Actor Donal Donnelly, star of stage and screen, dies after cancer battle

Wed, Jan 6, 2010, 00:00

DONAL DONNELLY, who became one of the most respected Irish actors of his generation, has died in Chicago on Monday after a long battle with cancer. He was 78.

He was best known for his role as the scheming Archbishop Gilday in The Godfather: Part III and as good-natured drunk Freddy Malins in John Huston’s masterful adaptation of James Joyce’s The Dead,but he saw the stage as his natural home. He was described by Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism Martin Cullen as “one of the first of the Irish success stories”.

Donnelly was nominated for a Tony Award for his role as Private Gar in the original staging of Brian Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come! in 1964. He also appeared in the original Broadway version of Friel’s play Dancing at Lughnasa, which won a Tony.

Born in Bradford in 1931 to an Irish doctor, Donnelly moved to Ireland with his family at a young age. He went to Synge Street CBS where his contemporaries included Milo O’Shea and Eamonn Andrews.

Donnelly toured with Anew McMaster’s Irish repertory company before moving to England, where he appeared in the movie The Knack . . . and How to Get It, and alongside Peter Sellers in the satirical I’m Alright Jack.

He also appeared in two John Ford films, The Rising of The Moon and Gideon’s Day. His last performance on the stage was in George Bernard Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell on Broadway in 2006. He is survived by his wife Patsy and two sons Damien and Jonathan.