Donal Donnelly was an Irish actor best known in the cinema for roles in The Knack… and How to Get It (1965) and The Godfather: Part III (1990) and on stage for his work in the plays of Brian Friel. He was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, on July 6, 1931, but raised in Dublin, Ireland. In Dublin, he went to a Christian Brothers School where he acted in school plays with classmates Jack MacGowran and Milo O’Shea. Subsequently, he toured Ireland with Anew McMaster’s repertory company.
On-stage, he established professional reputation in 1964 playing Gar Private in the Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come (1977) at Dublin’s Gate Theatre. He was nominated for a Tony Award when the show transferred to Broadway in 1966, where it was a hit, racking up 326 performances. Two years later, he replaced Albert Finney in the 1968 Broadway production of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972). From 1969 through 1995, he appeared in an additional nine Broadway productions, including Sleuth (1972) and The Elephant Man (1980), and Friel’s “The Mundy Scheme”, Dancing at Lughnasa (1998), and “Translations”.
In 1965, he co-starred with Michael Crawford and Rita Tushingham in Richard Lester’s movie adaption of Ann Jellicoe’s hit play “The Knack”. It was a hit. He played the scheming Archbishop Gilday out to fleece Michael Corleone (Al Pacino)in “The Godfather Part III” and gave a critically acclaimed performance in John Huston’s adaption of James Joyce’s short story The Dead (1987). He also appeared on British television, most memorably in Z Cars (1962) and the 1970s situation-comedy Yes, Honestly (1976).
Donal Donnelly died from cancer on January 4, 2010 in Chicago. He was 78 years old. He and his wife Patsy had two children.