Of the many stars on the Hollywood walk of fame, 13 belong to Irish people.
Roscommon man George Brent has two stars on Vine street, one for his television work and another for cinema. Born in 1899, Brent was an IRA courier for Michael Collins during the War of Independence. He travelled to America in 1925 with a stage company and five years later signed to Warner Brothers. Brent became a leading man starring opposite the likes of Bette Davis and Greta Garbo. A renowned womaniser, his five marriages and string of affairs, including one with Davis are testament to that fact.
Not far from Brent’s star on Vine Street is that of Armagh’s Brian Donlevy. Born in Portadown in 1901, Donlevy was ten years old when his family emigrated to the United States. In 1916 the 14 year old Donlevy lied about his age to enlist in the National Guard, becoming a pilot in France during WWI. After the war, Donlevy’s interests turned to acting and by 1939 he was nominated for an Oscar for his turn as a drill sergeant in Beau Geste. The rough and rugged Donlevy assumed a rather different character in his private life. He wore dentures, a hairpiece, elevated shoes and a corset. Donlevy married three times, his third wife was the ex wife of Bela Lugosi and would remain at Donlevy’s side until his death from throat cancer in 1972.
In 1997 Pierce Brosnon received a star on Hollywood Boulevard. Born in Navan in 1953, he left for London at the age of 16 to pursue a career on stage. He came to prominence in Remington Steele, but it was in 1995 that he became a household name when he became the fifth actor to play James Bond.
Another Irish actor with a star on Hollywood Boulevard is the legendary Barry Fitzgerald. Born William Joseph Shields in Portobello, he rose through the ranks of the famed Abbey Theatre and was closely associated with the plays of Sean O’Casey, who he was once a roommate of. Fitzgerald drew the attention of director John Ford who brought him to Hollywood to star in the screen version of The Plough and the Stars. Nominated for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for the same role as Father Fitzgibbon in Going My Way at the Academy Awards, (a rule was later introduced in order to prevent this scenario recurring) he won the accolade for the latter but later broke the head off his Oscar while practicing his golf swing!
Geraldine Fitzgerald, who is no relation to Barry, was born in Greystones in 1913. In the 1930s she went to Hollywood and in 1939 was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for her role in Wuthering Heights. Fitzgerald had frequent clashes with studio heads such as Jack Warner and this resulted in her losing many important roles, but it didn’t stop her from getting a star on the walk of fame in 1960. Fitzgerald married twice and for years resisted rumours that her son was the result of an affair with Orson Welles in the 1930s.
Creighton Hale was born in Cork in 1882 and while touring with an acting troupe in America, he entered the film industry in Hollywood. With his trademark round glasses, Hale was stereotyped as a comedy actor but in private he lived anything but a comedic life. He gained bad publicity towards the end of the 1920s when he divorced from his wife and refused to pay child support. By the time the talkies came in, Hale’s star had waned and his career took a nosedive, never to recover but in 1960 the industry recognised Hale with a star on the walk of fame.
Rex Ingram, born Reginald Ingram Montgomery Hitchcock in Dublin, also has a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. He left for America in 1911 where he got involved in film directing. Ingram became a much sought after director but his rakish Irish ways never left him. In 1923 just as he began production on Scaramouche he called a halt to the film in order to celebrate St.Patrick’s day with a party that lasted 12 days.
Joseph Michael Kerrigan, better known as J.M Kerrigan, was born in Dublin in 1884 and became a shining star with the famous Abbey Players but by 1916 his star shot to Hollywood. Kerrigan became a familiar face in many John Ford films such as The Informer. He died in 1964, four years after his star was placed on Hollywood Boulevard.
The Moore brothers from County Meath had their respective stars placed on the walk of fame in 1960. Matt, Tom and Owen all made an impact on the early days of Hollywood when they emigrated from Ireland.
Matt Moore began his career with short silent films and his affection for his pet cats became legendary. Moore was known to bring them on set and persuade the director to let them appear in the film. Two of Moore’s cats have their own stars on the animal section of the Hollywood walk of fame.
Owen Moore became the leading man in many Mary Pickford films and later married her in 1911. Pickford left Owen for Douglas Fairbanks in 1920 and alcohol became a constant feature in his life thereafter. Owen Moore did manage to find himself a second wife in Kathleen Perry who was an actor in silent films. He died in Los Angeles at the age of 52.
Like his brothers, Tom Moore took to the emerging film industry on the west coast of America in the early 20th century. He married three times and his career too took a bruising with the advent of the talkies. He died in Santa Monica in 1955.
Maureen O’Hara’s star was unveiled on Hollywood Boulevard in 1960. Born in Dublin as Maureen FitzSimons, her father was part owner of Shamrock Rovers football club, while her mother was an opera singer. O’Hara also wanted to be an opera singer but her stint with the Abbey Theatre saw her take a route into screen acting and the rest, as they say, is history.
Born in 1911 in Boyle County Roscommon, Maureen O’Sullivan did a screen test for 20th century fox who were on location filming Song O’ My Heart that starred tenor John McCormack. From there she went onto Hollywood where she signed a contract in 1932 with MGM. She found fame playing Jane in numerous Tarzan films of that era. O’Sullivan’s daughter is the actress Mia Farrow from her first marriage to Australian director John Farrow. O’Sullivan was awarded her star on the walk of fame in 1991, seven years before her death at the age of 87.
Hollywood has always had an Irish flavour from its early days right up to the present day (with Liam Neeson set to receive one before the end of the year), perhaps there may be more Irish names to appear on the walk of fame in the years to come.