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Barry Fitzgerald

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Barry Fitzgerald
Barry Fitzgerald 1945.jpg
Fitzgerald in 1945
William Joseph Shields

(1888-03-10)10 March 1888
Dublin, Ireland
Died14 January 1961(1961-01-14) (aged 72)
Dublin, Ireland
Years active1924–1961
RelativesArthur Shields (brother)

William Joseph Shields (10 March 1888 – 14 January 1961), known professionally as Barry Fitzgerald, was an Irish stage, film and television actor.[1] In a career spanning almost forty years, he appeared in such notable films as Bringing Up Baby (1938), The Long Voyage Home (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941), Going My Way (1944), None but the Lonely Heart (1944) and The Quiet Man (1952). For Going My Way (1944), he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and was simultaneously nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. He was the older brother of Irish actor Arthur Shields. In 2020, he was listed at number 11 on The Irish Times list of Ireland's greatest film actors.[2]

Early life

Fitzgerald's birthplace on Walworth Road, Portobello, Dublin
Fitzgerald's birthplace on Walworth Road, Portobello, Dublin

Fitzgerald was born William Joseph Shields in Walworth Road, Portobello, Dublin, Ireland, the son of Fanny Sophia (née Ungerland) and Adolphus Shields. His father was Irish and his mother was German.[3][4][5] He was the older brother of Irish actor Arthur Shields.

He went to Skerry's College, Dublin, before going on to work in the civil service, starting in 1911 as a junior clerk at the Dublin Board of Trade.[6][7] He later went to work for the unemployment office. "It was an easy job, full of leisure," he later said.[8]


Abbey Theatre

Fitzgerald was interested in acting and began appearing in amateur dramatic societies such as the Kincora Players. His brother Arthur Shields joined the Abbey in 1915 and Barry would soon join him. He used a stage name so as not to get in trouble with his superiors in the civil service.[7]

Fitzgerald's early appearances at the Abbey included bit parts in plays such as The Casting Out of Martin Whelan and a four-word part in The Critic.[9][10]

His breakthrough performance at the Abbey came in 1919, when he was in The Dragon by Lady Gregory.[11] However he continued to act part-time until 1929, keeping his job at the civil service during the day.[8] He was in The Bribe, An Imaginary Conversation, John Bull's Other Island and others.[11]

In 1924 his salary at the Abbey was £2'10 a week.[12] That year he appeared in the world premiere of Juno and the Paycock by famed playwright Seán O'Casey.[13] Fitzgerald played Captain Jack Boyle.

In 1925 he starred in Paul Twyning, a performance that was much acclaimed. The following year he was in the premiere of O'Casey's The Plough and the Stars, playing Fluther Good. The play was controversial, causing riots and protests. One night in February 1926 three gunmen turned up to Fitzgerald's mother's house intending to kidnap him and stop the play from going ahead, but they were unable to find him.[14]

In 1926 he was in The Would-Be Gentleman.[15] Other appearances at the Abbey included The Far Off Hills, Shadow of a Gunman and The Playboy.[16]

O'Casey wrote a part for Fitzgerald in The Silver Tassie, but the play was rejected by the Abbey. It was picked up for production in London in 1929. Fitzgerald decided to quit his civil service job to join the production and became a full-time actor at the age of 41.[9]

Professional actor

Fitzergald made his film debut in Alfred Hitchcock's version of Juno and the Paycock (1930), shot in London.

In early 1931 he toured England in a production of Paul Twyning. He returned to Ireland in June of that year to perform the play at the Abbey.[17] Between 1931 and 1936, he appeared in three plays by Irish playwright Teresa DeevyA Disciple,[18] In Search of Valour[19] and Katie Roche[20]—which were also Abbey Theatre productions.

Fitzgerald went to the US with the Abbey Players in 1932 to appear in Things That Are Caesar's and The Far-off Hills.[21]

The Players and Fitzgerald returned to America in 1934 to tour a series of plays in repertory around the country. These included The Plough and the Stars, Drama at Inish, The Far-off Hills, Look at the Heffernans, The Playboy of the Western World, The Shadow of the Glen, Church Street, The Well of the Saints and Juno and the Paycock.[22]

Fitzgerald appeared in a short Irish movie, Guests of the Nation, filmed in 1934 but not released for over seventy years.


In March 1936 Fitzgerald and three other members of the Abbey went to Hollywood to star in the film version of The Plough and the Stars (1936), directed by John Ford.[4] Fitzgerald decided to stay in Hollywood where he soon found constant employment as a character actor.[7] He had support roles in Ebb Tide (1937) at Paramount, Bringing Up Baby (1938) at RKO, Four Men and a Prayer (1938) directed by John Ford at 20th Century Fox, and The Dawn Patrol (1938) at Warners.

Fitzgerald made a series of films at RKO: Pacific Liner (1939) with Victor McLaglen, and two directed by John Farrow, The Saint Strikes Back (1939) and Full Confession (1939). In between the two Farrow films, Fitzgerald returned to Broadway in 1939 in The White Steed.[23]

After Full Confession Fitzgerald went back to Broadway with Kindred (1939–40) and a revival of Juno and the Paycock (1940) which went for 105 performances.[9]

Back in Hollywood, Fitzgerald was reunited with John Ford in The Long Voyage Home (1940). He did San Francisco Docks (1940) at Universal and The Sea Wolf (1941) at Warners, before doing another with Ford, How Green Was My Valley (1941), at Fox. He went to MGM for Tarzan's Secret Treasure (1941).

Fitzgerald and Shields did Tanyard Street (1941) on Broadway, directed by Shields, which only had a short run. However Fitzgerald's personal notices were excellent, the New York Times calling him "the incarnation of the comic spirit. People start laughing the moment he pokes his squint face on set."[24]

Back in Hollywood, Fitzgerald did a series of films at Universal: The Amazing Mrs. Holliday (1943), Two Tickets to London (1943) and Corvette K-225 (1943).

Going My Way and stardom

Fitzgerald and Maureen O'Hara in The Quiet Man (1952)
Fitzgerald and Maureen O'Hara in The Quiet Man (1952)

Fitzgerald unexpectedly became a leading man when Leo McCarey cast him opposite Bing Crosby in Going My Way (1944) as Father Fitzgibbon. The film was a huge success. Fitzgerald was nominated for both the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (which he ultimately won) and the Academy Award for Best Actor;[4] voting rules were changed shortly after this occurrence to prevent further dual nominations for the same role. An avid golfer, he later accidentally decapitated his Oscar while practicing his golf swing. During World War II, Oscar statuettes were made of plaster instead of gold-plated bronze to accommodate wartime metal shortages. The academy provided Fitzgerald with a replacement statuette.[25]

Going My Way was made by Paramount, who signed Fitzgerald to a long-term contract. They put him in a support role in I Love a Soldier (1944) and he was borrowed by RKO for None But the Lonely Heart (1944).

In March 1944, Fitzgerald was involved in a car accident which resulted in the death of a woman and injury of her daughter. He was charged with manslaughter but acquitted in January 1945 due to lack of evidence.[26]

Back at Paramount, Fitzgerald supported Alan Ladd in Two Years Before the Mast, made in 1944 by John Farrow, but not released until 1946. He supported Betty Hutton in Incendiary Blonde (1945) and The Stork Club (1945). In between he had a cameo as himself in Duffy's Tavern (1945) and was borrowed by United Artists to play the lead in And Then There Were None (1945), based on the novel and play by Agatha Christie. In January 1945 his fee was reported to be $75,000 a film.[27]

Fitzgerald did two more movies with John Farrow: California (1947) with Ray Milland and Easy Come, Easy Go (1947), where he was top billed.

Paramount reunited Fitzgerald with Crosby in Welcome Stranger (1947) and he did another cameo as himself in Variety Girl (1947).

Mark Hellinger borrowed Fitzgerald to play the lead in a cop film at Universal, The Naked City (1948) which was a solid success. Back at Paramount he was in The Sainted Sisters (1948) and Miss Tatlock's Millions (1948), then did a third film with Crosby, Top o' the Morning (1949).

Fitzgerald went to Warners for The Story of Seabiscuit (1949) with Shirley Temple, then at Paramount did Union Station (1950) with William Holden and Silver City (1951) with Yvonne de Carlo. He made his TV debut with an episode of The Ford Theatre Hour, "The White-Headed Boy" in 1950.

Later career

Fitzgerald went to Italy to star in the comedy Ha da venì... don Calogero (1952). John Ford gave him third billing in the classic The Quiet Man (1952). It was shot in Ireland as was Happy Ever After (1952) with De Carlo and David Niven.

Fitzgerald appeared in TV on episodes of Lux Video Theatre, General Electric Theater, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

He had a supporting role in MGM's The Catered Affair (1956) and was top billed in the British comedy Rooney (1958).

Fitzgerald was top billed in the Irish film Broth of a Boy (1959).

Later years

Fitzgerald never married. In Hollywood he shared an apartment with his stand in, Angus D. Taillon, who died in 1953.[21][28] Fitzgerald returned to live in Dublin in 1959,[4] where he lived at 2 Seafield Ave, Monkstown. In October that year, he underwent brain surgery.[29] He appeared to recover, but in late 1960 he re-entered hospital. He died, as William Joseph Shields, of a heart attack in St Patrick's Hospital, James Street, on 14 January 1961.[30][31][7]

Fitzgerald has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for motion pictures at 6252 Hollywood Boulevard and for television at 7001 Hollywood Boulevard.[32]


Year Title Role Notes
1924 Land of Her Fathers
1930 Juno and the Paycock The Orator
1935 Guests of the Nation Captured of British Soldier
1936 The Plough and the Stars Fluther Good
1937 Ebb Tide Huish
1938 Bringing Up Baby Mr. Gogarty
Four Men and a Prayer Trooper Mulcahay
Marie Antoinette Peddler Uncredited
The Dawn Patrol Bott
1939 Pacific Liner Britches
The Saint Strikes Back Zipper Dyson
Full Confession Michael O'Keefe
1940 The Long Voyage Home Cocky With John Wayne.
The San Francisco Docks The Icky
1941 The Sea Wolf Cooky
How Green Was My Valley Cyfartha
Tarzan's Secret Treasure O'Doul With Johnny Weissmuller.
1943 The Amazing Mrs. Holliday Timothy Blake
Two Tickets to London Captain McCardle
Corvette K-225 Stooky O'Meara
1944 Going My Way Father Fitzgibbon Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Nominated–Academy Award for Best Actor
I Love a Soldier Murphy
None but the Lonely Heart Henry Twite
1945 Incendiary Blonde Michael 'Mike' Guinan
Duffy's Tavern Bing Crosby's Father
And Then There Were None Judge Francis J. Quinncannon
The Stork Club Jerry B. 'J.B.'/'Pop' Bates
1946 Two Years Before the Mast Terrence O'Feenaghty
1947 California Michael Fabian
Easy Come, Easy Go Martin L. Donovan
Welcome Stranger Dr. Joseph McRory
Variety Girl Himself
1948 The Naked City Detective Lt. Dan Muldoon
The Sainted Sisters Robbie McCleary
Miss Tatlock's Millions Denno Noonan
1949 Top o' the Morning Sergeant Briany McNaughton
The Story of Seabiscuit Shawn O'Hara
1950 Union Station Inspector Donnelly
1951 Silver City R.R. Jarboe
1952 Ha da venì... don Calogero! Don Calogero
The Quiet Man Michaleen Oge Flynn With John Wayne.
Lux Video Theatre Barry Flynn episode: The Man Who Struck It Rich
1954 Tonight's the Night Thady O'Heggarty
1955 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Harold 'Stretch' Sears episode: Santa Claus and the Tenth Avenue Kid
1956 The Catered Affair Uncle Jack Conlon
1958 Rooney Grandfather
1959 Broth of a Boy Patrick Farrell

Source: "Barry Fitzgerald". IMDb. Retrieved 9 October 2013.

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Lux Radio Theatre Top o' the Morning[33]

See also

References and sources

  1. ^ Obituary Variety, 18 January 1961, page 70.
  2. ^ Clarke, Donald; Brady, Tara. "The 50 greatest Irish film actors of all time – in order". The Irish Times. Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  3. ^ "General Registrar's Office". Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Boylan 1999, p. 130.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Fitzgerald, Barry - International Dictionary of Film and Filmmakers, (2000) by Anthony Slide
  7. ^ a b c d BARRY FITZGERALD DIES IN DUBLIN HOSPITAL The Irish Times 5 January 1961: 4.
  9. ^ a b c Robinson, Jerome (14 January 1940). "OF THAT IRISHMAN NAMED BARRY FITZGERALD: Captain Jack Boyle, From the Abbey to Broadway, a Couple of Times". New York Times. p. X3.
  10. ^ "Abbey Theatre Archives".
  11. ^ a b SOME IRISH ARTISTS: XXI.--Mr. Barry Fitzgerald Bruyere. The Irish Times 18 August 1923: 9.
  12. ^ BARRY FITZGERALD AIDS TOURIST DRIVE Monks, Michael. The Irish Times 28 August 1953: 6.
  13. ^ Allmovie Barry Fitzgerald biography
  15. ^ ABBEY THEATRE The Irish Times 6 April 1926: 3.
  16. ^ Barry Fitzgerald: The Abbey to Hollywood Comiskey, Ray. The Irish Times 10 March 1988: 12.
  18. ^ "Teresa Deevy Archive". 24 August 1931.
  19. ^ "Teresa Deevy Archive".
  20. ^ "Teresa Deevy Archive".
  21. ^ a b Barry Fitzgerald Is Dead at 72 New York Times 5 January 1961: 31.
  22. ^ Star System Opposed by Celebrated Irish Comedian Los Angeles Times 3 March 1935: A10.
  23. ^ Churchill, Douglas W. (13 June 1939). "SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD". The New York Times.
  24. ^ THE PLAY: Barry Fitzgerald Appears in 'Tanyard Street,' an Abbey Theatre Drama of Ireland By BROOKS ATKINSON. New York Times 5 February 1941: 16.
  25. ^ The Only Oscar Winner to Destroy His Academy Award With a Golf Club - Barry Fitzgerald. 1945
  26. ^ Fitzgerald freed in Charge of Manslaughter Los Angeles Times 10 January 1945: A1.
  27. ^ Fitzgerald Meets Fame--and He Frowns: The limelight focuses fiercely on the actor and he finds it 'downright boring.' Fitzgerald Meets Fame BY FRED STANLEY. New York Times 14 January 1945: SM8.
  28. ^ ANGUS D. TAILLON New York Times 10 May 1953: 88
  29. ^ Barry Fitzgerald Has Brain Surgery in Dublin Los Angeles Times 16 October 1959: 15.
  30. ^ "General Registrar's Office". Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  31. ^ "Actor Barry Fitzgerald dies in Dublin". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  32. ^ Hollywood Walk of Fame
  33. ^ Kirby, Walter (16 March 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 44. Retrieved 23 May 2015 – via open access
  • Boylan, Henry (1999). A Dictionary of Irish Biography. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan. ISBN 0-7171-2945-4.

Further reading

  • Alistair, Rupert (2018). "Barry Fitzgerald". The Name Below the Title : 65 Classic Movie Character Actors from Hollywood's Golden Age (softcover) (First ed.). Great Britain: Independently published. pp. 97–100. ISBN 978-1-7200-3837-5.

External links

This page was last edited on 21 August 2022, at 10:33
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