On what would have been his 100th birthday, Ivor Casey remembers the Dubliner who went from the theatre stage in Ireland to starring in many Hollywood films and TV shows


Brutish and boorish, with a thick Irish brogue, highlight some of the characteristics of one of Ireland’s great acting success stories, Sean McClory, who went from appearing on the stage of Ireland’s National Theatre to the big name studios of Hollywood.

McClory often took on the supporting roles of charismatic characters usually of Irish background, from his performances in The Quiet Man (1952) to The Dead (1987). He also made appearances in a tremendous variety of classic TV shows from guest parts on Bonanza to Columbo.

This year marks what would have been the 100th birthday of the remarkable actor who left an indelible impression on the annals of cinema and the impact Ireland has in Hollywood.

Born in a nursing home in Dublin on 8 March, 1924, to Mary Anne Margaret Ball and Hugh Patrick McClory, Sean Joseph McClory was raised for most of his youth in Co. Galway where he attended the St. Ignatius Jesuit College. During his childhood he studied acting at an Irish language theatre called An Taibhdhearc.
Following school he studied medicine at University College Galway but discovered that a passion for acting was more in keeping with his ambitions. He joined the Abbey Theatre in the mid 1940s, performed in the Irish language translation of W.B. Yeats’ Cathleen ní Houlihan and appeared in the theatre’s first Irish language Christmas pantomime in 1945.

It was while attending a performance at the Abbey Theatre in 1947 that RKO Pictures producer Jack Votion discovered McClory and was so impressed with his acting that he pitched him to the Hollywood studio and McClory was soon cast in his first film, Dick Tracy’s Dilemma (1947), followed by Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947).

This quickly began McClory’s entrance to motion pictures and he moved to America to begin a long line of small part appearances in films such as Beyond Glory (1948) directed by Irish actress Maureen O’Sullivan’s husband John Farrow and The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady (1950) about an overprotective Irish father who attempts to control the love lives of his daughters.

Sean continued to work on stage while living in America and took roles on Broadway and in plays at different venues around the United States. Some of his stage performances included playing the part of Mickey Linden in The Shining Hour at La Jolly Playhouse in San Diego, California, which was a not-for-profit professional theatre set up by several actors including Gregory Peck in 1947. Sean also went onto make his Broadway debut in 1951 as Rory Commons in

The King of Friday’s Men by Co. Galway playwright Michael Joseph Molloy, alongside Co. Galway actor Walter Macken at the Playhouse Theatre in New York. He also appeared in performances of Christopher Fry’s The Lady’s Not For Burning and the stage production of Frederick Knott’s Dial “M” For Murder.

However it was in front of the camera where Sean could be seen maintaining a steady career playing small parts in a string of films.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own