesman for the Special Olympics World Games in Shanghai, China. He has also lent his support to the anti-bullying campaign Stand Up! organised by the Irish LGBT youth organisation BeLonG To in March 2012. He appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show two years earlier to increase awareness of the subject. In 2015 he becomes an official Ambassador of the Homeless World Cup which uses street football to inspire homeless people to change their lives.


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Birth of Alistair Cooke, Journalist & Broadcaster

alistair-cookeAlistair Cooke, British journalist, television personality, and broadcaster, who describes himself as a “Lancastrian Irishman,” is born in Salford, Lancashire, England on November 20, 1908. He is best known for his lively and insightful interpretations of American history and culture.

The son of Samuel Cooke, a Wesleyan Methodist lay preacher, and Mary Elizabeth (Byrne) from County Sligo, He is educated at Blackpool Grammar School, Blackpool and wins a scholarship to Jesus College, Cambridge, where he gains an honours degree in English. Later he wins a Commonwealth Fund fellowship to study in the United States, first at Yale University (1932–33), then at Harvard University (1933–34). His cross-country travels during the summers of these years have a profound influence on his professional life.

Following a brief period as a scriptwriter in Hollywood, Cooke returns to England to become a film critic for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and later serves as London correspondent for the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) of the United States. In 1937 he returns to the United States, settles in New York City, and becomes an American citizen in 1941.

From the late 1930s, Cooke reports and comments on American affairs for BBC Radio and several major British newspapers. His weekly 15-minute program, Letter from America, broadcast from 1946 to 2004, is one of the longest-running series on radio. The texts of many broadcasts are collected in One Man’s America (1952) and Talk About America (1968). From 1956 to 1961 he hosts and narrates the weekly television “magazine” Omnibus, which wins numerous broadcasting awards.

Cooke’s interpretation of the American experience culminates in his BBC-produced television series America: A Personal History of the United States (1972–1973). In thirteen installments, filmed on location throughout the United States, he surveys some 500 years of American history in an eclectic and personal but highly coherent narrative. Alistair Cooke’s America (1973), the book based on the award-winning program, is a best-seller in the United States. From the 1970s to the early 1990s, as host of Masterpiece Theatre, he serves as an interpreter of British culture through the presentation of BBC dramatic television programming to American audiences.

Cooke’s other works include the critical biography Douglas Fairbanks: The Making of a Screen Actor (1940), Generation on Trial: The USA v. Alger Hiss (1950), based on his coverage of a celebrated Congressional investigation, The Vintage Mencken (1955), The Patient Has the Floor (1986), America Observed (1988), Memories of the Great and the Good (2000) and, with Robert Cameron, The Americans (1977).

On March 2, 2004, at the age of 95, following advice from his doctors, Cooke announces his retirement from Letter from America—after 58 years, the longest-running speech radio show in the world.

Alistair Cooke dies at midnight on March 30, 2004 at his home in New York City. He had been ill with heart disease, but dies of lung cancer, which had spread to his bones. He is cremated and his ashes are clandestinely scattered by his family in New York’s Central Park.


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Death of Actress Maureen O’Hara

maureen-oharaMaureen O’Hara, Irish actress and singer, dies peacefully in her sleep at her home in Boise, Idaho on October 24, 2015. The famously red-headed O’Hara is known for her beauty and playing fiercely passionate but sensible heroines, often in westerns and adventure films. She works on numerous occasions with director John Ford and longtime friend John Wayne, and was one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

O’Hara is born Maureen FitzSimons on August 17, 1920, in Ranelagh, County Dublin and grows up in an “eccentric” devout Catholic family, and aspires to become an actress from a very young age. She trains with the Rathmines Theatre Company from the age of 10 and at the Abbey Theatre from the age of 14. She is given a screen test, which is deemed unsatisfactory, but Charles Laughton sees potential and arranges for her to co-star with him in Alfred Hitchcock‘s Jamaica Inn in 1939. She moves to Hollywood the same year to appear with him in the production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and is given a contract by RKO Pictures. From there, she goes on to enjoy a long and highly successful career, and acquires the nickname “The Queen of Technicolor,” which she detests, believing that people see her only for her beauty rather than talent.

O’Hara gains a reputation in Hollywood for bossiness and prudishness, avoiding the partying lifestyle. She appears in films such as How Green Was My Valley (1941), her first collaboration with John Ford, The Black Swan (1942) with Tyrone Power, The Spanish Main (1945), Sinbad the Sailor (1947), the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street (1947) with John Payne and Natalie Wood and Comanche Territory (1950).

O’Hara appears in her first film with John Wayne, the actor with whom she is most closely associated, with Rio Grande (1950). This is followed by The Quiet Man (1952), her best-known film, and The Wings of Eagles (1957), by which time her relationship with Ford has deteriorated. Such is her strong chemistry with Wayne that many assume they are married or in a relationship. In the 1960s O’Hara increasingly turns to more motherly roles as she ages, appearing in films such as The Deadly Companions (1961), The Parent Trap (1961), and The Rare Breed (1966).

O’Hara retires from the industry in 1971 after starring with Wayne one final time in Big Jake, but returns 20 years later to appear with John Candy in Only the Lonely (1991). In the late 1970s, O’Hara helps run her third husband’s flying business in St. Croix in the American Virgin Islands, and edits a magazine, but later sells them to spend more time in Glengariff in Ireland. She is married three times and has one daughter, Bronwyn, born in 1944 to her second husband.

Her autobiography, ‘Tis Herself, is published in 2004 and becomes a New York Times Bestseller. In November 2014, she is presented with an Honorary Academy Award with the inscription “To Maureen O’Hara, one of Hollywood’s brightest stars, whose inspiring performances glowed with passion, warmth and strength.”

Maureen O’Hara dies of natural causes in her sleep at the age of 95 on October 24, 2015, at her home in Boise, Idaho. O’Hara is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia next to her late husband Charles F. Blair, Jr..


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Birth of Motion Picture Actress Greer Garson

greer-garsonEileen Evelyn Greer Garson, motion picture actress best known as Greer Garson, is born on September 29, 1904 in Manor Park, London, England. Her classic beauty and screen persona of elegance, poise, and maternal virtue make her one of the most popular and admired Hollywood stars of the World War II era.

Garson often claims to have been born in County Down, Ireland, where her grandparents lived and which she happily visited as a child, but she is, in fact, born and raised in London. Although she wanted to study acting, she wins a scholarship to the University of London and her practical-minded family encourage her to pursue a teaching career. After graduating with honours, she works briefly for Encyclopædia Britannica and a London advertising firm but continually tries to get her foot into a backstage door.

In 1932 Garson makes her debut with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, playing a middle-aged schoolteacher in Elmer Rice’s Street Scene. Later that year she tours in George Bernard Shaw’s Too True to Be Good, billing herself as Greer, a maternal family name, for the first time. She soon establishes herself as a popular ingenue and leading lady in London’s West End. In 1938 Louis B. Mayer, head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), catches her performance in Old Music and signs her to a contract with his studio.

After suffering through a discouraging first year in Hollywood, Garson returns to England to film the small role of Mrs. Chips in MGM’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). She receives her first Oscar nomination for the role but loses to Vivien Leigh for Gone with the Wind. Her portrayal of the beloved schoolteacher’s charming wife endears her to the American public and sets her career in motion. It is the first in a series of roles in which she plays women of great loyalty, refinement, and wifely or motherly strength.

Garson’s other significant films of the period include Pride and Prejudice (1940), Blossoms in the Dust (1941), her first appearance with her frequent costar Walter Pidgeon, Random Harvest (1942), and Madame Curie (1943). The film that cements her reputation and image, however, is Mrs. Miniver (1942). Filmed during World War II and tailor-made for the times, Mrs. Miniver extolls the strength and spirit of the British home front and is one of the year’s biggest hits. Her grace-under-pressure portrayal of a courageous wife and mother, the personification of British fortitude, not only wins her an Academy Award but is credited with bolstering American support for the war.

Following the war Garson’s career falters. The public rejects her attempts to reforge her image to that of a more fun-loving, less noble heroine in such films as Adventure (1945) and Julia Misbehaves (1948). During the 1950s she appears in several unexceptional films and television dramas and stars on Broadway in Auntie Mame. Her remarkably convincing portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello (1960) is widely praised and earns her a seventh Oscar nomination, but she performs only occasionally thereafter, devoting most of her time to philanthropic causes, including the endowment of scholarships for theatre students at Southern Methodist University in University Park, Texas and the construction of a campus theatre.

Garson spends her final years occupying a penthouse suite at the Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. She dies there from heart failure on April 6, 1996 at the age of 91. She is interred beside her husband in the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas.


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Birth of Irish American Actor Gregory Peck

gregory-peck

Actor Gregory Peck is born in La Jolla, California on April 5, 1916 to Bernice Mary (Ayres) and Gregory Pearl Peck, a chemist and pharmacist in San Diego. Through his Irish-born paternal grandmother, Catherine Ashe, Peck is related to Thomas Ashe, who takes part in the Easter Rising fewer than three weeks after Peck’s birth and dies while on hunger strike in 1917.

Peck’s parents divorce when he is five years old. An only child, he is sent to live with his grandmother. He never feels as though he has a stable childhood. His fondest memories are of his grandmother taking him to the movies every week and of his dog, which follows him everywhere.

At the age of ten Peck is sent to a Catholic military school, St. John’s Military Academy in Los Angeles. While he is a student there, his grandmother dies. At 14, he moves back to San Diego to live with his father and attends San Diego High School. After graduating he enrolls for one year at San Diego State Teacher’s College (now known as San Diego State University).

Peck studies pre-med at the University of California, Berkeley and while there is bitten by the acting bug and decides to change the focus of his studies. He enrolls in the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City and debuts on Broadway after graduation. His debut is in Emlyn Williams‘ play The Morning Star (1942). By 1943, he is in Hollywood, where he debuts in the RKO Pictures film Days of Glory (1944).

Stardom comes with Peck’s next film, The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), for which he is nominated for an Academy Award. Peck’s screen presence displays the qualities for which he becomes well known. He is tall, rugged and heroic, with a basic decency that transcends his roles. He appears in Alfred Hitchcock‘s Spellbound (1945) as an amnesia victim accused of murder. In The Yearling (1946), he is again nominated for an Academy Award and wins the Golden Globe Award. He is especially effective in westerns and appears in such varied fare as David O. Selznick‘s critically blasted Duel in the Sun (1946), the somewhat better received Yellow Sky (1948) and the acclaimed The Gunfighter (1950). He is nominated again for the Academy Award for his roles in Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), which deals with antisemitism, and Twelve O’Clock High (1949), a story of high-level stress in an Air Force bomber unit in World War II.

With a string of hits to his credit, Peck makes the decision to only work in films that interest him. He continues to appear as the heroic, larger-than-life figures in such films as Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. (1951) and Moby Dick (1956). He works with Audrey Hepburn in her debut film, Roman Holiday (1953).

Peck finally wins the Oscar, after four nominations, for his performance as lawyer Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). In the early 1960s, he appears in two darker films than he usually makes, Cape Fear (1962) and Captain Newman, M.D. (1963), which deal with the way people live. He also gives a powerful performance as Captain Keith Mallory in The Guns of Navarone (1961), one of the biggest box-office hits of that year.

In the early 1970s, Peck produces two films, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine (1972) and The Dove (1974), when his film career stalled. He makes a comeback playing, somewhat woodenly, Robert Thorn in the horror film The Omen (1976). After that, he returns to the bigger-than-life roles he is best known for, such as MacArthur (1977) and the monstrous Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele in the huge hit The Boys from Brazil (1978). In the 1980s, he moves into television with the miniseries The Blue and the Gray (1982) and The Scarlet and the Black (1983). In 1991, he appears in the remake of his 1962 film, playing a different role, in Martin Scorsese‘s Cape Fear (1991). He is also cast as the progressive-thinking owner of a wire and cable business in Other People’s Money (1991).

In 1967, Peck receives the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. He has also been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Always politically progressive, he is active in such causes as anti-war protests, workers’ rights and civil rights. In 2003, Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch is named the greatest film hero of the past 100 years by the American Film Institute.

Gregory Peck dies in his sleep at his home in Los Angeles, California from bronchopneumonia at the age of 87 on June 12, 2003. He is entombed in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels mausoleum in Los Angeles. His eulogy is read by Brock Peters, whose character, Tom Robinson, was defended by Peck’s Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.


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Neil Jordan Receives Silver Bear for Best Director

neil-patrick-jordan

Neil Patrick Jordan, director of  The Butcher Boy (1997), is awarded a Silver Bear for Best Director at the 48th Berlin International Film Festival on February 22, 1998.

Jordan is born in County Sligo on February 25, 1950. His first book, Night in Tunisia, wins a Somerset Maugham Award and the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1979. He also wins an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for The Crying Game (1992).

Jordan is educated at St. Paul’s College, Raheny. Later, Jordan attends University College Dublin, where he studies Irish history and English literature. He is raised a Catholic and is quite religious during the early stages of his life. Regarding his current beliefs, he states that “God is the greatest imaginary being of all time. Along with Einstein‘s General Theory of Relativity, the invention of God is probably the greatest creation of human thought.”

When John Boorman is filming Excalibur in Ireland, he recruits Jordan as a “creative associate.” A year later Boorman is executive producer on Jordan’s first feature, Angel, a tale of a musician caught up in the Troubles, starring Stephen Rea who subsequently appears in almost all of Jordan’s films to date. During the 1980s, he directs films that win him acclaim, including The Company of Wolves and Mona Lisa, both made in England. The Company of Wolves becomes a cult favorite.

As a writer/director, Jordan has a highly idiosyncratic body of work, ranging from mainstream hits like Interview with the Vampire to commercial failures like We’re No Angels to a variety of more personal, low-budget arthouse pictures. He is also the driving force behind the cable TV series The Borgias.

Unconventional sexual relationships are a recurring theme in Jordan’s work, and he often finds a sympathetic side to characters that audiences would traditionally consider deviant or downright horrifying. His film The Miracle, for instance, follows two characters who struggle to resist a strong, incestuous attraction, while The Crying Game makes complicated, likable characters out of an IRA volunteer and a transgender woman. Interview with the Vampire, like the Anne Rice book it is based on, focuses on the intense, intimate interpersonal relationship of two undead men who murder humans nightly, accompanied by an equally lusty vampire woman who is eternally trapped in the body of a little girl. While Lestat (Tom Cruise) is depicted in an attractive but villainous manner, his partner Louis (Brad Pitt) and the child vampire Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) are meant to capture the audience’s sympathy despite their predatory nature.

In addition to the unusual sexuality of Jordan’s films, he frequently returns to the Troubles of Northern Ireland. The Crying Game and Breakfast on Pluto both concern a transgender character, both concern the Troubles, and both feature frequent Jordan leading man Stephen Rea. The two films, however, are very different, with The Crying Game being a realistic thriller/romance and Breakfast on Pluto a much more episodic, stylized, darkly comic biography. Jordan also frequently tells stories about children or young people, such as The Miracle and The Butcher Boy. While his pictures are most often grounded in reality, he occasionally directs more fantastic or dreamlike films, such as The Company of Wolves, High Spirits, Interview with the Vampire, and In Dreams.

The critical success of Jordan’s early pictures lead him to Hollywood, where he directs High Spirits and We’re No Angels. Both are critical and financial disasters. He later returns home to make the more personal The Crying Game, which is nominated for six Academy Awards. Jordan wins the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film. Its unexpected success leads him back to American studio filmmaking, where he directs Interview with the Vampire. He also directs the crime drama The Brave One starring Jodie Foster.

Jordan also writes and directs the Irish-made film Ondine (2009), starring Colin Farrell and Alicja Bachleda-Curuś. He also directs Byzantium, an adaptation of the vampire play of the same name starring Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, and Jonny Lee Miller.

Jordan lives in Dalkey, which is a part of the larger town of Dún Laoghaire.


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Birth of Actress Sara Ellen Allgood

sara-allgoodSara Ellen Allgood, Irish American actress,is born to a Catholic mother and Protestant father in Dublin on October 31, 1879.

Allgood joins Inghinidhe na hÉireann (“Daughters of Ireland”), where she first begins to study drama under the direction of Maud Gonne and William Fay. She begins her acting career at the Abbey Theatre and is in the opening of the Irish National Theatre Society. Her first big role is in December 1904 at the opening of Lady Gregory‘s Spreading the News. By 1905 she is a full-time actress, touring England and North America.

In 1915 Allgood is cast as the lead in Peg o’ My Heart which tours Australia and New Zealand in 1916. She marries her leading man, Gerald Henson, in September 1916 in Melbourne, however, her happiness is short lived. She gives birth to a daughter named Mary in January 1918, who dies just a day later. Her husband dies of influenza during an outbreak in November 1918. After her return to Ireland she continues to perform at the Abbey Theatre. Her most memorable performance is in Seán O’Casey‘s Juno and the Paycock in 1923. She wins acclaim in London when she plays Bessie Burgess in O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars in 1926.

Allgood is frequently featured in early Alfred Hitchcock films, such as Blackmail (1929), Juno and the Paycock (1930), and Sabotage (1936). She also has a significant role in Storm in a Teacup (1937).

After many successful theatre tours in the United States, she settles in Hollywood in 1940 to pursue an acting career. She is nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Beth Morgan in the 1941 film How Green Was My Valley. She also has memorable roles in the 1941 retelling of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, It Happened in Flatbush (1942), Jane Eyre (1943), The Lodger (1944), The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), The Spiral Staircase (1946), The Fabulous Dorseys (1947), and the original Cheaper by the Dozen (1950).

Allgood becomes a United States citizen in 1945 and dies of a heart attack on September 13, 1950 in Woodland Hills, California.

(Note: Many accounts give October 31, 1879 as her date of birth. Her headstone also gives 1879 as her year of birth. However, her sister Margaret is born on August 1, 1879, meaning she could not have been born in that year. Sara Allgood may have been born on October 31, 1880 but her parents may have been late registering her.)