Wednesday, 8 August 2018

The Plough and the Stars (1936)

The Plough and the Stars is a 1936 film from John Ford and an adaptation of Sean O'Casey's play of the same name from ten years earlier. The drama is set during the 1916 Easter Uprising in Ireland when the Irish Citizen Army rose up to fight for their independence and the end of British rule. At the heart of the story are a married Dublin couple, Nora and Jack Clithoroe, played here by Barbara Stanwyck and Preston Foster, and the clash that occurs as a result of Jack's desire to take arms and fight.

I'm not familiar with Sean O'Casey's play but I imagine this story worked far better on the stage than it does here on the screen. It's a typical John Ford Oirish affair with lots of Hollywood actors butchering the accent as they stage the Easter Rebellion whilst Barry Fitzgerald provides that familiar Irish stereotype of drunken comic relief. Barbara Stanwyck is utterly beautiful in the lead role (of course) but given very little to do other than stare tearfully out of windows. But oh my, Stanwyck was beautiful though and she's shot in several scenes with deliberate religious iconography - almost like an Irish Madonna

 See what I mean? *sighs*

Overall, The Plough and the Stars is not a great movie but it's only around 70 minutes long (which probably doesn't help matters given that the subject its trying to convey needs a more respectful running time) so it doesn't outstay its welcome at least. Also in its favour is the fact that the film was made just twenty years after the events of Easter, 1916, its a dramatisation that serves as a fascinating time capsule of (then) recent history.

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