John McCullagh March 9, 2005
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‘Roll the Credits’ is a limited edition biopic of the life’s work and achievements of Newry’s Man of the Century, Sean Hollywood, and is our first book review.  Hurry!  There may yet be a few copies in Easons, Savages or the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre.  This will be a Collector’s Item.

Appropriately enough, profits go to the Sean Hollywood Bursary for aspiring young actors. The man himself dedicated his huge talents and the boundless energy of the best years of his life to just that cause.

I finished this book at one sitting – a criterion of value that Sean applied to plays he planned to stage.  If he couldn’t manage it, then why would he expect an audience to sit through it?  Valid for a master like himself who could mentally see the play staged even as he read.  I love the theatre but cannot visualize from the script alone.  I even find Shakespeare boring and/or incomprehensible, until he is well performed.  In turns I found ‘Roll the Credits’ interesting, fascinating, amusing and occasionally boring.  I was aware of huge gaps – but I was expecting a disciplined chronological account of Sean’s life and achievements.  The editor Paul Hoben had something else in mind.  He gives us a broad-stroke account of Sean’s sporting, theatrical, working, political and social life.   He allows his acolytes and peers to recount their own memories.  A few interviews with the great man are included, an especially insightful one conducted by Paul Hoben’s daughter Judith.  Sean’s favourite plays were Richard III and Henry VI Part I.  Why did I never see him stage one of these greats?

So what more did I want?  I’d have enjoyed a synopsis of his early life, some account of his school days, more detail of his sporting prowess (he was a soccer star when GAA rules forbade members from playing this game: he was the best tennis player the town ever had: and he assumed an alias to regularly feature in Newry Olympic Hockey team’s forward line).  Surely a comprehensive list of the plays he acted in, and those he produced, highlighting the successes, was available from Newpoint?  Why omit the chief credits, that long list of successful professional thespians who owe their careers to Sean?  I was particularly amazed to find no mention of Sean’s cousin, classmate, close friend and star of the international stage and screen, Gerard Murphy.

But I nit-pick.  A proper biography might follow.  Paul Hoben sympathetically depicts the best features of his friend, political colleague and the man he taught alongside for thirty two years in St Colman’s College.  Sean didn’t keep a scrapbook, nor were many photos of the man retained by family or friends.  With these handicaps, Hoben has done well.  Nor does he hesitate to depict his few failings and foibles, some held in common.  The two men, who patented the ‘just-off-the-motorbike’ hairstyle, together dodged the fashion police for decades!  One amusing cartoon has a dishevelled Hollywood castigate a young pupil for wearing his school tie askew.

The title was chosen by Sean himself in an interview with Karl Hughes of Newry & Mourne Arts Collective in the year before his untimely death.  It is unlikely he got to utter his chosen last words.  The book has twenty three written pages and several more with photo montages.  Incongruously three are dedicated to poems, some good, some not so good, though Hollywood wrote little and considered himself a poor poet.   There is also an over-emphasis on Sean’s short-lived political career. 

Still, at

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