John Ford, Abbey Actor and the Irish Revival in Hollywood
By: Adrian Frazier
Publication Date: April 2010
Hollywood Irish by Adrian Frazier
In the course of a 1935 USA Abbey Theatre tour of the plays of Sean O’Casey and others, an extensive collaboration was launched between director John Ford (‘My real name is Sean Martin Aloysius O’Feeney’), fresh from shooting O’Flaherty’s The Informer, and star players such as Sara Allgood, Barry Fitzgerald and his brother Arthur Shields.
Tempted by movie contracts, these great stage actors resettled in Hollywood and became members of what was informally called Ford’s ‘stock company’, appearing again and again in his key films such as The Long Way Home (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and The Quiet Man (1952).
Based on a hitherto-unknown cache of Shields family papers and memorabilia, Frazier traces the remarkable life stories of these actors in their migration from Dublin to California. He shows how signifying elements of the Irish Revival mutated from world theatre to global cinema, giving fresh readings to some of the great films of the era.
Richly illustrated, and driven by a sparkling narrative style, Hollywood Irish brings depth and perspective to Ireland’s part in the fashioning of American identity.
‘I have to say the book is an unalloyed pleasure to hold and to glance through – a sensual delight. It is an absolute credit to everyone involved. Paper, typeface, photos – the whole production is a glowing tribute to the art of the book itself and a wonderful reminder of why we ever fell in love with books in the first place.’ – Mike McCormack
‘This well-written account of the Irish in Hollywood threads together the lives and careers of some of the most notable theatrical emigres who contributed both to the Abbey Theatre’s glory days and, subsequently, to the development of American film.’ – The Irish Times
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adrian Frazier, graduate of Trinity College Dublin, professor emeritus, National University of Ireland, Galway, is the author of Behind the Scenes: Yeats, Horniman, and the Abbey Theatre (1990), mGeorge Moore 1852-1933 (2000), Hollywood Irish: John Ford, Abbey Actors, and the Irish Revival in Hollywood (2011), and, most recently, John Behan: The Bull of Sheriff Street. He is a member of the Royal Irish Academy.
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Lilliput Press –
“A brilliant investigation of John Ford’s connections to the Ireland of his mother, a Feeney, that played out in his movies, pesonality and friendships. Dublin’s Abbey Theatre and it’s ensemble actors provides the main bridge for these affections as Ford befriended and hired a number of it’s members. The stories that made this history are refreshingly intimate and shed light on the developement of the stage irish identities we carry with us today in this country, the international reach of the Abbey Theatre as it traveled out to support itself and the workings of the Hollywood system during it’s Golden Era.
Mr. Frazier has made the telling of this most interesting story a delight to read.” DUDLEY
Lilliput Press –
“I enjoyed this well written book, that charted the connection between one of the greatest Hollywood directors, his love of Ireland and his close ties with The Abbey Theatre Dublin. Many of the Abbey actors Ford ‘discovered’ went on to create a career in Hollywood, a good read if you’re interested in this period of Hollywood history.” PETER MULLIGAN
Lilliput Press –
“An in depth story of the Irish actors of the abbey theatre, dublin’s influence on the Hollywood of the first half of the 20th century, which includes a brief look at Irish history and behind the scenes views of John Ford Films such as The Quiet Man. The actors were all very much alive hen I first saw them in the cinema, this book brings them back to life once more, that’s why I have given his book a top rating. Thank you so much. Adrian frazier.” JOHN CLIFFORD ANDREWS