Drawing by Reginald Gray. Dublin. 1956.
6 July 1931|
Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, UK
|Died||4 January 2010
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Donal Donnelly (6 July 1931 – 4 January 2010) was an English-born Irish theatre and film actor. Perhaps best known for his work in the plays of Brian Friel, he had a long and varied career in film, on television and in the theatre. His travels - he lived in Ireland, the U.K. and the U.S. at various times - led to him describing himself as " ... an itinerant Irish actor ...".
Donal Donnelly attended school at Synge Street Christian Brothers School in Dublin where he acted in school plays with Milo O'Shea, Eamonn Andrews, Jack McGowran, Bernard Frawley (Seattle Repertory Co.) and Jimmy Fitzsimons (brother of Maureen O'Hara), under the direction of famous elocution teacher, Ena Burke.
His breakthrough role came when he was cast as Gar Private in the world premiere of Brian Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come! directed by Hilton Edwards for the Gate Theatre at the Dublin Theatre Festival in 1964. The production subsequently transferred to Broadway where it played for over 300 performances and established Donnelly and Patrick Bedford – who played his alter-ego Gar Public – as formidable new talents to be reckoned with. They were jointly nominated for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play in 1966.
Donnelly returned to Broadway a number of times, replacing Albert Finney in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg in 1968, playing Milo Tindle in Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth and appearing as Frederick Treves opposite David Bowie as The Elephant Man. He also renewed his relationship with Brian Friel, appearing in the world premieres of Volunteers at the Abbey Theatre in 1975 and Faith Healer with James Mason (Longacre Theatre, NYC) in 1979 as well as the Broadway premieres of Dancing at Lughnasa in 1991 and Translations in 1995.
Film and TV
His film roles included Archbishop Gilday in The Godfather Part III and he gained particular acclaim for his performance as Freddy Malins in John Huston’s final work The Dead based on the short story by James Joyce.
On television, he played the lead role of Matthew Browne in the 1970s ITV sitcom Yes Honestly, opposite Liza Goddard. But from the late 1950s onwards, he often appeared in such British TV programs as "The Avengers", "Z Cars" and "The Wednesday Play".
He died in Chicago, Illinois, on 4 January 2010 from cancer, aged 78, and is survived by his wife, Patricia 'Patsy' Porter - a former dancer he met working on Finian's Rainbow, and two sons, Jonathan and Damian. His daughter Maryanne predeceased him.
- The Rising of the Moon (1957)
- Shake Hands with the Devil (1959)
- I'm All Right Jack (1959)
- The Informers (1963)
- Young Cassidy (1965)
- The Knack ...and How to Get It (1965)
- The Mind of Mr. Soames (1970)
- Waterloo (1970)
- The Dead (1987)
- Twister (1989)
- The Godfather Part III (1990)
- Mesmer (1994)
- Words Upon the Window Pane (1994)
- Squanto: A Warrior's Tale (1994) - Brother Paul
- Love and Rage (1998)
- This Is My Father (1998)
- Coveney, Michael (7 January 2010). "Donal Donnelly obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- "Donal Donnelly, Actor Who Nurtured Irish Roles, Dies at 78". New York Times. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- Murphy, Colin (9 January 2010). "'We've lost something very special'". Irish Independent. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- "Donal Donnelly". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- Obituary in Irish Times
- "Donal Donnelly". The Scotsman. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- "Irish actor Donal Donnelly dies". RTÉ Entertainment. 5 January 2010. Archived from the original on January 18, 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
- "Donal Donnelly". The Stage. Retrieved 17 August 2013.