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Film Details

TitlePLOUGH AND THE STARS, THE
Production companyRKO Radio Pictures Inc
Country of originUSA
DirectorFORD, John
SHIELDS, Arthur
NICHOLLS Jr., George
DONAHUE, Edward
Script/AdaptationNICHOLS, Dudley
PhotographyAUGUST, Joseph H.
Sound recordingMcDOWELL, Hugh
CUTLER, D.A.
EditingHIVELY, George
Art directionPolglase, Van Nest
CLARK, Carroll
Costume designPLUNKETT, Walter
Executive producerBRISKIN, Samuel J.
Associate producerREID, Cliff
SISK, Robert
Music composerWEBB, Roy
CastBarbara Stanwyck (Nora Clitheroe), Preston Foster (Jack Clitheroe), Barry Fitzgerald (Fluther Good), Denis O'Dea (the Young Covey), Eileen Crowe (Bessie Burgess), Arthur Shields (Irish leader [Patrick Pearse]), Erin O'Brien Moore (Rosie Redmond), Brandon Hurst (Sergeant Tinley), F J McCormick (Captain Brennan), Una O'Connor (Maggie Gogan), Moroni Olsen (Irish leader [General James Connolly]), J M Kerrigan (Uncle Peter Flynn), Neil Fitzgerald (Lieutenant Langon), Robert Homans (barman), Bonita Granville (Mollser Gogan), Cyril McLaglen (Corporal Stoddart), Wesley Barry (sniper), D'Arcy Corrigan (priest), Mary Gordon, Doris Gordon (women at barricades). Jack Pennick (bar patron), Lionel Pape (old Englishman), Mary Quinn (second woman), Les Sketchley, Pat Hartigan, Wingate Smith, Francis Ford, Gaylord Pendelton, James Gordon, Pat O'Malley, Harry Tenbrook, Frank Anthony, Larry Bubke, Jack Rice, Wheaton Chambers, Frank Benson, George Magrill, Duke Green, Charles Sedgwick, Mike Fitzmaurice, George Daly, Tommy Bupp, Frank Hagney, Billy Watson, Ernie Shields, Thomas Carr, Frank Moran, Ben Hall, Mat Harris, Flo Nix, Cecil Weston, Doris Lloyd, Colin Kenny, Frank Baker.
Colourb&w
Soundsound
Duration65/67
Footage5946
Release date1936
SummaryIn 1916, as Irish revolutionaries prepare for military action against British rule in Ireland, Nora Clitheroe is afraid that her husband. Jack, will be killed in the revolt, as happened to her own father years earlier. Nora is told that Jack has been promoted to commandant in the Irish Citizens' Army, but she doesn't tell him about it. When Jack receives a dispatch that he is to report to General Connolly at headquarters, he complains to Nora about her not telling him about his new responsibilities. He joins a torchlight parade of Citizens' Army members. During the subsequent rally, Nora talks with consumptive Mollser Gogan, a neighbour's daughter, about how men are doomed to fight and women to love and wait. After the rally, the leaders meet and agree the revolutionary statement of the declaration of Ireland as an independent republic. While Jack and Nora are having a picnic, he is called to a meeting at which he is told that they will occupy Dublin's General Post Office. While the fighting between the rebels and the British intensifies, looters raid unprotected shops. Jack volunteers to convey a message to the other commandants and meets Nora on the way. Despite her pleas, he refuses to go home with her. Before the revolt is ended, Mollser dies, while Nora is ill with concern for Jack. Retreating from the post office, the rebels take to the rooftops where they continue to fire at the soldiers. Pursued by soldiers. Jack escapes to the Gogans' flat, where he hides his rifle in Mollser's coffin. Reunited with Nora, Jack evades arrest, but he tells Nora that despite their defeat, the struggle for independence will continue. (V).
Note8 reels. USA Rel 26/12/1936; 15/1/1937 (general release); IR Rel 31/7/1937. Spencer Tracy was originally considered for the role of Jack Clitheroe, but M-G-M refused to release him on the basis that the role was too weak. RKO also wanted to use Pat O'Brien in the film, but Warner Bros wouldn't release him. Maureen Delany was contracted to play in the film but did not travel to Hollywood. During post-production, and while John Ford was on vacation, executive producer Samuel Briskin ordered the reshooting by George Nicholls Jr of some scenes. 'The new scenes changed the relationship of the leads from husband and wife to boyfriend and girlfriend. Although none of the trade reviewers mention this change and probably saw only the previously shot version, prints with this alteration were circulated in the United States. When Ford heard about the changes, he tried unsuccessfully to have his name removed from the credits. According to an interview with Ford, English and Irish distributors refused to show the altered version and only screened the original. (AFI Catalog 1931-1940:1672). Though the film was made in the USA two representatives of the production company met with Colonel Hanna, the Chief Censor at the British Board of Film Censors, to explore the Censor's attitude to the project. This was an accepted pre-production censorship procedure in Britain at this time. Hanna wrote in an internal memorandum that 'the language is impossible from a film standard. It is very coarse, full of swearwords and most of the political speeches would be prohibitive from our point of view... The rebellion in Easter of 1916 evokes many sad and painful recollections and will always be highly controversial. I am strongly of the opinion that it is undesirable to rouse these feelings through the medium of the Cinema'. Colonel Hanna's response to this film and other films about the 1916-23 period in Ireland was clouded by the fact that he had served in the British Army in Ireland from 1918-21. While he discouraged such projects, he did not ban any of them. After the film's release in Britain, Monthly Film Bulletin (31/12/1936:220) observed that 'in transferring the play to the screen two problems have presented themselves: the censorship of O'Casey's virulent dialogue, and the difficulty of reproducing typical Dublin tenement speech so as to be understandable. The result is a toning down of high lights.' 'What a sorry job they made of it!', Sean O'Casey wrote in a letter to Lovat Dickson at publishers Macmillan, London, 11/5/1945. (Krause, ed. 1980:240). See also letter to Horace Reynolds 15/2/1937. (Krause, ed. 1975:648). 'Thanks mainly to Arthur Shields and the other Irish actors who took part in THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS, that film... is remarkable for its amazingly accurate pictures of Dublin slum life. In this respect alone it is the best film about Ireland that Hollywood has made up to the present... The settings are very accurate. One sees the directing and restraining hand of Arthur Shields in the excellent reconstruction of the Post Office [Shields had fought in the GPO during the 1916 Rising and was later interned] and the grim realism of the tenement scenes'. (IT 3/8/1937:4). 'Without the brilliant characterisation of Fluther Good (his old Abbey role) l by Barry Fitzgerald, THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS might have become merely mediocre... Mr Fitzgerald has by his efforts in this film placed himself among the foremost character-actors on the screen at the moment... Every incident, the atmosphere, the very lines of the piece lead one up to tragedy - but apparently, to "give the film general appeal", Mr Nichols has thrown in a happy ending so that those grimly tragic utterances about men fighting and women doing the weeping become mere mawky sentiment. There are many gripping and even thrilling moments and the piece never loses its high tension'. (DEM 3/8/1937:5). 'That a great play has... been perverted and crudely and sentimentally presented must be granted. As a film it is of little value and possesses no cinematic development... While the Irish players were generally good, the failure to capture the meaning of the play and the spirit of the rebellion was conspicuous. Sentimental hokum, bourgeois humanitarianism and Hollywood playing at conspiracy, set the keynote of the central theme. In other words, the picture is a cheap misrepresentation of one of the few great moments in Irish history. It was not necessary to twist the reality of the revolt... to emphasise the futility of war as seen through Nora Clithero's [sic] eyes. Expressionism is not hokum. Arthur Shields (Pearse ?) presented his role on the plane of a hypochondriacal peeve, and was ably assisted in his fanatical fervour by the devout, but indigestion suffering glances of his pathological friend, Moroni Olsen (Connolly ?). If these characters were seriously intended as representations of Pearse and Connolly, it is an interesting revelation of the mentality of our "Irish" players... John Ford... has done good work before with THE IRON HORSE (USA 1924) and UP THE RIVER (USA 1930), but it looks as if the Irish subject had better be left for someone else.' (Ireland Today, Sept 1937:69-70).
ReferenceDV 22/12/1936:3; FD 26/12/1936:4; HR 3/7/1936:4; HR 8/7/1936:2;
VS. 22/12/1936:3; IP 3/8/1937:5; MPD 23/12/1936:8; MPH 22/8/1936:16-17; MPH 2/1/1937:65; MPH 16/1/1937:24-6; NYT 5/7/1936; NYT 16/8/1936; NYT 18/10/1936; NYT 29/1/1937:15; SI 8/12/1937:10; Var 3/2/1937:14.
Format35mm
DistributorRKO Radio Pictures Inc (USA)
LanguageEnglish
Production creditsp.c/distr: RKO Radio Pictures Inc, exec. p: Samuel J Briskin, assoc. p: Cliff Reid, Robert Sisk, d: John Ford, assisted by Arthur Shields, retakes d: George Nicholls Jr, a.d/a. retakes d: Edward Donahue, sc: Dudley Nichols from the play The Plough and the Stars by Sean O'Casey (1st pert, Dublin, 8/2/1926), c: Joseph H August, art d: Van Nest Polglase, art d. assoc: Carroll Clark, m: Roy Webb, m.d: Nathaniel Shilkret, cost: Walter Plunkett, ed: George Hively, set dec: Darrell Silvera, s: Hugh McDowell Jr, retakes s: D A Cutler, tech. d: George Bernard McNulty.
Genre/CategoryFeature Film Drama
Theatrical Adaptation
Historical Drama
Keywords1916 Rising
Irish History
Rebels

Contact: irishfilm@tcd.ie | Last updated: Nov 27 2006.