Norman Rainey (William Morison)
Born Belfast 28th April 1888
Died Los Angeles 10th September 1960
Low-level actor/playwright who became starstruck in his mid-fifties following some marginal work in director Reginald Le Borg’s 1943 horror/mystery, ‘Calling Dr. Death’, a vehicle for Rainey’s rising star daughter Patricia Morison. Although his scenes were later deleted, he persevered and made his legitimate film debut the following year in legendary French director Julien Duvivier’s war drama, ‘The Impostor’ starring the great Gallic character player Jean Gabin.
His dalliance with the screen then stalled for several years, resuming in 1947 with a very minor role as Professor Lovell in Sidney Lanfield’s less than screwball comedy, ‘The Trouble With Women’, starring Ray Milland and Teresa Wright. That year also saw him, briefly again, in director Victor Saville’s eve of war, rural English set, ‘If Winter Comes’ and in a rush of low-profile work from 1948 until 1950, he appeared in six further films. He took a nodding and grinning credit as a lawyer in Edward Ludwig’s 1948 sea adventure, ‘Wake of the Red Witch’, in a cast headed by John Wayne, which preceded a series of roles with him as either a butler, footman or servant.
On balance he could not have expected much else, although two of the three films concerned were considered major studio projects, with MGM sparing little on personnel or sets. He was positively below-stairs in both Mervyn Le -Roy’s ‘Little Women’ and Compton Bennett’s ‘The Forsyte Saga’, aka ‘That Forsyte Woman’, both 1949. His second Republic Pictures appearance, the very un-western sounding ‘Transcontinent Express’ 1950, was similarly peripheral as was the slightly higher budgeted ‘Lorna Doone’ 1951, directed by Phil Karlson and starring Richard Greene.
He then had at least a modicum of screen time in two routine fillers, the first a crime drama, ‘Breakdown’ 1952, was followed by director Allan Davis’ North Western Frontier saga, ‘Rogue’s March’ 1953, again with Richard Greene. His introduction to television was a little more notable, taking the role of star Richard Carlson’s father Dad Philbrick, in two episodes of the rather rabid red-baiting ‘I Led 3 Lives’ between 1953/54.
His final big screen role was as insignificant as his first, twelve years earlier, although at least he bowed out in style with MGM’s first black and white film in wide-screen format, director Henry Koster’s Oscar nominated ‘The Power and the Prize’ 1956, adapted from the novel by Howard Swiggett. Norman Rainey’s screen career was less than functional and had no discernable highpoints. He will be remembered as the father of actor/singer Patricia Morison, whose own highly successful career spanned almost fifty years.
Other Film and TV credits:
-Train to Alcatraz(1948)
-East Side West Side(1949)
-Lux Video Theatre(1954)
Born Belfast 31st October 1944
Unashamedly taciturn, internationally acclaimed actor/director, a hugely influential figure in Irish theatre for many years, founding The Young Irish Theatre Company whilst at Queen’s University, Belfast in the early sixties. He made his uncredited professional stage debut in the 1964 Abbey production of M.J. Molloy’s Irish period comedy ‘ The Wooing of Duvessa’ and later the same year landed a part in the brand new early evening soap ‘ Crossroads’, set in the fictitious West Midlands village of Kings Oak, though his role of young commis chef Pepe Costa lasted for only a few episodes. He returned to the Abbey in 1965, appearing as George Campbell in Sean Dowling’s ‘The Best of Motives’ and over the next two years had small roles in plays such as Louis Macniece’s ‘One for the Grave’ and Kenneth E.L. Deale’s ‘The Conspiracy’, both 1966.
Disillusioned with the Abbey’s future strategy he left for London, where in the whimsical company of legendary Irish actor Jack McGowran, he made his West End debut in McGowran’s own production of O’Casey’s ‘ Shadow of a Gunman’ at the Mermaid Theatre in 1967. In 1969 he made the first of his many Royal Court appearances in John Antrobus’ ‘Captain Oates’ Left Sock’ and around this time co-founded the London based Free Hold Theatre Group, working energetically for almost a year in a fringe world which more than reflected his own aspirations at the time. Rea’s first venture into films was not memorable, playing a bemused villager in the dreadful ‘Cry of the Banshee’ in 1970 and unbelievably would wait twelve years before his next big screen appearance.
His earliest working relationship with playwright Brian Friel was in ‘ Freedom of the City’ at the Royal Court in 1973 and in 1975 made his National Theatre debut at the Old Vic, playing a most accurate Christy Mahon in ‘ The Playboy of the Western World’. He was now established as an actor of substance, following his Royal Court and National Theatre appearances during the seventies, which included a brilliant pairing with J.G.Devlin as the Grave Diggers, native accent et al, in Peter Hall’s adaptation of ‘Hamlet’ at The National in 1975. Rea’s next project in his crusade for Irish theatrical expansion was co-founding the Field Day Theatre Company with Brian Friel in 1980. The concept was to create a travelling company which would present new and established work from city to hinterland with the first production, Friel’s ‘ Translations’, unveiled at the Guildhall, Derry in early autumn 1980 and saw Rea as Owen and Liam Neeson as Doalty in a cast of leading Irish lights. The company’s second production, Chekhov’s ‘ Three Sisters ‘ at the same venue in 1981 had an even bigger Irish cast, including James Ellis, Eileen Pollock and Michael Duffy, with Rea as director.
In 1982, Neil Jordan cast Stephen Rea in his seminal first effort ‘ Angel’, in which Rea’s Saxophonist Danny becomes reluctantly involved in murderous paramilitary activity. This was the beginning of a long collaboration with Jordan and the two would work together with great success on both stage and screen over the next twenty five years. During this time Field Day was producing at least one quality play a year and Rea found himself juggling stage, film and television work throughout the eighties. Among his better stage performances were roles in ‘ High Society’ at the Haymarket 1986,’ The Shaughraun’ for the NT at the Olivier 1988 and ‘ Saint Oscar’ with Field Day 1989.
TV appearances around this time included Mike Leigh’s ‘ Four Days in July’ 1985, ‘ Lost Belongings’ 1987 and the comedy series ‘Nobody Here but Us Chickens’ 1989 which co-starred James Ellis. In the nineties Stephen Rea’s work rate became frenetic, appearing in a multitude of films and his association with Field Day yielded two further plays, Seamus Heaney’s ‘ The Cure at Troy’ 1990 and Chekhov’s ‘ Uncle Vanya’ 1995. In between he enjoyed a long Off-Broadway run at the Booth Theatre during 1992/3 as Beirut hostage Adam, in Frank McGuinness’ ‘Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me’, earning Tony nominations for him as Best Actor and also Best Play.
His film work included,’ Interview with a Vampire’ and ‘ Pret a Porter’ 1994, Neil Jordan’s ‘Michael Collins’ 1996, ‘The Butcher Boy’ 1997 and ‘The End of the Affair; 1999. Rea’s appetite for work, seemingly insatiable in the eighties and nineties turned positively rapacious in the new century, with an average of three films a year. Among his principle successes were director Bruce Beresford’s ‘Evelyn’ and ‘ FeardotCom’ 2002,’ Bloom ‘ 2003 and Neil Jordan’s black comedy ‘Breakfast on Pluto’ 2005. He was still able to allocate time to theatre, directing ‘ The Plough and the Stars’ at the Gaiety, Dublin in 2000 and appearing in’ Cyrano De Bergerac’, a National Theatre production at the Olivier in 2004. His interest in all media showed no signs of fatigue during the next five years and was underlined in no short measure by numerous stage and screen roles across the genres.
Films included a functional comedy ‘Sixty Six’ 2006, director Stephen Hopkins’ religio-horror ‘The Reaping’ 2007 and the fantasy drama ‘Ondine’ 2009, again with Neil Jordan and starring Colin Farrell. Two new Sam Shepherd plays brought him back to the Abbey in 2007 and 2009, the elegiac ‘Kicking a Dead Horse’ and the poignant ‘Ages of the Moon’, both superbly executed two-handers, the latter in tandem with Donegal born Sean McGinley. Both pieces subsequently toured with great success, finishing with a flourish in their respective Off-Broadway venues. Screen opportunities from 2011, were as expected, plentiful, with co-starring roles in Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s 1950’s rural Ireland set, ‘Stella Days’ in 2011 and on television in 2013, as powerful businessman Conran Letts, in series one of Dennis Kelly’s action drama ‘Utopia’.
A prominent credit as MI6 boss, Sir Hugh Hayden Hoyle, in Hugo Blick’s spy thriller, mini-series, ‘The Honourable Woman’, was followed by Lluis Quilez’s horror thriller ‘Out of the Dark’ , both 2014. At the Galway International Arts Festival that year, he was one of three nameless characters in Enda Walsh’s sell-out, madcap comedy ‘Ballyturk’, commanding the Blackbox stage, together with an uber energised Cillian Murphy, the play, with cast intact, later transferred to the National’s Lyttleton stage.
In 2015 he cut a delightfully evil Danforth, in director Evgeny Ruman’s fantasy feature, ‘Ruby Strangelove Young Witch’ and at the Abbey Theatre, was imperious as the deluded Belfast Loyalist, Eric Miller, in David Ireland’s caustic comedy, ‘Cyprus Avenue’, with an underused Julia Dearden as his wife Bernie. The extent of his range was tested in two television series during 2015/16, producing a virtuoso performance as the indefatigable Inspector Bucket, in the seamlessly interwoven ‘Dickensian’ and in Andrew Davies’ exceptional adaptation of Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’, played the self-serving Prince Vassily Kuragin, with impassive assurance. Stephen Rea began his professional career hoping to re-awaken a dormant Irish theatrical tradition and due to his innovative skills and independence, particularly in his early years, helped at least to stir the renaissance.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– Grouse Moor Image(1968) Bristol Hippodrome
– Comedians(1974) Old Vic, London
– Geography of a Horse Dreamer (1974) Royal Court, Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, London
– The Cherry Orchard (1975) Riverside Studios, London
– Strawberry Fields(1977) NT Cottesloe, London
– Buried Child (1980) Hampstead Theatre, London
– Miss Julie (1983) Duke of Yorks, London
– The Murderers(1985) NT Studio, London
– Making History (1988) Field Day Theatre Company
– Piano (1990) NT Cottesloe, London
– Ashes to Ashes (1996) Royal Court, Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, London
– Celebration (2005) Albery Theatre, London
– Loose Connections (1987)
– The Company of Wolves (1984)
– Life is Sweet (1990)
– The Crying Game (1992)
– Trojan Eddie (1996)
– Still Crazy (1998)
– The Musketeer (2001)
– Control (2004)
– V for Vendetta (2005)
– River Queen (2005)
– Sisters (2006)
– The Reaping (2007)
– Stuck (2007)
– The Heavy (2010)
– Tasting Menu(2013)
– Z Cars (1969)
– The Professionals(1978)
– Minder (1984)
– Shergar (1984)
– Endgame (1989)
– Citizen X (1995)
– Snow in August (2001)
– Copenhagen (2002)
– Celebration (2006)
– The Shadow Line (2010)
Born Larne 2nd April 1919
Died London 31st October 1974
An unfortunate mixture of ruggedness and woodenness, not a disciple of self effacement, one time husband of a young Joan Collins on whose person he was alleged to have inflicted grievous bodily harm. Following a brief period as a merchant seaman and war service in the RAF, Reed arrived in England were he joined a repertory company, making several appearances at the New Theatre, London in productions such as Henry IV, Part I and Oedipus Rex, both 1945. Within a short time he made his screen debut appearing on the credit list as ‘actor’ in the film musical ‘Gaiety George’ 1946. Still relatively inexperienced, he conjured up a co-starring role in the Margaret Lockwood film ‘ Madness of the Heart’ 1949 and in the same year had another similarly credited role in ‘ The Lost People’ with Siobhan McKenna.
Now a recognisable face in low budget British thrillers and melodramas, he worked constantly throughout the early fifties pausing along the way to marry British starlet Joan Collins in 1952. In 1955, with his short career running out of steam, he appeared in the Robert Wise spaghetti epic ‘ Helen of Troy’ and, in 1956 was offered the title role in ‘Captain Grief ‘ in a now forgotten TV series of south seas swashbuckling.He did not work again until 1961 when, virtually typecast from his immediate past he took a co-starring role in the bland ‘ Pirates of Tortuga ‘. He followed this film with two others in 1962, ‘ The Notorious Landlady’ with Jack Lemmon and Otto Preminger’s ‘ Advise and Consent’, but neither could revive his sinking career. He spent the next few years in TV mediocrity or in the odd feature film, making his final screen appearance as a press photographer in the Charles Bronson film ‘ Mr Majestyk’ 1974.
Maxwell Reeds departure was as unheralded as his entrance but he did at least have some opportunities which in retrospect was as much as he could have hoped for.
Other Film and TV credits:
– The Brothers(1947)
– The Clouded Yellow (1949)
– The Square Ring (1953)
– Before I Wake (1955)
– Bonanza (1961)
– Perry Mason (1964)
– Daniel Boone (1965)
– Sherlock Holmes (1968)
Born Belfast 1954
Dexterous and impassioned stage player with medium screen experience, who came relatively late to acting. He was thirty three when he first appeared on stage, taking the considerable role of Gandalf, in David Grant’s Youth Theatre production of ‘The Hobbit’, presented at the Old Museum Arts Centre, Belfast in 1987.
In 1988 he co-founded Tinderbox Theatre Company with actor/writer Tim Loane among others and that year made his professional stage debut as Trevor, in Thomas McLaughlin’s melodrama ‘Fingertips’, again at the Old Museum Arts Centre.
Stronger roles followed and in 1989 at the Lyric, he was cast as Lennie, in Stewart Parker’s ‘Pentecost’ and appeared in a revival of Sam Thompson’s Ulster classic ‘Over the Bridge’ in 1990.
He was seen fleetingly in to BBC NI plays in 1991, William Trevor’s ‘Events at Drimaghleen’, which was his first television appearance and Owen O’Neill’s black comedy ‘Arise and Go Now’.
His profile was high enough for the RSC to engage him for two productions at The Pit during the early nineties, ‘Amphibians’ 1992 and director Simon Usher’s ‘King Baby’ 1993.
A breakthrough in terms of national recognition came in the Barbican’s 1996 production of Frank McGuinness’ celebrated WWI parable, ‘Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme’, in which he gave an outstanding performance as the swaggering former Belfast shipyard worker, Private Nat McIlwaine.
Paradoxically he was finding it impossible to secure anything of any depth on screen, indeed the only work he could find was an infinitesimal role in his film debut , writer/director Barry Devlin’s ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ 1994 and a minor guest appearance in an episode of the crime drama series ‘Ruth Rendell Mysteries’ 1997.
His theatre standing in Ireland in the late nineties was quietly gaining a respectable momentum and was consolidated with roles such as Walter, in Gary Mitchell’s ‘In a Little World of Our Own’, at the Abbey and Silas, in ‘Silas Marner’ at the Tivoli Theatre, Dublin, both 1997.
He returned to the RSC in 1998, in the company of a small group of Irish actors for a short season of plays by Synge and Yeats, presented at The Other Place, Stratford and the same year appeared as Provost, in Michael Boyd’s production of ‘Measure for Measure’ at the Barbican Theatre, London.
In 1999 at the John Jay College Theatre New York, he made his US stage debut , appearing as Father Brosnan, in a well received Abbey Players tour with Brian Friel’s ‘The Freedom of the City’, which was making a long awaited return visit, following the 1974 Broadway production, abruptly withdrawn after a week, amidst apathetic reviews.
Theatre assignments in 2000 included ‘Oedipus’ at Cork Opera House and another Frank McGuinness play, ‘Barbaric Comedies’, presented first at the Abbey and then at the King’s Theatre, as part of the Edinburgh Festival.
The same year, the absurdity of his screen status was exemplified by the valueless role he played in Mary McGuckian’s biopic, ‘Best’, in which he appeared as a petrol station attendant, with John Lynch in the title role as the legendary footballer.
The arrant contrast in his acting fortunes was bewildering, a much respected figure in Irish theatre but senselessly sidelined on screen.
In 2002 he took the part of Heck, in Gary Mitchell’s televised adaptation of ‘As the Beast Sleeps’ and on stage at the Lyric Theatre, played Donny in David Mamet’s ‘American Buffalo’.
Further Lyric Theatre highlights included a transcendent performance as Jack, in Conor McPherson’s much travelled, ‘The Weir’ 2004 and was superb as Coleman Connor, in Martin McDonagh’s forceful black comedy, ‘The LonesomeWest’ 2005.
He enjoyed a sustained period of work on both stage and screen during 2007/10, appearing in Richard Dormer’s Irish famine snapshot, ‘This Piece of Earth’, a Ransom Productions presentation at the Old Museum Arts Centre, Belfast in 2007 and at the Abbey the following year played ex -sideshow boxer Peadar, in Billy Roche’s drama, the beautifully elegiac ‘Lay Me Down Softly’.
On screen in 2009 he took a starring role as John, an ailing itinerant survivor in the locally produced fantasy drama, ‘Ditching’, set in a futuristic wasteland of Northern Ireland. That same year at the Belfast Festival at Queens, he was the ostentatious philanderer Lev, in Gavin Rostick’s splendid Jewish confessional piece, ‘This is What We Sang’, presented at the site specific Belfast Synagogue.
Another intense study in the art of stage playing, was his drink- fuelled schoolmaster Clement O’Donnell, in an excellent revival of Brian Friel’s ‘The Home Place’, performed at the Grand Opera House, Belfast in 2010, with a sterling cast including Ian McElhinney and Aislin McGuckin as O’Donnell’s daughter, Margaret. A positive period from 2012, both on stage and screen, saw him co-star as Derry crime boss Frank Feeney in director Kieron J.Walsh’s drama ‘Jump’ in 2012, in a cast which included Martin McCann and Ciaran McMenamin.
Following incidental appearances in two small scale Irish produced films in 2013, he took central roles in two stage plays; Joe and Gerard Brennan’s fast moving comedy ‘The Sweety Bottle’, at the Grand Opera House, Belfast in 2013 and Decadent Theatre’s 2014 touring revival of Stuart Carolan’s compelling mid-eighties, Co. Armagh set, ‘Defender of the Faith’. In the latter, playing to perfection, the slow-witted farm-hand Barney. In 2016 he was a credible Thomas Clarke, Irish Republican leader and a principle player in the 1916 Easter Rising, in the RTE commissioned, commemorative mini-series ‘Rebellion’, written by Colin Teevan.
Lalor Roddy’s star has unquestionably shone brightest on stage, a voice unfortunately not always heard beyond theatre, a prime case perhaps of life interposing with destiny.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– This Love Thing (1991) Old Museum Arts Centre, Belfast
– Shadow Of A Gunman (1995) Glasgow Citizens Theatre
– Judas Of The Gallarus(1999) Abbey Theatre, Dublin
– Death And The Ploughman(2001) Project Arts, Dublin
-Closing Time(2002) Tivoli Theatre, Dublin
– Paradise(2004) Lyric Theatre, Belfast
– Over The Bridge(2010) Waterfront Studio, Belfast
– A Better Boy(2012) MV Confiance, Lanyon Quay, Belfast
– Desire Under the Elms(2013) Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin
– Monsters, Dinosaurs, Ghosts(2015) Abbey Theatre, Dublin
– The Escapist 2001)
– Boy Eats Girl (2005)
– Hunger (2008)
– City Of Ember (2008)
– Sensation (2010)
– Mount Analogue Revisited (2010)
– Made in Belfast(2013)
– The Sea(2013)
– Lost in the Living(2015)
– Chosen (2004)
– Scapegoat (2009)
– Game of Thrones(2011)
– The Frankenstein Chronicles(2015)
Born Belfast 2nd November 1972