Actor and comedian Niall Tóibín dies aged 89

Stage and screen figure known for roles in Ryan’s Daughter, Bracken and Ballykissangel

Actor and comedian Niall Tóibín died in Dublin on Wednesday after a long illness. His death occurred just over a week before his 90th birthday.

A well-known stage and screen performer in both straight and comic roles, he was familiar from Ryan’s Daughter, Bracken, The Ballroom of Romance, The Irish RM, Caught in a Free State, Ballykissangel, Far and Away, and Veronica Guerin. He also played Brendan Behan at the Abbey and on Broadway [ . . . ]

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‘The audience knew they were in the hands of a master’

A musical number, a chat with a Hollywood star. A debate on the ‘burning issue’ of the day followed by a poem from the woman in the third row, a wave from the man in the fourth and then something for, well, everyone in the audience.

His work ethic was legendary, at the height of his career he was producing and presenting the Late Late, as well as presenting a daily radio show on RTÉ Radio 1.

And that wasn’t all – in the 1980s, while most of the country was enjoying the last days of summer, Gaybo had already started his autumn term, presenting the Rose of Tralee live from the Dome in the Kerry capital.

Add in the ‘Calor Gas Housewife of the Year’ competition and it was no wonder he was known as ‘Uncle Gaybo’ – for some he was as familiar a presence in the home as members of their own families.

Despite his ubiquity however Gay never became complacent about his work and both his television and radio shows broke new ground.

The Gay Byrne Hour, which became the Gay Byrne Show on RTÉ Radio 1, pioneered listener engagement, with listeners writing in and later phoning Gay about the issues of the day or problems close to their hearts.

“Consumer issues, recipes for fruit cake, relationship woes – in the days before social media Gay Byrne was the conduit for all kinds of discussion and debates”

One of the show’s most memorable broadcasts featured letters inspired by the death in childbirth of teenager Anne Lovett in Granard, Co Longford, in 1984.

When news of the tragedy broke, Irish men and women from all around the country wrote to the show with their own stories of abandonment, neglect and fear, stories from the heart which were broadcast to the nation. Continue reading

Lill-Babs” Svensson of “Bonus Family” once shared stage with the Beatles

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The late Swedish singer and actress Lill-Babs, who recently played the character “Gugge” in the Netflix hit “Bonus Family,” once shared a stage with the Beatles. And, it was the lads from Liverpool who actually requested her autograph after the show!

Barbro “Lill-Babs” Svensson was born in Järvsö in 1938 and released her first album in 1954. She became known as the Järvsø Judy Garland but was later given the name Lill-Babs by Simon Brehm, who discovered her on the Morgonkvisten radio show and became her manager.

Lill-Babs, The Telstars and The Beatles took part in the Swedish show Drop-In in 1963

Lill-Babs finished fourteenth when representing Sweden at the 1961 Eurovision Song Contest in Cannes with the song April, April. However, she participated in Sweden’s qualifying Melodifestivalen three times overall (1960, 1961 and 1973), and even entered Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix in 1969.

As the singing career of Lill-Babs flourished throughout the decades, she became a national treasure. But her most recent success was in the critically acclaimed role as Gugge in SVT hit drama Bonus Family (Bonusfamiljen).

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As “Gugge” (right) in “Bonus Family”

Lill-Babs passed away at 80 years of age on April 3 of 2018. She leaves behind three daughters: Monica Svensson, Malin Berghagen and Kristin Kaspersen.

Albert Finney: the most almighty physical screen presence

Finney was the face of the vibrant new wave of working-class postwar British cinema, and maintained a fierce vitality in his distinguished later performances

From moon-faced youth to weatherbeaten later years, Albert Finney was an almighty force on screen: a clenched fist of physicality, a battering ram of uningratiating power, almost priapic with defiant confidence, with the battle-readiness of a prop forward or sumo wrestler. His presence was very different from the long-limbed spindliness or feline charm of contemporaries such as Peter O’Toole, Tom Courtenay and Terence Stamp, those other young lions of postwar British cinema who showed that regional and working-class voices had a new, real power. And, in retirement, Salford-born Finney lived long enough to hear his name invoked as a lost hero by those enraged that, in the 21st century, working-class actors were being marginalised in Britain once again.

Finney was a unique actor, although it was his fate to be compared, wonderingly, to other people. Ken Tynan famously reeled away from Finney’s Rada graduation show calling the teenager a new Spencer Tracy. Later in his theatrical career, he was dubbed a new Olivier. I would say that he was Britain’s Jean Gabin. But none of that is quite right. He was a brilliant and utterly distinctive actor, deeply rooted in a theatrical tradition but capable of naturalistic performances, a product of Britain’s vital new “kitchen-sink” cinema. And as a producer, Finney gave early breaks to Tony Scott and Stephen Frears, helped get Lindsay Anderson’s If… off the ground, and was a driving force behind Mike Leigh’s first feature, Bleak Moments. Continue reading