Jack Doyle

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For other people named Jack Doyle, see Jack Doyle (disambiguation).
Nickname(s) The Gorgeous Gael
Rated at Heavyweight
Height 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Reach 79 in (201 cm)
Nationality Irish
Born 31 August 1913
Cobh, Ireland
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 23
Wins 17
Losses 6
Draws 0
No contests 0

Jack Doyle (31 August 1913 in Cobh, Ireland – 13 December 1978 in Paddington, London), known as "The Gorgeous Gael" was at one time or another a contender for the British Boxing Championship, a Hollywood actor and an accomplished tenor. He was born Joseph Doyle and known to his friends as Joe but changed it to Jack when starting his professional career.[1]

Early years[edit]

Doyle was born into a working-class family in Cobh, in County Cork, Ireland in 1913. At six feet three inches, he was good with his fists and in 1929, joined the Irish Guards regiment of the British Army based in Wales.

There he excelled at boxing and was famed for his strong hooks that won him the British Army Championship. A record of 28 straight victories, 27 by knockout, brought him to the attention of promoter Dan Sullivan. He turned professional and notched up 10 consecutive victories, all inside two rounds, making him the hottest thing in the sport.[citation needed]

In July 1933, at the age of 19, he missed out on the British Heavyweight title to the holder, Welshman, Jack Petersen. Witnesses claim that he had done most of his warming up in a pub not far from the bout. Within the opening seconds he knew he was in trouble and decided to take the easy way out. He was disqualified for repeatedly punching low.[2]

Shortly after, his singing voice was discovered by Dr. Vincent O'Brien, voice coach to Count John McCormack and soon his soft tenor voice and handsome looks were selling out the London Palladium and the Royal in Dublin. Doyle was subsequently signed up by Decca.

In 1934 Doyle travelled to the United States and several 78rpm records were produced including the popular "South of the Border" a duet recorded with his then wife Movita. But his love for the drink and generous nature soon started to take its toll on his health.


In America he carried on his high living of gambling, ladies and drink. His good looks and deep pockets opened up the party circuit to him and he starred in two movies, McGlusky the Sea Rover (1934) and Navy Spy (1937). Later in life he had minor parts in a number of British films.[3]

While in the United States he continued to box, taking on Buddy Baer in August 1935. Like his fight against Petersen, it is said that Doyle had consumed the best part of a bottle of brandy before the bell rang and was in no fit state to stand. He was knocked down in the first round. It was around this time that Jack and Judith Allen, who had been the girlfriend of Buddy Baer's younger brother and fellow boxer Max, had a whirlwind affair and married on April 28, 1935.[4] Unfortunately their marriage did not last. By the late 1930s Doyle was involved with the actress Movita Castaneda.

Return to Ireland[edit]

Movita in a trailer for Mutiny on the Bounty (1935 film)
Jack Doyle's grave

Following a celebrity wedding to Movita in Dublin's Westland Row Church they toured both sides of the Irish Sea, selling out music halls and opera houses.

Around this time Jack fought his last professional fight, against a journeyman called Chris Cole in front of 23,000 in Dalymount Park, Dublin. Arriving late for the bout after a stop at The Clarence Hotel for refreshments, the inebriated Doyle went down in the first.[citation needed] Movita packed up and moved back to Hollywood, where she went on to marry Marlon Brando.

Shortly after, Doyle found himself in Mountjoy Jail, Dublin for knocking out a Garda Detective in a Ranelagh pub. He moved to England and his spiral downwards into alcoholism and bankruptcy continued. He found his friends had deserted him as fast as his bank balance, spent in his own words on "slow horses and fast women". He odd-jobbed for a while but when he couldn't afford the rent on his flat, he took to sleeping at the homes of friends, in Pimlico, London. His only source of income during this time was an allowance he received from Movita.

In 1947 Doyle was imprisoned in Sligo Gaol for issuing a cheque which later bounced. He served four months of hard labour.[5]

He died in 1978 at St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington. At the time it seemed he would be buried in a pauper's grave in London. However, when news of his death reached Ireland a number of members of the Cork Ex-Boxer's association decided to act. In conjunction with Cobh undertaker Paddy Barry they brought Jack's remains home.[6] Large crowds lined the streets of Cobh as the coffin led by a lone piper and topped with Jack's trademark - a red carnation - was brought on its last journey. He was buried in the Old Church Cemetery and his grave is visited by thousands of people every year.

Shortly before his death, he was interviewed by a journalist who asked him if he had any regrets about not spending his money more wisely. "None at all," he said, "twas never a generous man went to hell."

Song about Doyle[edit]

The popular Irish song "The Contender" written by Jimmy McCarthy around 1983, and performed by many including Finbar Wright, Christy Moore and Tommy Fleming, was a song about Jack Doyle.

The Contender
by Jimmy McCarthy

When I was young and I was in my day
I could steal what woman's heart there was away
Sing and dance into the dawning
Blaze a trail until the morning
Long before I was the man you see today

And I was born beneath the star that promised all
I could have lived my life between Cork, Cobh and Youghal
But the wheel of fortune took me
From the highest point she shook me
By the bottle live by the bottle I shall fall

But there in the mirror on the wall
I see the dream is fading
From the contender to the brawl
The ring, the rose, the matador, raving

And when I die I'll die a drunk down on the street
He will count me out to ten in clear defeat
Wrap the Starry Plough around me
Let the piper's air resound me
There I'll rest until the lord of love I meet

But there in the mirror on the wall
I see the dream is fading
From the contender to the brawl
The ring, the rose, the matador, raving


RTÉ, the Irish broadcaster, featured Jack Doyle in their series True Lives in a programme called Jack Doyle, a Legend Lost in September 2007. A book to accompany the programme called Jack Doyle: The Gorgeous Gael ISBN 1-84351-123-1 was released in late 2007.[7][8]



  1. ^ http://irishrollcall.com/2010/04/jack-doyle-the-gorgeous-gael/
  2. ^ http://irishrollcall.com/2010/04/jack-doyle-the-gorgeous-gael/
  3. ^ "Jack Doyle". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-08-29. 
  4. ^ "Actress Files Annulment Suit". The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah, Salt Lake City. International News Service. March 16, 1937. p. 7. Retrieved July 26, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  5. ^ http://www.sligoarts.ie/media/CRIMEANDPUNISHMENT.pdf
  6. ^ homehttp://irishrollcall.com/2010/04/jack-doyle-the-gorgeous-gael/
  7. ^ "Story - Irish Post". Retrieved 2016-08-29. 
  8. ^ "404 Not Found". 2007-05-21. Retrieved 2016-08-29. 

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