Why Nenagh – Film & Television Connections

Mystery PersonThere are many talented people associated with Nenagh town and it’s environs and none moreso than in the area of film and television. In fact, there are people living are connected to the vicinity of North Tipperary itself that would surprise you. This week I’m going to take a look at some of these world famous names, because you’d never know who’d you meet along any of Nenagh’s historic streets.

Rex IngramSo why not start with the big man himself. Reginald Ingram Montgomery Hitchcock, later to become known as Rex Ingram, was born in Rathmines in Dublin. As a young man his family moved to North Tipperary, whereby his father was employed as a verger in the Borrisokane Church of Ireland and also the Nenagh Church of Ireland. He lived for approximately eighteen months in Nenagh and it was here where he viewed his first moving picture. That was in 1901 at a traveling circus. The experience obviously stuck with him, because as we all know, Rex went on to become one of the great pioneers of Hollywood in the silent era. A plaque in his honour was erected in the town at the house where he lived amongst us by the Nenagh Silent Film Festival Committee in February 2013. He died on July 21st 1950, which was 63 years ago this very week.

MartinSheenYou see, there’s more than one president connected to North Tipperary (see President Barack Obama of Moneygall, which is on the border of County Tipperary and County Offaly and is just 12 miles from Nenagh town) and also (President Ronald Reagan of Ballyporeen, County Tipperary). The world renowned Hollywood actor and star of The West Wing, Martin Sheen, has very strong connections to North Tipperary. His family roots are from the Borrisokane area, which is just ten miles from Nenagh town, and it was from here where his mother emigrated to the United States. Martin is a proud son of North Tipperary and is a regular visitor to the area.

Patrick BerginHere’s another famous Hollywood actor who lives within our midst here in North Tipperary. Patrick Bergin lives in a castle that is situated near Cloughjordan and this town-land is just a ten minute drive from Nenagh town. Patrick has plenty of form as an actor including Sleeping with the Enemy, in which he wouldn’t leave poor Julia Roberts alone, and of course Robin Hood along with a number of very impressive titles. He is regularly seen in Nenagh town and other North Tipperary parishes.

Charlie Sheen

And then there’s Charlie! Charlie Sheen, son of aforementioned Martin Sheen has, through his father and then of course his grand-mother, strong connections to the North Tipperary locality. Martin is very well known as a major Hollywood actor and American television star. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you’ll never know who you might meet around about Nenagh-way.

Emilio EstevezNow I couldn’t leave it at that about the Sheen clan. There’s also Martin‘s other son Emilio. He may have taken the name his father was christened with, but like his brother and of course his father, there is still North Tipperary blood running through his veins. Another major Hollywood connection for North Tipperary. Emilio has a wonderful career in his own right with some wonderful productions behind him like Young Guns, St Elmo’s Fire and The Breakfast Club to name just a few. He also has a career as a director, screenwriter and a producer.

Johnny DeppNow Johnny Depp hasn’t being able to find roots to North Tipperary as of yet, that I know of, but he was reported to be in the Toomevara (village 5 miles from Nenagh town) graveyard searching for his roots a couple of years back. But Johnny is no stranger to Nenagh town and the North Tipperary countryside. He’s a very close friend of Shane MacGowan, who is from and lives a few miles from Nenagh and he’s a regular visitor to the area. We’ll just have to dig a little deeper and I’m sure before long we’ll find his true Irish roots in the heartland of North Tipperary. (More on Shane McGowan next week)

George ClooneyThere are quite a number of other connections to the world of film and television and this is something we are very proud about. To name just a few more, there’s George Clooney who has been reported to have visited North Tipperary in the recent past in search of his own roots. Then there’s Brigie de Courcy (Executive Producer of Fair City and formally Producer on Eastenders), who is married to Nenagh man Kevin McGee (Award-Winning Playwright, Director, Producer, Irish television script-writer). And there is Kevin’s brother Noel, who is also an Irish television script-writer. There are countless others and if you want to remind me of them please leave a comment in the Comment box below. Next week I’ll take a look at some famous names throughout history who have called Nenagh town their home.

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

Advertisements

MIDWEEK MATINEE

Rex Ingram

WATCHING WITH REX

More than one locality can claim Rex Ingram as a native. He was born in Rathmines. He spent most of his teenage years in Kinnitty, in Co. Offaly. And he left for America when he was barely twenty.

Nenagh Castle/Pearse Street 1800s

Nenagh at the turn of 19th century

But it was in Nenagh, according to his unpublished memoirs, that he saw his first movie. The screening was part of a travelling circus. Though Ingram leaves no record of the films on show, it was clearly that Nenagh show which lit the spark.

What's on the other channel

The Mutoscope

Barely two decades later such films as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse had made Ingram the most successful film director in the world. Films had grown sophisticated, with huge budgets and a panoply of narrative techniques from close-ups to inter-cutting. But what might the young Ingram have seen?

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Internet Movie Database gathers a list of synopses that give a good picture of what 1898 had to offer. The subjects are short and simple. A battle re-enactment. A battleship launch. An Edison short about a telephone. Dance devotees can choose between the flying skirts of Can-Can and the flying kilts of The Highland Fling.

Image from the Silent Film Santa Claus

Image from the Silent Film: Santa Claus

Most of these films are lost now, like the vast majority of silent films. Nothing survives of The Nearsighted School Teacher, which might have appealed to young Rex’s anarchic streak, or The Dude’s Experience with a Girl on a Tandem, which would surely have worried his clergyman father.

Kevin Albert Smith

George Albert Smith

But some film does survive. Made by the British pioneer George Albert Smith, it is quite likely to have been included in the repertoire of a travelling show. Santa Claus is short and charming, and calculated to enthral any six-year-old.

Images of Street Arab

Images from Street Arab

Even more curious is the boy who breakdances his way through Edison’s Street Arab. Children love child performers. Is this limber urchin the root of Ingram’s long fascination with the Arab world?

Posted by Kevin McGee