God Bless St Patrick – Irish Masculinities on Film – Part II

Okay, this might seem an odd choice, especially given today’s green celebrations.  But, bear with me…

One film that I always watch when it’s on tv is Cromwell — which, I know, is hardly a pro-Irish film.  In fact, the movie skips over all of the massacres which Oliver committed in Ireland in the 1650s…  and yet.  I feel a need to watch it for one very simple reason: Richard Harris.

How mad it must have seemed, when the script was first brought to him, to ask an Irishman to play Cromwell.  OLIVER BLEEDING CROMWELL!  He’s certainly not my favourite person to grace the pages of history (in fact, I don’t like either Cromwell — Thomas brought down Anne Boleyn and Oliver was, well, a bigoted git), but Harris taps into something amazing in a film that is, admittedly, a bit heavy-handed.  You completely believe him when he’s on screen – it’s certainly one of his better acting turns and is a world apart from King Arthur in the movie version of Camelot.

Here is the final scene — nearly word for word from what actually happened.  I certainly buy Harris here as the world’s most powerful Puritan… I believe this is also the only movie that Ian Paisley has ever seen.  I wonder what he thought of this son of Limerick taking on a role that is rather significant to Free Presbyterianism…

Now, watching Oliver Cromwell on St Patrick’s Day is rather oxymoronic, to say the least, which is why I’m also attaching a clip from Harris’ masterful turn in The Field.  This was the film that brought him back from the brink in 1990 and introduced him to an entirely new generation.  (It also stars a young Sean Bean, which means it’s already an amazing film in terms of the scenery.)  If Cromwell is the antithesis of certain forms of Irish masculinity, then Bull McCabe is the other extreme – a land-obsessed Roman Catholic in the Free State with a long memory and a terrible temper.  It’s the unhappy version of The Quiet Man in some respects, heavy on the Greek tragedy instead of the fairy-tale ending:

The 17th of March is coming into its final hours for 2012, so I’m going to get out onto Bourbon Street (and also a place called Finn McCool’s up on Bank in the Mid-City, which is apparently phenomenal).  I leave you with this final shot of Richard Harris, a fabulous Irishman who is deeply missed, at least in my household.  Here he is with a future subject for one of  my Irish masculinities posts: Seamus Peter O’Toole.  Yes, it’s a rough life, but this does count as “research” in my world:

That would have been a good rugby match to be at… too bad today’s was a disaster.  If you’re out tonight, be safe, and remember – baking soda and warm water is a wonderful cure for what ails you at 4 o’clock in the morning.


About midatlanticmusings

Historian of the Irish Diaspora and masculinities, wife, mother, lover of good books, red wine, fine whiskies, pop culture aficionado, and Star Wars wonk.
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