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Barry Fitzgerald Biography

  • Profession: Actor
  • Born: Mar 10, 1888
  • Died: Jan 4, 1961
  • Birth Name: William Joseph Shields

Dublin-born Barry Fitzgerald discounted his family's insistence that he was a descendant of 18th-century Irish patriot William Orr, but he readily admitted to being a childhood acquaintance of poet James Joyce. Educated at Civil Service College, Fitzgerald became a junior executive at the Unemployment Insurance Division, while moonlighting as a supernumerary at Dublin's famed Abbey Theatre. His first speaking role was in a 1915 production; his only line was "'Tis meet it should," which unfortunately emerged as "'Tis sheet it mould." A gust of laughter emanated from the audience, and Fitzgerald became a comedian then and there (at least, that was his story). By 1929, Fitzgerald felt secure enough as an actor to finally quit his day job with Unemployment Insurance; that same year, he briefly roomed with playwright Sean O'Casey, who subsequently wrote [[Feature~V110237~The Silver Tassle~silvertop]] especially for Fitzgerald. In 1936, Fitzgerald was brought to Hollywood by John Ford to repeat his stage role in Ford's film version of [[Feature~V106275~The Plough and the Stars~theploughandthestars]]. It was the first of several Ford productions to co-star Fitzgerald; the best of these were [[Feature~V23422~How Green Was My Valley~howgreenwasmyvalley]] (1941) and [[Feature~V39907~The Quiet Man~thequietman]] (1952). In 1944, Fitzgerald (a lifelong Protestant) was cast as feisty Roman Catholic priest Father Fitzgibbon in Leo McCarey's [[Feature~V20120~Going My Way~goingmyway]], a role which won him an Academy Award. He spent the rest of his career playing variations on Fitzgibbon, laying on the Irish blarney rather thickly at times. His last film role was as a 110-year-old poacher in the Irish-filmed [[Feature~V7243~Broth of A Boy~brothofaboy]] (1959). Barry Fitzgerald was the brother of character actor Arthur Shields, whose resemblance to Barry bordered on the uncanny. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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