Milo O’Shea: More than just the ‘Irishman with the Eyebrows’

Milo O’Shea: More than just the ‘Irishman with the Eyebrows’

The famed Irish actor Milo O’Shea has died. He was a renowned performer and had a marvellous career on both stage and screen.



Born in Dublin in 1926 his parents were both entertainers, his father a professional Singer and his mother a Harpist and Ballet Dancer. His earliest role was in a radio production of ‘Oliver Twist’ when he was just ten years old. Encouraged by his parents he pursued his dream of being an actor and left for America. Like so many aspiring actors his ‘day-job’ was a lot less glamorous than his acting turns. He worked as an Elevator operator in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City before returning to Ireland where he found fame with his performance in the 1967 film ‘Ulysses’, based on the notoriously difficult book by James Joyce. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times wrote:

Milo O’Shea is perfect as a fortyish, black-haired Bloom, bright-eyed when fun and lust are rising, flaccid and pathetic when rebuffed

His first of two ‘Tony’ nominations was for appearing opposite Eli Wallach in the 1968 stage production of ‘Staircase’ in which the two leads portrayed a gay couple living together in what is regarded as one of the breakthrough roles depicting homosexuality on Broadway.

On the silver screen he starred in Franco Zeffirelli’s renowned production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and as the mad scientist Durand Durand in the film ‘Barbarella’ with Jane Fonda. International pop band ‘Duran Duran’ took their name from the character so famously played by Milo O’Shea.

His second Tony nomination was in 1981 for his role as the Mercedes-driving priest in ‘Mass Appeal’ and was followed in 1981 by a most memorable performance as the biased judge sparring with Paul Newman in the Sidney Lumet production of ‘The Verdict’.

He regularly appeared in Movies including ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’ and ‘The Playboys’ while on television his performances included the TV series ‘Murder in the Heartland’ as well turns on ‘The West Wing’, ‘Cheers’, ‘The Golden Girls’ and ‘Frasier’.

He will be remembered for the huge variety of roles that his versatility as an actor allowed him to carry off with such ease. From comedy to serious courtroom drama to bar-room comedy his range was huge. Survived by his wife, Kitty Sullivan, his sons, Colm and Steven, and three grandchildren, he will be missed.

Milo O’Shea in his comic role in the TV Series ‘Cheers':

by Michael Green
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