Marie Kean
in her one-woman show, Dublin, 1971
Born(1918-06-27)27 June 1918
Died30 December 1993(1993-12-30) (aged 75)

Marie Kean (27 June 1918 – 29 December 1993) was an Irish actress of stage and screen whose career spanned over 40 years.[1] The Stage called her one of Ireland's most impressive actresses, and "an artist of considerable emotional depth and theatrical command.” [2]

Kean grew up in the village of Rush, County Dublin, and was educated at Loreto College, North Great George's Street, Dublin. She learnt her craft at the Gaiety School of Acting and was part of the Abbey Theatre company until 1961.[3]

Kean's leading role as the kindly matriarch, Mrs. Kennedy, in the Radio Éireann serial drama, The Kennedys of Castleross, made her famous throughout Ireland. She starred in the programme for the duration of its 18-year run.[4]

In 1968, Kean won a Jacob's Award for her performance as Winnie in RTÉ television's production of Samuel Beckett's play Happy Days, a role she had previously performed on stage and which she described later as her favourite part.[5] Among her other television roles was that of Mrs. Conn Brickley, Bridget's mother, in an episode of the Irish RM called "The Boat's Share".[6]

Kean's many stage appearances include performances in the plays of Synge, O'Casey and Friel. She took the lead role of Maggie Polpin in the 1969 world première of John B. Keane's play Big Maggie at the Cork Opera House[7] In 1978 she won the State of New York best actress award for her performance in what has become Keane's most successful play.[8]

Arguably her most memorable film role was as Barry's scheming mother in Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon.[1] She also played a bigoted Irish shopkeeper in David Lean's Ryan's Daughter.[6] Her final movie appearance was in John Huston's The Dead (1987), in which she played the part of Mrs. Malins.[9]

Marie Kean died in Donnybrook, Dublin at the age of 75. Her husband, William Mulvey, predeceased her in 1977.[10]


Year Title Role Notes
1956 Jacqueline Mrs. Flannagan
1958 Rooney Mrs. O'Flynn
1958 Sally's Irish Rogue Ellen Carey
1960 A Terrible Beauty Mrs. Matia Devlin (the publican)
1961 The Big Gamble Cynthia
1962 The Quare Fellow Mrs. O'Hara
1962 Stork Talk Mrs. Webster
1964 Girl with Green Eyes Josie Hannigan
1966 I Was Happy Here
1966 Cul-de-sac Marion Fairweather
1966 The Fighting Prince of Donegal The Mother
1968 Great Catherine Princess Dashkoff
1970 Ryan's Daughter Mrs. McCardle
1975 Barry Lyndon Belle, Barry's Mother
1982 Angel Mae
1987 The Dead Mrs. Malins
1987 The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne Mrs. Rice


  1. ^ a b McFarlane, Brian (16 May 2016). The Encyclopedia of British Film: Fourth edition. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9781526111975 – via Google Books.
  2. ^[bare URL]
  3. ^ The Irish Times, "The Saturday Profile", August 25, 1979
  4. ^ "The Kennedys of Castleross Episode 1".
  5. ^ The Irish Times, "Big Maggie: Mother with a Difference", February 22, 1969
  6. ^ a b "Rush actress was one of our biggest film stars -".
  7. ^ "Irish Playography listing for Big Maggie". Archived from the original on 2007-09-11. Retrieved 2007-11-15.
  8. ^ The Irish Times, "The Saturday Interview", July 10, 1982
  9. ^ "Marie Kean - Movies and Filmography - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  10. ^ The Irish Times, "Abbey, RTÉ actress dies in Dublin", December 30, 1993