Nationality: Irish. Born: William Joseph Shields in Dublin, 10 March 1888; brother of the actor Arthur Shields. Education: Attended Merchant Taylor School, Dublin; Skerrys College, Dublin; Civil Service College. Career: 1909–29—civil servant in Unemployment Insurance Division, Dublin; began acting at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, 1915; 1929—became professional actor: The Silver Tassie written for him by Sean O'Casey; film debut in Juno and the Paycock in role he'd played at Abbey Theatre; 1932—visited the United States with the Abbey Theatre; 1936—U.S. film debut in When Knights Were Bold; continued to work on stage; 1945—in radio series His Honor, The Barber. Awards: Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for Going My Way, 1944 (also nominated for Best Actor in same film). Died: In Dublin, 4 January 1961.
Films as Actor:
Juno and the Paycock (Hitchcock) (as Orator)
When Knights Were Bold (Raymond) (as Barker)
The Plough and the Stars (Ford); Ebb Tide (Rossen)
Bringing Up Baby (Hawks); Marie Antoinette (Van Dyke); Four Men and a Prayer (Ford); The Dawn Patrol (Goulding)
The Saint Strikes Back (Farrow); Pacific Liner (Landers); Full Confession (Farrow)
The Long Voyage Home (Ford)
San Francisco Docks (Lubin); The Sea Wolf (Curtiz); How Green Was My Valley (Ford); Tarzan's Secret Treasure (Thorpe)
The Amazing Mrs. Holliday (Manning); Two Tickets to London (Marin); Corvette K-225 (Rossen)
Going My Way (McCarey); I Love a Soldier (Sandrich); None but the Lovely Heart (Odets)
Incendiary Blonde (Marshall); Duffy's Tavern (Walker); And Then There Were None (Clair); The Stork Club (Walker)
Two Years before the Mast (Farrow)
California (Farrow); Easy Come, Easy Go (Farrow); Welcome Stranger (Nugent); Variety Girl (Marshall)
The Naked City (Dassin) (as Lt. Muldoon); The Sainted Sisters (Russell); Miss Tatlock's Millions (Hayden)
Top o' the Morning (Miller); The Story of Seabiscuit (Butler)
Union Square (Maté)
Silver City (Haskin)
The Quiet Man (Ford); Il filo d'erba (A da veni . . . Don Calogero) (Vassarotti)
Happy Ever After (Tonight's the Night) (Zampi) (as Thady O'Heggarty)
The Catered Affair (Brooks)
Rooney (Pollock) (as Grandfather O'Flynn)
Broth of a Boy (Pollock) (as Patrick Farrell); Cradle of Genius (Rotha—doc)
On FITZGERALD: articles—
Picturegoer (London), 3 February 1945.
Ecran (Paris), January 1978, additions in issues for September 1978 and January and May 1979.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 22 June 1980.
Hamel, R., "Barry Fitzgerald: Master Scene Stealer," in Classic Images (Muscatine), September 1993.
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If Sara Allgood was the stereotypical Irish stage mother then Barry Fitzgerald was the stereotypical Irishman, a whimsical character with a thick Irish brogue and a succession of quaint expressions that were closer to Hollywood in origin than to Dublin. Fitzgerald was the quintessential Irish character actor whose mere presence was guaranteed to steal any scene from a film's star; indeed this subtle self-promotion from supporting player to star is best exemplified by Fitzgerald's being nominated for Oscars for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for his work in Going My Way.
When John Ford first brought Barry Fitzgerald over from Dublin's Abbey Theatre to recreate the role of Fluther Good in Ford's screen version of O'Casey's The Plough and the Stars, Fitzgerald was still more an actor than a personality. He was quite a good actor, and as late as 1940 and 1941 Fitzgerald gave fine performances, under John Ford's direction, as the nasty steward in The Long Voyage Home and even as a Welshman in How Green Was My Valley.
The Irish blarney took over with Going My Way, and Fitzgerald was permanently typecast. As he once remarked, "I have always said that no matter what nationality of character I am given to play, he turns out to be an Irishman." However, Fitzgerald was not always cast as a lovable character; as he had demonstrated in The Long Voyage Home there could be a decidedly unpleasant side to his screen personality, a side on display in And Then There Were None and The Naked City among other films.