Ray McAnally

Ray McAnally
Born (1926-03-30)30 March 1926
Buncrana, County Donegal, Ireland
Died 15 June 1989(1989-06-15) (aged 63)
County Wicklow, Ireland
Years active 1957–1989
Spouse(s) Ronnie Masterson (1951–1989)
Awards Best Actor in a Supporting Role
1986 The Mission
1989 My Left Foot
Best Television Actor
1988 A Very British Coup

Ray McAnally (30 March 1926 – 15 June 1989) was an Irish actor. He was the winner of four BAFTA awards in the late 1980s: twice for Best Supporting Actor (for the The Mission in 1986 and My Left Foot in 1989), and twice for Best Actor in the television category (for A Perfect Spy in 1988 and A Very British Coup in 1989).


Ray McAnally was born in Buncrana, a seaside town located on the Inishowen peninsula of County Donegal, Ireland and brought up in the nearby town of Moville from the age of three. The son of a bank manager, he was educated at Saint Eunan's College in Letterkenny where he wrote, produced and staged a musical called 'Madame Screwball' at the age of 16. He entered a seminary at the age of 18 but left after a short time having decided that the priesthood was not his vocation. He joined the Abbey Theatre in 1947 where he met and married actress Ronnie Masterson.


The couple would later form Old Quay Productions and present an assortment of classic plays in the 1960s and 1970s. He made his theatre debut in 1962 with A Nice Bunch of Cheap Flowers and gave a well-received performance as George in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, opposite Constance Cummings, at the Piccadilly Theatre.

On television he was a familiar face, often in glossy thriller series like Television series The Avengers, Man in a Suitcase and Strange Report. In 1968 he took the title role in Spindoe, a series charting the return to power of an English gangster, Alec Spindoe, after a five-year prison term. This was a spin-off from another series, The Fellows (1967) in which McAnally had appeared in several episodes as the Spindoe character. He could render English accents very convincingly.

McAnally regularly acted in the Abbey Theatre and at Irish festivals, but in the last decade of life he achieved award-winning notice on TV and films. His impressive performance as Cardinal Altamirano in the film The Mission (1986) earned him Evening Standard and BAFTA awards. He earned a second BAFTA award for his role in the BBC's A Perfect Spy (1987). In 1988 he won the BAFTA for Best Actor for his performance in A Very British Coup, a role that also brought him a Jacob's Award. In the last year of his life he portrayed the father of Christy Brown (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) in the Academy Award-winning film, My Left Foot (1989).


McAnally died suddenly of a heart attack on 15 June 1989, aged 63 at his home which he shared with Irish actress Britta Smith. He remained married to actress Ronnie Masterson until his death, although they resided in different homes. He received a posthumous BAFTA award for his last film in 1990.

At the time of his death, he was due to play "Bull McCabe" in Jim Sheridan's film The Field, the part eventually going to Richard Harris (who would receive an Oscar nomination for his performance). McAnally had also been cast in the lead role of First and Last, a drama about a man who walked from Land's End to John o' Groats. Filming was almost a third of the way done when he died, but the whole play had to be re-filmed, with Joss Ackland taking the role instead.

McAnally had four children: Conor, Aonghus, Máire and Niamh. Conor is a producer, based in Texas, and Aonghus is a television and radio presenter/producer in Ireland.


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