The Sunday Intertitle: The Rocky Road to Dublin

From HANGMAN’S HOUSE, included in the epic Ford at Fox box set. I’m still holding out for a Hawks at Fox box  set — quite apart from the crying need for a good release of A GIRL IN EVERY PORT, there’s my own perhaps excessive and unjustified need to see TRENT’S LAST CASE, or what’s left of it. The combination of Raymond Griffith as star and Hawks as director speaks to me. Plus, Hawks at Fox — it rhymes!

John Ford is a bit embarrassing about Ireland, isn’t he? It’s OK for those of us who aren’t Irish, or more or less OK (I find THE QUIET MAN a bit hard to take in places), but rather a burden for the Irish, who have already suffered so much, what with Neil Jordan and everything. You can feel it in actor Donal Donnelly’s interview in Lindsay Anderson’s terrific study About John Ford — the discomfort with Ford’s strange nationalistic-touristic attitude to his purported homeland, and also the awkward fact that Ford undoubtedly liked and admired Donnelly, but Donnelly wasn’t quite so sure about Ford. Oh, he greatly respected Ford’s work as filmmaker, he just wasn’t so sure about those aspects of it pertaining to Ireland. And I’ve just noticed that Donnelly was actually born in Yorkshire. If he could find Ford’s sentiment for Ireland embarrassing, I wonder how Jack MacGowran felt?

I’m off to Dublin now — Shadowplay will continue, perhaps a little erratically, for the month of November, before bouncing back in December with The Late Show: The Late Films Blogathon. Get scribbling, you scribblers!

Ford At Fox – The Collection

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12 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: The Rocky Road to Dublin”

  1. Jose Luis Guerin made an impressive documentary called INNISFREE about the impact and relationship of The Quiet Man to the real locations in which it was shot. It’s quite interesting.

    I rather like The Quiet Man and also The Rising of the Moon, more than The Informer at least. Tag Gallagher, being Irish himself points out that the film as idealized and hyper-real as it is still has a lot of pertinent things to say about Ireland and Irish identity and culture. Of course that’s up to Irish audiences to accept and reject or Irish artists to engage with.

    I believe TRENT’S LAST CASE was the film that Hawks loathed so much that at a screening towards the end of his life, he stormed the projection booth in hope of burning down the print. He was prevented of course. One odd thing about Hawks was his tendency to jump studios and he never stayed long in one place. For all the talk about him being an ultimate genre director who made any film that came his way, he was extremely choosy and career conscious.

  2. Enjoy your time there, and your work. I put on the DVD of The Quiet Man a few years ago, having not seen it since childhood, and after about 40 minutes I started to think I Can’t Take This Any More.

    Ford’s skill as a filmmaker hardly mattered when the material was just so hard to take. I understand why Irish-American audiences continue to identify with the film, but I find the Irish-based Quiet Man fan clubs truly inexplicable.

    I’ve read that the film wasn’t very successful in Ireland on its release, though it did pretty well in Britain (top 15 films of the year). I’ve not seen Irish box office data cited in support of that, however, and I’m not sure when separate data was tracked for the Irish market.

    I’m still laughing at the Neil Jordan comment!

  3. The Greatest Irish Movie Ever Made!

  4. David Boxwell Says:

    The Blarney is slathered all over the Cavalry Trilogy, as well, and the “shtick” (what’s the Gaelic word for this?) seems endless when you’re watching it.

    The Code was designed to suppress specific ethnic humor and even identity (especially Jewish), but Breen always made an exception for the Oirish.

  5. I do like some Neil Jordan stuff. Fiona (hi Fiona!) is very big on Breakfast on Pluto but I’ve yet to catch up with it.

    I am now ensconced in my freezing editor’s cottage where half the power is out and the rain is belting down outside. It feels very authentic. I should get a lot of writing/drinking done when I’m not editing.

    Maybe the problem with Ford’s Oirishry is a more general problem with his rowdy humour. He could be very funny at times, but sometimes he just settled for noise. But hell, it’s silly to quibble when he could do such great, sensitive work also.

    Trent’s Last Case really doesn’t have a good rep, and even those who have seen it recently and approached it with reverence given its rarity, still couldn’t find anything to admire in it. But Griffith just cracks me up, so I remain perversely hopeful. The remake has Orson Welles, I should watch that first.

  6. Cillian Murphy was beyond “committed” to Breakfast on Pluto. When he heard Neil Jordan was going to do it he rang him up and pretty well DEMANDED the lead. It took years to get off the ground and Murphy hung on as few in-deamand actors ever do. I intervewed him about the film when he flew especially to L.A. to do press for it for the Golden Globes. Quite fascinating in that he’s very much a “lad” — tough as nails despite his delicate facial features. And because of that quite free to “get in touch with his feminine side”– with a vengeance. The films’ message, he told me, is “We’ve all got to find our inner Mitzi Gaynor.”

  7. David, I like your line about the “more general problem with [Ford's] rowdy humour” quite a bit. It seems to be that his policy, for good or ill, was to take the gestures and sounds of caricature and push them way beyond the point of embarrassment. And this was implied to all cultures depicted.

    I shudder to think what Ford’s version of a Roger Casement movie might be …

  8. [Correction: make that "applied," please. One doesn't exacly "imply" when employing a sledgehammer.]

  9. That Ford had a streak of cloddish, unsubtle humor was something I painfully experienced early in my “career” as a cinephile, when films like The Quiet Man were easiest to find. It’s what makes me fear watching certain of his silents, like Riley The Cop.

  10. But I think the silents are going to be easier to take, even when they’re full-on. Because silent rowdiness is inherently a bit softer on the ear.

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