“Knocknagow: Filming of Kickham’s famous Novel: What Period? Interesting Point for Irish Historians,” The Irish Limelight (Dublin) (May 1917), 6.
“KNOCKNAGOW,” the great picture play of the year for Ireland, and the Irish in all parts of the world, is now under way. Fred O’Donovan, of the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s premiere actor, has consented to supervise the production of this, the most famous of all Irish stories. The Film Company of Ireland, in securing the services of Mr. O’Donovan for this work, having in mind his great histrionic ability, is giving proof of the Company’s determination to do full justice to this old tale of homely Irish folk, with its soft love stories, its pastoral glamour, and with all its deep note of intense Irish feeling.
There has been much question in the minds of experts in photo-play making as to the feasibility of bringing out in the pictures the soft touches with which the book abounds. It may be safely said that no other producer than an Irish one, could have much of a chance of catching the spirit of the book. Indeed, many good producers might be justified in approaching the subject with diffidence.
We congratulate the Film Company of Ireland in its first successful step, for surely Mr. O’Donovan, with his wide range of experience in depicting Irish character, is most happily equipped to secure the success that the Company is bound to achieve.
One of the Directors of the Company, in conversation with the writer the other day, stated that since the announcement that the picture was under way, the Company has received many offers of assistance from all parts of Ireland, and the bookings for the picture surpasses even the generous support that the other productions of the Company received last year.
Incidentally, there is a nice question raised for the determination of the producer as to the exact period of the story. Kickham, in telling the tale, refrains from writing any date in connection with any incident in the book. The most generally accepted idea is that he wrote of the people who lived in 1845. Indeed, he mentions the recent death of Thomas Davis. Phil Lahy is also mentioned as reading copies of “The Nation,” and O’Connell and his Conciliation Meetings are referred to. There is also mention of the meeting of Young Irelanders, and, with these allusions, one would seem to be satisfied that the story can be well fixed in 1845. But Kickham, in a part of the book, refers to a young Hogan’s return from the Crimean War, which would place the action fully twelve years later. Perhaps Kickham wrote his story over the whole period. It would be interesting to hear expert opinion on this subject, and ‘The Limelight’ invited communications on this mooted point. In view of the keen interest we find in all parts of Ireland in this coming great Irish picture, we will be glad to give publicity to the views held by our readers as to when it was that the stalwart Mat the Thrasher defeated the gallant Captain in throwing the weight, and about what year it was that the beautiful Mary Kearney, looking out of the gable, drooped her blue eyes to Arthur O’Connor’s footprints in the snow.
Since the announcement that the story is being produced, there is a revival of the book, and “Knocknagow” will be opened in the coming soft summer days to be read once again with smiles and tears, as the joys and sorrows that hover around the Homes of Tipperary are read once more.
J.A.P. (pseud. Joseph A. Power), “With the Film Co. of Ireland,” The Irish Limelight (June 1917), 10–11.
The Artist Person, of course, was late.
“Art is long in coming and time is fleeting,” remarked the Editor of the “Irish Limelight,” and none rebuked him.
When he made his appearance eventually the disciple of Rubens and “F.C.G.,” Michael Angelo, and Phil May, handed out a bunch of excuses which, as became one of the profession, were really artistic. I made a note of a few of them. You never know when a thing like that will come in handy, and my stock was getting somewhat threadbare.
We forgave the erring one. Otherwise he might have gone away again and left us in the soup. The artistic temperament requires very careful treatment, very careful, indeed.
Entering the magnificently appointed Rolls Royce (advt.), which had its flag at half-mast in honour of the occasion, we drove off followed by the cheers of the populace and the suspicious glances of the police on duty in the vicinity. The Artist Person was accommodated in our laps, three laps to one artist.
Our journey, as the novelists say, was unattended with incident. One of those half-baked specimens of humanity that make you wonder why the death-rate amongst pedestrians is not higher tried to upset us by crossing our bows when we were almost upon him. I regret to say that we missed him. Nevertheless, he must have been upset, for friend Haigh, who stuck his head out of the starboard window in order to address a few remarks to the blighter, announced that he was a moving picture as he stood in the centre of the road.
As we sped onwards the country grew more and more beautiful, which was very decent of it, but, after all, only what you might expect from a landscape patronised by the Film Company of Ireland. At one point we were compelled to stop to admire the scenery. There was a garden, with tables and seats, a close-shaven lawn with a stream brawling at its foot. We learned, however, that no other brawling is permitted on the premises, even on Sunday when the bona-fides come out from the city in their thousands.
Eventually, about fifteen miles from everywhere, we stopped at a postern gate. At least I think it was a postern gate—practically a mere hole in the wall, you know (no, I don’t mean the “Old Original Hole in the Wall” with which you are acquainted). Springing blithely from the Daimler limousine—(yes, yes, I know it was a Rolls Royce when we started, but you see the other people also have paid for the advert, and we must get them in somehow. I was reading a novel the other day in which the hero never rode in the same make of car though he was always motoring about. That author must have made a bit, eh, what?) Where were we? Oh, yes. Springing blithely from the car with the merry cry, “The Bing Boys are Here!” the fatuous ass of the crowd led the way through the gate.
We entered an enclosure that looked like an old-world garden in which the flowers had not yet made their appearances. Along two sides ran a long, old-fashioned one-storey house. On the other sides the outside world was closed out by walls and thick foliage. In the centre was a neat grass plot which would have been about fifty yards square only that it wasn’t square. Grazing about this secluded spot we saw an ancient summer house and—ahem!
Shakespeare, who knew all about these things, once remarked that journeys end in lovers’ meetings. It was even so on this occasion. There was miss Kathleen Murphy, dark-haired, tragic-eyed, gazing fondly up into the honest open countenance of Brian Magowan, and there was the gallant youth gazing lovingly down into the star-like orbs of la petite brunette. Even as we interlopers looked upon the scene their faces approached together, their lips—
Apparently I was the only person present possessing the instincts of a gentleman.
“We are intruding,” said I, “let us retire quickly and quietly before we are observed.”
But the Artist Person, with a coarse laugh, produced a section of millboard and a pencil, and proceeded to rapidly sketch in the affecting tableau upon which we had stumbled so suddenly.
Fred O’Donovan’s conduct was even worse. I did not expect it of him! Raising a megaphone to his lips he said: “Place your hand upon her shoulder, Brian. Put your right hand on his shoulder, Miss Murphy. Now kiss—a good long one.”
And then I discovered that they were doing this for the film. But it was so wonderfully realistic! Of course Magowan had an easy part—nothing to do but act naturally as any eligible young man might do in the circumstances. Miss Murphy, however, is a most accomplished actress.
They had to go through that touching scene three times before Fred O’Donovan was satisfied. I never saw a man with such particular notions about love-making. And all the time that carefully selected bunch of sightseers behind the camera stood and gasped like yokels at a fair—all except the Artist Person, that is. He was busy. And, of course, I had retired to a discreet distance because it was really very embarrassing, especially when a little later on Nora Clancy and Queenie Coleman engaged in a most realistic and lady-like dispute.
I had often heard of the hard life of film actresses and all they had to put up with, but this was the first time I had an opportunity of glimpsing the facts. They have not been exaggerated. Personally I would much rather be a film actor.
Even the mere male who acts for the camera has his troubles. A week ago Brian Magowan and Valentine Roberts were booked for a life and death struggle upon a cliff edge with a genuine fall into the Liffey 240 inches below. The Homeric combat and the drop into the river came off all right, but Anna Liffey refused to stick to the scenario and put in a little bit of her own. The current swept the two actors towards the weir!
With great presence of mind the camera man continued to turn the handle with one hand whilst with the other he called loudly for assistance.
The two in the water struggled gamely but ineffectively.
It was a thrilling moment! As a matter of fact it was quite a number of thrilling moments!! You had plenty of time to figure how you would figure at the inquest and what figure the compensation, if any, would amount to, and whether the papers would print really decent photographs for once.
Then the gallant lads went over the edge—and coming to the quieter water below the weir swam quietly ashore!
“If you hadn’t followed the instructions which I shouted at you,” said one of the heroes on the bank, “you would have been lost.”
“Instructions?” said one of the dripping figures, as he glared at him. “I couldn’t hear you on account of the dam roaring.”
However, revenons vos moutons, as the housewife remarked when she prepared on Monday to transform the cold lamb into hash. We had quite a pleasant time in that secluded enclosure watching the film players at work. When you got used to the camera and the megaphone and the conversation that wasn’t and the love-making that was ditto, it was quite all right. These Irish Film Players have completely got the hang of the business by now. When you consider that they practically had to teach themselves the business, the progress they have made is really marvellous. This year’s films will, I think, be a revelation to the general public. Last year the company were learning. This year they have learned. One thing is certain already, they can compete with the very best films produced in Great Britain.
There are great possibilities before the Film Company of Ireland. It is to be hoped that they will realise them. Personally I believe they will. They are a good crowd, good actors and good fellows every one of them.
I hope to see them next month when they are producing the final scenes of “Knocknagow” in the Golden Vale, amid the actual scenes described by Kickham. Miss Murphy should make an ideal Norah Lahy, though it is not a part that affords her much scope. And I would like to see Magowan as Mat the Thresher [sic]. Under the supervision of Fred O’Donovan this should be the best thing they have done yet and should have a tremendous boom. Here’s wishing them the best of luck!
“Lynx-Eyed Observer,” “Notes and News,” The Irish Limelight (January 1918), 16.
Calling at the Film Co. of Ireland’s office a day or so ago, we learnt that the super-film “Knocknagow” is to have its initial screening at Magner’s Cinema, Clonmel, commencing January 30th. Clonmel is, of course, featured very largely in the film adaptation of Kickham’s celebrated novel, and it is obvious that sentimental considerations have influenced the decision. However, cinema patrons in the Clonmel district can be relied upon to appreciate the honor conferred upon them.
All connected with the company express themselves as delighted with the support accorded their efforts during 1917, and while wishing the Irish Cinema Industry “A Happy and Prosperous New Year,” they confidently anticipate that their 1918 programme will eclipse all previous endeavours.
“KNOCKNAGOW: A SPLENDID IRISH FILM PLAY,” Clonmel Chronicle (2 February 1918), 5.
“Knocknagow” is a name to conjure with wherever a Tipperary man or woman is to be found—indeed, we may say that Kickham’s masterpiece appeals to the Irish generally, no matter of what county, for the author lived close to the hearts of the people and described them and their joys and sorrows in a manner absolutely true to nature. The same remark may be applied to the reproduction of the story by the Film Company of Ireland, which is being shown for the first time at Magner’s Theatre in Clonmel this week to enthusiastic and delighted audiences. It was felt that there was a wide field for genuine Irish films depicting the Irish people, their homes, and their daily life as we know them to be, and not the travesties that we read of in alleged Irish novels and see too often on the stage. This was the idea at the back of the enterprise of the Film Company of Ireland. Theirs was no mere catch-penny scheme. They had before them a higher and more exalted object, which was, as we have already stated, to show our people to the world as they are. “Knocknagow” was selected as the most typical and truthful story of Irish life. The film was made last summer in the actual district of which Kickham wrote both in Clonmel and the “Valley near Slievenamon”—a district unrivalled for its scenic beauty; the weather at the time was ideal, and the result is a beautifully clear picture, while the members of the Company are to be congratulated on having preserved the correct atmosphere, showing perfect sympathy with the original conception throughout, and placing before the public a delightful study of genuine Irish life, and not as it is too often portrayed by the stage Irishman. £10,000 was spent on the production, and every care was taken to preserve the Irish character and present it correctly. There is no propaganda in the film. Politics and all such controversial matters are excluded, and the result is a beautiful pastoral—an ideal genuine Irish play. The film is a tribute to Irish enterprise, as well as to Irish brains, in more senses than one. It measures 8,700 feet, and is the biggest thing of its kind ever made in Europe. It runs “The birth of a nation” very close in point of measurement, taking two hours and a half to show, and there is not one dull minute in the whole hundred and fifty, while it knocks that great “show” film clean over for compelling human interest. The scenario was written by Mrs. Patton, a Dublin lady, and she certainly struck the right note and maintained it throughout, while the actors and actresses—each one a perfect artist—did ample justice to hear conception. All the leading characters in the book are introduced—their laughable and loveable qualities being skilfully preserved—and most of the principal incidents are re-enacted, while there are at least two charming love stories, and the general interest is well maintained up to the very close. “Knocknagow” occupies a cherished place in every home in Tipperary, and in selecting Clonmel for the first exhibition of the film the Company were submitting it to a severe test before very exacting critics. It has satisfied everyone to the fullest extent, and having received the hallmark of complete approval in the “Homes of Tipperary” it is bound to be a big success wherever it is shown. The film should make a special appeal to the exiled Irish in England as well as in America and Australia.
“‘KNOCK-NA-GOW’: FILMED VERSION AT MAGNER’S THEATRE,” The Nationalist (Clonmel) (6 February 1918), 6.
The exhibition for the first time of the filmed version of Kickham’s great Tipperary novel, “Knock-na-Gow,” in Magner’s Theatre last week attracted crowded audiences, and the deepest interest was evinced in the production. Mr. Magner’s picture, though a costly venture, was markedly appreciated by the public, and all agreed that the Irish Film Co.’s pictured representation of the great novel was excellent in every way. “Knock-na-Gow” does not easily lend itself to dramatisation; it was not intended for such, as the author merely gave, in his own inimitable way, his impressions of Irish life in the times he lived through, weaving many characters, many love stories, and many diverse incidents into his glorious work descriptive of the homes of Tipperary. The Film Co. took a great many pictures, especially in Clonmel, but when the time came to bring the film within the limits of a single evening’s show a large proportion of them had to be cut out, and only sufficient to carry on the story in its visualised presentation was retained. Even with these limitations the film gave us a glimpse into the most of the chief events in the novel. The characters were remarkably well portrayed in familiar native setting by a capable company, and while the sadness, the tragedy, and the pathos of Kickham’s imperishable story were brought out with telling effect, the quaint humours of Barney Broderick, Phil Lahy and other amiable spirits lent a welcome brightness and animation to the contemplation of a sad epoch of Irish history. The Knocknagow film should have a long and successful career. It conveys a great lesson and a great moral. It tells of the sufferings, trials, and triumphs of a homely, dauntless, God-fearing race. Strangers who see it will be helped to a better understanding of Irish questions, while our own people, viewing it, will feel greater pride in the traditions of their forebears, who suffered so intensely, who bore their trials with such fortitude and patience, and whose bitter sacrifices helped to win for oncoming generations the advantages presently enjoyed, and the still more substantial advantages nearing fruition. The film was splendidly screened by Mr Walsh, manager, Mr Magner looked after the arrangements in the theatre, and appropriate music was contributed by Miss Magner (piano) and Miss Ronayne (violin).
Our advertising columns contain full details of the fine programme of pictures arranged for this week at Magner’s.
“Big Irish Film to be Shown in Cavan,” Anglo-Celt (Cavan), 23 February 1918, 28.
The management of the Town Hall Cinema, Cavan, have (by special arrangement with the Film Company of Ireland) secured for exhibition on next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the magnificent eight-part film version of Charles Kickham’s famous book “Knocknagow,” which that company has just completed. This will be shown in Cavan, and special arrangements are being made in connection with the exhibition. Patrons will be well advised to watch posters for full particulars of this great attraction.
“Lynx-Eyed Observer,” “Notes and News: ‘KNOCKNAGOW,’” The Irish Limelight (Dublin), February 1918, 8.
“Knocknagow,” the Film Co. of Ireland’s super-production, will be shown to the trade at the Sackville Street Picture House on February 6th. Having seen the film, we confidently predict that it will prove to be the greatest attraction ever offered to Ireland’s cinema-loving public. Produced amongst the very hills and valleys where Kickham laid the scenes of his immortal story, it visualises the genius of its famous author in a manner that cannot fail to appeal to all classes and creeds. Here the characters, costumed with historical accuracy, come out of the past to live and have their being in the present.
Photographically perfect, this homely yet wonderfully powerful Irish story grips our attention at the outset and holds it while it flows naturally throughout the eight long reels necessary for its portrayal upon the screen. To attempt anything in the nature of a descriptive write-up would be futile, for the story was conceived of genius, and it has been sympathetically handled with an ability that cannot fail to gladden the hearts of all who are interested in the future of Irish motion photography.
“‘Knocknagow’ on the Film: A Picture Play That Will Create a Furore in America,” Anglo-Celt (Cavan), 2 March 1918, 14.
The Film Company of Ireland, which has its headquarters in Dublin, produced in the Town Hall, Cavan, on Monday night, a charmingly arranged story from Charles Kickham’s “Knocknagow, or the Homes of Tipperary,” a book that was so dear to the older generation of Irish hearts. With a true appreciation of the artistic, the various degrees of tone have been lifted from the novel, and placed on the screen, just as Kickham would have done it himself. The happy peasantry, the prowess of the youth at the hurling match, the hammer-throwing contest, the unexpected “hunt,” the love-scenes and the comedy—the life as it was before the agent of the absentee landlord came like a dark shadow on the scene, and with crowbar and torch, laid sweet Knocknagow in ruins—all were depicted by the very perfect actors who made up the cast. One of the finest scenes was where the homeless peasant, whose wife and child were on the roadside, goes with a gun in hand to wreak vengeance on the agent, and in passing peeps in through the window. He sees her saying her prayers on the Beads—then turning his eyes to heaven, he decides that no man’s blood shall be on his head. His disposal of the gun, however, leads to the arrest of another, around whom the agent had already spun a web that he might save himself from the well-earned charge of having stolen the landlord’s rental. And on the pictures go, until the final scene is reached, peace coming to everyone, even to the landlord. One of the most pathetic scenes is where the dying girl is breathing her last, when the caged linnet, which was never known before to sing, thrills out a joyous carol and ceases the song as the soul takes its flight. The 2½ hours which the production occupied, seemed all too short, and the very large audience was most demonstrative in its appreciation. So great an effect was produced, that many returned on Tuesday to see the play, the house being crowded in every part. The attendance was well sustained on Wednesday. An interesting feature of the entertainment was that Mr. J. M‘Gowan, who, as “Mat the Thrasher” was the hero of the film, appeared each evening in the flesh and sang some old Irish ballads in very charming voice while Mr. Breffni O’Rourke (“Billy Heffernan” in the play) gave some traditional Irish lays and witty stories. The company are touring the provinces, but it is in America that their greatest triumph shall lie. And as the “Anglo-Celt” has many hundred readers in the United States—who generally accept the paper’s views on matters connected with the old land—we would strongly advise them to urge on their favourite cinema manager in their own particular city, to secure early bookings of “Knocknagow” from the Film Company of Ireland, whose Dublin address is 34 Dame Street.
“EMPIRE THEATRE,” Irish Times (Dublin) (23 April 1918), 3.
Kickham’s popular novel, “Knocknagow,” is effectively illustrated in the Irish Film Company’s production. The main incidents are faithfully represented, and the atmosphere of the quiet valley near Slievenamon is agreeably preserved. Irish peasant life, in which the slightest incident gets undue prominence, is well portrayed, and one can readily distinguish the chief characters of the novel. Matt the Thrasher is seen beating the captain at throwing the sledge, and poor Norah Leahy [sic] has to die even in the pictures. The whole production is pleasantly realistic, every little detail being carefully attended to. The film was exhibited before croweded houses at the Empire Theatre on Monday evening, and it was enjoyed all the more by reason of the appropriate songs sung by Messrs Breffni O’Rorke and Brian Macgowan. The orchestral selections also gave general pleasure.
“Behind the Screen,’” The Irish Limelight (Dublin) (April 1918), 4.
THE SECRET OF “KNOCKNAGOW”
We are no new people whose history began yesterday, and the history of our nation contains an abundance of themes which film producers have as yet only slightly tapped. The tale of the past is rife with plots which are all the more effective through being real life stories and actual happenings. Since it is history, it is human, and, being human, cannot help being attractive. Producers are crying out for stories with “human interest.” Well, here in Ireland are the essentials of every conceivable plot. Right at hand are the greatest love stories in the world and the profoundest mysteries; tears on one page and laughter over the leaf. Add to this, that the actual place scenes can be utilised, lending the invaluable aid of the historical atmosphere of these places and you have a factor sure to reveal itself in the finished production, for he is a soulless actor indeed who does not respond to such potent influences. Here then is the secret of Breffni O’Rourke’s wonderful portrayal of Billy Heffernan in “Knocknagow,” of the buoyancy of spirits which characterises Brian McGowan’s picture of Mat the Thrasher, of Kathleen Murphy’s soulful representation of poor Norah Lahy, and of the gripping intensity with which the picture appeals.
“Jacques” (pseud. John J. Ryce), “KNOCKNAGOW FILMED: Wonderful Irish Picture of Storied Incident,” The Irish Limelight (Dublin) (April 1918), 5.
Many years ago, in the black days of the battering ram and the barrel of pitch, I was witness to evictions on an estate in the County Cork. I saw the cabin doors broken and the furniture flung out, and the poor half-dressed occupants lying on the roadside amid the wreckage of their home. I have seen all these horrors again yesterday on the screen. They occurred in “Knocknagow.”
To appreciate this filmed version of “Knocknagow” one must first have read the book. Charles Kickham wrote this delightful novel not for one generation only but for all time. Taking the dry bones of historical incidents that he himself witnessed in his beloved Tipperary, he clothed them in the flesh and bones of his own imagination.
The filmed story we saw yesterday is a collection of incidents from the novel, strung together in such a manner as to present a coherent narrative. There is a play also founded on “Knocknagow,” but there is no comparison whatever between the filmed version of the novel presented on the screen and the dramatised version presented on the stage.
For two hours and a half we sat and watched the people whose names are household words in the ends of the earth. We renewed pleasant acquaintance with Arthur O’Connor and Mary, his sweetheart; with Mat the Thrasher (stout of arm and stout of heart) and Bessie, the girl who liked strings to how bow; with big Billy Heffernan and Norah Lahy, his snowy-breasted pearl; with Barney the bungler; with the unscrupulous criminal land-agent and the careless absentee landlord. In short, we were back again in Knocknagow, and not a man, woman, or child of us wanted to leave it until we had the story complete. And that is what the Irish Film Company gave us—a full, complete, detailed narrative.
To me, the scenes that most appealed were those of rural views in Tipperary, with Slievenamon in the background rearing its rugged heights against the sky line. There is one simple picture showing Mat ploughing his field in the spring sunshine with the hedges in their early foliage. The man who “sensed” that scene was a genius. It is art wedded to nature. It occurs, too, in the story when the mind is best molded to receive the impression of the ploughed field and the lone man with the giant arm, of the giant heart, filled with the joy of life, the greatness of endeavour, and the hope of happiness to come. I can imagine what such a scene would mean to myriad eyes in America, eyes that would gaze through mists of tears at the waving hedgerows, the vale of Slievenamon, and the slopes and peaks of the homeland kissed by the sun and tinted by the hand of Nature. “Evening Herald,” 7th February, 1918.
[Photo-illustration] BREFFNI O’ROURKE, whose intensely dramatic portrayal of Billy Heffernan (the tall man in “Knocknagow”) has aroused such widespread attention.
Untitled notice, The Irish Limelight (Dublin) (April 1918), 11.
The Irish superfilm, “Knocknagow,” was extraordinarily successful during its recent run at the Dublin “Empire.” But with all due respect to those concerned, we expect the film to be shown to better advantage when screened in the genuine picture house.
“‘Knocknagow’ to be Filmed at Navan,” Meath Chronicle, 27 July 1918, 5.
We wish to draw our readers’ attention to the announcement appearing in our advertising columns in this issue of the exhibition to take place at the Navan Picture Palace on Monday and Tuesday week, of the 700 [sic] feet film, “Knocknagow.” The picture is one of the many highly successful products of a purely Irish film company, and depicts in the most realistic manner Kickham’s famous novel. The proprietors of the concern are to be congratulated on their enterprise in securing such a fine picture for exhibition, and it may safely be ventured as a foregone conclusion that the four houses to which it will be shown will be filled to overflow. The many who have read the touching and beautiful story of the Homes of Tipperary—and they are legion—will, we are sure, be delighted to be afforded an opportunity of seeing the story “screened.” The actors who took part in the production of the film have, without exception, been very successful in the presentation of scenes from Irish life. The part of “Mat the Thrasher” is taken by Brian MacGabhann, a film actor of well-known Irish repute. Altogether the treat is one seldom afforded to patrons of the pictures in provincial towns, and one there is little doubt will be much appreciated.
“‘KNOCKNAGOW’ AT THE DE LUXE,” The Irish Limelight (Dublin) (July 1918), 8.
The super-film, “Knocknagow,” will be shown for the first time in the south side of the city at the Theatre de Luxe, Camden Street, on July 15th. “Knocknagow” is one of the finest films ever produced, and the fact that it is Ireland’s first big production adds to the interest it creates. It deals with life in Tipperary during black ’47. Commingled with the pathetic incidents that were at that time all too common in this country are the dashes of irresistible humour that are characteristic of our people. No one should miss this opportunity of seeing the magnificent super-film.” Mr. Elliman, the manager of the de Luxe, is to be congratulated on his enterprise in securing this picture.
“Knocknagow,” Nenagh Guardian, 31 August 1918, 2.
The Ormond Cinema Co. have, at considerable expense, secured the film “Knocknagow,” which they will produce at the Town Hall, Nenagh, on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights next. The film, which is taken from the novel of that name by the brilliant Tipperaryman and patriot, the late Mr. C. J. Kickham, is one of the finest ever produced by the Film Company of Ireland, and pictures a county in the throes of the dreadful famine when all seemed lost, and when the “London Times” boasted that the Celt was gone with a vengeance. The people of that time have been well portrayed by Kickham, their friend and champion, and co-mingled with the pathetic instances that were then too common in the county are the dashes of the irresistible humour characteristic of our people. The film is one well worth seeing, and we venture to predict that the commendable business ability of the proprietors of the Cinema Co. will be rewarded with a crowded house on each night.
“Knocknagow,” Nenagh Guardian, 7 September 1918, 3.
The film, “Knocknagow,” which was shown by the Ormond Cinema Co. on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights was well patronised, there being a packed house on each occasion. It was, perhaps, one of the best films screened in Nenagh for some time past.
“Dublin and District: Cosmo Bazaar,” Irish Independent (Dublin), 28 October 1918, 4.
There was a constant stream of patrons to the Cosmo Bazaar at the Mansion House on Sat., and the amusements were thoroughly enjoyed. In connection with the film “Knocknagow,” Bryan Magowan, as “Mat the Thresher,” sang “Slieve-na-Mon,” while Breffni O’Rorke contributed Irish folksongs. Up-to-date films were also screened by permission of Mr. F. Chambers, Carlton Picture House, while a number of local artistes lent their services in an excellent concert programme. The concert and cinema halls were a great source of attraction yesterday, and the ballroom was patronized up to the last moment.
Irish Film Company of America publicity sheet, late 1918.
Wonderful Irish Picture of Storied Incident
To appreciate this filmed version of “Knocknagow” you first must have read the book. Charles Kickham wrote this delightful novel not for one generation only but for all time. Taking the dry bones of historical incidents that he himself witnessed in his beloved Tipperary, he clothed them in the flesh and bones of his own imagination.
The filmed story we saw yesterday is a collection of incidents from the novel, strung together in such a manner as to present a coherent narrative. There is a play also founded on “Knocknagow,” but there is no comparison whatever between the filmed version of the novel presented on the screen and the dramatised version presented on the stage.
Taking the picture on the whole, it is the greatest thing yet done in Cinematic Photography in this country. “Knocknagow” should be seen by every boy and girl and by every parent in Ireland.
—JACQUES, Dublin Evening Herald
“Knock-Na-Gow Is Real Story of Irish in Ireland,” Boston Daily Globe (10 December 1918), 3.
A real Irish story told in a real Irish way, with characters as true to life as the people of that nationality know them, is “Knock-na-Gow,” a charming pastoral play produced in the movies for the first time in this country last night at Tremont Temple by the Film Company of Ireland.
The picturization is from Kickham’s novel and the scenes aroused great enthusiasm, laid as all of them are in spots dear to every Celtic heart. In the films not one but many romances are unfolded. The hearts of the honest people are laid bare and the expression of the emotions is finely done by everyone in the pictures.
As was explained by Senator-Elect David I. Walsh, who addressed the audience before the pictures were shown, “Knock-na-Gow” presents to the American public the first opportunity to study Irish character from actual Irish surroundings and home life.
With this film play, he pointed out, has started a movement to place the story of Ireland and her sufferings before the world for an unbiased verdict. This sentiment brought forth a storm of applause.
In the role of Mat Donovan, Bryan Magowan was an ideal hero of the farmer boy type, and it was apparent from the moment that his cheery countenance appeared on the screen that his name and fame had preceded him to Boston through his tour a few years ago of the United States with the other Irish players.
Nora and Peggy Clancy, Sheila Rooney and Kathleen Murphy all were winsom colleens and Breffni O’Rorke as Billy Heffernan, Dermott O’Dowd as Maurice Kearney and Donal Sullivan as Mick Brian fitted perfectly into the atmosphere.
A breezy skit entitled “Widow Malone” preceded the feature film. President Wilson’s portrait was greeted with cheers, and there were further demonstrations when he was referred to as “Ireland’s Hope,” and a plea was made for self-determination for Erin. Points of interest in Ireland were shown apart from the film stories, and the orchestra played Irish airs which kept the audience humming throughout. A vocal soloist added to the pleasures of the program. “Knock-na-Gow” is at Tremont Temple for the week.
Boston Globe, n.d. (quoted in Anthony Slide, The Cinema and Ireland [Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1988], p.14).
The best photography we have seen in any European picture to date is in Knocknagow. The acting is remarkable for its naturalness and the Irish pictures have surely won a place in the American markets on their merits.
“Restrictions in Roscrea,” Nenagh Guardian, 27 September 1919, 4.
The market in Roscrea on Thursday was held up by the police. Country people were not allowed to bring produce into the town. Residents are indignant at this restriction on their trade.
On Sunday the proprietor of the Central Picture House, Roscrea, was informed by the police that he could not show any pictures without permission. As a result many were turned away from a matinee. The programme included the film “Knocknagow.” Afterwards the police intimated that the programme could proceed, and the matinee was given. There was no interference with the night performance.
“Knocknagow,” The Bioscope (London) (16 October 1919), 58.
Pictures of Irish peasant life seventy years ago—Native Irish Production fully flavoured with political sympathies—interesting production needing thorough revision.
Film Company of Ireland / 6 reels
Featuring: Fred O’Donovan, Nora Clancey, Dermod Dowd, Valentine Roberts, Kathleen Murphy, J. M. Carre, Arthur Shiels, Brian Magowan.
In 1850, in Knocknagow, Ireland, Arthur O’Connor gives up his idea of becoming a priest because he has fallen in love with Mary Kearney, who, however, is unaware of his passion through the accidental non-delivery of a letter on the eve of his departure for America. The peasants of the district groan beneath the injustices of Pender, agent of the absent landlord, Sir Garrett Butler, in whose name they are evicted in order that their huts may be pulled down to provide pasture land. Pender hatches a plot against Arthur, whom he hates, and has him arrested at Liverpool on his way to the States for robbery. It is ultimately proved that Pender has staged the whole affair, and Sir Garrett returns to end his agent’s tyranny. Arthur and Mary meet again, and, declaring their mutual love, are happily married.
There is more than a soupçon of underlying propaganda about this native Irish production, which, although it has many technical faults, is by no means without charm and interest.
A preliminary title describes the object of the picture as being to depict in a series of episodes “the joys and sorrows of the simple folk who lived in Tipperary seventy years ago.” As a picture of Irish life and character and conditions (from the vehemently Irish point of view) the film is often vivid and delightful. Glimpses of local customs, such as the beating of the Knocknagow drum on Christmas Day, and studies of the emotional Irish temperament, drawn by native players, including the delightful Fred O’Donovan (the inimitable creator of “The Playboy of the Western World”), are all welcome and pleasant in the highest degree, as are the soft-featured Irish landscape against which the play is set.
From a dramatic point of view the story is far too episodic in treatment, and dangerously tinged with political feeling. The rather thin main plot is continuously obscured by irrelevant side-issues, which make it very difficult to follow the thread of the narrative, and sometimes, even, to identify the characters. Submitted to an expert editor, the production may, however, be enormously clarified and improved.
The propagandist element of the play is discreetly veiled but is unmistakably present. The fact that the conditions represented are those of seventy years ago does not greatly modify the political sting of such titles as: “In the name of the law that protects you (the English agent), the huts are pulled down that the people may perish; there will be an awful reckoning, if not in our time then later.” “It’s a land of plenty, and God forgive those who come to Ireland to starve the Irish” and “What curse is on an Irishman that he cannot have even poverty’s crumb for his dear’s ones?” are other samples of the “literature” with which the acted scenes are plentifully interspersed. Of a similarly biassed tone is the incident representing a dragoon (after he has left the army) being thrashed by an Irish peasant for “prowling” round the house of an Irish girl.
The acting of the film is in many instances quite excellent, though inexperience of screen work is betrayed by a tendency towards too rapid gesture. The photography on the whole is sufficiently good.
If “Knocknagow” is carefully edited it can be made a production of considerable interest, but it obviously needs thorough revision.
Connaught Telegraph (Castlebar), 22 November 1919, 2.
This is the title Mr Brady, of the Connaught Cycle Works, Castlebar, has given to his new cinema theatre, which will be opened on next Saturday night, when a very attractive range of pictures will be shown, including the famous Irish film, “Knocknagow,” or “The Homes of Tipperary,” adapted from Charles J. Kickham’s enthralling novel dealing with Irish life; a real laughter-making picture will be the “Widow Malone,” one of the most amusing ever filmed, and in addition there will be a very full range of the latest and most topical pictures. A first-class orchestra will supply the music, Miss McLynskey, who without exception is one of the most accomplished instrumentalists in the whole country, will preside at the piano, and Mr. J. J. Collins, whose record as a piccolo player is unsurpassed, will assist. This theatre is an immense big place and got up in first-class style regardless of cost. The gallery alone will accommodate several hundred people. It is also intended to serve for concerts, dramatic performances and dances, a spacious stage, with dressing rooms underneath, being also erected. It is also thoroughly comfortable and heated throughout by means of a most scientific arrangement. In connection with his enterprise Mr Brady has also installed a plant for generating electric light, so that on the whole his theatre will be up-to-date in every way, and we are sure he will get the patronage he deserves, and we may mention that none but the very best pictures will be shown, and to which none will be able to take the slightest objection, so that young and old will be amused, interested and educated. For fuller particulars see announcement in our advertising columns.
“Theatrical Topics: New Irish Film,” Evening Telegraph (Dublin), 13 December 1919, 4.
The Film Co of Ireland has been reconstructed, I understand, and is now known as the Irish Film Company—which was what the general public always called it, as a matter of fact. Only one film has been produced this year—Carleton’s famous story, “Willy Reilly and his Colleen Bawn”—but I understand that Mr. J. M. Sullivan, who personally supervised the production, considers it easily the best film the company has yet made.
All the scenes were filmed in the vicinity of Dublin—in the grounds of St. Enda’s College, Rathfarnham, and amongst the picturesque scenery of the Pine Forest. The costumes of the period, the artistic settings, and the romantic nature of the story combine to make a picture of exceptional attractiveness, which, besides its special appeal for Irish audiences should have an attraction with audiences in general the world over.
The film features Brian McGowan, famous as “Matt the Thrasher” in the same company’s “Knocknagow.” This film was a huge success in America. In Boston alone it showed for three weeks, and took more money than the much “boosted” “Birth of a Nation.”
It may be interesting to recall that this pioneer Irish film company was promoted in 1916 by Mrs. J. M. Sullivan, a member of a well-known Limerick family, whose untimely death a few months ago gave grief to a wide circle of friends in Ireland and abroad. It produced nine films in the first year, and six in 1917, including “Knocknagow,” and, in addition, made twenty excellent “scenics,” showing the best of Ireland’s beauty spots.
The company has now extended its business and has secured a studio in the Dublin suburbs. For this studio they have contracted for the most up-to-date lighting system known, at the cost of £5,000. The studio will give considerable employment, as well as encouraging an Irish school of film acting. As already stated, General Film Supply, who have just completed “In the Days of St. Patrick,” are also erecting a studio—at Killester. There is plenty of room for both companies, and “competition is the life of trade.”
“GREAT IRISH FILM WEEK,” Watchword of Labour (Dublin), 27 December 1919.
The Film Co. of Ireland, early in the coming year, intends to specialise in a “Great Irish Film Week,” throughout England and Scotland. […] The film “Knocknagow” or “The Homes of Tipperary,” portrays for the first time on the screen the real life of the simple Irish folk in Tipperary about seventy years ago, and it is so true to detail in its realism that Irishmen throughout the world can live again for a brief space in their homeland.
The leading part, “Mat the Thrasher,” the greatest boy in the country, is ably presented by Brian Magowan, who represents the Irish worker of the time, and is beloved by every one in the district, always first in the hurling field and other manly sports.
Another fine type is Mr. Kearney, a gentleman farmer, who is highly respected by all classes around Knocknagow, and Art O’Connor, a student intended for the Church. From the first day he met Mary Kearney the only heaven for him was the blue in her eyes.
The Kinematograph Weekly says:—“seldom have so many perfect men and women been gathered together into one case. The men look like men and not the doll-like creatures we are used to seeing in heroic parts.”
The people in England and Scotland should make it a point to see these productions, and they assuredly will not be disappointed, as they are completely new and original features. A beginning will be made on January 5, 1920, in the Free Trade hall, Manchester.
“General News and Notes: The Irish Film,” The Bioscope, 15 January 1920, 108.
Whether the crowds that visited the Manchester Free Trade Hall during the past week were satisfied with “Knocknagow” or not, we cannot say; but big business was undoubtedly done, though the film itself, is, to say the least nothing to get excited over.”
E.A.B., “Motion Pictures: Why Not Irish Subjects?,” Irish Independent, 7 January 1920, 3.
It is quite apparent, even to the general public, that nowadays the motion picture business is a serious and important asset, and that an effort is being made to develop it in these islands. The English Press is full of references to the experiments and achievements of British film makers, who are credited—by not quite disinterested commentators—with being dangerous rivals of the hitherto supreme Americans. It is some years now since I publicly advocated the appointment of cinema critics, whose function it should be to do for the picture theatres what the dramatic critics do for the stage.
In the interval several important newspapers have made a regular feature of cinema criticism. This following of American practice is the best proof of the changed attitude towards the art of the screen. We are getting away from the old notion that, while an idiotic vaudeville show should be reviewed, the most excellent motion picture performance calls for no comment.
The activities of English producers have not been without a parallel in this country, where the making of “movies” is slowly, but surely, developing. The possibilities here are enormous, because of the great transatlantic Irish public which is ready to welcome a good Irish production, for reasons so obvious that they need not be laboured. As compared with British films, the Irish should have the advantage of a general prepossession in their favour. An Irish picture-play like “Knocknagow” or “Willy Reilly” is quite outside the run of the American studios, whereas the English productions are of the accepted type, which they do much better in Los Angeles than in London. Consequently, when exported, British films are faced with an initial disadvantage, which is not diminished by the inevitable rivalry of companies already established and famous in exactly the same line of business.
An Irish film, on the other hand, offers something outside the average, and appeals at once to millions who would be predisposed in its favour rather than antagonised. At the same time, however, even Irish-American enthusiasm will shrink from inferior workmanship. The level of technical excellence to which cinema audiences are accustomed, on the other side of the Atlantic, is a factor with which the Irish producer must reckon.
In addition to the entertainment value of the cinema, its uses for publicity and propaganda have been widely extended, and in England this branch of the business is being thoroughly exploited. In Ireland we have had the—usually dubious—pleasure of observing these efforts. During the war a great deal of official propaganda, concealed or avowed, was thrown upon the screens of Irish picture-theatres. The difficulty of retaliating in kind is so apparent that it need not be mentioned. That should not, however, cause us to lose sight of the many openings which are being neglected in the development of what may be called the educational side of motion-pictures.
Lest the word educational should suggest merely dry-as-dust demonstrations of the wonders of science, or the marvels of the universe, let the word be understood in the widest sense. It should imply the spread of information of all kinds by means of film-records of the particular matter for which publicity is required. Clearly there are innumerable phases of Irish life and activity which are sadly in need of such publicity even in Ireland itself. There is no reason why picture theatre audiences should not learn as much about our scenery, our industries, and our manners and customs as we learn about others.
Filming Irish Industries.
Would it not be to the advantage of all concerned if a series of photographs were taken of the principal industries carried on in Ireland? We have all been shown similar pictures of foreign enterprises; cigar-makers in Havana, steel-workers in America, or an Italian State candle factory. Why not substitute Irish equivalents? Both here and abroad there are thousands who would like to be shown a motion picture of a Dublin brewery, or a Belfast shipyard. The production of an Irish newspaper would make a good picture. A series illustrating the production of an Irish work could be obtained by photographing the various departments at work in one of the local publishing houses.
Belleek pottery, Balbriggan hosiery, Dublin poplin, Ulster linen—to enumerate them is superfluous, for everyone can suggest some interesting field for the camera-man. Yet, they are not exploited, in spite of the advantage both to the film-makers and the owners of the industries concerned.
It is rarely that a week passes without there being on show in Dublin some series of pictures showing the beauties of southern France, the charm of Switzerland, or the attractions of some quaint or picturesque corner of Europe. In most cases the candid spectator will feel that he could point out scenes in Ireland as interesting, as curious or as beautiful as any displayed upon the screen. An imaginative camera-man could take pictures in our cities which would convey something of what Mr. Kelleher calls “the glamour of Dublin,” or of Cork, or Galway.
One will see on the screen waterfalls and hills in France, which are in no way more remarkable than similar landscapes in Ireland; whereas the streets of Paris or Marseilles are quite unlike those of any other city. Unfortunately, so far as Irish scenery is concerned, there is no such criticism to be made, for neither town nor country has tempted anyone to make a series of pictures, which would spread a knowledge of Ireland and perhaps suggest abroad the desirability of visiting a land as little known as it is beautiful.
What Is and Might Be.
Such are, in brief, the possible developments of the motion-picture business in Ireland. There seems to be no reason why the production of plays should not be followed by an extension of activities into the field of publicity and propaganda. The “Irish Events” which are at present shown consist, for the most part, of not very important topical incidents, usually of football, hurling, and racing. In spite of the excitements of these times, the events recorded on the screen are oppressively peaceful, as if this were a country composed uniquely of sportsmen. There is rarely a suggestion of any other Irish activity.
Since certain exciting scenes have obviously been taboo for reasons best known to Dublin Castle, we need not expect a too faithful mirror of current political happenings. But, quite remote from controversial matters, there is a considerable variety of material which has not been exploited by Irish film-makers. The initial advantage of such subjects as have been indicated is that they do not involve the huge outlay upon studio and properties which is inseparable from the production of a first-class photo-play.
“Great Success of Some Latest Productions,” Freeman’s Journal (Dublin), 28 January 1920, 5.
The remarkable success achieved by the Film Company of Ireland in its latest production, “Willy Reilly and his Colleen Bawn,” is attracting attention in Ireland and far-off parts. The company is receiving congratulations from many sources. The friends of industrial revival in Ireland and the artistic element throughout the land are all giving voice of approval to the high standard of work attained by this organisation that has been little over three years in the field.
One would hardly think that England would be the most fruitful ground for the presentation of an Irish production, especially such a thoroughly Irish story as Carlton’s “Willy Reilly,” and yet the Film Company of Ireland did not hesitate to put the picture to the severe test when, for the first time, it was shown in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, perhaps the largest assembly hall where a picture can be shown in Britain, and the marvel is that all records were broken in attendance. Our Irish company outstripped the success achieved in the same place by such world-known films as “The Life of Kitchener,” “The Birth of a Nation,” “Intolerance,” and “Civilisation.” The people of England gasped at the patronage the Film Company secured, while admitting that the artistic work brings the company to the first rank as producers, and, notwithstanding the very large Irish element in Manchester, the result was very surprising to the English renters and exhibitors.
Success of “Knocknagow.”
Many good friends of the Irish Film Company were fearful that the marvellous popularity of “Knocknagow” would not attach to their new production. It is common talk among exhibitors in Ireland that no picture was ever shown in the country that secured anything like the enthusiastic support given to “Knocknagow.” It is probably the only picture that is given repeats in nearly every village and town in Ireland, in the same picture house, in many instances four and five times, and many picture houses are now under contract with the company for the annual presentation of “Knocknagow” to their patrons. It is becoming an event much like the constant presentation of “The Lily of Killarney” in opera. This is unusual with a picture, but the strange and rather pleasing experience of the producers of “Willy Reilly” and “Knocknagow” is that “Willy Reilly” is outstripping the “Knocknagow” bookings, which must be gratifying to the Catholic Truth Society, the Vigilance Committee, and other kindred organisations, to know that the Film Company of Ireland has proved their contention that pictures can be moral and clean and still be as attractive to the public as the slushy, sensational, sensual output that is so often dumped on this Irish market.
Second to None.
After the experience of these two great pictures made here in Ireland, it won’t do to contend that the public has no use for clear, moral picture plays.
The Dublin release, and indeed the release of “Willy Reilly” in all parts of Ireland, will be an event of keen interest to the picturegoers of the country. Under every discouragement, in a few short years, working out their own technique, the Irish have proved that in this land there can be made pictures second to none evolved in any part of the world. It may safely be said that one more industry entirely Irish in its composition and outlook has taken root. It is one milestone passed in the very high place where these pictures are not shown, whether the house are Irish or English owned, patrons should demand an explanation of their exclusion, and shape their attitude accordingly.
“Attractive Screening,” Freeman’s Journal (Dublin), 9 September 1920, 6.
The Irish public generally, and cinema enthusiasts in particular, will be glad to learn that the Film Company of Ireland is being reconstructed and, when equipped with an up-to-date studio, will immediately commence picture production on an extensive scale.
What an attractive and fascinating field of endeavour lies before those who undertake such an enterprise. The life of the people to-day and the social surroundings amidst which our own lives are being lived from day to day, which have already called forth some of the best works in modern drama, art and literature, afford rich and varied opportunities for the scenario writer. Again, the fair face of our island home, with its purple mountains, waving woods and crystal streams, furnish the producer with a background of rare and haunting beauty. That such films are very welcome in Ireland is proved by the huge success of “Willy Reilly” and “Knocknagow,” and their appeal to our kinsmen across the sea who would be such as only an Irishman who has felt the pull of his old country on his heart strings in exile can understand or appreciate.
LATEST IRISH PRODUCTION.
On Tuesday, the Film Co. of Ireland are screening—at a trade show—their latest production: a comedy entitled “Paying the Rent,” starring Arthur Sinclair and many of his well-known players. The story is enacted amid familiar scenes in Wicklow, “The Garden of Ireland,” at Stepaside, in the shadow of our Dublin Mountains, at the famous Irish Derby, where Mr. Arthur Sinclair appears in the Ring in all the glory of full “make up.”
“Programs for This Week’s Concerts at Lexington Theater,” New York Tribune, 18 June 1921, 3.
Pending the hearing on October 7 before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the differences between the American Federation of Musicians and Local 310, which it is claimed by members of the local was unjustly expelled by the federation recently, concerts by members of the local will continue at the Lexington Theater. The present orchestra will be slightly decreased owing to a separate branch composed of former musicians from the Rialto Theater having been formed to give concerts at which motion pictures will be shown at the Manhattan Opera House.
Beginning Sunday, September 25, the remaining members of the orchestra now playing at the Lexington Theater will also add a feature motion picture to their musical program. The first film to be shown will be “Knock-Na-Gow,” or “The Homes of Tipperary,” for which a program of Irish music will be furnished by the orchestra.
“Picture Plays and People,” New York Times (18 September 1921).
The Film Company of Ireland, in association with the Lexington Festival Orchestra, will present a program of motion pictures and music at the Lexington Theatre for two weeks beginning next Sunday. The pictorial feature of the bill will be “Knock-na-Gow, or The Homes of Tipperary,” an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Charles J. Kickham.
“New Form of Entertainment for the Lexington,” New York Tribune (18 September 1921), 2.
A combination of motion pictures and music is announced for the Lexington Theater for two weeks, commencing next Sunday night, when the Film Company of Ireland, in association with the Lexington Festival Orchestra, will present the feature picture, “Knock-na-Gow,” or “The Homes of Tipperary,” adapted from Charles J. Kickham’s novel of the same name. Preceding the picture the Festival Orchestra will render an overture from one of the most celebrated Irish symphonies, and the picture will be accompanied with appropriate music.
New York Times (26 September 1921).
“Knock-Na-Gow,” an Irish photoplay, began a two weeks engagement at the Lexington Theatre yesterday.
“Bell.,” “KNOCK-NA-GOW,” Variety (New York) (30 September 1921), 35.
“Knock-Na-Gow,” is a picturization of Chas. J. Kickham’s novel. The Film Company of Ireland made it. Director’s name not disclosed.
A fairly accurate translation of “Knock-Na-Gow” is “Homes of Tipperary.” The film was produced in Ireland and runs about six reels. From appearances the novel carried an interesting tale, with suspense, dramatic conflict and heart appeal. Efforts to place the story on the screens have been but mildly successful, due to lack of knowledge of modern picture making on the part of the director and a similar lack of screen acting requirements by most of the cast.
The technic of the picture is that of 15 years ago. The greater part of the scenes are acted square in front of the camera, giving the action a flat effect. The lighting is most ordinary. When night photography is called for, the scene is tinted. A fire scene is handled in the same old fashioned manner. Even the cutting and joining of the picture is rough and uneven. Nowadays when a character on the screen is supposed to be bearded, he grows the necessary whiskers. In this picture, however, recourse is had to the obvious crepe hair for beards.
A defect like that is trivial enough, and would not be noticed if there were not so many others. But it’s the combined crudities, one piled on top of the other, that bring the picture so far below present day standards. A preliminary title seeks to anticipate criticism probably by stating there will be no stirring climaxes and the spectator need expect no thrills. The spectator didn’t get anything approaching either.
The trouble with “Knock Na-Gow” is simple enough. Whoever made it had little or no knowledge of 1921 picture making methods. The story is laid in 1848, with the characters correctly garbed in period costumes. There’s a hero, whom the villain frames with almost nothing shown on the screen that would indicate a motive for his hatred of the hero. That villain is a fiendish guy. One of those heavies, always washing his hands in invisible water, a typical hypocrite. There is nothing in the way of a title to indicate that the villain is English, although his make-up would suggest he is English rather than Irish. Were not the landlord’s agents who evicted the Irish tenants in the Chauncey Olcott shows always Englishmen?
This villain is an evicter, and a devilish one, not only evicting but burning the house down as well. So why not be as frank as they used to be in the old Olcott plays?
There is a love story or two scattered throughout the picture, and some excellent acting by Brian Macgown, as the hero. Patrick McDonald, also shows ability as a screen performer, handling a comedy role intelligently. Surely with all of the possibilities for real drama in present day Ireland, it does seem that there must be better screen material than this old fashioned story, which has been done so many times as to make it standardized. While there should be a direct heart appeal, “Knock-Na-Gow” never convinces. It’s just “play-acting,” all the way, with no illusion to make the spectator believe he is witnessing anything more than a company of actors, impersonating human beings.
The film is in the Lexington, New York, for two weeks, beginning Sunday, Sept. 24, the presentation being made jointly by the Film Co. of Ireland and the Lexington Festival Orchestra, the latter composed of members of former 310 Musical Union.