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Stage Door Theatre, San Francisco; May 19, 1965. Perfect venue
for such things; an East Side art house in a West Coast town. I
truly enjoyed every minute of this movie that night, and I still love it
today. Rod Taylor was the ideal choice for the lead role in this
always interesting vision of early life and career of Irish playwright
Sean O'Casey, from his autobiog.
Dublin in the 1920s, with all the period feel and detail John Ford and Jack Cardiff could muster, beautifully photographed in Color and on location by Ted Scaife.
A splendid cast brings the days of O'Casey and the Troubles to vibrant and bitter life. Taylor's best work in many ways, though he did so many good movies and gave so many good pefs in his heyday, it's hard to pick just one.
Maggie Smith is marvelous as Cassidy's lost love: "I'm a small simple girl. I need a small simple life, not your terrible dreams and your anger." Smart girl, but two hearts are broken as Cassidy boards the boat for parts unknown.
Julie Christie's a revelation as Daisy, one of three stunningly good perfs she delivered in her Oscar winning golden year. Michael Redgrave is just right as Yeats; and Flora Robson gets a late career lift as Cassidy's Ma.
The entire production takes the viewer back in time to the turbulent setting of O'Casey's youth, in an exceptionally good yet unfairly overlooked film.
Two scenes, but one of them is the best of the whole movie:the mother's
death.The camera only shows the hero when he enters the fateful room;we see
the tragedy on his face longer than usual before the camera reaches the
deathbed.There's a similar scene in JF 's "three godfathers" when the
outlaws meet the dying mother in her wagon.The second scene is the fight in
the pub which recalls "the quiet man" .
As for the lead,Ford wanted Sean Connery but he was too busy playing OO7.The female parts are strong,featuring Flora Robson,Maggie Smith and Julie Christie ,but the latter only appears for a few minutes.A lot of colorful characters ,from the stingy heartless undertakers to the "keep cool boy" grocer,from the old lady mixing with the riffraff by welcoming the playwright's committed dramas to the obscure librarian ,give the movie substance.
These two scenes and "Seven women" two years later were John Ford's swansong.
Stage Door Theatre, San Francisco; May 19, 1965. An East Side arthouse in a West Coast town; the perfect venue for the pictorial beauty and distinctly Irish attitude of this largely forgotten film. Superb perf by Rod Taylor, an ideal choice for the title role, in an always interesting vision of the early life and career of Irish playwright Sean O'Casey, from his autobiography. Dublin in the 1920s, with all the period feel and detail John Ford can muster. He fell ill and was replaced by Jack Cardiff, who carried on seamlessly. Ted Scaife photographed it brilliantly, in gorgeous Color, on actual locations. A splendid cast brought the days of O'Casey and the Troubles to vibrant and bitter life. Rod Taylor's best perf in many ways, though he did so many good movies and gave so many fine perfs during his heyday, it's hard for me to choose just one. Maggie Smith is marvelous as O'Casey's lost love: "I'm a small simple girl. I need a small simple life, not your terrible dreams and your anger." Smart girl, but two hearts are broken as Sean boards the boat for parts unknown. Julie Christie's a revelation as Daisy, one of three stunningly good perfs she gave in her golden year. Michael Redgrave's perfect as Yeats; and Flora Robson gets a late career lift as O'Casey's ma. The entire production takes the viewer back in time, to the setting of this exceptionally good and unfairly overlooked film.
Interesting biopic of O'Casey - named John Cassidy here - based on the pre-exile, Irish part of his life. The cast is very high-powered and the cameos by Michael Redrave (as W.B.Yeats) and Edith Evans (as Lady Gregory) are superb - as is a young Maggie Smith as O'Casey's girlfriend. Julie Christie looks great, but doesn't have much to do. Rod Taylor is surprisingly good in the main role, but I feel it suffers a little from the change of director, and is ultimately unsatisfying, rather rushing towards its conclusion. It could have been a great movie, but the pacing is off. For me, the 60s Dublin locations are the real stars.
This is a very typical example of good English film-making. It depicts the early life of writer Sean O'Casey; his struggle to become an established writer and his lust for women. John Ford started the direction, but he fell ill during the shooting and Jack Cardiff took over. None of this shows in the picture however. I think Rod Taylor gives his finest performance of his career in this movie; notice his good Irish accent. As a bonus you can see Julie Christie, who starred in a role in one of her first movies,and this was a teaser of what was to come. Flora Robson and Maggie Smith also appear with impeccable performances, as always.
"Young Cassidy" is one of my all time favorite movies. I am a big fan of Sean O'Casey, and became a big fan of Rod Taylor's when I first saw this film over 35 years ago. It used to be shown every St. Patrick's day, like The Informer and The Quiet Man, I believe it was WOR, Channel 9 (now the UPN) here in NY, then it just disappeared, and I have been unable to find a VHS or DVD copy of it, a real shame. John Ford worked his usual magic and was well replaced by Jack Cardiff (after Ford fell ill), and a wonderful vision of Ireland in the early 20th Century took shape. It tells of Young Jack Cassidy (O'Casey) and his attempts to break out of the poverty cycle he has been trapped in, to get away and pursue a career as a writer. He is faced with the prejudice that all "common" Irish faced, and then has to survive the madness that overtakes Dublin during the "Easter Rebellion" of 1916, before he finally gets a chance and sails off to London. I have not seen this film in 20 years, and I wish I knew why it was so unavailable. It adheres quite well to O'Casey's Autobiographies, though it is more fun to read his words than see them portrayed.
"Young Cassidy" was to have been directed by John Ford, but he had to
withdraw owing to illness about three weeks into filming, and was
replaced by Jack Cardiff, who was credited as director. Had Ford
completed it, it would have been his penultimate film; he was to
complete one more film, "Seven Women", the following year. Ford was
himself of Irish descent and occasionally made films on Irish subjects,
such as "The Quiet Man".
The film is a biography based upon the life of the dramatist Sean O'Casey, here called John Cassidy. (O'Casey's original name was John Casey, although his family also used the name Cassidy. He Gaelicised his name to Seán Ó Cathasaigh and eventually settled on Sean O'Casey, a compromise between the English and Irish forms). The name may have been changed to allow the film-makers greater freedom to introduce fictional elements into O'Casey's life. For example, in 1926, the year the film ends, he would have been 46, no longer particularly "young" and more than a decade older than Rod Taylor was in 1965.
The film opens 1911 when Cassidy is working as a labourer in Dublin and chronicles the beginning of his literary career, ending with the performance of his play "The Plough and the Stars", which provokes a riot at the Abbey Theatre. The film also chronicles his relations with his family, his love life and his commitment to both socialism and Irish nationalism. Other historical figures are introduced, such as W.B. Yeats, Ireland's leading writer who hails Cassidy as an outstanding new talent, and the literary patron Lady Gregory.
The film's main weakness is perhaps summed by a critic's reaction to one of Cassidy's plays, namely that it is strong on character and weak on plot. The same could be said about the film itself. Although the various characters are well developed, there is no strongly developed plot line. There are occasional action sequences, in themselves well done, such as the scenes of the "Dublin Lock-Out" (a violent industrial dispute) of 1913, the Easter Rising of 1916 and the "Plough and the Stars" riot, in between these the film is rather static and dominated by conversation
Potentially interesting themes tend to be dealt with in a throwaway manner. Cassidy's girlfriend Nora rejects his proposal of marriage and leaves him, even though she is deeply in love with him, because she fears that marriage will have a deleterious effect on his artistic creativity. The idea of a woman sacrificing her happiness for her lover's art could have been an interesting one- could, indeed, have furnished the subject-matter for a whole film- but here it is dealt with very briefly.
Similarly the film touches on, but does not really deal with, the underlying tension between the two political causes to which Cassidy gives his allegiance- socialism, with its ideals of international brotherhood, and Irish nationalism, with its ethos of "ourselves alone" (the literal meaning of the Irish phrase Sinn Fein). It was in fact this tension which led to the "Plough and the Stars" riot, when conservative, middle-class nationalists in the audience took exception to O'Casey's more left-wing perspective and what they saw as his disrespectful attitude to the "heroes" of the Easter Rising. (They also objected to his treatment of religion and sex, especially his making one of his characters a prostitute; in the film one protesting woman exclaims that there is not a single prostitute in the whole of Ireland!)
The film does, however, also have its strong points, and its two greatest strengths are its sense of place- the Dublin of the 1910s and 1920s is brought vividly to life- and the acting. Strangely enough, few of the leading actors were actually Irish- Taylor was Australian and Maggie Smith, Julie Christie, Michael Redgrave, Edith Evans and Flora Robson were all English. (Christie received second billing even though for such a well-known actress she had a surprisingly small role, that of Cassidy's early mistress Daisy Battles). Nevertheless, the Irish accents are well done and never go over the top as sometimes happens with English actors called upon to play Irish roles. Taylor makes Cassidy a strong and rugged hero, and Robson is particularly good as Cassidy's stoical, long-suffering working-class mother.
"Young Cassidy" has its points of interest, but overall I felt that O'Casey was obviously a fascinating character, both as a man and as a writer, and that a stronger biography could have been made of him. 6/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's possible that if John Ford's health had permitted him to finish
Young Cassidy we might have gotten a better version of how Sean O'Casey
saw himself in this world. The film is based on his autobiography where
he himself decided to rename the central character Cassidy. I'm
guessing that was to allow for a bit of dramatic license. As if anybody
with the slightest familiarity in Irish history isn't going to know who
wrote The Plough And The Stars.
O'Casey who was somewhat of a curmudgeon in his old age as was John Ford might have appealed to one another, one curmudgeon to another. In fact Ford directed the film version of The Plough And The Stars, a much underrated film which had a little too much Ford and not enough O'Casey in it.
Anyway Ford dropped the project and acclaimed British cinematographer Jack Cardiff picked up the ball. The usual roughhouse Ford type monkeyshine comedy could have been dropped in a few places during this film, might have given it a lift.
O'Casey(Cassidy) comes from a hardscrabble background, a brilliant mind though that couldn't be kept down by poverty. He's one of several offspring in a house presided over by the wise and patient Flora Robson in a part that Jane Darwell would have done in America a generation earlier. She and Sian Phillips as his sister deliver some fine performances.
The title role is played by Rod Taylor who was at the apex of his career at the time. He does a splendid job in capturing the youthful vitality and intelligence of a laboring man with a vision and a voice to capture what he sees. In fact his vision too accurate for some and I'm not talking about the occupying English.
O'Casey as played by Taylor reminded me almost hauntingly of George Gershwin as he was portrayed by Robert Alda in Rhapsody in Blue. Gershwin like O'Casey was so driven by his art that in the end no woman ever bonded with him intellectually. O'Casey as well is ultimately driven so by his need to express that the women are both attracted and feel inadequate for him. Everyone from young Julie Christie as a tart, to prim bookseller Maggie Smith in two of their earliest screen roles. The end when Smith tells Taylor she can't go on with him is a haunting one.
I've never been to Dublin so I'm not sure how much it has changed from the years of the Rebellion to the Sixties, let alone a new century. But Jack Cardiff's cinematographer's eye does a great job in capturing same. Ditto in fact for the scenes in the Irish countryside which are as beautifully photographed as Ford's classic The Quiet Man.
Sean O'Casey can well lay claim to being Ireland's first man of letters and that's bucking some heavy competition like George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde for instance. But those two worthy writers got their main success abroad, O'Casey wrote and told the story of his people in the fashion of the hated Cromwell, 'warts and all.' His story is Ireland's at the birth of freedom.
Sean O'Casey was born John Casey, so a film about his early life that calls him John Cassidy makes sense in a sort of way. The film is based on his autobiographies (there are 6 volumes I believe) which are apparently quite readable but not entirely trustworthy. As a committed socialist (even a communist) and protestant O'Casey was to find he had no place in the conservative, catholic Ireland of De Valera. This is the great central irony of the man's life (and of the history of Irish literature of the time), that one of the few great Irish writers to deal directly with the Troubles was eventually driven from the country - so much so that he spent the last 35 years of his life in England and never once went back home. The film "Young Cassidy" is a pretty decent attempt to capture the man and his oddities. Rod Taylor looks nothing like the man but gives an energetic, likable performance. Other performances are OK and it is always nice to see Michael Redgrave, here as Yeats (he looks as little like the real man as Taylor does). Started by John Ford this looks like one of his Irish pictures but thankfully never descends into the blarney that films such as "The Quiet Man" did (Jack Cardiff who directed most of the film deserves more credit than he is usually given for his role). Filmed in Dublin it has a very authentic look. The main problem is in toning down O'Casey and his politics, he was far more radical than he was portrayed here and also far more of an irritant (to whatever country he lived in). In summary a decent biopic, overlooked but worth watching by Ford fans or those interested in Ireland.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Occasionally effective, but mostly dull and disappointing, Young Cassidy suffers principally from the miscasting of Rod Taylor in the title role. He doesn't look right, he doesn't act right, and above all he lacks the charisma and personality needed to sustain audience interest over what seems an incredibly long 108 minutes. Nor as often happens in these cases of main role mishaps do the support players rally to the hero's rescue. Dame Edith Evans is impossibly mannered and theatrical as Lady Gregory (admittedly her lines are trite), while Sir Michael Redgrave makes of the romantic Yeats a drearily pompous stuffed shirt. Even the usually ultra-reliable Flora Robson plays her part as one critic aptly commented with an oddly absent-minded air. Indeed, aside from Julie Christie's exciting presence in a tiny role, and a gallery of highly credible Irish studies from many of the bit players, acting is hardly Young Cassidy's strong point. The screenplay must also take its fair share of blame. The plot is episodic and loosely constructed, the characters not only one dimensional but stereotyped, the dialogue dry. As for its philosophy, whilst O'Casey's anti-British sentiments are given a good innings, his equally virulent anti-clericalism is not mentioned at all. Not so much as a whisper. Yet, as said, the anti-British stuff is played up. In fact, the early scenes of police brutality when dispersing striking transport workers and of the army gunning down innocent bystanders during a siege of the rebel-held post-office, are by far the most effective in the movie. Taken as a whole, however, the writing lacks power. Nor must we exclude the director. When Ford fell ill after directing a few days' work with Rod Taylor and Julie Christie, Jack Cardiff took over. Aside from the two action scenes described above, Cardiff's direction rarely rises above the commonplace. It lacks soul. Heart. The ability to inspire.
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