Shields Family Archive
IDENTITY STATEMENT
Reference code: T13
Title: Shields Family Archive
Date(s): 1907-1974
Extent: 14 Boxes
Location: James Hardiman Library, NUIG
CONTEXT
Biographical History

Adolphus Shields and Fanny Ungerland were married in 1881. Adolphus Shields was born in Capel Street, Dublin in 1857; a compositor by trade he was heavily involved in the Trade Union movement in Ireland, and later worked as a journalist. He introduced the Gasworkers Union to Ireland and was also involved in the formation of the first Irish branch of the Fabian Society. Fanny Ungerland Shields was born in Germany in 1856. Born into a 'well to do' Hamburg familysShe 'resented the restrictions placed on daughters' and left home to find work as a governess with a Scottish family. It was while on a trip to Dublin with that family that she met Adolphus Shields. Adlophus and Fanny Shields had seven children (some sources say eight) Lini born in 1882, Biddy born in 1883, Carl born in 1884, Nell born in 1885. Will Shields who was to achieve fame as an actor under the name Barry Fitzgerald was born in 1888, Arthur Shields who also achieved fame as an actor was born in 1896 and Rudy who was known as Michael was born in 1897. According to Laurie Shields outline for a proposed biography of her husband Arthur, 'Every child was encouraged to develop his natural talents, especially those dealing the arts or service to others. It is not too surprising then to find Carl a journalist, Biddy a nurse, Nell a collector of fine antiques, Lini an accomplished pianist with an interest in theatre.' Laurie Shields goes on to write of her husband '[Arthur's] formal schooling was sketchy, possibly because the poverty of the times forced the family to move frequently.... What he lacked in the way of a formal education, Shields, an omnivorous reader, made up for on his own. His taste was catholic, though Irish and Russian authors seem to dominate the list.' Because the vast majority of the papers in this collection relate to Arthur Shields and Will Shields (here after referred to as Barry Fitzgerald) this biographical note will deal primarily with they and in the case of Arthur his own family. According to a television interview given in 1966 Arthur Shields, who had previously dabbled in amateur dramatics, began attending acting classes at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1913. This was followed by walk on parts in a number of productions. While the 'first company' was touring America in 1914 Arthur Shields played the first part, where his name appeared in the programme. Although Barry Fitzgerald was eight years Arthur's senior he did not join the Abbey until after his brother making two brief appearances under his own name in 1914 and 1915. Arthur Shields joined the Irish volunteers with his friend and future brother in law Charles Saurin in 1914. According to Suarin they join in response to the shooting by the British Army of unarmed civilians on Bachelor's Walk. According to Saurin 'This was after the Howth Gun-running, which aroused tremendous enthusiasm at the time and sympathy for the victims of its tragic aftermath. The country's enthusiasm induced me, along with thousands of others, to join the Volunteers, of the existence of which, strange to relate, I had little knowledge and no interest.' (see T13/18) On Easter Sunday 1916 having initial been confused by the order to march and the countermanding order issued by McNeill. Both Saurin and Shields received orders to report to St. Matthew's Park. Shields however went to the Abbey theatre to pick up his rifle which was hidden under the stage. Reasoning that it was now to late to return to his company at St. Matthew's park, Shields reported to Liberty Hall where he met a group of volunteers assembly under James Connolly. Connolly welcomed him by telling him 'if you're as good a man as your father, you'll be all right.' Shields spent the week of the rising in and around the G.P.O., retreating to a house on Moore Street with the rest of the insurgents from the G.P.O. and finally surrendering to British soldiers. For a more detailed account of Shields role in the rising see (Frazier, Saurin). Shields and Saurin were interned and shipped to an internment camp in Knutsford, Kent and then to Frongnach in Wales. Shields was released in August and by October was back on the Abbey stage. In 1917 Will Shields began appearing at the Abbey under the name 'Barry Fitzgerald'. Fitzgerald was employed by the Department of Industry and Commerce and didn't become a full time Actor until 1929. Fitzgerald has been described by a number of sources a shy man. In a letter to a fan written shortly after Fitzgerald's death in January 1961 Arthur Shields wrote of his brother 'Barry was a very shy little man and he was uncomfortable in crowds and really dreaded meeting new people, but he was not a recluse and did enjoy certain company, especially when the 'old chat' was good.' (see T13/311). Despite his off-stage timidity before long Fitzgerald had made a name for himself as a comic actor. During the period 1919-1923 violence in Ireland and a curfew in Dublin forced the Abbey to tour abroad and it was while performing Lennox Robinson's The Whiteheaded Boy in London in 1919 Arthur Shields met Bazie Magee. A native of Lisburn, Co. Down who was working a chauffer in the British Army, she was known by the nickname 'Mac'. Through out his life Arthur Shields was also known to friends and family by a nick name, 'Boss'. While it has often been remarked that Arthur Shields was far from Bossy, according to Laurie B. Shields an aunt said of the baby Arthur Shields on seeing him for the first time 'Doesn't he look the little boss'. 'Boss' and 'Mac' were married in 1920. The 1920s saw the first productions of several famous plays by Sean O'Casey, by now full time Abbey actors Arthur Shields and Barry Fitzgerald were cast members in the first productions of all of Casey's major plays from the period. Both appearing in the first productions of Juno and the 'Paycock' and The Plough and the Stars with Arthur Shields also appearing in the first production of Shadow of a Gunman. Arthur Shields was also heavily involved with The Dublin Drama league at this time. He also began producing plays for the Abbey. Some of these plays were considered controversial and received mixed responses from audiences both in Ireland and later when performed in the United States. Arthur Shields later remarked 'If there isn't some sort of dissent now and again a thing can't be worth much.' The 1930s saw the Abbey tour the United States four times, 1931-1932, 1932-1933, 1934-1935 and 1937-1938. Arthur Shields was engaged as tour manager for the first three of these tours. A job he found very demanding. Barry Fitzgerald was also a member of the Abbey touring company. In 1936 both Arthur Shields and Barry Fitzgerald were cast in John Ford's screen version of The Plough and the Stars . In Barry's case this lead to further roles in Hollywood including a part alongside Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn in Howard Hawks' 1938 comedy Bringing Up Baby. Arthur Shields on the other hand didn't play another Hollywood role until 1939 when he stared in John Ford's Drums Along the Mohawk. In the mean time Shields who continued to work on the stage, and appeared in the first production of Irish playwright Paul Vincent Carroll's Shadow and Substance. The play subsequently opened on Broadway (Shields wasn't in the cast) and ran for 274 performances, winning the New York Drama Critics Award for best foreign play of the year. Carroll's next play The White Steed was rejected by the Abbey for being anti-clerical and opened on Broadway staring Barry Fitzgerald. It ran for 139 performances a modest success. During this time Arthur Shields met an aspiring theatre impresario Edward Choate in New York. Having secured the rights to Carroll's next play Kindred the two embarked on a partnership to produce the play on Broadway. In the end the play was far less successful that Carroll previous work and ran for just over a week. By this time Shields relationship with his first wife Mac was over, in 1936 he had begun a relationship with Abbey actress Aideen O'Connor whose real name was Una O'Connor. However since there was already a successful Irish stage and screen actress of that name she took the name Aideen. O'Connor took part in the 1934-1935 and the 1937-1938 Abbey tours and appeared on Broadway along side Shields in Kindred. Mac had remained in Dublin with the couple's son Adam. After Mac Shields death in 1943 Arthur Shields married Aideen O'Connor. During the war years both Fitzgerald and Shields received regular work in Hollywood films, while both tended to be cast in supporting roles (often playing Irish priests), Fitzgerald was considered the bigger 'Star'. His career reached it's greatest heights in 1944-1945 when he won an Academy Award ('Oscar') for his role as Father Fitzgibbon along side Bing Crosbie in Going My Way. Through out this period Fitzgerald and Shields remained in North America, Shield's son Adam was unable to join him until after the war due to the danger of crossing the Atlantic, he eventually joined his father in Californiain in 1946. He finished school in California and then joined the United States Airforce. Having initially taken leave of absence from the Abbey in 1938, Shields in fact ceased his association with the theatre company for good. It has been suggested that this due in part to the changing cultural climate both of the Abbey itself and of Ireland. Shields a protestant nationalist perhaps felt that Ireland was becoming increasingly dominated by the Catholic Church, and the Abbey's rejection of The White Steed was a refection of this. In 1947 Arthur Shields directed the first production of Eugene O'Neill's play Moon for the Misbegotten which opened in Columbus, Ohio on 20 February 1947, after touring a number of cities the production was shut down by the police in March 1947 in Detroit because 'obscene' dialog. The play was subsequently regarded as one of O'Neill's finest. Through out the 1940s and 1950s Shields and Fitzgerald continued to appear regularly in supporting roles in Hollywood films. Both also worked in television. Shields played the role of the host and storyteller in the then innovative television drama serial Your Show Time, which was the first filmed(as opposed to live) network television entertainment programme. Shields contract for the series describes it as 'a series of twenty-six (26) motion picture photoplays based upon a series of stories in the public domain and the screenplays based thereon.' (T13/A/230). 'Stories in the public domain' included works by Charles Dickens and Guy de Maupassant. The show won an 'Emmy' award for 'excellence of performance and high quality of material'. In general however television work was regarded as a step down. It is also clear that Shields regarded a lot of the films he was involved with as being of fairly low quality. The principal exceptions being The Quiet Man which also featured Barry Fitzgerald and Jean Renoir's adaptation of Rumer Godden's novel The River which was filmed on location in Bengal, India. On Shields return to Hollywod from India in 1950 his wife Aideen died tragically aged just 36. The couple had one daughter Christine who was born in 1946. In 1955 Shields married an American journalist Laurie Bailey. In 1974 she wrote of their marriage 'They were good years we had together. The three of us' I had sensed that second marriage had been full of love, and no question but that Christine meant the world both of them. Though ours would be a relationship uniquely our own, I wanted it to reflect the spirit at least, of the Boss-Aideen-Christine union. In large measure I believe it did.' (see T13/A/510) By the late 1950s Shields was working less and less. He was involved in a television and radio advertising campaign for the Swiss Italian Wine company of California. After his retirement he complained 'I have spent my life in the theatre and when I go out in California I am pointed out or spoken to asandquot;The Man in the Wine ad" on television.' (T13/A/506) In 1959 Arthur Shields had had an opportunity to play Fluther Good again in a Los Angels Civic Theatre Foundation production of The Plough and the Stars. Suffering from a prolonged illness Barry Fitzgerald returned to Ireland in 1959 and died in 1961. After Barry's death Arthur and Laurie Shields moved to Santa Barbara California where Christine was attending school. 1966 was to significant year for Arthur Shields in that it was the 50th anniversary of the 1916 rising and also the year that that the 'New' Abbey Theatre opened in Dublin (The originally building having been destroyed in a fire in 1951). Unfortunately for Arthur Shields he was unable to return to Ireland for events marking these occasions because of ill health. However his daughter Christine traveled to Ireland to represent him. Perhaps the highlight of her trip was a speech she delivered at the unveiling ceremony of a plaque in the 'New' Abbey honouring Abbey cast members and employees who had been involved in the 1916 Rising. The Unveiling was presided over by the then Taoiseach and 1916 veteran Sean Lemass. After Arthur Shields death in 1970 his wife Laurie decided to gather together material on his life and to write a biography. She gathered a lot of valuable material adding to the families own archive. In the end she was unable to find a publisher for the biography. As she wrote of the project in 1974 '[Arthur's doctor] thought it would be good therepy for me! It has been.' (T13/A/510)

Immediate Source of Acquisition or Transfer

The Shields family papers were donated to The James Hardiman Library, NUIG by Arthur Shields daughter Christine Shields.

CONTENT AND STRUCTURE
Scope and Content

Reflecting it provenance the bulk of this collection relates to Arthur Shields, it also includes a number of documents relating to Barry Fitzgerald and Aideen O'Connor. A small number of documents relating to Christine and Laurie Shields and a handful of documents relating to other members of the family. The material relating to Arthur Shields relates primarily to his adult life, the collection includes a considerable amount of material relating to the Abbey tours of North America in 1931-1932, 1932-1933, 1934-1935. The collection also includes a large amount of photocopies collected from other sources, this material was collected by Arthur Shields widow Laurie Bailey in the early 1970s. It includes correspondence with his sister Lini during the 1931-1932 tour. The collection also includes photocopies of a large amount of material relating to Arthur Shields involvement with Edward Choate and Paul Vincent Carroll during the period c.1939-1944. Also included is a Typescript manuscript of Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten . Perhaps reflecting Shields' own lack of interest in some of the film and television work he was involved with the collection includes comparatively little material relating to this aspect of his carrier. A major exception being material relating to Jean Renoir's The River, filmed in India during 1950. Shields corresponded with a number of important Irish literary and theatrical figures and this collection includes correspondence with Sean O'Casey, Ulick O'Connor, Cyril Cusack, J.M. Kerrigan, Rutherford Mayne, William Butler Yeats and Lady Gregory. However only a few letters from each of these people is included in this collection. The collection also includes material relating to Barry Fitzgerald. This part of the collection includes correspondence, tax forms and membership cards for various bodies. There is little or no textural material relating to Fitzgerald's Hollywood career, however the collection includes a large number of publicity photographs and news paper clippings relating to this aspect of Fitzgerald's career. The material relating to Aideen O'Connor includes photocopies of correspondence with her sisters sent during the Abbey tours of 1934-1935 and 1937-1938. In this correspondence she reflects on American life and describes meeting various Holywood stars including John Wayne. This collection also includes a number of non-textural records and printed material. This includes copies of several periodicals which Arthur Shields collected, newspaper clippings and Abbey programmers. Over 500 photographs, including publicity photographs from the Abbey and from Hollywood. Also included are a number of sound recodings of interviews Arthur Shields gave late in his life and a DVD copy of a television interview given to Arthur Shields' friend Dr. Homer D. Swandler of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

System of arrangement

At the highest level this collection had been arranged according to record type, with series for documents, photographs, publications, programmes and audiovisual items and artifacts. Within the documents section the material in this collection has been arranged according to the person it is associated with, in some cases so few documents were associated with an individual that at the highest level the have been grouped as 'Other Shields Family Members' With in each series documents have been arranged according to the aspect of the individual life or career they are connected to. For example in the case of Arthur Shields there are sub-series relating to his involvement in the 1916 rising, his stage work, his film work, his television work and his personal life. Within in these sub-series there are further divisions where appropriate, for example there are sub-series devoted to each of the Abbey tours of North America which Arthur Shields managed. In certain instances these sub-series themselves are further divided. For example the sub-series for the 1931-32 Abbey tour is divided into 'Correspondence' and 'Tour Management'. The photographs are arrange by subject type, with subseries for personal, theatre, film, radio and television. Both Theatre and Film are further divided by production.

CONDITIONS OF ACCESS AND USE AREA
Conditions governing access

This collection is available to all bone fide researchers, and subject to the conditions of access governing consultation of archival material at the James Hardiman Library. For a full statement of these conditions see: http://www.library.nuigalway.ie/resources/archives/access.html No material may be reproduced from this collection without the written permission of the archivist, and all reproductions are subject to conditions of access. The most appropriate form of reference is Title of item; date of item: Reference Number (T13/?/??), James Hardiman Library Archives, NUI Galway.

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