Cyril James Cusack
26 November 1910
|Died||7 October 1993 (aged 82)|
|Occupation(s)||Actor, voice actor, stage director|
(m. 1945; died 1977)
Mary Rose Cunningham
|Children||6, including Sinéad, Sorcha, Niamh, Pádraig and Catherine Cusack|
|Relatives||Richard Boyd Barrett|
Cyril James Cusack (26 November 1910 – 7 October 1993) was an Irish stage and screen actor with a career that spanned more than 70 years. During his lifetime, he was considered one of Ireland’s finest thespians, and was renowned for his interpretations of both classical and contemporary theatre, including Shakespearean roles as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and over 60 productions for the Abbey Theatre, of which he was a lifelong member. In 2020, Cusack was ranked at number 14 on The Irish Times' list of Ireland's greatest film actors.
Born to Irish parents in South Africa and raised in County Tipperary, Cusack dropped out of law school to join the Abbey Theatre and remained with the company for 13 years, acting in over 60 plays. In London, he performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre, and later founded his own company which toured across Europe. Making his film debut at age 8, Cusack worked with many top British directors, including Powell & Pressburger, Carol Reed, Peter Brook, Peter Hall, and Anthony Harvey. He co-starred opposite Richard Burton several times, who once commended Cusack’s acting as “always himself and yet always totally different.” Fluent in both English and Irish, Cusack had a starring role in the very first Irish-language feature film, Poitín (1978).
He was the patriarch of the Cusack acting family, as the father of Sinéad Cusack, Sorcha Cusack, Niamh Cusack, Pádraig Cusack, and Catherine Cusack.
Early life and education
Cusack was born in Durban, Natal, South Africa. His mother, Alice Violet (née Cole), was an English Cockney actress and chorus girl, and his father, James Walter Cusack, was an Irish mounted policeman in Natal Colony, South Africa. His parents separated when he was young and his mother took him to England, and then to Ireland. Cusack's mother and her partner, Brefni O'Rorke, joined the O'Brien and Ireland Players.
Cyril made his first stage performance at the age of seven. He was educated at Newbridge College in Newbridge, County Kildare, then read law at University College Dublin. He left without a degree and joined the Abbey Theatre in 1932.
Between then and 1945, he performed in over 60 productions for the Abbey, particularly excelling in the plays of Seán O'Casey. He also performed in plays by Irish playwright Teresa Deevy Katie Roche and The King of Spain's Daughter. In 1932 he also joined the Gate Theatre company, appearing with them in many notable productions over the years. In 1947, Cusack formed his own company, Cyril Cusack Productions, and staged productions in Dublin, Paris and New York.
In 1963, Cusack joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in London and appeared there for several seasons. By this stage he had established a successful career in films, which had started at the age of eight. The same year, Cusack won a Jacob's Award for his performance in the Telefís Éireann production of Triptych.
Cusack's favorite roles included The Covery in The Plough and the Stars and Christy Mahon in The Playboy of the Western World, which he reprised numerous times.
Cusack's last stage performance was in Chekhov's Three Sisters (1990), in which three of his daughters played the sisters.
Film and television
Cusack made his film debut in Knocknagow (1918), when he was only 8. His breakthrough role was as a wiry IRA getaway driver opposite James Mason in Carol Reed's Odd Man Out (1947).
Cusack played the titular role in the Galileo (1968), which was the directorial debut of Italian filmmaker Liliana Cavani. Cusack returned to Italy several times throughout his career, particularly in the 1970s, both acting on-camera and working as a voice artist, helping create English-language dubs of Italian films.
Cusack, who was bilingual in English and Irish, had a leading part in the controversial Irish language film Poitín (1977).
He appeared in the 1989 TV adaptation of Roald Dahl's Danny, the Champion of the World alongside his son-in-law Jeremy Irons and his grandson Samuel.
Cusack was twice married:
- The actress Mary Margaret "Maureen" Kiely (1920–1977), on 5 April 1945
- Mary Rose Cunningham (1979–1993)
- Catherine (1968) actress
Cusack was a strong supporter of Irish nationalism, and often selected projects based on those beliefs. In later life, Cusack became a campaigner for conservative causes in Ireland, notably in his opposition to abortion, where he became a frequent letter-writer to the main liberal Irish newspaper, The Irish Times.
Regarding his Catholic faith, he commented "Religion promotes the divine discontent within oneself, so that one tries to make oneself a better person and draw oneself closer to God." His religious credentials came under scrutiny following his death and the revelation that he had been unfaithful in his first marriage, with a long-term mistress, Mary Rose Cunningham, who bore him a daughter, Catherine. Cusack married Cunningham following his first wife's death.
Cusack received honorary doctorates in 1977 and 1980 from the NUI and the University of Dublin respectively.
Cusack was a longtime friend of Irish attorney general, Chief Justice and President of Ireland Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, whom he got to know when they were students at University College Dublin in the early 1930s.
Cusack is the maternal grandfather of Irish Socialist Workers Party TD Richard Boyd Barrett and English actor Max Irons.
In October 1993, Cusack died at home in Chiswick, Greater London, from MND.[A]
|1953-56||Rheingold Theatre||Various||5 episodes|
|1959||DuPont Show of the Month||David Wylie||Episode: "What Every Woman Knows"|
|The Moon and Sixpence||Dr. Coutras||Television film|
|1960||ITV Play of the Week||Doctor||Episode: "The Enchanted"|
|Armchair Mystery Theatre||Stan Bracey||Episode: "The Dummy"|
|1961||The Power and the Glory||Tench||Television film|
|1962||The Chairs||The Old Man|
|Somerset Maugham Hour||Wilson||Episode: "The Lotus Eater"|
|ITV Play of the Week||The Devil||Episode: "Don Juan in Hell"|
|1963||Playhouse||Mr. Berry||Episode: "The Wedding Dress"|
|1963-64||Festival||Krapp / Thomas Becket / Father||3 episodes|
|1964||Drama 61-67||Harold Petley||Episode: "The Big Toe"|
|1965-77||BBC Play of the Month||Mr. Fielding / Waiter||Episodes: "Passage to India" & "You Can Never Tell"|
|1967||Dial M for Murder||Chief Inspector Hubbard||Television film|
|Thirty-Minute Theatre||Jumbo Boylan||Episode: "A Time of Wolves and Tigers"|
|1968||Omnibus||The Whisky Priest||Episode: "Graham Greene: The Hunted Man"|
|1969||Red Peppers||Bert Bentley||Television film|
|1970||On Trial||Marshal Philippe Pétain||Episode: "Marshal Pétain - A Matter of Honour"|
|The Sinners||The Monsignor||Episode: "The Bosom of the Country"|
|1971||Poet Game||Dr. Saunders||Television film|
|Shirley's World||Charlie||Episode: "The Reunion"|
|1972||Clochemerle||Mayor Barthelemy Piechut||Miniseries; 6 episodes|
|The Golden Bowl||Bob Assingham|
|Them||Coat Sleeves||5 episodes|
|The Hands of Cormac Joyce||Mr. Reece||Television film|
|1973||Orson Welles Great Mysteries||Mr. White||Episode: "The Monkey's Paw"|
|ITV Sunday Night Theatre||Father Manus||Episode: "Catholics"|
|1976||BBC2 Playhouse||Adler||Episode: "The Mind Beyond: The Man with the Power"|
|1977||Thursday Play Date||Fox Melarkey||Episode: "Crystal and Fox"|
|Jesus of Nazareth||Yehuda||Miniseries; 4 episodes|
|Jackanory||The Storyteller||5 episodes|
|1978||Les Misérables||Fauchelevent||Television film|
|1980||Strumpet City||Father Giffley||Miniseries; 6 episodes|
|Cry of the Innocent||Tom Moloney||Television film|
|1980-84||Tales of the Unexpected||Michael Fish / Percy Hampton||Episodes: "The HItch-Hiker" & "Accidental Death"|
|1981||The Little World of Don Camillo||Narrator (voice)||13 episodes|
|No Country for Old Men||Tom Sheridan||Television film|
|Maybury||Mac||Episode: "Maisie and Mac"|
|Andrina||Captain Bill Torvald||Television film|
|1982||The Ghost Downstairs||Mr. Fishbane|
|1983||Death of an Expert Witness||Mr. Lorimer||Miniseries; 2 episodes|
|One of Ourselves||Quigley||Television film|
|BBC/Time-Life Shakespeare||Aegeon||Episode: "The Comedy of Errors"|
|1984||Two by Forsyth||Television film|
|Play for Today||Mr. Reed||Episode: "Rainy Day Women"|
|Dr. Fischer of Geneva||Steiner||Television film|
|1986||Robin of Sherwood||Agravaine||Episode: "The Inheritance"|
|The Theban Plays by Sophocles||Priest||Episode: "Oedipus the King"|
|1988||The Ray Bradbury Theater||Dr. Jeffers||Episode: "The Small Assassin"|
|Menace Unseen||Mr. Simmondson||Miniseries; 3 episodes|
|The Tenth Man||The Priest||Television film|
|1989||Danny, the Champion of the World||Doc Spencer|
|1992||Screen Two||Percy||Episode: "Memento Mori"|
|1993||The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles||George Clemenceau||Episode: "Paris, May 1919"|
With the Abbey Theatre
|1932||The Vigil||The Boy|||
|1933||Drama at Inish||Michael|||
|1934||Parnell of Avondale||Countryman|||
|Six Characters in Search of an Author||The Son|||
|At Mrs. Beams||Colin Langford|||
|The King of Spain's Daughter||Jim Harris|||
|An Páistín Fionn||N/A||As director|||
|Katie Roche||Jo Mahoney|||
|The Passing Day||Hind|||
|The Silver Jubilee||John Joseph Barrett|||
|The Jailbird||Mr. Bunton|||
|1937||Shadow and Substance||O'Flingsley|||
|Killycreggs in Twilight||Loftus de Lury|||
|The Patriot||Dan Cusack|||
|The Man in the Cloak||Mangan|||
|An Phíb Fé Sna Bántaibh||N/A||As director|||
|Cartney and Kevney||Cartney|||
|She Had to Do Something||Neddy|||
|An tÉirighe Amach||N/A||As director|||
|Aon-Mhac Aoife Alban||N/A|||
|1939||Give Him a House||Pat Hooey|||
|They Went by Bus||John Joe Martin|||
|1943||An Traona sa Mhóinfhéar||An 'Máistir'|||
|Faustus Kelly||Town Clerk|||
|The Bride||Dr. Jack Power O'Connor|||
|Poor Man's Miracle||Joseph|||
|1944||The Wise Have Not Spoken||Francis|||
|The New Regime||Jim M'Cuttack|||
|The Shadow of a Gunman||Mr. Gallagher|||
|The Plough and the Stars||The Covey|||
|Grogan and the Ferret||Mr. Dobbin|||
|Sodar I nDiaidh na nUasal||Dorante|||
|The Jailbird||Mr. Bunton|||
|Shadow and Substance||Dermot Francis O'Flingsley|||
|Old Road||Myles Cosgrave|||
|The Player Queen||Stage Manager|||
|The Whiteheaded Boy||Denis|||
|Boyd's Shop||John Haslett|||
|The End House||Seumas|||
|1945||Juno and the Paycock||Johnny Boyle|||
|Tenants at Will||Dawson|||
|The Plough and the Stars||The Covey|||
|The Playboy of the Western World||Christy Mahon|||
|1966||Recall The Years||Performer|||
|1968||The Cherry Orchard||Leonid Andreieveitch Gayev|||
|1970||Hadrian the Seventh||Frederick William Rolfe|||
|1974-75||The Vicar of Wakefield||Dr. Primrose|||
|1976||The Plough and the Stars||Fluther Good|||
|1978||Uncle Vanya||Ivan Petrovich Voinitsky|||
|You Never Can Tell||Walter|||
|1979||A Life||Desmond Drumm|||
|1980||John Bull's Other Island||Father Peter Keegan|||
|A Life||Desmond Drumm|||
|1984||The Merchant of Venice||Shylock|||
|1989||The Lower Depths||Luka|||
With the Gate Theatre
|1933||A Bride for the Unicorn||Egbert the Eccentric|
|1935||A Deuce O' Jacks||Various characters|
|1940||Les Parents terribles||Michel|
|1942||Tar Éis an Aifrinn||N/A||As playwright|||
|1945||Tareis an Aifrinn||Also playwright|
|1990||Three Sisters||Ivan Romanovich Chebutykin|||
With the National Theatre Company
|1964||Andorra||Can||At The Old Vic|
|Spring Awakening||Masked Man|
|1977||The Plough and the Stars||Fluther Good||At the Royal National Theatre|
With the Royal Shakespeare Company
|1963||The Physicists||Johann Wilhelm Stettler||At the Royal National Theatre|
|1963||Julius Caesar||Cassius||At the Royal Shakespeare Theatre|
|1920||Dick Whittington||The Cat|
|The Sign of the Cross|
|Shot at Dawn|
|1922||Ali Baba||The Donkey|
|The Babes in the Wood||Babe|
|1924||Irish and Proud of It||The Boy|
|1928||Tilly of Bloomsbury||Indian student||Norwich Repertory Company|
|The Promised Land|
|Ambrose Applejohn's Adventure|
|1935||Gruagach Dúr an Deagh-Chroidhe||N/A||As director|
|1936||Ah, Wilderness!||Richard||Ambassadors Theatre||London debut|
|1939||The Playboy of the Western World||Christy Mahon||Mercury Theatre|
|The Plough and the Stars||The Covey||Q Theatre|
|1940||Les Parents terribles||Michel||Gate Theatre|
|1941||Thunder Rock||Streeter||St Martin's Theatre|
|1942||The Doctor's Dilemma||Louis Dubedat||Theatre Royal Haymarket|
|1950||Pommy||Nosey||People's Palace, Mile End|
|1954||The Playboy of the Western World||Christy Mahon||Théâtre de la Ville|
|1957||A Moon for the Misbegotten||Phil Hogan||Bijou Theatre|
|1958||Casement||Roger Casement||Theatre Royal Waterford|
|1959||Goodwill Ambassador||Seumas O'Beirne||Olympia Theatre, Dublin|
|Krapp's Last Tape||Krapp||Empire Theatre, Belfast|
|Arms and the Man||Bluntschli|
|Queen's Theatre, Dublin|
|The Voices of Doolin||Doolin||Tour|
|1961||The Temptation of Mr. O||Mr. O||Olympia Theatre, Dublin||Also playwright|||
|1968||The Shaughraun||Conn||Aldwych Theatre|
|The Cherry Orchard||Gayev||Olympia Theatre, Dublin||Dublin Theatre Festival|
|1970||Hadrian the Seventh||Frederick William Rolfe||Tour|
|Coriolanus||Menenius||John F. Kennedy Theatre|
|The Old Vic|
|1976||The Plough and the Stars||Fluther Good||Tour|
|1978||You Never Can Tell||Walter||Tour|
|1980||A Life||Desmond Drumm||The Old Vic|
- ^ known in North America as Lou Gehrig's disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- ^ a b "Cyril Cusack Biography (1910-)". www.filmreference.com.
- ^ a b "Cyril Cusack, 82, the Irish Actor Often Seen as His Country's Best". New York Times. 8 October 1993.
- ^ "Cyril James Cusack actor". Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 March 2014.
- ^ "Cyril Cusack - Obituary from The Associated Press". powell-pressburger.org. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
- ^ Clarke, Donald; Brady, Tara. "The 50 greatest Irish film actors of all time – in order". The Irish Times.
- ^ "Cusack, Cyril | Abbey Archives | Abbey Theatre - Amharclann na Mainistreach". Abbey Theatre.
- ^ "Katie Roche · Teresa Deevy Archive". deevy.nuim.ie.
- ^ "The Teresa Deevy Archive".
- ^ The Irish Times, "Presentation of television awards and citations," 4 December 1963.
- ^ The Annual Obituary. St. Martin's. 10 March 1993. ISBN 9781558623200 – via Google Books.
- ^ "Cusack turns into Catherine the great". independent.
- ^ "Cyril Cusack Quotes". BrainyQuote.
- ^ Garret FitzGerald, All in a Life (Gill and Macmillan, 1991)
- ^ "Deaths England and Wales 1984–2006". Archived from the original on 12 November 2006. Retrieved 30 March 2009.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo "Cusack, Cyril | Abbey Archives | Abbey Theatre - Amharclann na Mainistreach". Abbey Theatre. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
- ^ "The King of Spain's Daughter". www.irishplayography.com. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
- ^ "Browse Items · Teresa Deevy Archive". deevy.nuim.ie. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
- ^ "An Páistín Fionn". www.irishplayography.com. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
- ^ "An Phíb Fé Sna Bántaibh". www.irishplayography.com. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
- ^ "An tÉirighe Amach". www.irishplayography.com. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
- ^ "Aon-Mhac Aoife Alban". www.irishplayography.com. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
- ^ "Bird's Nest". www.irishplayography.com. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
- ^ "An Stoirm". www.irishplayography.com. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
- ^ "An Traona sa Mhóinfhéar". www.irishplayography.com. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
- ^ "Tar Éis an Aifrinn". www.irishplayography.com. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
- ^ "Cyril Cusack, 82, the Irish Actor Often Seen as His Country's Best". The New York Times. Associated Press. 8 October 1993. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
- ^ "Cyril Cusack | Theatricalia". theatricalia.com. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
- ^ "The Temptation of Mr. O". www.irishplayography.com. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
- 1910 births
- 1993 deaths
- 20th-century Irish male actors
- Alumni of University College Dublin
- Cusack family (Ireland)
- Deaths from motor neuron disease
- Irish expatriates in the United Kingdom
- Irish male film actors
- Irish male soap opera actors
- Irish male stage actors
- Irish male television actors
- Irish people of English descent
- People from Durban
- Jacob's Award winners
- People educated at Newbridge College
- Royal Shakespeare Company members
- South African emigrants to Ireland