Jack MacGowran Poster


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Overview (4)

Date of Birth 13 October 1918Dublin, Ireland
Date of Death 30 January 1973New York City, New York, USA  (influenza)
Birth NameJohn Joseph MacGowran
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Jack MacGowran, the great Irish character actor known for his roles in the plays of Samuel Beckett, was born on October 13, 1918, in Ireland. He established his professional reputation as a member of the Abbey Players in Dublin, but he won his greatest fame for essaying Beckett's characters onstage. (In 1971, MacGowran would win the Obie Award for Best Performance By an Actor essaying "Beckett" on the off-Broadway stage.)

MacGowran's appearance as the Squire's right-hand man in John Ford's paean to Ireland, The Quiet Man (1952), introduced him to world cinema. In 1954 he moved to London, where he joined The Shakespeare Company (before it won the patronage of Queen Elizabeth II and added the sobriquet "Royal" to its name). At the Shakespeare Company, he became friends with fellow Irishman-abroad Peter O'Toole, with whom he would co-star in Richard Brooks's Lord Jim (1965) (1965) a decade later. In New York, he appeared as Joxer, one of the greatest roles in modern Irish drama, in the Broadway musical "Juno", which was based on 'Sean O'Casey''s 1924 masterpiece "The Shame of Mary Boyle (1930)". Fittingly, he played O'Casey's brother Archie in Young Cassidy (1965), one of John Ford's last films (which the director had to abandon owing to ill health).

One of his only movie leads came with Wonderwall (1968), an exercise in "mod" cinema (a genre that ironically harkened back to the first cinema, that of the silent screen), a film that is remembered mostly for 'George Harrison's score. By that time, MacGowran had established himself as the actor to go to for roles calling for an impish, Puckish character. He was in great demand for comedies, such as the Oscar-winning 'Tom Jones (1963)_ (Best Picture of 1963) and Start the Revolution Without Me (1970). In the classical genre, he memorably played The Fool to the great 'Paul Scofield''s watershed interpretation of King Lear (1971) in Peter Brooks's 1971 film that captured Scofield's magisterial performance, arguably the greatest interpretation of Lear in the 20th century.

After starring in the first London production of Beckett's "Endgame", MacGowran began a busy career as a character actor in motion pictures. Director Roman Polanski used him twice, as a gangster in his absurdist Cul-De-Sac (1966) and as Professor Abronsius, the Vampire Hunter, in his horror film parody Dance of the Vampires (1967), a role that was written especially for him. His last film was a more straightforward horror picture, the 1973 blockbuster The Exorcist (1973), in which he played a doomed film director.

Jack MacGowran died on January 31, 1973, of complications from influenza, which he had caught in London during a flu epidemic. The cinema and the stage lost a unique talent that never has been replaced.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (1)

Aileen Gloria Nugent (21 March 1963 - 30 January 1973) (his death) (1 child)

Trivia (6)

Father of Tara MacGowran.
Shortly after completing his role in The Exorcist (1973), he died in New York (he was appearing as Fluther in "The Plough and the Stars" with Siobhan McKenna at the time).
Born in Dublin, Jack MacGowran worked as an insurance assessor for eight years before becoming an actor with the Abbey Theatre. He made his film debut in John Ford's The Quiet Man (1952). He was also a noted stage actor specialising in works by Sean O'Casey and Samuel Beckett. He appeared in "Waiting For Godot" at the Royal Court Theatre London, and with the Royal Shakespeare Company in "Endgame" at the Aldwych Theatre. He released an LP record, "MacGowran Speaks Beckett", to coincide with Samuel Beckett's 60th birthday. While Jack MacGowran was making Dance of the Vampires (1967), it was suggested by Roman Polanski and Gérard Brach, who wrote the original story for Wonderwall (1968), that he play the part of Professor Collins.
Won the 1970-1971 Obie for Best Performance By an Actor in the off-Broadway play "Beckett".
Has appeared in four films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: The Quiet Man (1952), Tom Jones (1963), Doctor Zhivago (1965) and The Exorcist (1973). Of those, Tom Jones (1963) is a winner in the category.
He was awarded the 1972 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Distinguished Performance for the play, "The Works of Beckett," at the Mark Taper Forum Theatre in Los Angeles, California.

Personal Quotes (1)

[on working with Roman Polanski]: Both "Cul-de-Sac" and "Dance Of The Vampires" suffered from awkward translations of the original French scripts. After we had struggled on for a while, Roman said, "Throw away the script and say what you want to say." In my opening scene in "Cul-de-Sac", where I am marooned in the flooded car, I originally had a speech half-a-page long - completely unnecessary. I cut it completely and spoke one line only, off my own bat.

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