Born Belfast 14th June 1920
Died Brighton 11th September 1994
Underused but competent character actor whose relatively transitory screen career embraced but one full decade and included roles in two big screen successes of the time. In the mid-forties he was a jobbing stage player, appearing most notably in Elsa Shelley’s controversial social drama ‘Pick-Up Girl’ at the Casino Theatre Soho in 1946. His 1948 television debut as Primus, a robot in director Jan Bussell’s respectable adaptation on Karel Capek’s sci-fi play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) ironically proved to be his most prominent credit rating. The following year he took minor roles, first as Harris in the little seen Frederick Wilson directed comedy ‘Poets Pub’ and was Captain Grayson in the infinitely bigger budgeted ‘I Was a Male War Bride’. This sparkling and pacey Howard Hawks comedy was enriched in no short measure by the casting of Hollywood redoubtables Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan.
After a lengthy period off screen he made a return in 1953, taking peripheral parts in the Tele-Play format series ‘Douglas Fairbanks Presents’ and director Terence Young’s British made war drama ‘The Red Beret’, starring an assured Alan Ladd, fresh from his exploits in the now iconic western ‘Shane’. In 1956, in a brief departure from acting , he worked as co-writer on the screenplay of the stock British comedy ‘Find the Lady’, but had no desire it seemed to make a career move in that direction. Low-key television roles followed in 1957, the best of which was his also-starring credit as Zeke in the adventure drama series ‘Destination Downing Street’ and in 1958 appeared as Joe in an episode of ‘Armchair Theatre’, entitled ‘Trial by Candlelight’. His screen career ended in 1960, when aged just forty, exasperated perhaps by the lack of worthwhile work. His appearances in two episodes of the British drama series ‘International Detective’ closed one chapter in his life, but offered him the latitude to pursue more seriously his interest in the world of antiques.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
-Home and Away(1955) Garrick Theatre, London
– Riverbeat (1954)
– BBC Sunday Night Theatre (1954/1959)
– The Adventures of Aggie (1957)
Genial, underused, all purpose actor, who in the main has struggled to make his mark on stage or screen. His earliest London stage appearance was at the National’s Studio Theatre in 1986, where he played several roles in Jeremy Raison’s little known ‘Savage Britannia’ and a year before that, made his television debut as Barpov, in the long running childrens sci-fi series ‘Dramarama’.
He was more at ease as Doyle in the National’s 1988 production of ‘ The Shaughraun’, presented on the Olivier stage, working alongside fellow Ulster actors Stephen Rea and Julia Dearden, in what many consider to be the best interpretation to date of Dion Boucicault’s play.
In 1990 he made his first film appearance, taking the role of gang boss Case Casey in Jonathan Lynn’s stilted comedy, ‘Nuns on the Run’, which although moderately successful, proved to be less a platform than he had anticipated.
Following an ineffectual period, the only worthwhile work he found was a co- starring role in the series ‘Medics’ 1990 and as IRA man Artie Flynn, in Ronan Bennett’s convoluted troubles based drama, ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ televised in 1993. That same year he played schoolmaster’s son Owen with Norman Rodway as his imbibing father Hugh and a superb Zara Turner as Maire in director Sam Mendes’ brilliant revival of Brian Friel’s ‘ Translations ‘ at the Donmar Warehouse, London.
He was back with the National and on the Olivier stage again, playing Simon Chachava in the much vaunted 1997 production of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’, in a cast including Derry born Bronagh Gallagher.
His most notable theatre successes from 2000 included appearances with the Oxford Stage Company in ‘Troilus and ‘Cressida’ at the Old Vic in 2000 and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at the Liverpool Playhouse in 2002.
Also that year he appeared in the independent Irish film ‘Boxed’, written and directed by Marion Comer, based on a real life account of one catholic priest’s struggle with IRA discipline and the advocation of the sanctity of life.
Robert Patterson has been luckless in a career that has offered up little in terms of higher profile work, save for a period in the early nineties when a breakthrough beckoned with some noteworthy performances on both stage and screen.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– Mumbo Jumbo (1986) Lyric Hammersmith, London
– Germinal(1988) The Place, London
– The Gambler (1991) NT, London
– Murmuring Judges (1991) NT Cottesloe Theatre,London
– Observe the Sons Of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme(1996) RSC Barbican, London
– Macbeth(2002) Theatre Royal, Bath
– Hidden Agenda (1990)
– Shadow of the Earth (1988)
– Doctors (2003)
Born Belfast 10th October 1912
Died Godalming, Surrey 30th June 2001
Abiding stage and incidental screen actor, a graduate of St.Hugh’s College Oxford in 1932, who made a less than modest breakthrough on the London stage, appearing in two productions in 1936. She was cast as an extra in Paul Donhurst and Robert Jordan’s historical drama, ‘Stubble Before Swords’ at the Globe and in her cousin Denis Johnston’s metaphorical fantasy, ‘A Bride for the Unicorn’, which had a short run at the Westminster Theatre in July of that year.
Her screen debut was also marginal, cast as a girl in Denis Johnston’s adaptation of Robert J. Flaherty’s ‘The Last Voyage of Captain Grant’, starring John Laurie and broadcast by the BBC in November 1938. A year later on television she took another limited credit in Johnston’s biographical drama, ‘The Parnell Commission’, directed by him, with a heavyweight cast including Felix Aylmer, Brefni O’Rourke and Eliot Makeham.
In 1940 she travelled to Dublin for what was her most conspicuous role to date, that of Countess De Breville in Lennox Robinson’s reworking of Guy De Maupaissant’s short story ‘Boule de Suif’, entitled ‘Roly Poly’. The comedy, at the Gate Theatre was withdrawn after only three performances, due to a supposed violation of the Wartime Emergency Legislation. In 1941, in her first professional role on the Belfast stage, she played Mrs Tompkin in Jerome K. Jerome’s ‘The Passing of the Third Floor Back’. The play, by a devastating coincidence, ran concurrently with the Luftwaffe’s first air-raid on the city on the night/early morning of 7th/8th April.
In the latter years of WW2 she was singularly active in theatre in provincial Scotland, first with Dundee Repertory Theatre, making numerous appearances with favourable notices across a diverse range of subject matter. These included the comedies, ‘The Patsy’, Barry Connor’s Broadway classic and Ian Hay’s ‘The Housemaster’, both 1944. In early 1945 she took starring roles in Reginald Beckwith’s romantic comedy, ‘A Soldier for Christmas’ and Robert Kemp’s first stage play, ‘Seven Bottles for the Maestro’.
She then moved a little further west for a season with Perth Repertory Company, where she was a leading cast member in several productions during 1945. Foremost among these were ‘Charley’s Aunt’, ‘Androcles and the Lion’, T.W, Robertson’s comedy drama ‘Caste’ and an impressive turn as Gertrude in John Laurie’s estimable interpretation of ‘Hamlet’. Following her minor supporting credit at Bristol Old Vic in July 1946, in Denis Johnston’s ‘Weep for the Cyclops’, a loose biography of Jonathan Swift, she landed what was arguably her defining role, that of unproductive novelist Emily Bronte in Alfred Sangster’s ‘The Brontes’ which ran at Sheffield Repertory Theatre from 1946/1949. Also featuring Patrick McGoohan as Reverend William Weightman, it transferred intermittently during it’s long incumbency, presenting most saliently at St. James Theatre, London in 1948.
In tandem with her stint in Sheffield, she found time to appear in the BBC adaptation of ‘Weep for the Cyclops’, screened in 1947. In July 1949 she had a central credit in Gordon Court’s thriller ‘Aftermath’, produced by the London Players, which preceded a low visibility spell as understudy to Rachel Kempson in Christopher Fry’s comedy, ‘Venus Observed’, starring and directed by Laurence Olivier, which opened at St James Theatre in January 1950.
With the exception of her Rosalind, in director John Casson’s reputable version of ‘As You Like It’ at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow in 1951 and Benn W. Levy’s ‘The Rape of the Belt’, directed by John Clements at the Piccadilly Theatre, London in 1957, her stage work in the 1950’s was busy but uneventful. Her career had more or less run it’s course by the early sixties and a fringe part as Mrs Broome in director Robert Hartford-Davis’ 1963 film ‘The Yellow Teddy Bears’, exemplified her meagre screen output. She did however establish herself as a purposeful stage trouper, an archetypal rep player, who was generally equal to the task.
Other Theatre and TV credits:
-Sheppey(1945) Perth Theatre(Scotland)
-The Powder Magazine(1954) Hythe Summer Theatre
-Gracious Living(1960) Richmond Theatre, London
-The Ordeal of Christobel Pankhurst(1958)
Born Belfast 21st August 1900
Died in Beverly Hills, California, USA 29th July 1973
Spirited trailblazer and Ireland’s only major silent movie star, who after an early education in Belfast, emigrated to America in 1909, settling in the Brooklyn district of New York. She was an artist’s model aged eleven and made her stage debut on Broadway aged fourteen at the Little Theatre, New York in Maurice Maeterlinck’s musical fairytale ‘Blue Bird’ 1914.
Two further years on the New York stage included a period with the legendary Ziegfeld Follies when she was just fifteen years old and a chorus line credit in Irving Berlin’s revue, ’Stop! Look! Listen!’ at the Globe Theatre in 1915. This production also marked the beginning of a long friendship with future silent star Marion Davies, who also had a peripheral cast listing as a magazine girl. Her first screen appearance, a respectable also starring role in director Allan Dwan’s melodrama ‘ Panthea’ 1917, saw her name mysteriously changed for the first and only time to Elaine Persey. Her second film appearance was more significant, cast with none other than Douglas Fairbanks in his own production, the comedy western,’ Wild and Woolly’ 1917, shot in the iconic Fort Lee location in New Jersey and during that year would become his leading lady in a further three films.
Director Douglas Gerrard’s mystery drama ‘The Empty Cab’ 1918, marked her permanent move to a rapidly emerging Hollywood, with her classic waifish look, a prerequisite for the period, producing dividends and although she made only two films in 1918 she more than made up for it the following year making no less than nine films. The best of these were ‘ Brass Buttons’, ‘ Some Liar’ and director William Worthington’s’ The Gray Horizon’, the latter starring the great Japanese actor Sessue Hayakawa. Her younger sister Thelma made a brief attempt to establish a career in films during this time but lasted barely a year, making just four appearances during 1920/21.
Barely out of her teens, Eileen Percy was considered one of the silent screen’s brightest stars and the twenties most definitely roared for her. She was working at an average rate of five films a year, but 1923 proved particularly productive with leading roles in director Irvine Cumming’s drama ‘ East Side West Side’ and Edward Le Saint’s ‘ romantic comedy ‘Yesterday’s Wife’, the pick of the bunch.
Key work from the mid twenties included ‘ Cobra’ 1925, starring Italian heartthrob Rudolph Valentino, in sadly his penultimate film and a young Joan Crawford vehicle ‘ Twelve Miles Out’ 1927. As the decade wore on, technology was to dictate her future . Talkies, the new craze meant that another skill was now paramount and, sadly for Eileen Percy her voice was not considered to have sufficient depth to have a realistic future in sound film. This was a problem a number of silent movie actors were to encounter to their cost. Her final action in silent films was a co-starring role in director Sam Wood’s comedy drama ‘Telling the World’ in 1928 and a year later made her sound film debut in the musical ‘Dancing Feet’ starring unsung queen of silent comedy Louise Fazenda.
She continued in her now changing world, sometimes in uncredited roles, finally bowing to the inevitable after making her final screen appearance in Gregory La Cava’s romantic drama’ Bed of Roses’ 1933. Her relationship with Marion Davies, now more famous as the mistress of newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, brought her into
a hugely influential coterie of movers and shakers that included film mogul Jack Warner and the extraordinarily eccentric Howard Hughes. However even with such illustrious friends the battle with sound films came to an inevitable conclusion and at only thirty three years of age, it was an insulting end to a brilliant career for a veteran of some seventy films. After this enforced retirement she became a syndicated society columnist for Hearst’s Los Angeles Examiner and in 1936 married her second husband, composer and screen writer Harry Ruby, a union that would last until her death in 1973.
Other Film credits:
– Reaching for the Moon (1917)
– The Land of Jazz (1920)
– The Flirt (1922)
– Within the Law (1923)
– Tongues of Flames (1924)
– Souls for Sables (1925)
– Backstage (1927)
– Temptation (1930)
Born Belfast 18th May 1947
Undervalued character actor with a varied history, who was employed as a translator after graduating from Queens University Belfast with a languages degree, circa 1968. She was also an active member of the university’s drama society and her career switch in the early seventies came as no surprise.
In the mid seventies she joined the radical touring company, Belt And Braces, where for five years she fostered her socialist leanings, then for a short period appeared with the all female comedy troupe, Bloomers.
She was confident and composed in her first major stage role, appearing as Masha in Field Day’s production of ‘Three Sisters’, at the Guildhall Derry in 1981 and a year later made her television debut as Clare Williams in Graham Reid’s play ‘Easter 2016’.
It was several years later in 1986 that she found brief national fame as Lilo Lil, the blousey man baiter with a heart of gold, in Carla Lane’s hit television series ‘Bread’, which ran until 1991, a role she obviously relished.
In 1987 she appeared in her second Field Day production, ‘Pentecost’, again at Derry’s Guildhall, delivering a memorable performance as Stephen Rea’s much maligned wife Marian.
She worked once more with Rea, in Field Day’s final offering, ‘Saint Oscar’ presented at the Guildhall in 1989 and later on tour, in which her flamboyantly immoderate Lady Wilde was a perfect balance to Rea’s euphuistic Oscar.
The same year she toured with her one woman play, ‘Fight Like Tigers’, in which she was simply mesmerising as Mother Jones, an early 20th century American mineworkers champion, whose passion and zeal she captured with remarkable accuracy.
After an insultingly minor role in the Cruise/Kidman feature ‘Far And Away’ 1992, she found herself constricted to the bread and butter of local theatre, where she remained for six years. Her work included two Marie Jones plays, ‘The Government Inspector’ 1993,’Women on the Verge Of HRT’ 1995, both at the Theatre On The Rock and Peter Sheridan’s ‘Mother of All the Behans’ at the Andrews Lane Theatre Dublin in 1998.
Her irritatingly long absence from films ended in 1999, with director Sydney MacCartney’s factual Wexford set drama ,’A Love Divided’ and the minor glut continued with a small part in ‘Angela’s Ashes’, author Frank McCourt’s reminiscences of his Limerick childhood.
On stage at the Cottesloe in 2003, she won further acclaim as Sharon Lawther, in the National Theatre’s production of Owen Mc Cafferty’s ‘Scenes From the Big Picture’, which also featured Frances Tomelty and Harry Towb.
In 2004 she appeared in Kaite OReilly’s ‘The Henhouse’, at the Arcola Theatre London and ‘Philadelphia Here I Come’ at the Liverpool Playhouse, consolidating her stature as one of Ireland’s leading stage players. In the latter half of the decade she was seen only sparingly, with a modicum of stage work and a minor role in a small budget fright film.
In 2007 she brought her solo show, ‘Now I’m Sixty’, to the Liverpool Academy Of Art Actors Studio and in 2010 at the Lion And Unicorn Theatre, London, directed and took a scene stealing guest credit as Fanny McBride in the West of Ireland set musical comedy, ‘The Irish Wake of Paddy McGrath’. That same year she made a brief appearance as Miss Kessler in director Reg Traviss’ modest horror film, ‘Psychosis’, her first big screen involvement for ten years.
In 2015 she produced a wonderful cameo as Joan, the elderly and dying mother of a Downs Syndrome son, in writer Duncan Paveling’s social drama ‘My Feral Heart’ and at the Print Room, London, played Bridget in Peter Gill’s all- women voice play ‘As Good a Time as Any’. Eileen Pollock experienced success on a national scale just once in a career stretching back to the seventies; Screen opportunities were scant, but she more than compensated for this neglect with numerous high-level performances on stage, a medium perhaps best suited to her.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– Wild Harvest (1989) Druid Theatre, Galway
– The House of Bernarda Alba (1991) Lyric Theatre, Belfast
– Remnants of Fear (2006) Theatre On The Rock, Belfast
– Pure Mule (2005)
Born Magherafelt 1980
Photogenically obvious and aspiring leading lady, who studied English and Drama at Trinity College Dublin from 1998 and during her time there made several appearances with the university’s much vaunted Trinity Players, most notably in Frank McGuinness’ bittersweet ‘The Factory Girls’ in 2000. Her television debut in 2001 gave her a limited opportunity to impress, appearing as Vicki Lester in an episode of RTE’s urban Dublin comedy series, ‘Bachelors Walk’, returning briefly in the same role two years later.
Her first film appearance was in a bit part, as Lin, in director Rob Bowman’s sci-fi thriller ‘Reign of Fire’, starring Matthew McConaghy and Christian Bale, released in 2002, work which she undertook whilst in her final year at TCD.
In 2004 she took an ancillary role in director Pete Travis’ award winning docudrama ‘Omagh’ and the same year was tested even less, with what was tantamount to a walk-on part in an episode of the medi series ‘Holby City’. In 2005 she landed, fortuitously it would seem, considering her lightweight CV, the role of centuries old leather clad witch, Ella Dee, in Sky Television’s minor cult, fantasy horror series, ‘Hex’. However there was no instant reward for her efforts, indeed she could only muster a clutch of guest appearances, in series such as ‘The It Crowd’ 2006 and ‘Doctors’ 2007.
She fared much better on the London stage in 2006, with decent reviews, first as Lizzie Maher in Jim Nolan’s ‘Blackwater Angel’ at the Finborough Theatre and at the end of that year, as Elvira in Patrick Marber’s nod to Moliere, ‘Don Juan in Soho’, at the Donmar Warehouse. Her stock rose a little more with her roles as the constrained would-be governess Jane Fairfax, in director Jim O’Hanlon’s faithful mini-series ‘Emma’, 2009 and a praiseworthy title credit the same year in Matthew Dunster’s decent interpretation of ‘Troilus and Cressida’, presented at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London.
In 2011 she returned to the functional, with a co-starring role as Kelly in director Tammi Sutton’s crime thriller, ‘Isle of Dogs’, which despite a willing cast, suffered from an abysmal lack of sensible narrative. Television appearances were minimal during 2012/13, with only her guest role as the nurse, Jodie, in Neil Cross’ crime drama series ‘Luther’ in 2013, worthy of mention. Better quality work in theatre saw her as Laurel in writer Harvey Fierstein’s Tony Award winning ‘Torch Song Trilogy’, at the Menier Chocolate Factory, London in 2012 and as the browbeaten wife, Bella in Patrick Hamilton’s psychological thriller ‘Gaslight’, staged at the Salisbury Playhouse in 2014. In a range stretching career to date, Laura Pyper has by and large not disappointed. An early possible typecasting snare in ‘Hex’ was quickly avoided, with a run of admirable character playing on both stage and screen, which has moved her discernibly to the next level.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– Six Characters in Search of an Author (2003) Theatre Space, Dubln
– Punk Rock (2010) Lyric Hammersmith, London
– Follies(2014/15)Theater Works(US tour)
– The Bill (2009)
– Silent Witnes s(2009)
– Spooks (2009)
– Thirteen Steps Down(2012)