Sean Penn with the Best Actor award, received for his role in "Milk," at the 81st Academy Awards
Photo by: Ian West/PA
Photo gallery of Irish-American Oscar winners: CLICK HERE
Here we pay tribute to the Americans of Irish blood who joined the ranks of the acting elite by winning what many consider the ultimate award in the field – the Oscar.
1954 – Best Actress in a Leading Role, "The Country Girl"
The Irish American screen legend’s Oscar win was controversial; many believed Kelly didn’t deserve it, and thought the Oscar should have gone to Judy Garland
for "A Star is Born."
The Princess of Monaco may be a bit overdramatic as Georgie Elgin
, singer Frank Elgin
’s (Bing Crosby
) long-suffering wife, but we feel the need to pay homage to the unforgettable film star, whose Irish roots are traced to Louisburgh, County Mayo
1939 – Best Actor in a Supporting Role, "Stagecoach"
This great American character actor and first generation Irish American can be seen in classics such as Gone with the Wind
(he plays Scarlett O’Hara’s father) and "It’s a Wonderful Life" (he’s Uncle Billy). His Oscar win finally came for his role in John Ford
’s classic western, "Stagecoach,"
in which Mitchell plays the drunken Doc Boone
1985 – Best Actress in a Supporting Role, "Prizzi’s Honor"
Huston, who spent much of her childhood on her father John Huston
estate, has said of the Emerald Isle: “I don’t feel anywhere else in the world the way I feel in Ireland
. I feel at home there.”
She paid homage to her “home” by bringing James Joyce
’s Gretta to life in the screen adaptation of "The Dead."
In Prizzi’s Honor, Huston gets in touch with her Italian roots, creating the unforgettable Maerose Prizzi, daughter of a powerful mobster.
1942 – Best Actor in a Leading Role, "Yankee Doodle Dandy"
Though he’s famous for his tough guy gangster roles, Cagney’s Oscar win came from his arguably best performance as song-and-dance man George M. Cohan
in 1942’s "Yankee Doodle Dandy."
2001 – Best Actress in a Supporting Role, "A Beautiful Mind"
Connelly traces her Irish roots to Co. Cork
, and told Irish America magazine in 2002 that she considers Ireland “hauntingly beautiful,” and considers James Joyce’s "Ulysses" one of her all-time favorite works.
1988 – Best Actor in a Supporting Role, "A Fish Called Wanda"
In 2000, Kline told Irish America magazine that “Otto” was his first full-on comedic role, let alone a comedic role written specifically for him (Cleese wrote the part for Kline).
Kline, who is both Irish and Jewish, went on to explain the complexity of the role that won him the Oscar: “There seemed to me to be something so illogical about Otto; he was completely brain-dead stupid but then he could crack a safe, scale tall buildings and do seemingly impossible feats.”
4. Maureen Stapleton
1981 – Best Actress in a Supporting Role, "Reds"
This first generation Irish American, is one of the elite Triple Crown of acting winners, earning an Oscar, Tony and Emmy during her career.
’s Oscar win came with her performance in 1981’s "Reds."
The film, starring and directed by Warren Beatty
, centers on the life of Communist, journalist and writer John Reed
. Stapleton plays Emma Goldman
, the Russian-born anarchist and supporter of the Bolshevik Revolution.
3. Spencer Tracy
1937 – Best Actor in a Leading Role, "Captains Courageous"
Tracy, an Irish American and devout Catholic, was the first actor to win back-to-back Oscars (1938 Best Actor for "Captains Courageous" and 1939 Best Actor for "Boys Town").
Between both performances, we consider Tracy’s portrayal as Portuguese-American fisherman Manuel in Rudyard Kipling
’s "Captains Courageous" to be the better of the two.
1962 – Best Actor in a Leading Role, "To Kill a Mockingbird"
After four Oscar nominations, Peck finally nabbed the award for his riveting performance as Atticus Finch
in "To Kill a Mockingbird." In this legendary performance, Peck helps bring Harper Lee
’s Pulitzer Prize
-winning novel to life in his role as the Depression-era lawyer who defends a black man accused of raping a white woman in a racially tense town.
1. Sean Penn
2003 – Best Actor in a Leading Role, "Mystic River"
It’s tough to compare 1940s film performances to those of today, but it wasn’t difficult to identify Sean Penn
’s depiction of Jimmy Markum
in "Mystic River," a film based on the book written by Irish American Dennis Lehane, as one of the best.
In this Clint Eastwood
-directed film, Penn, who has Irish roots on his mother’s side, electrifies in his gut-wrenching performance as a father seeking revenge on his daughter’s murderer.
The actor went on to win another much-deserved leading actor Oscar for 2008's "Milk."