David Kelly (actor)

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David Kelly
Born(1929-07-11)11 July 1929
Died12 February 2012(2012-02-12) (aged 82)
Resting placeMount Venus Cemetery, Rockbrook, Rathfarnham, County Dublin, Ireland
EducationSynge Street CBS
Alma materThe Abbey School of Acting
Years active1947–2009
Notable workCharlie and the Chocolate Factory, Waking Ned, The Jigsaw Man, Stardust, Into the West
TelevisionRobin's Nest , Fawlty Towers, Strumpet City, Emmerdale Farm, Glenroe
Laurie Morton
(m. 1961)
AwardsHelen Hayes Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, Lifetime Achievement Award

David Kelly (11 July 1929 – 12 February 2012) was an Irish actor who had regular roles in several film and television works from the 1950s onwards. One of the most recognisable voices and faces of Irish stage and screen,[1] Kelly was known for his roles as Rashers Tierney in Strumpet City, Cousin Enda in Me Mammy, the builder Mr O'Reilly in Fawlty Towers, Albert Riddle in Robin's Nest, and Grandpa Joe in the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). Another notable role was as Michael O'Sullivan in Waking Ned.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Kelly was born 11 July 1929 in Dublin, Ireland,[3][4] and educated at Dublin's Synge Street CBS Christian Brothers school.[5] He began acting at the age of eight at the city's Gaiety Theatre,[3] encouraged by a teacher at school he also performed with the Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society[6] and went on to train at The Abbey School of Acting.[5]

As a backup career, he additionally trained as a draughtsman and calligrapher,[5] and also learned watercolour art.[3] He appeared onstage in the original production of Brendan Behan's The Quare Fellow, and gained his first major career attention in Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape at the Dublin's Abbey Theatre in 1959.[7] By then he had made his screen debut in a small part in director John Pomeroy's 1958 film noir Dublin Nightmare.[5]

One of his first television appearances was on RTÉ in O'Dea's your Man (1964) in which he played the part of Ignatius opposite Jimmy O'Dea. He went on to become a familiar face on British television with the BBC comedy Me Mammy, opposite Milo O'Shea and Anna Manahan. He went on to often-memorable guest roles on such series as Oh Father! and Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width, and particularly during the 1970s with a long-running role as the one-armed dishwasher Albert Riddle in the Man About the House spin-off Robin's Nest.[7] He also had a regular long running role alongside Bruce Forsyth in both series of the comedy Slinger's Day from 1986 to 1987, and, in 1991, he appeared in the first series of the BBC sitcom 2point4 Children as the cafe-owner Paddy.

He gained some of his greatest recognition in 1975, playing inept builder Mr O'Reilly on the second episode of Fawlty Towers ("The Builders").[3]

Kelly was in the voice cast of The Light Princess, a partly animated, hour-long family fantasy that aired on the BBC in 1978.[8]

In Ireland, he may be most famous for his portrayal of the character "Rashers" Tierney in the 1980 RTÉ miniseries Strumpet City,[3] which starred Peter O'Toole, Cyril Cusack and Peter Ustinov. He went on to have starring roles in television shows such as Emmerdale Farm in the 1980s and Glenroe in the 1990s, as well as playing the grandfather in Mike Newell's film Into the West (1992).

Following his appearance as Michael O'Sullivan in the 1998 film Waking Ned, he played roles in such films as Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), in which he played Grandpa Joe, and Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (2004). He played title character Frank Kovak in the mystery film The Kovak Box, in a rare villainous role. In 2007, he appeared in Stardust, which featured Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, and which was also his final film. He also did extensive radio work, including a guest appearance on the BBC Radio 4 series Baldi.[citation needed]

Later life and death[edit]

Kelly was married to actress Laurie Morton, who survived him, along with children David and Miriam.[9] He died after a short illness on 12 February 2012[3][10] at age 82. The Irish Times referred to him as the "grand old man of Irish acting".[3] A Catholic funeral mass took place on 16 February 2012, at the Church of the Miraculous Medal, in the actor's home town of Dublin. Kelly was cremated at Mount Jerome Cemetery and Crematorium.[11]

Awards and honours[edit]

Kelly won a 1991 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Supporting Performer, Non-Resident Production, for a Kennedy Center revival of The Playboy of the Western World.[12] As well, he earned a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for the 1998 film Waking Ned.[13]

In 2005, Kelly won the Irish Film & Television Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award, in addition to earning a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.[14]

Filmography and television[edit]


  1. ^ "Actor David Kelly Dies Aged 82". Irish Examiner. Cork. 13 February 2012. Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 13 February 2012.
  2. ^ "Irish Actor David Kelly Dies Aged 92". BBC News. 13 February 2012. Archived from the original on 18 February 2012. Retrieved 13 February 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Healy, Alison (13 February 2012). "Grand Old Man of Irish Acting Dies, Aged 82". The Irish Times. Dublin. Archived from the original on 19 February 2012. Retrieved 13 February 2012. Kelly was born in Dublin on July 11th, 1929 and educated at Synge Street Catholic Boys School.
  4. ^ One source, which interviewed him, gives 1928: "Why Life's Sweet for Oscar-Hopeful David". Irish Independent. Dublin. 30 July 2005. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d Irish Independent, 2005
  6. ^ "Profile: David Kelly: At long last the world wakes up to Grandpa Joe". The Sunday Times. London. 6 November 2005.
  7. ^ a b Quinn, Michael (14 February 2012). "Leading Irish Actor David Kelly Dies". The Stage. Archived from the original on 19 February 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  8. ^ Anderson, Paul (13 February 2012). "Irish actor David Kelly, "Grandpa Joe," Dies at 82". Big Cartoon News. Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 13 February 2012.
  9. ^ "David Kelly Dies Aged 82". RTÉ News. 12 February 2012. Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  10. ^ "David Kelly, Irish Film Actor, Dies at 82". The New York Times. Associated Press. 18 February 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  11. ^ "Funeral takes place of acting legend Kelly". RTÉ Ten. 16 February 2012. Archived from the original on 17 February 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  12. ^ "Kelly, David – 1991". TheatreWashington.org. Archived from the original on 20 February 2012.
  13. ^ "The 5th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Screen Actors Guild. Archived from the original on 20 February 2012.
  14. ^ "Winners of the 3rd Annual Irish Film & Television Awards". Irish Film & Television Academy. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011.

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