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Eddie Byrne was born in Dublin on January 31st, 1911. He began acting in the late 1940s, beginning with mostly cameo appearances in 1947 in Brian Desmond Hurst's Hungry Hill (uncredited), Frank Launder's Captain Boycott, with Stewart Granger, and Carol Reed's Odd Man Out, with James Mason. In this first year of work, he made his first role as a seaman - a strange premonition, considering his Star Wars role as a Naval officer.
An Irish man and a first-line secondary actor, he continued raising in the billing during the following years: Leslie Arliss's Saints and Sinners (1949), Frank Launder's Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951), Basil Dearden's The Gentle Gunman (1952) next to Dirk Bogarde, and then his first starring role: Lewis Gilbert's comedy Time Gentlemen Please! (1952), where he played a drunkard who dangers the "perfect" 100% employment rate of his town just before the visit of the Prime Minister.
Not an actor to restrict himself to comedy, Byrne also worked in drama in the following years (Basil Dearden and Michael Relph's The Square Ring, 1953), as well as returning to comedies (Herbert Wilcox's Troube in the Glen, 1953, with Orson Welles) and also to war movies (a new officer, a "commander Brennan", in Albert R.N., 1953). All this was made in only one year.
In the years between 1954 and 1959, Byrne had parts in no less than 29 films, all of them from Great Britain. - more than four films per year. Historian David Quinlan said of him "seemed to be turning up in every third British film". As this is no place for an exhaustive analysis of his filmography, only the most important ones will be mentioned:
In 1954, he worked again with Lewis Gilbert and Dirk Bogarde in a war movie, The Sea Shall Not Have Them, and also in a Mario Zampi comedy, Happy Ever After with David Niven and Yvonne De Carlo (of Munsters fame), or with Ginger Rogers and Hebert Lom in the thriller Beautiful Stranger.
In 1955, he worked in Stolen Assignment under director Terence Fisher, who would later became a famous horror director with Hammer Films. He would also star in Fisher's comedy Children Galore, and in horror-episodic movie Three Cases of Murder. It would also mark his first TV appearance, as a guest in three episodes of the series Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Presents.
In 1956, he acted in another war drama by Lewis Gilbert, Reach for the Sky, as a sergeant. He also appeared in an episode of a TV adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo, starring George Dolenz.
For the rest of the 1950s, he continued working in a great amount of movies, covering all the genres, and working with Star Wars actors such as Alec Guinness (The Scapegoat, Robert Hamer, 1959) or Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (The Mummy, Terence Fisher, 1959). He also appeared occasionally in TV series, but clearly preferring mainstream movies. Even though, Byrne starred in 6-episode comedy series Call me Sam (1959) as the titular Sam Callahan.
Older now, Byrne finally debuted in theater, particularly in the Abbey Theater (Dublin) with Sean O'Casey's The Bishop's Bonfire. But this could not stop him from acting in different movies, such as Robert Asher's The Bulldog Breed and a guest appearance in a TV adaptation of Edgar Wallace's The Four Just Men.
During the first half of the 1960s, he continued with many small roles in different movies, including Lewis Milestone's successful Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), starring Marlon Brando, and again as a Navy officer. He also made guest appearances in different episodes of the series The Saint, in different seasons and playing different characters, for all the decade.
During the mid 1960s, Byrne is said to have returned to his Irish home, returning only occasionally to movies, more than once in horror movies (repeating with Terence Fisher and Peter Cushing in Island of Terror, 1966; or with Christopher Lee in The Vengeance of Fu Manchu, 1967).
Even though his appearances were subtle in movies, but he had chances to return to theater in England. He played Jimmy Farrell in JM Synge's Playboy of the Western World - A Comedy in Three Acts at the Old Vic and Olivier Theatres (London), and then in a tour to Birmingham; the following year, he repeated in the Olivier Theatre with different works such as Three Repertoire Leaflets: Tamburlaine the Great, Il Campiello, Hamlet, Counting the Ways.
His last role was in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), a movie where he played General Willard, the officer greeting Leia on Yavin 4. However, he did provide a voice for the animated film The Princess and the Cobbler, released in 1993, but the part was recorded in 1968.
Eddie Byrne died of a stroke in Dublin at age 70.
- Eddie Byrne on Wikipedia