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Biography

McDONAGH, John (director-actor-scriptwriter) (-1961)

Brother of the executed 1916 leader, Thomas McDonagh, John McDonagh was born in Cloughjordan, Tipperary. He started his working life in theatre in England and the United States before writing the script for D.W. Griffith’s The Fugitive (1910). He also made his name as an opera singer. Back in Ireland, he formed the Irish Theatre Company, a breakaway group from the Abbey Theatre and became involved with the Film Company of Ireland (FCOI). His first film as director was PAYING THE RENT (1917) and this was followed by the feature WILLY REILLY AND HIS COLLEEN BAWN (1920), shot in the grounds of St Enda’s Rathfarnham, where his brother, Thomas, and Patrick Pearse had founded a school to promote Irish education. At the same time as he shot WILLY REILLY AND HIS COLLEEN BAWN, McDonagh also made a short film for the Republican Loan Bonds campaign, featuring Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith, amongst other prominent nationalists. Later McDonagh turned to comedies, shooting CASEY'S MILLIONS and CRUISKEEN LAWN in 1922. He then returned to theatre, writing the play, The Irish Jew, about the election of a Jew as Lord Mayor of Dublin, for Broadway. He subsequently returned to Ireland and joined RTÉ as productions director, a position he held until 1947.

Contact: irishfilm@tcd.ie | Last updated: Nov 27 2006.