Micheál MacLiammóir

Micheál MacLiammóir

Micheál MacLíammóir (born Alfred Willmore) (October 25, 1899 – March 6, 1978) was an Irish actor, dramatist, impresario, writer, poet and painter. MacLíammóir was born to a Protestant family living in the Kensal Green neighbourhood of London.

As Alfred Willmore he was one of the leading child actors on the English stage, in the company of Noel Coward. He studied painting at London's Slade School of Art, continuing to paint throughout his lifetime. In the 1920s he travelled all over Europe. Willmore was captivated by Irish culture: he learnt the Irish language which he spoke and wrote fluently in and changed his name to an Irish version, presenting himself in Ireland as a descendant of Irish Catholics.

While acting in Ireland with the touring company of his brother-in-law Anew MacMaster, Mac Liammoir met his partner and lover, Hilton Edwards. Deciding to remain in Dublin where he lived at Harcourt Terrace, the pair assisted with the inaugural production of Galway's Irish-language theatre, An Taibhdhearc; the play was Mac Liammoir's version of the mythical story "Diarmuid agus Gráinne". Mac Liammoir and Edwards then threw themselves into their own venture, co-founding the Gate Theatre in Dublin in 1928. The Gate became a showcase for modern plays and design (even as Mac Liammoir himself maintained an ongoing fascination with Celticism). Mac Liammoir's set and costume designs were key elements of the Gate's success. His many notable acting roles included Robert Emmet/The Speaker in Denis Johnston's "The Old Lady Says "No!" and the title role in "Hamlet."

In 1948, he appeared in the NBC television production of "Great Catherine" with Gertrude Lawrence. He played Iago in Orson Welles's film version of "Othello" (1952). His Iago is unusual in that MacLíammóir was about fifty (and looked older) when he played the role, while the play gives Iago's age as 28. This may have been because of Welles' intended interpretation - he wanted Iago played as an older "impotent" consumed by envy for the younger Othello. [Micheál MacLíammóir, "Put Money in thy purse - the Making of Othello." 1952. p. 26] The following year, he went on to play 'Poor Tom' in another Welles project, the TV film of "King Lear" (1953) for CBS. He narrated the 1963 film, "Tom Jones". He was the Irish storyteller in "30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia" (1968) which starred Dudley Moore and, in 1971, he played an elocution teacher in Curtis Harrington's "What's the Matter with Helen?".

In 1951, during a break in the making of "Othello", MacLíammóir produced Welles' ghost-story "Return to Glennascaul" which was directed by Hilton Edwards.

In 1970 MacLíammóir performed the role of narrator on the cult album "Peace On Earth" by the Northern Irish showband, The Freshmen.

MacLíammóir wrote and performed a one-man show, "The Importance of Being Oscar", based on the life and work of Oscar Wilde. The Telefís Éireann production won him a Jacob's Award in December 1964. It was later filmed by the BBC with MacLíammóir reprising the role.

MacLíammóir claimed when talking to Irish playwright, Mary Manning, to have had a homosexual relationship with General Eoin O'Duffy, former Garda Siochana Commissioner and head of the quasi-fascist Blueshirts in Ireland, during the 1930s. The claim was revealed publicly by RTÉ in a documentary, "The Odd Couple", broadcast in 1999. However, MacLíammóir's claims have not been substantiated by any evidence.

MacLíammóir is the subject of the 1990 play "The Importance of Being Micheál" (also published as a book) by John Keyes.


* "Put Money In Thy Purse"
* "Each Actor On His Ass"
* "Ceo Meala Lá Seaca"
* "Enter A Goldfish"
* "All For Hecuba"
* "Oícheanna Sidhe"
* "Lá agus Oíche"
* "Aisteoirí Faoi Dhá Sholas"
* "Theatre in Ireland"
* "Ireland"
* "Bláth agus Taibhse"
* "An Oscar Of No Importance"
* "W.B.Yeats and his world", with Eavan Boland


* "Diarmuid and Grainne / Diarmuid agus Gráinne"
* "Ill Met By Moonlight"
* "Oíche Bealtaine"
* "Where Stars walk"
* "The Importance of Being Oscar" (One-man show)
* "I Must Be Talking To my Friends" (One-man show)
* "Talking About Yeats" (One-man show)

ee also

* List of people on stamps of Ireland


Fitz-Simon, Christopher. "The Boys: A Double Biography."

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