Friday, 4 March 2016

Godspeed Frank Kelly

Frank Kelly, perhaps best known for playing the irascible Father Jack on the sitcom Father Ted, died on February 28 2016 at the age of 77. The cause was a heart attack. February 18 2016 marked the 18th anniversary of the death of Father Ted star  Dermot Morgan.

Frank Kelly was born on December 18 1938 in Blackrock, Dublin, Ireland. His father was Charles E. Kelly, cartoonist and founder of the satirical magazine Dublin Opinion. He attended Blackrock College and then studied law at University College, Dublin. Despite being called the bar at King's Inns, he decided to take up acting instead.  He performed at the Eblana Theatre in Dublin, as well as working in pantomime.

Frank Kelly made his television debut in an episodes of Wandely Wagon in 1968 and appeared on the TV series Pictorial Weekly. He made his film debut in a bit part in 1969 in The Italian Job. In the late Seventies he was a regular on the show Teems of Times. From the Seventies into the Eighties he appeared on such shows as Second City Firsts, The Irish RM, and Remington Steele. He appeared in the film Taffin.

In the Nineties Frank Kelly placed his most famous role, that of Father Jack Hackett on Father Ted. Father Jack, an elderly priest who was volatile, rambunctious, prone to drink, and prone to exclaim, "Feck!", "Arse!", or "Girls!" at any given moment. Father Ted proved highly successful, becoming a cult show in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the United States. Father Jack may well have been the show's most popular character. During the Nineties Frank Kelly also appeared on the shows Screen Two, Aristocrats, and Glenroe. He appeared in the films Hear My Song (1991), War of the Buttons (1994), Fishing the Sloe-Black River (1996), 35 Aside (1996), Soft Sand, Blue Sea (1998), and Rat (2000).

In the Naughts Frank Kelly starred on the show The Running Mate, Paddywhackery, and Emmerdale. He guest starred on Lexx, Revolver,  and Val Falvey TD.  He appeared in the films Evelyn (2002), My Name Is Yu Ming (2003), Cowboys & Angels (2003), The Unusual Inventions of Henry Cavendish (2005), Turning Green (2005), A Day Out with Gwyn (2005), and Waiting for Dublin (2007). In the Teens he appeared in the films Music Memories (2012), Mrs. Brown's Boys D'Movie (2014), and 69 and Dead (2015).

Quite simply Frank Kelly was a genius. When he played Father Jack he was only 57.  What is more, in real life he was soft spoken, modest, and congenial. Despite this he was entirely convincing as the positively ancient, rambunctious, outrageous, and often offensive priest. Father Jack became the most popular character on Father Ted and easily the character for which Frank Kelly was best known. Of course, Frank Kelly did much more than Father Ted. In his native Ireland he was a regular on the popular satirical show Pictorial Weekly for years. He also appeared on many other shows through the years, everything from Remington Steele to Emmerdale, always playing characters who were far from Father Ted. Frank Kelly was an amazing talent and one who will be missed.

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