Jack MacGowran

Last updated

Jack MacGowran
Jack MacGowran, as seen in 'How I Won the War'.jpg
MacGowran, as pictured in How I Won the War (1967)
John Joseph MacGowran

(1918-10-13)13 October 1918
Dublin, Ireland
Died30 January 1973(1973-01-30) (aged 54)
New York City, U.S.
Years active1951–1973
SpouseAileen Gloria Nugent (m. 1963)

John Joseph MacGowran (13 October 1918 – 30 January 1973) was an Irish actor, known for portraying Juniper in How I Won the War (1967), and Burke Dennings in The Exorcist (1973), in which MacGowran died during production.


Stage career

MacGowran was born on 13 October 1918 in Dublin, [1] and educated at Synge Street CBS. [2] He established his professional reputation as a member of the Abbey Players in Dublin, while he achieved stage renown for his knowing interpretations of the works of Samuel Beckett. He appeared as Lucky in Waiting for Godot at the Royal Court Theatre, and with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Endgame at the Aldwych Theatre. He released an LP record titled MacGowran Speaking Beckett to coincide with Samuel Beckett's 60th birthday in 1966, [3] and he won the 1970–71 Obie for Best Performance By an Actor in the off-Broadway play MacGowran in the Works of Beckett. [4]

He also specialised in the work of Seán O'Casey, creating the role of Joxer in the Broadway musical Juno in 1959, based on Juno and the Paycock , O'Casey's 1924 play about the Irish Civil War. He played O'Casey's brother Archie in Young Cassidy (1965), one of John Ford's later films, which the director had to abandon due to ill health. [5] [6]

In 1954, he moved to London, where he became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he struck up a lasting friendship with actor Peter O'Toole, with whom he later appeared in Richard Brooks' Lord Jim (1965). He apparently had a fractious relationship with RSC director Peter Hall. He was Old Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice , and when the set arrived, Hall called all the cast into the theatre to view it. MacGowran was not there, still in his dressing room. An assistant was sent to fetch him. He returned alone: "Mr. MacGowran says, Mr. Hall, that if you had read the play you would know that Old Gobbo was blind."[ citation needed ]

MacGowran played the title role of Gandhi in the Broadway play written by Gurney Campbell in 1971, directed by José Quintero. [7]

Film career

MacGowran's film career started in Ireland with the film No Resting Place (1951), and many of his earlier films were set in Ireland. Notably The Quiet Man (1952), The Gentle Gunman (1952), Rooney (1958) and Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959).

In 1966 Roman Polanski cast him as the gangster Albie in Cul-de-sac , before creating Professor Abronsius in The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) especially for him. Other notable film appearances include the Ealing comedy The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953), Tony Richardson's Tom Jones (1963), David Lean's Doctor Zhivago (1965), Richard Lester's How I Won the War (1967), Peter Brook's King Lear , the leading role of Professor Collins in Wonderwall (1968), and Age of Consent (1969). On TV, he appeared in "The Happening", episode 5 of The Champions as Banner B. Banner, (Old prospector), and in "The Winged Avenger" episode of The Avengers (where he is sometimes listed as "Jack MacGowan"). He played a safecracker opposite Kenneth Cope in "The Ghost Talks" episode of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) . His last film was The Exorcist (1973), where he played Burke Dennings, an alcoholic director and Regan's first victim. [8]

Personal life

In 1963, he married Aileen Gloria Nugent, daughter of Sir Walter Nugent, Bt.

Shortly after completing work on The Exorcist , while in New York City appearing as Fluther in Seán O'Casey's The Plough and the Stars , MacGowran died at 54 from influenza after complications resulting from the London flu epidemic. [9] He was survived by his wife and daughter.

Partial filmography

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Samuel Beckett</span> Nobel-winning Irish writer (1906–1989)

Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish novelist, dramatist, short story writer, theatre director, poet, and literary translator. His literary and theatrical work features bleak, impersonal and tragicomic experiences of life, often coupled with black comedy and nonsense. His work became increasingly minimalist as his career progressed, involving more aesthetic and linguistic experimentation, with techniques of repetition and self-reference. He is considered one of the last modernist writers, and one of the key figures in what Martin Esslin called the Theatre of the Absurd.

<i>Neville Brand</i> American actor (1920–1992)

Lawrence Neville Brand was an American soldier and actor. He was known for playing villainous or antagonistic character roles in Westerns, crime dramas, and films noir, and was nominated for a BAFTA Award for his performance in Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jack Cassidy</span> American actor, singer and director (1927–1976)

John Joseph Edward Cassidy, was an American actor, singer and theater director known for his work in the theater, television and films. He received multiple Tony Award nominations and a win, as well as a Grammy Award, for his work on the Broadway production of the musical She Loves Me. He also received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations. He was the father of teen idols David Cassidy and Shaun Cassidy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">T. P. McKenna</span> Irish actor

Thomas Patrick McKenna was an Irish actor, born in Mullagh, County Cavan. He had an extensive stage and screen career.

<i>Cul-de-sac</i> (1966 film) 1966 film by Roman Polanski

Cul-de-sac is a 1966 British black comedy psychological thriller film directed by Roman Polanski, written by Polanski and Gérard Brach, and starring Donald Pleasence, Françoise Dorléac, Lionel Stander, Jack MacGowran, Iain Quarrier, Geoffrey Sumner, Renée Houston, William Franklyn, Trevor Delaney, and Marie Kean. It also features Jacqueline Bisset in a small role, in her second film appearance. Polanski's second English-language feature, it follows two injured American gangsters who take refuge in the remote island castle of a young British couple in the north of England, spurring a series of mind games and violent altercations.

<i>Wonderwall</i> (film) 1968 British film

Wonderwall is a 1968 British psychedelic film directed by Joe Massot, starring Jack MacGowran, Jane Birkin, Irene Handl, Richard Wattis and Iain Quarrier, and featuring a cameo by Dutch collective the Fool, who were also set designers for the film.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">J. G. Devlin</span> Northern Irish actor (1907–1991)

James Gerard Devlin was a Northern Irish actor who made his stage debut in 1931, and had long association with the Ulster Group Theatre. In a career spanning nearly sixty years, he played parts in TV productions such as Z-Cars, Dad's Army, The New Avengers and Bread. He also guest starred, alongside Leonard Rossiter, in an episode of Steptoe and Son, "The Desperate Hours". The writers of Steptoe and Son - Ray Galton and Alan Simpson - later said Devlin was second choice to play the part of Albert Steptoe in the series, behind Wilfrid Brambell. He also appeared as Father Dooley, a Catholic priest, in several episodes of Carla Lane's Bread, his last television appearance.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Webber</span> American actor (1924–1989)

Robert Laman Webber was an American actor. He appeared in dozens of films and television series, roles that included Juror No. 12 in the 1957 film 12 Angry Men.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Walter Burke</span> American actor (1908–1984)

Walter Lawrence Burke was an American character actor of stage, film, and television whose career in entertainment spanned over a half century. Although he was a native of New York, Burke's Irish ancestry often led to his being cast in roles as an Irishman or Englishman. His small stature and distinctive voice and face also made him easily recognizable to audiences even when he was performing in minor supporting roles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rupert Davies</span> British actor

Rupert Davies FRSA was a British actor. He is best remembered for playing the title role in the BBC's 1960s television adaptation of Maigret, based on Georges Simenon's novels.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Niall MacGinnis</span> Irish actor (1913–1977)

Patrick Niall MacGinnis was an Irish actor who made around 80 screen appearances.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sean McClory</span> Irish actor

Séan Joseph McClory was an Irish actor whose career spanned six decades and included well over 100 films and television series. He was sometimes billed as Shawn McGlory or Sean McGlory.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mort Mills</span> American actor (1919–1993)

Mort Mills was an American film and television actor who had roles in over 150 movies and television episodes. He was often the town lawman or the local bad guy in many popular westerns of the 1950s and 1960s.

<i>Young Cassidy</i> 1965 British film

Young Cassidy is a 1965 British biography drama film directed by Jack Cardiff and starring Rod Taylor, Julie Christie, and Maggie Smith. It is a biographical drama based upon the life of the playwright Seán O'Casey.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Harry Brogan</span> Irish actor

Harry Brogan was an Irish actor often in comic roles. He was part of the Abbey Theatre from 1939 - 1976.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Liam Redmond</span> Irish actor (1913–1989)

Liam Redmond was an Irish character actor known for his stage, film and television roles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John McLiam</span> Canadian actor

John McLiam was a film and television actor noted for his skill at different accents. His film appearances include My Fair Lady (1964), In Cold Blood (1967), John Frankenheimer's movie of The Iceman Cometh (1973), The Missouri Breaks (1976), and First Blood (1982). He was a guest star in numerous television series and wrote a Broadway play, The Sin of Pat Muldoon.

Donald McWhinnie was a BBC executive and later a radio, television, and stage director.

Chloe Gibson was an English theatre and television director, who directed Telefís Éireann's opening night on New Year's Eve 1961.

<i>She Didnt Say No!</i> 1958 British film

She Didn't Say No! is a 1958 British comedy film directed by Cyril Frankel and starring Eileen Herlie, Perlita Neilson and Niall MacGinnis. Based on the 1955 novel We Are Seven by Una Troy, an attractive young Irishwoman has six children from five different fathers.


  1. British film and television year book. Cinema TV Today. 1970. p. 234.
  2. Battersby, Eileen (9 November 1988). "Jack MacGowran: Born to play Beckett". Irish Times. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  3. "MacGowan Speaking Beckett - MacGowran Speaking Beckett". Discogs .
  4. "Jack MacGowran in the Works of Samuel Beckett".
  5. "Young Cassidy". January 1965.
  6. "The Complete Rod Taylor Site: Young Cassidy".
  7. "Gandhi".
  8. Maye, Brian (8 October 2018). "Hero of the stage – An Irishman's Diary on actor Jack MacGowran". Irish Times . Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  9. van Gelder, Lawrence (31 January 1973). "Jack MacGowran, Interpreter Of Beckett and O'Casey, Dead". The New York Times . p. 44. Retrieved 5 March 2019.