Allgood, Sara (1883–1950), actress, was born 31 October 1883 in Dublin, daughter of George Allgood and Margaret Allgood (née Harold). Her father was a protestant printing compositor, son of an English army officer; her mother's family were catholic, owners of a junk shop. There were four sons and four daughters. After her father's death Sara was apprenticed to an upholsterer, and joined Inghinidhe na hÉireann, a group of revolutionary women founded by Maud Gonne MacBride (qv). She took part in amateur dramatics and was a founder member of the Irish National Theatre Society. Her first appearances (1904), while still in her daytime job, were in ‘The king's threshold’ by W. B.Yeats (qv) and ‘Riders to the sea’ by J. M. Synge (qv). She stayed with the group which became the Abbey Theatre, and after successful appearances in the first Abbey play, Lady Gregory's ‘Spreading the news’, she became a professional actress (1905).
After disputes within the company Sara Allgood's main rivals, Maire Quinn and Máire Ní Shiubhlaigh (qv), resigned and she was able to play some of the most important roles in the Abbey's repertoire. It was claimed that she could, at short notice, perform sixty-five parts, including Deirdre in Yeats's play of that name; she was Widow Quin in the first production of Synge's ‘Playboy of the western world’ (1907). She was especially celebrated in tragedy, but in 1915 she played the heroine in an Irish-American romantic comedy, ‘Peg o' my heart’ by John H. Manners, produced by a touring company in Australia. It proved very popular. Her stay in Australia was protracted until 1920, partly because she had married (September 1916) her leading man Gerald Henson, and the death (January 1918) of their only child Mary, shortly after her birth, was followed by Henson's death in the devastating ’flu epidemic (November 1918).
The Abbey Theatre's difficulties during the civil war were not resolved until the great success of ‘The shadow of a gunman’ and ‘Juno and the paycock’ by Sean O'Casey (qv). Allgood gave the finest performances of her life as Juno (1924) and as Bessy Burgess in ‘The plough and the stars' (1926). Successful London productions and American tours of these plays followed, and she was very successful in London in James Bridie's ‘Storm in a teacup’ (1936). From 1929 she increasingly relied on film work – she appeared in over forty films – and, living in Hollywood, California, took American citizenship (1945). She was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actress for her part in How green was my valley (1941); she was, however, only offered small parts (generally Irish characters) which did not make full use of her abilities. Her last years in Hollywood were spent in disappointment and poverty. She died 13 September 1950 of a heart attack in Woodland Hills, California. Her sister Molly (Mary) was a successful actress as Máire O'Neill (qv).