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Donal Donnelly (1931 - 2010)

A photo of Donal Donnelly
Donal Donnelly
1931 - 2010
Born
July 6, 1931
Bradford, West Yorkshire County, England, United Kingdom
Death
January 6, 2010
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States
Other Names
Donal Donnelly
Summary
Donal Donnelly of Chicago, Cook County, Illinois was born on July 6, 1931 in Bradford, West Yorkshire County, England United Kingdom, and died at age 78 years old on January 6, 2010 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois United States.
Updated: July 7, 2022
Biography ID: 8434028

Donal Donnelly's Biography

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Introduction

Donal Donnelly


Donal Donnelly was an Irish actor best known in the cinema for roles in The Knack... and How to Get It (1965) and The Godfather: Part III (1990) and on stage for his work in the plays of Brian Friel. He was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, on July 6, 1931, but raised in Dublin, Ireland. In Dublin, he went to a Christian Brothers School where he acted in school plays with classmates Jack MacGowran and Milo O'Shea. Subsequently, he toured Ireland with Anew McMaster's repertory company.
On-stage, he established professional reputation in 1964 playing Gar Private in the Friel's Philadelphia, Here I Come (1977) at Dublin's Gate Theatre. He was nominated for a Tony Award when the show transferred to Broadway in 1966, where it was a hit, racking up 326 performances. Two years later, he replaced Albert Finney in the 1968 Broadway production of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972). From 1969 through 1995, he appeared in an additional nine Broadway productions, including Sleuth (1972) and The Elephant Man (1980), and Friel's "The Mundy Scheme", Dancing at Lughnasa (1998), and "Translations".
In 1965, he co-starred with Michael Crawford and Rita Tushingham in Richard Lester's movie adaption of Ann Jellicoe's hit play "The Knack". It was a hit. He played the scheming Archbishop Gilday out to fleece Michael Corleone (Al Pacino)in "The Godfather Part III" and gave a critically acclaimed performance in John Huston's adaption of James Joyce's short story The Dead (1987). He also appeared on British television, most memorably in Z Cars (1962) and the 1970s situation-comedy Yes, Honestly (1976).
Donal Donnelly died from cancer on January 4, 2010 in Chicago. He was 78 years old. He and his wife Patsy had two children.

Spouse (1)
Patricia (Patsy) Porter (? - 4 January 2010) ( his death) ( 2 children)
Trivia (4)
Attended the same Christian Brothers grade school as actor Milo O'Shea in Dublin. (Imet both of them.)
Was nominated for Broadway's 1966 Tony Award as Best Actor (Dramatic) for Brian Friel's "Philadelphia, Here I Come!" (He was stupendous.)
He specialized in portraying a variety of Irish characters on stage and screen, particularly in the plays of Brian Friel.
Donnelly recounted this story in his dressing room on Broadway before a performance of The Elephant Man, in an interview with Marlene Aig of the AP. I was her friend, and she brought me along, and I enjoyed an hour in the company of this witty, charming, versatile actor.
While filming "Waterloo", Donnelly had an interesting misadventure: he was stranded on location in Siberia.
The production had been filming the fall of Napoleon's army in the Russian winter, and the Russian army was being played by real members of the Russian army.
The passports of non-Russian cast and crew had been confiscated upon arrival, and were to be returned to them for their departure. On the day they were to be flown out - all non-Russian cast, crew, and equipment, on planes rented by the production - it was discovered that Donal Donnelly's passport had gone missing, and was not in the pile with the others.
The passports had been kept in the office of the local Commissar of the Communist party, and he was away for a few days on a fishing trip. His staff could not possibly pry open the locks of his private desk or cupboards to search (wouldn't want to be in trouble with the Party, especially back then), and Donnelly would have to wait until the Commissar's return!
Donnelly had to stand there and wave as all his mates from the location shoot boarded, and the plane lifted into the air and disappeared.
And the wind howled around him... If it hadn't been so cold, there would have been - Crickets...
When the Commissar finally returned, the passport was found in his office - it had somehow fallen out of the pile with the others. Donnelly had to take a slow train from Siberia to Moscow - the kind of train shown in movies, that stops at every village where someone has put out a flag to board a passenger.
To show off their effectiveness, at every stop a Communist official from the village would board the train and "inspect" - single out passengers at random, and make them open their bags and let him paw through their things. Since most of the passengers on *this* train were the returning Russian army, Donnelly was the 'random' passenger chosen at every stop.
By the time he finally arrived in Moscow (I can't remember if it was 1-2 weeks later), he couldn't wait to get out and get home - probably never to return again. Like most adventures, it made a great story afterwards, but was not much fun while he lived it.
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Donal Donnelly
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Donal Donnelly
Full legal name
Donal Donnelly
Other names or aliases

Name & aliases

Chicago, Cook County, Illinois 60613
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July 6, 1931
Birthday
Bradford, West Yorkshire County, England United Kingdom
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Ethnicity & Family History

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Professions

Donal Donnelly Biography Born July 6, 1931 in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, UK Died January 4, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois, USA (cancer) Donal Donnelly was an Irish actor best known in the cinema for roles in The Knack... and How to Get It (1965) and The Godfather: Part III (1990) and on stage for his work in the plays of Brian Friel. He was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, on July 6, 1931, but raised in Dublin, Ireland. In Dublin, he went to a Christian Brothers School where he acted in school plays with classmates Jack MacGowran and Milo O'Shea. Subsequently, he toured Ireland with Anew McMaster's repertory company. On-stage, he established professional reputation in 1964 playing Gar Private in the Friel's Philadelphia, Here I Come (1977) at Dublin's Gate Theatre. He was nominated for a Tony Award when the show transferred to Broadway in 1966, where it was a hit, racking up 326 performances. Two years later, he replaced Albert Finney in the 1968 Broadway production of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972). From 1969 through 1995, he appeared in an additional nine Broadway productions, including Sleuth (1972) and The Elephant Man (1980), and Friel's "The Mundy Scheme", Dancing at Lughnasa (1998), and "Translations". In 1965, he co-starred with Michael Crawford and Rita Tushingham in Richard Lester's movie adaption of Ann Jellicoe's hit play "The Knack". It was a hit. He played the scheming Archbishop Gilday out to fleece Michael Corleone (Al Pacino)in "The Godfather Part III" and gave a critically acclaimed performance in John Huston's adaption of James Joyce's short story The Dead (1987). He also appeared on British television, most memorably in Z Cars (1962) and the 1970s situation-comedy Yes, Honestly (1976). Donal Donnelly died from cancer on January 4, 2010 in Chicago. He was 78 years old. He and his wife Patsy had two children. - IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood Spouse (1) Patricia (Patsy) Porter (? - 4 January 2010) ( his death) ( 2 children) Trivia (4) Attended the same Christian Brothers grade school as actor Milo O'Shea in Dublin. Was nominated for Broadway's 1966 Tony Award as Best Actor (Dramatic) for Brian Friel's "Philadelphia, Here I Come!" He specialized in portraying a variety of Irish characters on stage and screen, particularly in the plays of Brian Friel. Donnelly recounted this story in his dressing room on Broadway before a performance of The Elephant Man, in an interview with Marlene Aig of the AP. I was her friend, and she brought me along, and I enjoyed an hour in the company of this witty, charming, versatile actor. While filming "Waterloo", Donnelly had an interesting misadventure: he was stranded on location in Siberia. The production had been filming the fall of Napoleon's army in the Russian winter, and the Russian army was being played by real members of the Russian army. The passports of non-Russian cast and crew had been confiscated upon arrival, and were to be returned to them for their departure. On the day they were to be flown out - all non-Russian cast, crew, and equipment, on planes rented by the production - it was discovered that Donal Donnelly's passport had gone missing, and was not in the pile with the others. The passports had been kept in the office of the local Commissar of the Communist party, and he was away for a few days on a fishing trip. His staff could not possibly pry open the locks of his private desk or cupboards to search (wouldn't want to be in trouble with the Party, especially back then), and Donnelly would have to wait until the Commissar's return! Donnelly had to stand there and wave as all his mates from the location shoot boarded, and the plane lifted into the air and disappeared. And the wind howled around him... If it hadn't been so cold, there would have been - Crickets... When the Commissar finally returned, the passport was found in his office - it had somehow fallen out of the pile with the others. Donnelly had to take a slow train from Siberia to Moscow - the kind of train shown in movies, that stops at every village where someone has put out a flag to board a passenger. To show off their effectiveness, at every stop a Communist official from the village would board the train and "inspect" - single out passengers at random, and make them open their bags and let him paw through their things. Since most of the passengers on *this* train were the returning Russian army, Donnelly was the 'random' passenger chosen at every stop. By the time he finally arrived in Moscow (I can't remember if it was 1-2 weeks later), he couldn't wait to get out and get home - probably never to return again. Like most adventures, it made a great story afterwards, but was not much fun while he lived it.

Personal Life

For an actor who worked with two of the greatest movie directors of the last century and appeared in the world premieres of plays by Brian Friel, Ireland's leading contemporary dramatist, Donal Donnelly, who has died after a long illness, aged 78, was curiously unrecognised. Like so many prominent Irish actors in the diasporas of Hollywood, British television, the West End and Broadway – all areas he conquered – Donnelly was a great talent and a private citizen, happily married for many years, and always seemed youthful. There was something mischievous, something larkish, about him, too. He twinkled. And he had a big nose. He had long lived in New York, although he died in Chicago, and had started out in Dublin, although born in England. Sign up to our Film Today email Read more In John Huston's swansong movie The Dead (1987), the best screen transcription of a James Joyce fiction, he played the drunken party guest Freddy Malins with such wholesome charm, sly wit and nasal authority, that one would never have thought the character himself was a terrible bore. It is a treat of comic timing when Donnelly, having sat patiently through a high-flown debate about the merits of a big-deal production of La Bohème, innocently enquires if anyone's been to the pantomime at the Gaiety. Set in Dublin in 1904, Huston's film, possibly the greatest last movie ever made by a director, magically melds today and yesterday in the performances of his daughter Anjelica, Donal McCann and many others. Early in his career, Donnelly brushed with John Ford, another legendary Hollywood director visiting Irish ancestral roots, in The Rising of the Moon (1957), an anthology of three stories by Frank O'Connor, Martin McHugh and Lady Gregory, founder of the Abbey Theatre. Ford was irascible and drunk on the shoot, forcing Donnelly to display his gap teeth to the British crew as evidence and consequence of imperial oppression and the potato famine. Donnelly always said he was considered for a time by Ford to play the lead, Sean O'Casey, in Young Cassidy (1965), but the role went, weirdly, to the Australian Rod Taylor, and Donal made do with a supporting role – literally, since he played a pallbearer. He played a private with a penchant for pigs in Sergei Bondarchuk's disastrous movie Waterloo (1970), with Rod Steiger as Napoleon Bonaparte. But after that, his film career never really developed, with the possible exceptions of his appearance as a strange archbishop in The Godfather: Part III (1990) and a bemused foster parent entangled in a routine love story in This Is My Father (1999) with James Caan. Born in Bradford, West Yorkshire, Donnelly was the son of a doctor. The family soon moved to Dublin. He was educated at the Synge Street Christian Brothers school, where he acted in plays with contemporaries such as Milo O'Shea, Eamonn Andrews, Jack MacGowran (with whom he later shared a London flat) and Jimmy FitzSimons, the brother of Maureen O'Hara. He toured with the actor-manager Anew McMaster – an Irish equivalent of Donald Wolfit – so Donnelly was no novice when he made his London debut at the Royal Court in 1959 in Lindsay Anderson's production of John Arden's brilliantly provocative anti-military drama, Serjeant Musgrave's Dance. But his career really took off when he played Christy Mahon, the title role in The Playboy of the Western World, opposite Siobhan McKenna as Pegeen Mike, in the West End in 1960, followed by a lead role in O'Casey's Red Roses for Me, opposite Leonard Rossiter at the Mermaid Theatre. He returned to Dublin for the biggest break in his life – Friel's first play, Philadelphia, Here I Come! at the Gaiety in 1964, presented by the Hilton Edwards and Micheál MacLiammóir partnership of the Gate Theatre, the major artistic rival of the Abbey Theatre, with Edwards directing. Donnelly played the private voice of Gareth O'Donnell (Patrick Bedford was the "public" Gar), a man with a split personality leaving his homeland for America. He and the cast were a huge hit in Dublin and New York. Donnelly later played the sharp-witted cockney agent opposite James Mason's titanic mystic in the world premiere of Friel's masterpiece Faith Healer (1979) in New York, and the old missionary priest Jack in the Broadway premiere of Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa. He was perhaps best known in Britain as the struggling songwriter Matthew Browne in the television sitcom Yes, Honestly (1976-77), co-starring Liza Goddard, but he will be remembered, too, as a splendid impersonator of George Bernard Shaw in his one-man show My Astonishing Self, which he introduced at the Dublin festival in 1976, and also in Jerome Kilty's correspondence "drama" with Ellen Terry, Dear Liar, with which he bowed out on Broadway in 1999. Donnelly, much loved by his peers and contemporaries in the Dublin theatre – although he was never associated with the Abbey – is survived by his wife, Patsy, and their two sons. • Donal Donnelly, actor, born 6 July 1931; died 4 January 2010

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January 6, 2010
Death date
Cancer
Cause of death
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois United States
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Grave or burial unknown
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Obituary

Donal Donnelly, Actor Who Nurtured Irish Roles, Dies at 78 By BRUCE WEBER JAN. 5, 2010 Donal Donnelly, an Irish actor who embodied a variety of Irish characters on the American stage and in American movies, notably in the plays of Brian Friel and in John Huston’s adaptation of James Joyce’s short story “The Dead,” died Monday in Chicago, where he had been living for the past two years. He was 78. The cause was cancer, said his son Jonathan. Mr. Donnelly, a handsome, spindle-framed performer who gave off the energy and aura of youth long after he had lost his own, was, in his own words, “an itinerant Irish actor.” A veteran of stages in Dublin and the West End of London, he made his first impression on American audiences in an antic 1965 British film comedy, “The Knack...and How to Get It.” The following year he came to Broadway in Mr. Friel’s “Philadelphia, Here I Come!,” in which he earned a Tony Award nomination playing the private self of the protagonist, a young man who is about to cast off his rural Irish upbringing and move across the ocean to the title city. Thus began a career of regular appearances on Broadway, usually as an Irishman, though his next play was about an English family, “A Day in the Death of Joe Egg,” in which he replaced Albert Finney in the role of Bri, a father undone by his severely handicapped child. The character “retreats from the situation and takes shelter behind a cover of antic humor masking despair,” the critic Clive Barnes wrote in The New York Times. “It is a weak man’s defense, and it is just this frantic, almost hysterical weakness that Mr. Donnelly so skillfully exploits.” Mr. Donnelly also took replacement roles in the plays “Sleuth” and “The Elephant Man,” but he became known mainly as a regular member of Mr. Friel’s casts, appearing in “Faith Healer” (1979), “Dancing at Lughnasa” (1991) and “Translations” (1995). In movies and television, Mr. Donnelly was busy but cast so as to be often overlooked. He had small roles in blockbusters like “Twister” and “Godfather Part III,” and appeared in “Law and Order” and “Spenser: For Hire,” among other television series. His most celebrated film performance was as Freddy Malins, the amiable and sentimental sot who attends the dinner party in John Huston’s widely praised adaptation of Joyce’s “The Dead.” Donal Donnelly — his first name is pronounced DOE-nul — was born on July 6, 1931, in Bradford, just west of Leeds, in north central England, where his father, James, who was from Northern Ireland, was working as a doctor. His mother, Nora, was Irish, and the family moved to Dublin when Donal was very young. He would eventually have seven brothers and sisters, six of whom survive and are still in Ireland, among them his youngest brother, Michael, formerly the mayor of Dublin. His survivors include his wife of 45 years, the former Patricia Porter, a former dancer who is known as Patsy and whom he met on a production of “Finian’s Rainbow” in London; and two sons, Jonathan and Damian, both of Chicago. Early in his career, Mr. Donnelly worked at the Gate Theater in Dublin and was a member of a theater company founded by Cyril Cusack. Before coming to the United States to work in the 1960s — he and his family moved to Westport, Conn., in 1979 — Mr. Donnelly appeared in London in J. M. Synge’s “Playboy of the Western World” and Sean O’Casey’s “Shadow of a Gunman,” and in British television productions of “Playboy” and O’Casey’s “Juno and the Paycock” and “The Plough and the Stars,” among other plays. To round out his personal history of the Irish theater, in the late 1970s he toured in a one-man show called “My Astonishing Self,” based on the notebooks and letters of George Bernard Shaw, in which he played Shaw as both a young and old man. All of this was quite possibly foretold in his youth. As a boy Mr. Donnelly attended the Synge Street Christian Brothers School in Dublin, an academy known for turning out actors. Synge Street was not named for the playwright, though oddly enough, Shaw was born there. Synge, it turns out, was born on Shaw Street. “If you open yourself to Sam Beckett and ‘Godot,’ if you open yourself to Brian Friel and ‘Faith Healer,’ ” Mr. Donnelly once said in a discussion of Irish playwrights, “you benefit from it.”

Average Age & Life Expectancy

Donal Donnelly lived 7 years longer than the average Donnelly family member when he died at the age of 78.
The average age of a Donnelly family member is 71.
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1931 - 2010 World Events

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In 1931, in the year that Donal Donnelly was born, on May 1st, the Empire State Building opened in New York City. At 1,454 feet (including the roof and antenna), it was the tallest building in the world until the World Trade Center's North Tower was built in 1970. (It is now the 34th tallest.) Opening at the beginning of the Great Depression, most of the offices in the Empire State Building remained unoccupied for years and the observation deck was an equal source of revenue and kept the building profitable.

In 1949, at the age of 18 years old, Donal was alive when on April 4th, NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was established. Twelve nations originally signed the North Atlantic Treaty - the United States, Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Iceland, Canada, and Portugal. Greece, Turkey, and West Germany later joined. Today, there are 26 nations in NATO.

In 1963, by the time he was 32 years old, the British Secretary of War, 46 year old John Profumo ,was forced to resign when he lied about an affair with 19 year old Christine Keeler. Keeler was also involved with the Soviet naval attaché and charges of espionage were feared. No proof of spying was ever found.

In 1970, Donal was 39 years old when on April 10th, Paul McCartney announced that he was leaving the Beatles. (John Lennon had previously told the band that he was leaving but hadn't publicly announced it.) By the end of the year, each Beatle had his own album.

In 1984, when he was 53 years old, on January 1, "Baby Bells" were created. AT&T had been the provider of telephone service (and equipment) in the United States. The company kept Western Electric, Bell Labs, and AT&T Long Distance. Seven new regional companies (the Baby Bells) covered local telephone service and were separately owned. AT&T lost 70% of its book value due to this move.

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