By Peter McDermott
In his acting career, Brian Dennehy has portrayed real-life people such as crusading attorney Clarence Darrow and serial killer John Wayne Gacy. He has won both a Golden Globe and Tony Award for playing Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Saleman." And he has been an interpreter of the work of Samuel Beckett.
But his special relationship to the plays of another Nobel Prize-winner will inevitably be invoked when he's honored in New York City on Oct. 18 by the Irish-American Writers & Artists.
For Dennehy will on that night become the second recipient of the organization's Eugene O'Neill Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Bridgeport, Conn.-born actor has over the past decade starred in major productions of O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey in Night," "Desire Under the Elms" and "Hughie."
"It's great to be honored as an actor, but it is especially gratifying to be honored as an actor in the O'Neill tradition," said Dennehy, who will celebrate his 72nd birthday on Friday.
Of his particular affinity for O'Neill's work, Dennehy has said: "I think that my being Irish American, the grandson of a factory worker in Bridgeport, and my having been raised in a real Irish-American climate in Brooklyn and Long Island in the 1940s and '50s goes a long way towards explaining it."
"Few actors have had the kind of career Brian Dennehy has had," said IAW&A co-founder T.J. English when announcing the award. "For over 30 years, in movies, on television and on stage, he has come to embody an iconic image of a certain type of working-class American -- the cop, the priest, the fireman, the soldier. Dennehy has brought nobility and passion to these roles and established himself as the dean of American actors."
Dennehy will be presented with the award at a reception and ceremony at Rosie O'Grady's, which is just blocks from where Eugene O'Neill began life in a hotel on Oct. 16, 1888. (He is the only winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature who was born in New York City.)
The inaugural winner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist William Kennedy, was honored at the same venue last year.
For more information go to http://i-am-wa.org.