Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Movies

(For those who are wondering, I will eulogise the great character actor Michael Gough tomorrow when I have more time to write a eulogy deserving one so talented.)

As many of you may already know, I do not celebrate St. Patrick's Day. It is not that I have any thing against the holiday, but the truth is that I am primarily English and German in descent, and I do not have one single drop of Irish blood in me. Indeed, we never celebrated St. Patrick's Day at home when I was growing up, and I knew very few people who did. I feel that if I did celebrate St. Patrick's Day, I would simply be misappropriating someone else's holiday for my own--it would be like celebrating Hanukkah for me.

That having been said, I have always appreciated Irish mythology, folklore, culture, and brunettes, so that I do enjoy the fact that others so celebrate St. Patrick's Day and I do enjoy wishing those who celebrate the day a happy one. Keeping this in mind, I gave thought to what would be suitable movies to watch on St. Patrick's Day. I think these movies would fit the bill.

Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959): Okay, Sean Connery could not speak in a proper Irish brogue if he wanted to (indeed, he even had that Scottish accent as Bond, who is presumably English...), .and I rather suspect that some of the characters could qualify as outright Irish stereotypes, but when I think of Ireland, I must confess this is the first movie that comes to mind. Let's face it, the movie is based on the books by Herminie Templeton Kavanagh and like the books draw heavily upon Irish folklore. Indeed, the film centres on leprechauns and even features a pooka, a shape changing spirit of Celtic mythology, a banshee, and the cóiste-bodhar (the ghostly, death coach which carries the deceased to the afterlife). Besides being firmly rooted in Irish folklore, the movie is generally fun in the way most movies made by Disney were in the late Fifties and early Sixties.

Finian's Rainbow (1968): Okay, Petula Clark is about as convincing as an Irish girl as Sean Connery was an Irishman and I am not sure I can entirely buy Tommy Steele as a leprechaun., but I still enjoy Finian's Rainbow. Never mind that Fred Astaire proved that he was still a skilled dancer with this movie. Never mind that the songs are enjoyable and fun. The plain truth is that like Darby O'Gill and the Little People, Finian's Rainbow draws a bit upon Irish folklore. Indeed, central to the plot is that Finian took off with a pot of gold and hot on his heels is the leprechaun who owns it.

The Quiet Man (1952): I must admit, The Quiet Man is a idealised picture of Irish society. Its portrayal of an Ireland unaffected by the divisions of religion, class, or ethnicity is even more of a fantasy that either Darby O'Gill and the Litlte  People or Finian's Rainbow. And I elieve the movie's story does have some fundamental flaws. That having been said, I do like The Quiet Man. After all, the film gives us some magnificent shots of the Irish countryside, as well as Victor Young's fantastic score. I must also confess I have a fondness for the film because of its two leads.--John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara remain two of my favourite actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

The Secret of Roan Inish (1994). The novel upon which it was based, The Secret of Ron Mor Skerry by Rosalie K. Fry, was originally set in Scotland, but for practical reasons the movie was set in Ireland. Both deal with the shape shifting creatures known as selkies,  common not only to Irish and Scottish folklore, but Faoerese and Orcadian folklore. Regardless, speaking as someone without a drop of Irish blood in him,  The Secret of Roan Inish has a very Irish feel to it to me. Indeed, much as I picture Ireland itself in my mind (even if it is not actually that way), The Secret of Roan Inish is a fluid blend of mythology, nature, and is people. Most of the film's appeal is then twofold--its cinematography, with shots of the rugged Irish coastline, and the relationships between young Fiona (Jeri Courtney) and her tale telling grandfather (Mick Lally). The Secret of Inish is a wonderful family film that, sadly, most people have never seen.

This is my very short list of films that I would think anyone who celebrates St. Patrick's Day would do well to watch. If I celebrated St. Patrick's Day, I would watch any of them (although, I will confess, Darby O'Gill and the Little People is my favourite). Please let me know if you can think of any other films suitable for St. Patrick's Day viewing.

1 comment:

QUB English Society said...

Hey! I thought Petula Clark was a good Irish lassie! ;-P

I agree with you on Sean Connery and Tommy Steele though. But I love Tommy. So he's a convincing anything to me. ;-P