Jimmy Cagney as George M. Cohan one of top 10 Irish Oscars - see photos
From Jimmy Cagney in "Yankee Doodle Dandy" to Sean Penn in "Mystic River," a look at the roles that carried Irish-American actors to the top of their profession.
1988 – Best Actor in a Supporting Role, "A Fish Called Wanda"
In this comedy written by John Cleese, Kline brilliantly portrays con artist Otto West.
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.
Stapleton’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.
2. Gregory Peck
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.
Peck, who’s grandmother was a native of Dingle, Co. Kerry, helped his character earn the title of “Greatest Hero in 100 Years of Film History” by the American Film Institute.
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."
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