[Alfred Willmore; Micheál or Mícheál;
not Michael or Mac Liammóir]; b. 15 Nov., London [though
he professed a Cork birth]; child actor appearing in Peter Pan
under [Sir] Beerbohm Tree; travelled in Spain; studied at Willesden
Polytechnic School of Art [Slade by own account]; joined Gaelic
League; fell under influence of W. B. Yeats and visited Ireland
in 1916; returned to Ireland in 1927 with Anew McMaster, his brother-in-law
introduced to Hilton Edwards [q.v.
his partner in theatre and life, by McMaster; fnd. Taibhdhearc na
Gallaimhe, 1927, producing his own Diarmuid agus Gráinne
co-fnd. Gate Theatre with Edwards, opening with Peer Gynt
12 Oct. 1928; travelled with the Gate on many successful tours;
greatly admired for leading roles incl. Emmet in Denis Johnstons
The Old Lady Says No!
; Larry Doyle in John
Bulls Other Island
; Brack in Hedda Gabler
Romeo, Richard II, Hamlet (1931, 1952); won Kroneburg Gold Medal
for his performance as Hamlet in Elsinore; The Importance of
, a one-man show on Wilde (1960);
wrote and performed I Must Be Talking to
My Friends (1965), another one-man show; his international experience
with Orson Welles included productions for film (Iago in Othello,
1951) and stage (Edgar in Lear, 1953); wrote script for pageant
of arrival of St. Patrick, dir. Edwards, under aegis of An Tostal,
1953; also appeared in films with Edwards and stage productions
with Peter Brook and others; his plays include Ford of the Hurdles
(1928); Where Stars Walk (1940), a retelling of The
Wooing of Etain, written c.1928 and revived at the Gate Theatre
in 1979; Dreary Shadows (1941); Ill Met My Moonlight
(1946), filmed with Edwards in 1956;
issued Portrait of Marian (1947); The
Mountains Look Different (1948); Home for Christmas (1950);
A Slipper for the Moon (1954); and Prelude in Katbec Street
(1973); prose works and memoirs are Put Money in Thy Purse
(1952); All for Hecuba (1964); Theatre in Ireland
(1950), and Do. [2nd. enl. edn.] (Dublin: Cultural Relations
Committee 1964); An Oscar of No Importance (1968), and W.
B. Yeats and His World [with Eavan Boland] (1970); Enter
a Goldfish, Memoirs of an Irish Actor Young and Old (1977),
autobiographical fiction; books in Irish, Ceo Meala Lá
issued Aistreorí Faoin Dhá
Solas (1956), afterwards translated as Each Actor on His
Ass (1961); issued Bláth agus Raibhse (1966);
issued a thinly-disguised autobiographical novel as Enter a Goldfish
(1977); d. 6 March 1978; an exhibition of papers was held in the
Dublin Civic Museum, Oct. 2001 based on papers donated by Robbie
Turner, son of Patricia Turner, MacLiammoirs long-time assistant;
there is a bronze head by Marjorie Fitzgibbon in the RDS. NCBE
DIW DIL OCIL
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- Diarmuid agus Gráinne (Dublin: Oifig Dialta Foillseacháin
- Where Stars Walk (Dublin: Progress House 1962).
- Ill Met by Moonlight (Dublin: Duffy 1954).
- The Importance of Being Oscar (Dublin: Dolmen; London:
OUP 1963; new edn. 1978), foreword by Hilton Edwards; Do.,
[rep. of 1978 Edn.] (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1995), 71pp.
John Barrett, sel. and intro. Selected
Plays of Micheál Mac Liammóir [Irish Drama
Selections, 11] (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1998), 319pp.
[Where Stars Walk; Ill Met By Moonlight,
rev.; The Mountains Look Different; The Liar;
Prelude in Kazbek Street];
- Foreword to Padraic Ó Conaire, Deoraíochtí
 (Talbot 1973).
- All for Hecuba [memoir] (London: Methuen 1946), [rev.
edn.] (Dublin: Progress House 1961), and Do. [rep. edn.]
as All for Hecuba: An Irish Theatrical Autobiography (Dublin:
Lilliput Press 2008), 320pp.
- Put Money in Thy Purse: The Filming of Orson Welles
Othello (London: Methuen 1952), and Do.
(London: Virgin 1994), 258pp.
- Each Actor on His Ass [memoir trans. from his own Irish]
(London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1961).
- foreword to Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince and Other Stories
(London: Puffin Books 1962).
- Theatre in Ireland [1st Edn. 1950] (Dublin: Three Candles
- with Edwin Smith, Ireland (London: Thames & Hudson
- An Oscar of No Importance [memoir] (London: Heinemann
- Enter a Goldfish [autobiog. novel] (London: Thames &
- with Eavan Boland, W. B. Yeats (London: Thames &
Hudson 1971), Do. (NY: Viking 1972).
- [as Michael Willmore,] Seamus OKelly, Waysiders: Stories
of Connacht (Dublin: Talbot 1917; rep. [c.1919]) (viii), 203pp.;
- [as Micheal MacLiammoir,] Faery Nights / Oicheanta Sí
[bilingual pb. edn.] (Dublin: OBrien Press 1996; 2nd edn.
2000),100/128pp. [containing 8 stories based on Irish festivals].
See also Richard Pine & Orla Murphy, Designs & Illustrations
1917-1972, with a foreword by Hilton Edwards [Exhibition
Catalogue] (Dublin Arts Festival 1973), 12pp., and Richard Pine,
All for Hecuba: The Dublin Gate Theatre 1928-1978
[Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, 4 October
- 2 November 1978] (Dublin: Dublin Gate Theatre 1978),
pp., ill. [4 lvs. of plates (some color), ports.; 22 x 30
A Real Player version of The Importance of Being
Oscar - a Columbia recording made after the successful Broadway
run in 1961, and part of a projecte 52 album recording of Wildeana
- is available to audit at the New Generation website [link].
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- Desmond Rushe, Season at the Gate’, in Éire-Ireland,
6, 4 (Winter 1971), pp.120-22, p.121 [see extract];
- Edwards and Mac Liammóir: We must be talking,
in Des Hickey and Gus Smith, eds., A Paler Shade of Green
(London: Leslie Frewin 1972), pp.73-89.
- Peter Luke, ed., Enter Certain Players: Edwards-MacLiammoir
and the Gate 1928-1978 (Dublin: Dolmen 1978) [appendix listing
productions 1928-78; see extract].
- Micheál Ó hAodha, The Importance of being
Micheál: A Portrait of MacLiammóir (Dingle:
Brandon ), 202pp. [port., 26 ill., 1p. bibl.].
- Christopher Fitzsimon, The Boys: A Biography of Micheál
MacLiammóir and Hilton Edwards (London: Nick Hern ),
320pp., ill. [see extract].
- Denis Staunton, Michael MacLiammóir (London: Absolute
Press [Troika] 1997).
- Éibhear Walshe, Sodom and Begorrah, or Game to
the Last: Inventing Michael MacLiammoir, in Éibhear
Walshe, ed., Sex, Nation and Dissent in Irish Writing (Cork
UP 1997), pp.150-69.
- R. J. Cloughterty, Jr., Micheal Mac Liammoir in
Bernice Schrank & William Demastes, ed., Irish Playwrights,
1880-1995: A Research and Production Sourcebook (CT: Greenwood
Press 1997), pp.175-81.
- John Keyes, The Importance of Being Micheal: A Life in Two
Acts (Belfast: Lagan Press ), 206pp.
- Joan Fitzpatrick Dean, Mac Liammóirs The
Importance of Being Oscar in America, in Irish Theater
in America, ed., John P. Harrington (Syracuse UP 2009) [q.pp.]
[ top ]
Desmond Rushe, Season at the Gate,
Éire-Ireland, 6, 4 (Winter 1971), pp.120-22. Reviews Micheál
MacLiammóir at The Gate Theatre in Its Later Than You Think,
the English translation of Ornifle, by Anouilh [T]he exceptionally
meaty part of an aging but insatiable sex sophisticate. MacLiammóir undertook
the role with courage and played it with subtlety until he was forced
off the stage on the orders of his doctor. [...] It was too much for MacLiammóir
who is, after all, now past his 72nd birthday and who had been, prior
to Ornifle, hospitalised for a considerable time. (p.121)
Further: Micheál MacLiammóir returned with his classic The Importance
of Being Oscar for a week, and played to overflow audiences, mostly
young. Nothing remains to be said about this recital; it has become legendary.
Peter Luke, ed., Enter
Certain Players: Edwards-MacLiammoir and the Gate 1928-1978 (Dublin:
Dolmen 1978); [A] festschrift to pay homage to two men, Hilton
Edwards and Micheál MacLiammóir, on this the fiftieth
anniversary of their theatrical partnership [and] to record for posterity
the life-work of this supremely and diversely talented pair, whose corpus
of achievement is central to the theatrical history of Ireland.
Foreword by Peter Luke, note from James Mason. Contributions by Robert
Hogan, Terence de Vere White, Séamus Kelly, Mary Manning, Gabriel
Fallon, John Jordan, Denis Johnston, Christine, Countess of Longford
[all on the Gate Theatre]; and tributes to MacLiammóir by Hilton
Edwards (intro.), Emlyn Williams, Desmond Rushe, Brendan P. Devlin,
Richard Pine, and Edwards; with The Future of the Gate by
Colm Ó Briain, and Productions 1928-1978, a chronology by Patricia
Turner. E.g., MacLiammóir buried on the sloping graveyard in
Howth. Mary Manning, The last time I saw him it was in hospital.
He whispered, theres nothing to be said for old age, Mary?
I said, Nothing, Micheál, nothing. And then he whispered
again, You wouldnt put a question mark after Youths
the Season now, Mary? I took his hand and said, No, Micheál,
no. (p.39) Richard Pine (pp.71-87) prints three illustrations
entered on the facing page of stories in Patrick Pearses An Mháthair
agus sgéalta eile, given him by his mother in 1916. (p.72).
Terence Brown, review of
Christopher Fitzsimon, The Boys: A Biography of Micheál MacLiammóir
and Hilton Edwards (London: Nick Hern ), [q. source]: Micheál
played Peter Pan and Oliver Twist in precocious boyhood; the outrageousness
of Ms impersonation of an Irish genius, to the point where appearance
became reality, gets lost somewhat in the plethora of detail about plans,
plays, performances and reviews [...] Edward and Christine [Longford]
dubbed them the boys [...] the sterling legal work of Terence
de Vere White and the polite disinclination of Maura Laverty (whose plays
Liffey Lane and Tolka Row were steady box-office sure things) to insist
on royalties due to her, meant that the perennial threat of bankruptcy
never quite materialised. ON the Gate, a theatre that gave Denis Johnstones
[sic] The Old Lady Says No! to the world at the outset
of its life and whose founders towards the end of their careers were centrally
involved with Brian Friels Philadelphia here I Come and that
playwrights earliest successes certain earned its palace in the
first rank of modern Irish theatrical achievement.
Hell have brought it on Himself, review of Sex,
Nation and Dissent in Irish Writing , ed. by Éibhear Walshe,
and Goodbye to Catholic Ireland , by Mary Kenny (22 May 1997)
incls. opening remarks on MacLiammóir: [...] MacLiammóir
was, we were told, a great actor, a great Gaelic speaker and a great
Irishman. I remember his voice and his presence on the stage; I remember
him reclining like a large sleek cat on a chaise-longue, world-weary
and knowing and infinitely melancholy, and then standing up and looking
at us all, caressing us with his narrowed eyes and speaking as though
he was telling us fresh gossip, insinuations he would be asking us to
keep secret at least until we had left the theatre. It was strong stuff
for a small boy. / By that time, MacLiammóir had performed his
one-man show all over the world, and now he was trying it out in rural
Ireland. Enniscorthy was important for him: it was here in June 1927
that he met his lifelong partner Hilton Edwards. They became Irelands
most famous homosexual couple. I remember, on Micheáls
70th birthday in 1969, watching them being treated as such on Irish
television. When he died in 1978, MacLiammóirs funeral[available
; accessed 17.10.2013.]
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Irish Literary Revivals: Under the leadership of Yeats, Ireland
seemed to be discovering a manner, a mode. There was a great moment when
in Irelands history, especially in her theatre. To me, OCasey
was the end of it. I am not as great an admirer of OCasey as many
other people - I think he was as great a dramatist as is believed now
- but he was a first-rate man in his own way, a unique figure [...] he
arrived on the scene of this great accident, this disaster between the
Irish and the English, and there he was, a smart cameraman, taking all
those wonderful pictures of it. [...] My best play was probably Ill
Met by Moonlight. I say probably; I dont really know. I think
all my plays are good entertainment, and not necessarily marvellous plays.
To be quite frank, I think I could have written a much better play, strangely
enough, had I not been an actor and had one eye on the public. But there
is that actor, that theatre demon, in me, so that every time I want to
go all out and be completely and sincerely myself, as every work of art
has come from a completion in oneself, an uncompromising thing as Joyce
did in his way and Yeats in his - I find myself thinking Oh,
that wont get over, I dont think theyll like that,
so I have really written my plays with one eye on the public. (Interview
in RTV Guide, 14 Jan. 1966; quoted by Gabriel Fallon, in Seán
McCann, ed., The World of Sean OCasey, Dent [New English
Library] 1966), p.196-99.)
See, they return [...]: Can be
that these country men and women of his [Synges] share in some
mysterious way the unearthly life of those ancient figures of mythology
round which Yeats built so much of his own symbolism, and that this
hidden fire, glowing through the outer modern and recognisable portraits,
gives to them their violent power? Certainly, the realists who followed
him, and who had, it is likely, guessed nothing of the hidden bloodflowing
through the arteries but had observed simply the play of surface muscles
under the skin, lacked, even as imitators, his essential qualities.
(Theatre in Ireland, Dublin: CRC, 1964, p.15; cited in Anthony
Roche, The Two Worlds of Synges The Well of Saints,
in Ronald Schleifer, ed., The Genres of Irish Literary Revival,
Wolfhound 1980, p.27.)
On Irish Stage-Realism: Since this theatre
[the Gate] wsa founded we have presented comparatively few realistic plays,
and hasve already avoided realism in production. We consider that realism
has been badly overdone, and if the drama has a future that future will
not be found to lie in a realistic direction. (Quoted in Terence
Brown, "Ireland, Modernism and the 1903s", in Modernism and
Ireland: The Poetry of the 1930s, ed. Patricia Coughlin & Alex
Davis, Cork UP 1995, p.25), Further, Mac Liammoir sought for playwrights
writers who could liberate Irish theatre from the limitationcs of
htose literal and representative surroundings. (Theatre in Ireland,
1967, p.42.) Further - on the staging of Wilde's Salomé
(1928) with Evreinov's Theatre of the Soul: It was a strange
combination, and called forth a few howls, for in the Evreinov play we
acted in a black set with two spotlights and a line-drawing in white and
scarlet of an enormous heart rather in the manner of Joan Miro; and in
Salome we had a lovely set in silver and viperish green with the
entire casts stripped almost naked. (All for Hecuba: : An Irish
Theatrical Autobiography, Methuen 1946, p.71. [All the foregoing quoted
in Shaun Richards, A Dramatic Form at the end of its tether:
Brian Friel and the Irish Peasant Play [lecture], in Proceedings
of the Irish Research Group, Natal, Brasil, in 2013.]
Yeats again: But when, in later years,
the nation having (most unexpectedly) obeyed the Yeatsian call, having
indeed taken it so literally that for some time it seemed that she would
never again be able to free herself from the engrossing contemplation
of her own perfections and peculiarities, then came the time to open
the windows once again and look, not at the glimpses of a world that
England chose to show, but at the world itself. (p.21.)It is in
the expression of profoundly local and intimately known types and places
that the dramatist comes closest to the secret of universal portraiture
(p.38; all cited in Gerry Smyth, Decolonisation and Criticism: The
Construction of Irish Literature, London: Pluto Press 1998, p.189.)
Note that MacLiammoir called Yeats the author of an intellectual
anti-immigration scheme (cited in Tuohy, Yeats, 1976).
Public as dragons: Never in a brief thirty
years or so has a public, once so diffident and uncertain of its own significance,
gained such an overwhelming and in the main unfounded self-confidence
as the Irish. Led by the eager and delighted audiences at the Abbey, every
characteristic real or unreal of the national temperament is noted and
gloated; every twist of phrase, every stroke of wit, every gleam of humour,
of oddity, of quaintness, every allusion to a constitutional virtue; piety,
bravery, chastity and the like, is taken for granted or cheered to the
echo. Every suggestion made by a writer that Ireland may share in the
imperfections common to humanity throughout the planet is questioned with
a very sincere indionation by members of the public (and not infrequently
of the actors) and obliquely attacked by sections of the press with ridicule
and belittlement. They are fierce dragons to fight, these strange and
self-imposed images of moral impeccability, and maybe their existence
is natural enough in a nation geographically isolated from all but a powerful
neighbour whose ways, however derided, are almost invariably accepted
in the end as inevitable, even if they appear in our midst under some
Gaelic label [...]. They are dragons that are inimical to the intellectual
growth of any nation, and the means of their overthrow lies, I think,
in the will of the leaders of the arts, and of the art of the theatre
in particular, to turn the gaze of the people on to Europe as well as
inward on to the truth of ones own soul. (Theatre in Ireland,
Colm Ó Lochlainn 1950, p.22; quoted in Una Kealy, George
Fitzmaurice [PhD Thesis] UU 2004, p.86.)
“To Certain Anglo-Irish Writers”: Your
vaunted “culture” still we spurn / Whose home on British ground is set.
/ For still the Gaelic flame will burn - / We are not all West Britons
yet! / Your alien culture take elsewhere / Ye little gods of Merrion
Square! (In Philip OLeary, Gaelic Prose in the Irish
Free State, 1922-1939, UCD Press, 766pp.; quoted in review by Kevin
Kiely, review, Books Ireland, Nov. 2004, p.262.)
[ top ]
D. E. S. Maxwell, Modern Irish Drama (1984) lists Ill
Met by Moonlight (Duffy 1954); Where Stars Walk (Progress 1962);
Diarmuid agus Grainne (Oif. D. Foill. Rialta 1935); other works
All for Hecuba (Lon. 1946); Theatre in Ireland (3 Candles,
2nd edn. 1964). Bibl., Bulmer Hobson, The Gate Theatre, Dublin
(Gate 1934); Peter Luke, ed., Enter Certain Players: Edwards-MacLiammóir
and the Gate (Dolmen 1978).
Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature
(Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979), adds Enter a Goldfish (London:
Thames & Hudson 1977), autobiographical novel; Each Actor on
His Ass (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1961), memoir; The
Importance of being Oscar (Dublin: Dolmen; London: OUP 1963); An
Oscar of No Importance (London: Heinemann 1968); W. B. Yeats,
with Eavan Boland (London: Thames & Hudson 1971; NY Viking 1972).
Bernard Share, ed., Far Green Fields, 1500
Years of Irish Travel Writing (Belfast: Blackstaff 1992) contains
an extract from MacLiammóir, Put Money in thy Purse (London:
Hibernia Books (1996) lists Padraic Ó
Conaire, Fair and Field (Dublin: Talbot 1930), ill. Mac Liammóir.
Belfast Public Library holds All for Hecuba (1947);
Ill Met By Moonlight (1954); Theatre in Ireland (1950) [sic].
[ top ]
Cork has it?: Both Henry Boylan, A Dictionary of Irish Biography
[rev. edn.] (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1988) and D. J. Doherty & J.
E. Hickey, A Chronology of Irish History since 1500 (Gill & Macmillan
1989) erroneously accredit MacLiammoir with a Cork birthplace.
Success with Oscar: The Importance of Being
Oscar; first presented at the Gaiety by Gate Theatre Productions,
dir. by Hilton Edwards; for the Dublin Theatre Festival in September 1960,
transferring to the Apollo Theatre, London. In 1961 it visited the Royal
Court Theatre, London, the Paris Festival, and the Lyceum, New York, before
touring Europe, the USA, Latin America, South Africa, Australia, and New
Zealand, with appearances at the Dublin Theatre Festivals of 1962 and
1964 and further seasons in London at the Aldwych and Haymarket Theatres
in 1963 and 1966; six final performances at the Gate in December 1975;
recorded on CBS Classics [2 vols.], directed for RTE television by Chloe
Gibson in 1964, and the text published by the Dolmen Press and OUP in
1963; text rep. by Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe (1995).
MacLiammoir papers: In October 2001 papers &
memorabilia were donated by Robbie Turner to the Irish Theatre Archives
[viz., Dublin City Archives] Turners mother Patricia acted as
the actors personal assistant for many years.
Regency home of Hilton Edwards and Michael McLiammoir
at 4, Harcourt Tce. saved from demolition by activitists and refurbished
by Noel Pearson, having purchsed it for Ir£380,000 in the 1990s,
is offered for sale in 2002 with a price tag of €3.2 million in
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