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In the Catbird Seat/Joe Kirkish

Month of March brings in luck of the Irish

February 28, 2013
The Daily Mining Gazette

The luck of the Irish still prevails in the Copper Country. It's March again, time not only for blowing winds, but also, saints be praised, for the wearin' o' the green, corned beef & cabbage, and another movie exalting the auld sod.

If you were to climb the grand staircase curving up to the second floor of Dublin's National Art Gallery, you would find large paintings along the wall of Ireland's most celebrated playwrights, including Oscar Wilde, G.B. Shaw, J.M. Synge, Wm. Butler Yeats, and Sean O'Casey. If their names mean little to you, then you're soon in for a treat to learn about some of them and the vibrant times in which they lived.

The focus in "Young Cassidy," this month's Club Indigo salute to the Irish, is on a provocative fellow growing up in the 20s. It's a time when Sean O'Casey, as he was legally known, deigns to call himself Jack Cassidy and goes out to shake the world.

The time begins in 1911 with growing unrest against British rule, a time when young Cassidy is still a brawny common laborer by day and a pamphleteer by night. When his pamphlets incite political riots, he realizes he can do more for his people with the pen than the sword. So, while Wilde, Shaw, and others are writing about social issues, he pens a play heavy with political overtones, "The Plough and the Stars," and submits it to the Dublin Abbey Theatre, already carving its niche in Irish dramaturgy; and to his surprise the great playwright W.B. Yeats, founder of the theater (played by Sir Michael Redgrave), accepts and produces it.

Unfortunately, its opening causes a rhuge riot. O'Casey loses many friends, but is undeterred, and thanks to other famous writers is soon acclaimed as Ireland's outstanding young playwright. It isn't long before he becomes recognized as the country's foremost rebellious author, with a bit of womanizing on the side.

An excellent cast includes Julie Christie in her first role as the writer's momentary dalliance, while Maggie Smith plays his true love. Dame Edith Evans in a brief appearance is perfect as Lady Gregory, but it is Flora Robson who shines the brightest as his mother.

The city of Dublin and its surrounding countryside have been faithfully recreated by directors John Ford and Jack Cardiff, and it was Ford who set the tone borrowed from his earlier "The Quiet Man" - exploring a country rich in tradition, brawling, drinking, and inevitably fighting for freedom from the British.

One scene, a fight in a pub, is pure Ford, and it reveals Rod Taylor (at the height of his career) as perfectly cast as if it might have been a role for John Wayne or (first choice for the part) a young Sean Connery. It has been referred to by critics as Taylor's finest moment on the screen.

The movie is packed with colorful characters from the stingy heartless undertakers to the "keep cool" grocery boy, from the old lady mixing with the riffraff to the obscure shy librarian, and more all lending the movie its true Irish substance.

"Young Cassidy" was released in Ireland and England with astounding success in 1965. It was premiered at the Stage Door Theatre in San Francisco shortly after that, with one critic commenting, "I truly enjoyed every minute of this movie and I still love it today." He praised the directors, especially for their "period feel and beautiful color photography." Another critic called the movie an "unfairly overlooked film," suggesting that this was one of the finest ways to be entertained while learning so much about Irish history.

"This is one of my all time favorites," said the NY Times critic. "I am a big fan of O'Casey, and became a fan of Rod Taylor when I first saw this film over 35 years ago. It would be shown on NY's Channel 9 every St. Patrick's Day. I would never miss it."

Nor will you if you circle the date on your calendar: 7:15 p.m. on Friday, March 8, preceded by a now celebrated annual buffet including a genuine corned beef treat shipped directly from Dublin, brought to perfection by leprechaun chef Cormack's Irish Times, Laurium, at 6 p.m.

Cost for both buffet and film, $19. Film alone, $5. There's a special discount for children ten and under. For seating at the buffet, call the theatre by Thursday at 5pm.

"Young Cassidy" is sponsored by March leprechauns from The Studio Pizza & Orpheum Theater. In Hancock

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Rotten Tomatoes: So far, only one film returns: "Les Miserables," which has been given a B+ average by the critics.

 
 

 

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