St. Patrick’s Day is here! Bring on the jigs and reels, the beer, and the never-ending ballads of high spirits and oppression. Being named Killarney, (Erin go bragh!), this is probably one of my favorite Saint’s Days of the year. To celebrate, here are some films which celebrate the Irish among us:
The Luck of the Irish (1948)
Tyrone Power and Anne Baxter star in this often overlooked gem about a journalist offered the classic choice: hard work and possible obscurity with happiness or power and prestige at the expense of his integrity. Fitzgerald (Power) is aided in his decision by a happy-go-lucky leprechaun, who bring both clarity and chaos to the situation. Well-written, well-acted, and surprisingly deep for a rom-com, this film makes for fine viewing.
Top o’ the Morning (1949)
Ok, this only made the list because I love Bing Crosby and anything to do with Castle Blarney. That being said, this is a pleasant comedy with good pacing and the usual sly Crosby humor. When the Blarney Stone is stolen (just go with it), an insurance agent is sent to investigate the matter. What he finds is a village of quirky characters (including Barry Fitzgerald), a pretty girl (Ann Blyth), an old prophecy, and a mystery that turns unexpectedly dangerous. A good movie to fill your afternoon.
The Quiet Man (1952)
The classic tale of an American in Ireland, John Wayne stars as an ex-fighter whose sole goal is the quiet life in his mother’s land. Unfortunately for him, he winds up in the same town as high-spirited Maureen O’Hara and her stubborn, contentious brother. Keeping a gentle pace, but with the prerequisite John Wayne brawl, this warm-hearted comedy is filled with colorful characters and great lines.
Flight of the Doves (1971)
This little known British film, based on an Irish novel, stars Ron Moody, Jack Wild, and Dorothy McGuire. Orphans Finn and Derval Dove run away from their loveless Liverpool home with their stepfather to find their grandmother in County Galway. Little do they know that they are heirs to a substantial amount of money, causing their stepfather to hire the nefarious Hawk (Moody) to track them down. A fun children’s movie with luscious scenery and catchy songs (You Don’t Have to be Irish to be Irish, O’Connell Street) and a soundtrack by Roy Budd (of Get Carter and Wild Geese).
The Irish RM (1983)
This classic fish-out-of-water Irish comedy-drama stars Peter Bowles as Major Yeates, a well-meaning, earnest magistrate sent to Rural Ireland to dispense justice, but he soon learns that the justice system needs a certain amount of tweaking to suit the local situation. There to help and hinder are the local gentry and common folk, led by the sly Flurry McCarthy Knox and the Major’s redoubtable housekeeper, Mrs. Cadogan. Based on a series of books written in the 1890s by Anglo-Irish novelists Somerville and Ross, the show isn’t political so much as whimsical and full of good humor.
The Hanging Gale (1995)
This four-part miniseries is set in 1846 at the beginning of Ireland’s Great Famine. When the members of a secret society execute land agent Henry Jenkins, Captain William Townshend is sent in to replace him – and soon finds his hands full trying to keep the peace, dispense judgement, and stay alive himself. On the other side of the situation is the Phelan family, whose poor luck is about to get much worse. Unlike The Irish RM, this miniseries is a sober, sorrowful, and, at times, brutal look at conditions in Ireland. Written by the four McGann brothers who star in it (Joe, Paul (of Dr. Who fame), Mark, and Stephen), it is by turns moving, irritating, touching, and tragic – great drama.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Did I miss any great films? Comment below!