Ciara, O'Dowd

Wild-looking but Fine: Abbey Theatre actresses of the 1930s

Soft cover



In stock

This item will be published around April 30, 2024 and posted immediately


Aideen O’Connor and Ria Mooney have different backgrounds, ambitions and creative visions. They come of age in an Ireland desperate to control and restrict women: their sexuality; their careers; their independent lives. They are united by one thing: a devotion to theatre and to Ireland’s National Theatre in particular. Drawing on archival records from Dublin, Galway, New York and California, Wild-Looking But Fine: Abbey Theatre Actresses of the 1930s traces the lives of O’Connor and Mooney from their debuts on the Abbey stage, to performing in New York in 1937, and the lives they made for themselves after that tour. Aideen O’Connor joined the company through the Abbey School in the early 1930s and was the first actress to play the promiscuous Jessie Tate in Sean O’Casey’s The Silver Tassie. She performed in London and the USA, eventually moving to Hollywood with her partner, Arthur Shields, and his brother, film star Barry Fitzgerald. Ria Mooney was the first actress to play Rosie Redmond, the prostitute in Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars. She trained with legendary director Eva Le Gallienne in New York in the 1920s, set up the experimental theatre group in The Peacock, and went on to become the Director of Plays in English at the Abbey Theatre in 1948. O’Dowd grapples with their artistic theories; their economic situations; their personal dilemmas. Illustrated with original black and white images from the period, the book is a reflection on how we can construct life stories from the disparate traces left behind. These biographies offers a new perspective on Ireland in the 1930s, on the treatment of women at the Abbey Theatre and in Hollywood, and on theatre practices in Ireland and America. It charts an internationalism in Irish acting and directing, connecting it with the work of feminist artists overseas and paints a vivid portrait of the artistic and inter-personal cultural milieu of the Abbey Theatre of the era.

Additional information


Soft cover


Ciara, O'Dowd


University College Dublin Press

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