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Published: Sunday, 3/11/2012

Test your knowledge of Irish movies, stars

BY GAYDEN WREN
NEW YORK TIMES SYNDICATE

St. Patrick's Day -- which this year will be observed, as usual, on March 17 -- is renowned as an occasion for public celebration. Parades, green-themed parties, and outings to the nearest Irish pub are all staples of the day.

Some prefer to stay home, though. For them the DVD player is a veritable pot of gold, and Irish-themed movies abound, many of them featuring Irish or Irish-American stars.

Test your knowledge of Hibernian Hollywood with this 12-question quiz -- and, if you find that you know a little less than you thought you did, you might want to stay home, fire up the DVD player, and brush up a wee bit.

A rainbow of questions

1. What Irish-American actor, a former cheerleader, was twice elected president of the Screen Actors Guild and later knighted by Queen Elizabeth?

2. The Irish-American John Martin Feeney came to Hollywood as an actor, appearing in such silent films as The Birth of a Nation (1915), but went on to offscreen success under another name. Who was he, and what is he best known for?

3. What Dublin-born actor is the only man ever nominated for Oscars as Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for the same performance?

4. Born in Ranelagh in County Dublin, actress Maureen O'Hara addressed the United State Congress on May 22, 1979. Why was she there?

5. Generally considered the greatest Irish-American actor, though one of his grandfathers was Norwegian, James Cagney retired after making Billy Wilder's One, Two, Three (1961). He returned for one final film, Ragtime (1981), at the age of 80. Why did he come out of retirement?

6. Best known as Jane to Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan in six movies in the 1930s and early 1940s, Maureen O'Sullivan -- born in Boyle in County Roscommon -- is the mother of a well-known actress. Who is her daughter?

7. Liam Neeson, born in 1952 in Ballymena in County Antrim, has played his share of Irish characters, including Michael Collins, Oscar Wilde, and other real-life figures. Despite the fact that his Irish accent seldom varies, however, he has made something of a specialty of playing non-Irish characters. Name the movies in which he played a) an American Southerner, b) an Englishman, c) a Frenchman, d) a German, e) a Greek, f) a Russian and g) a Scotsman.

8. What well-known Irish-American actor served as a consultant on Madonna's Girlie Show tour in 1993?

9. In 1994, while appearing on the television series Entertainment Tonight, Robert Redford was approached by one of the production assistants, who handed him a videocassette of a movie he had made. Who was the production assistant and what was the movie?

10. Who is the only Irishman to play James Bond?

11. Born in Dublin, Colin Farrell is a master of dialects, having played everything from an English explorer in The New World (2005) to an American country singer in Crazy Heart (2009). It wasn't until well into his career, however, that he played a role using his own Irish accent. What was the film?

12. What Belfast-born actor is the first person ever to be nominated for Academy Awards in five different categories without ever winning?

A Pot o' gold of answers

1. Ronald Reagan, who had been a member of the cheerleading team at Eureka College in the 1920s, was the first American president to have previously headed a labor union, the Screen Actors Guild. He was dubbed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1989.

2. The four-time Oscar-winning director John Ford, who was born John Martin Feeney and acted as Jack Ford, honored his Irish heritage in such films as The Informer (1935), The Quiet Man (1952), and The Last Hurrah (1958).

3. Barry Fitzgerald's turn as the aging Father Fitzgibbon in Going My Way (1944) so impressed Academy Awards voters that he was nominated for Oscars both as Best Actor and as Best Supporting Actor. He won as Best Supporting Actor but lost as Best Actor to ... Bing Crosby, the Irish-American star of Going My Way. The Academy had always assumed that the line between supporting and lead actor would be obvious, but after facing the prospect of Fitzgerald monopolizing the 1944 acting honors, it changed the rules. Henceforward no actor or actress could be nominated in more than one category for the same performance, and none ever has.

4. Maureen O'Hara addressed Congress in 1979 to lobby for the awarding of the Congressional Medal of Honor to her longtime friend and five-time co-star, John Wayne. The medal was awarded and, at O'Hara's suggestion, read simply "John Wayne, American." He died three weeks later.

5. Besides the quality of Ragtime and his role as Police Commissioner Waldo, Cagney wanted to work one more time with his friend and frequent co-star, Pat O'Brien. It was their ninth film together, and O'Brien died a couple of years later. Cagney would make one more television movie, Terrible Joe Moran (1984), before his death in 1986.

6. Maureen O'Sullivan was the mother of actress Mia Farrow, whose father was director John Farrow. In one of her last big-screen appearances, O'Sullivan played the mother of Farrow's character in Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters (1986).

7. Liam Neeson has played many different ethnicities, and we don't pretend that this answer is comprehensive. However, he played an American Southerner -- a sheriff, no less -- in Leap of Faith (1992), an Englishman in Excalibur (1981), a Frenchman in Les Miserables (1998), a German in Schindler's List (1993), a Greek in Clash of the Titans (2010), a Russian in K-19: The Widowmaker (2002), and a Scotsman in Rob Roy (1995).

8. Gene Kelly, the 1950s' master of the big-screen musical, served as a dance consultant for Madonna's Girlie Show tour. The cane dance she did on "Like a Virgin" is the most obvious sign of his handiwork.

9. Edward Burns, an Irish-American who had grown up on Long Island, N.Y., was an aspiring filmmaker whose day job as a "gofer" on Entertainment Tonight helped pay for his first movie, The Brothers McMullen (1995), made for $30,000 and shot in his parents' Long Island home. When Redford appeared on the show, Burns slipped him a copy of the movie hoping that Redford would watch it and include it in the next year's Sundance Film Festival. He did, and The Brothers McMullen won the festival's 1995 Grand Jury Prize. It became one of the most successful indie films of all time, and launched the career of Burns, its writer/director/star.

10. James Bond has been "officially" played by a Scotsman, an Australian, a Welshman, and two Englishman, but Pierce Brosnan, born in Navan in County Meath, is the only Irishman to play 007 on film.

11. Colin Farrell used his own Irish accent to play the assassin Bullseye in Daredevil (2003), though the character is not Irish in the comic book on which the film is based. "It was very strange," he said at the time. "It made me very self-conscious for a bit. I almost felt like I was laying on my own accent."

12. When Kenneth Branagh was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn (2011), it was his fifth nomination, and the fifth category in which he had been nominated. He had previously been nominated as Best Actor and Best Director for Henry V (1989), Best Live-Action Short for Swan Song (1992), and Best Adapted Screenplay for Hamlet (1996) -- a controversial nomination, since a major selling point of his Hamlet was that Shakespeare's play was presented virtually uncut and, therefore, not really adapted. George Clooney, an Irish-American, also has been nominated in five categories, but has won once, as Best Supporting Actor for Syriana (2005).



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