Cyril James Cusack (26 November 1910 – 7 October 1993) was an Irish stage and screen actor with a career that spanned more than 70 years. During his lifetime, he was considered one of Ireland’s finest thespians, and was renowned for his interpretations of both classical and contemporary theatre, including Shakespearean roles as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and over 60 productions for the Abbey Theatre, of which he was a lifelong member. In 2020, Cusack was ranked at number 14 on The Irish Times' list of Ireland's greatest film actors.
Cyril James Cusack
26 November 1910
|Died||7 October 1993 (aged 82)|
|Occupation||Actor, voice actor, stage director|
(m. 1945; died 1977)
Mary Rose Cunningham
|Children||6, including Sinéad, Sorcha, Niamh, Pádraig and Catherine Cusack|
|Relatives||Richard Boyd Barrett|
Born to Irish father and English mother in South Africa and raised in County Tipperary, Cusack dropped out of law school to join the Abbey Theatre and remained with the company for 13 years, acting in over 60 plays. In London, he performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre, and later founded his own company which toured across Europe. Making his film debut at age 8, Cusack worked with many top British directors, including Powell & Pressburger, Carol Reed, Peter Brook, Peter Hall, and Anthony Harvey. He co-starred opposite Richard Burton several times, who once commended Cusack’s acting as “always himself and yet always totally different.” Fluent in both English and Irish, Cusack had a starring role in the very first Irish-language feature film, Poitín (1978).
Early life and educationEdit
Cusack was born in Durban, Natal, South Africa. His mother, Alice Violet (née Cole), was an English Cockney actress and chorus girl, and his father, James Walter Cusack, was an Irish mounted policeman in Natal Colony, South Africa. His parents separated when he was young and his mother took him to England, and then to Ireland. Cusack's mother and her partner, Brefni O'Rorke, joined the O'Brien and Ireland Players.
Cyril made his first stage performance at the age of seven. He was educated at Newbridge College in Newbridge, County Kildare, then read law at University College Dublin. He left without a degree and joined the Abbey Theatre in 1932.
Between then and 1945, he performed in over 60 productions for the Abbey, particularly excelling in the plays of Seán O'Casey. He also performed in plays by Irish playwright Teresa Deevy Katie Roche and The King of Spain's Daughter. In 1932 he also joined the Gate Theatre company, appearing with them in many notable productions over the years. In 1947, Cusack formed his own company, Cyril Cusack Productions, and staged productions in Dublin, Paris and New York.
In 1963, Cusack joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in London and appeared there for several seasons. By this stage he had established a successful career in films, which had started at the age of eight. The same year, Cusack won a Jacob's Award for his performance in the Telefís Éireann production of Triptych.
Film and televisionEdit
Cusack played the titular role in the Galileo (1968), which was the directorial debut of Italian filmmaker Liliana Cavani. Cusack returned to Italy several times throughout his career, particularly in the 1970s, both acting on-camera and working as a voice artist, helping create English-language dubs of Italian films.
Cusack was twice married:
- The actress Mary Margaret "Maureen" Kiely (1920–1977), on 5 April 1945
- Mary Rose Cunningham (1979–1993)
- Catherine (1968) actress
In later life, Cusack became a campaigner for conservative causes in Ireland, notably in his opposition to abortion, where he became a frequent letter-writer to the main liberal Irish newspaper, The Irish Times. Regarding his Catholic faith, he commented "Religion promotes the divine discontent within oneself, so that one tries to make oneself a better person and draw oneself closer to God." His religious credentials came under scrutiny following his death and the revelation that he had been unfaithful in his first marriage, with a long-term mistress, Mary Rose Cunningham, who bore him a daughter, Catherine. Cusack married Cunningham following his first wife's death.
Cusack was a longtime friend of Irish attorney general, Chief Justice and President of Ireland Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, whom he got to know when they were students at University College Dublin in the early 1930s.
- Knocknagow (1918) as Brian's child
- Guests of the Nation (1935) as IRA member who raises flag / imprisoned IRA member
- Servants All (1936) as Billy
- Inspector Hornleigh Goes to It (1941) as Postal Sorter
- Once a Crook (1941) as Bill Hopkins
- Odd Man Out (1947) as Pat
- Escape (1948) as Rodgers
- Esther Waters (1948) as Fred
- Once a Jolly Swagman (1949) as Duggie
- The Small Back Room (1949) as Cpl. Taylor
- The Blue Lagoon (1949) as James Carter
- All Over the Town (1949) as Gerald Vane
- Gone to Earth (1950) as Edward Marston
- The Elusive Pimpernel (1950) as Chauvelin
- Soldiers Three (1951) as Pvt. Dennis Malloy
- The Secret of Convict Lake (1951) as Edward 'Limey' Cockerell
- The Blue Veil (1951) as Frank Hutchins
- The Wild Heart (1952) as Edward Marston
- Saadia (1953) as Khadir
- The Last Moment (1954) as Daniel O'Driscoll (segment "The Sensible Man")
- Destination Milan (1954) as Paddy O'Clafferty
- Passage Home (1955) as Bohannon the steward
- The Man Who Never Was (1956) as Taxi Driver
- The Man in the Road (1956) as Doctor Kelly
- The March Hare (1956) as Lazy Mangan
- Jacqueline (1956) as Mr. Flannagan
- The Spanish Gardener (1956) as Garcia
- Ill Met by Moonlight (1957) as Captain Sandy Rendel
- The Rising of the Moon (1957) as Inspector Michael Dillon
- Miracle in Soho (1957) as Sam Bishop
- Gideon's Day (1958) as Birdie Sparrow
- Floods of Fear (1958) as Peebles
- Shake Hands with the Devil (1959) as Chris Noonan
- Once upon a Tram (1959), narrator
- A Terrible Beauty (1960) as Jimmy Hannafin
- Johnny Nobody (1961) as Prosecuting Counsel O'Brien
- Waltz of the Toreadors (1962) as Dr. Grogan
- I Thank a Fool (1962) as Captain Ferris
- 80,000 Suspects (1963) as Father Maguire
- The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) as Control
- Deirdre (1965, TV Movie) as Conchubar
- Where the Spies Are (1966) as Rosser
- I Was Happy Here (1966) as Hogan
- Fahrenheit 451 (1966) as Fireman Captain Beatty
- The Taming of the Shrew (1967) as Grumio
- Oedipus the King (1968) as Messenger
- Galileo (1968) as Galileo Galilei
- Country Dance (1970) as Dr. Maitland
- Tam-Lin (1970) as Vicar Julian Ainsley
- King Lear (1971) as Albany
- Sacco e Vanzetti (1971) as Frederick Katzmann
- Harold and Maude (1971) as Glaucus
- Caliber 9 (1972) as Hotel Clerk (English version, voice, uncredited)
- Execution Squad (1972) as Former Superintendent Stolfi
- Manhunt in Milan (1972) as Corso
- All The Way, Boys (1972) as Matto
- Il Boss (1973) as Gabrielli / Projectionist (English version, voice, uncredited)
- The Day of the Jackal (1973) as Gozzi, the gunsmith
- The Homecoming (1973) as Sam
- The Bloody Hands of the Law (1973) as the Judge
- A Likely Story (1973)
- Catholics (1973) as Father Manus
- Run, Run, Joe! (1974) as Parkintosh
- What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1974) as Coroner (English version, voice, uncredited)
- Street Law (1974) as Records Librarian (English version, voice, uncredited)
- Juggernaut (1974) as Major O'Neill (uncredited)
- The Abdication (1974) as Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna
- Last Moments (1974) as the Balloon Vendor
- Deep Red (1975) as Florist (English version, voice, uncredited)
- Children of Rage (1975) as David's father
- The Big Racket (1976) as Bodyguard / Clerk (English version, voice, uncredited)
- Could It Happen Here? (1977) as Taxi Driver (English version, voice, uncredited)
- Fear in the City (1978) as Giacomo Masoni
- Poitín (1978) as Michil
- True Confessions (1981) as Cardinal Danaher
- Lovespell (1981) as Gormond of Ireland
- The Outcasts (1982) as Myles Keenan
- The World of Don Camillo (1984) as Bishop
- Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) as Mr. Charrington, the shopkeeper
- The Ballroom of Romance (1986) as Mr. Dwyer
- Little Dorrit (1987) as Frederick Dorrit
- My Left Foot (1989) as Lord Castlewelland
- The Fool (1990) as the Ballad Seller
- Far and Away (1992) as Danty Duff
- As You Like It (1992) as Adam
- St. Patrick's Day (1938)
- The Moon and Sixpence (1959) as Dr. Coutras
- The Power and the Glory (1961) as Tench
- The Chairs (1962) as the Old Man
- Dial M for Murder (1967) as Chief Insp. Hubbard
- Red Peppers (1969) as Bert Bentley
- David Copperfield (1969, US TV Movie) as Barkis
- Poet Game (1971) as Dr. Saunders
- The Golden Bowl (1972), as Bob Assingham
- Clochemerle (1972) (UK) as Mayor Barthelemy Piechut
- The Hands of Cormac Joyce (Hallmark Hall of Fame, 1972) as Mr. Reece
- Glenroe (Ireland 1974) as Uncle Peter
- Jesus of Nazareth (1977), as Rabbi Yehuda
- Les Misérables (1978, TV Movie) as Fauchelevent
- Cry of the Innocent (1980) as Detective Inspector Tom Moloney
- Strumpet City (Ireland 1980) as Father Giffley
- Tales of the Unexpected, episode "The Hitch-Hiker" (1980) as Michael Fish
- No Country for Old Men (1981)
- Andrina (1981) as Captain Bill Torvald
- The Ghost Downstairs (1982) as Mr. Fishbane
- The Comedy of Errors, (BBC/Time-Life Shakespeare, 1983) as Aegeon
- Death of an Expert Witness, based on the novel by P.D.James (1983) as Mister Lorrimer
- One of Ourselves (1983) as Quigley
- Dr. Fischer of Geneva (1984) as Steiner
- Two by Forsyth (1984)
- Privilege (1984), based on Frederick Forsyth stories, adapted by Michael Feeney Callan (1984), Mobile Showcase Network (US) as Martin Pound
- Tales of the Unexpected, episode "Accidental Death" (1984) as Percy Hampton
- The Kingfisher (1985) as Hawkins
- The Tenth Man (1988) as the Priest
- Danny the Champion of the World (1989) as Doc Spencer
- The King of Spain's Daughter (1935)
- Jo Mahony in Katie Roch (1936)
- The Dark Tower (1946)
- "Cyril Cusack Biography (1910-)". www.filmreference.com.
- "Cyril Cusack, 82, the Irish Actor Often Seen as His Country's Best". New York Times. 8 October 1993.
- "Cyril James Cusack actor". Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 March 2014.
- "Cyril Cusack - Obituary from The Associated Press". powell-pressburger.org. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
- Clarke, Donald; Brady, Tara. "The 50 greatest Irish film actors of all time – in order". The Irish Times.
- "Cusack, Cyril | Abbey Archives | Abbey Theatre - Amharclann na Mainistreach". Abbey Theatre.
- "Katie Roche · Teresa Deevy Archive". deevy.nuim.ie.
- "The Teresa Deevy Archive".
- The Irish Times, "Presentation of television awards and citations," 4 December 1963.
- The Annual Obituary. St. Martin's. 10 March 1993. ISBN 9781558623200 – via Google Books.
- "Cusack turns into Catherine the great". The Independent.
- "Cyril Cusack Quotes". BrainyQuote.
- Garret FitzGerald, All in a Life (Gill and Macmillan, 1991)
- "Deaths England and Wales 1984–2006".
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