The Celluloid Shamrock: The Lad from Old Ireland (1910)

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In the barren bog-land of Rathpacon, County Cork, Terry is collecting turf  when he makes a sudden decision to leave his native homeland and pursue his dreams in America.

Overcome by his poverty-stricken existence, Terry bids a sad farewell to his family and sweetheart Aileen, promising that one day he’ll return with the means to support her.

Upon arriving in New York, Terry finds a job on a construction site, where he gradually begins to climb the social ladder, and eventually becoming the  Tammany Hall mayor of the city.

Growing acquainted to the presence of the politically elite and New York bourgeois, Terry soon forgets all that he left behind in Ireland, and grows very fond of an American heiress.

However, the reality of his past soon comes into drastic perspective when he finds a letter from Aileen informing him of her family’s desperate economic plight and declaring that they are in danger of being evicted from their home.

In the following scene, we see Terry on board a trans-Atlantic liner that is bound for Ireland. He conjures up an imaginary image of Aileen and attempts to embrace her, only to discover that her presence is merely in his head.

Finally, when Terry arrives back on the ‘old sod’, he is shocked to realise that the eviction of Aileen and her family is in progress. He storms through the door, towering over the landlord in his expensive suit and dapper facade, and thrusts the rent arrears into his hand and demands that he leaves at once.

The film concludes to the following Sunday, where the priest announces the forthcoming marriage of Terry and Aileen.

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The Lad From Old Ireland is very significant in the history of film, as it was the first American production to be  made outside the USA. In August 1910, the Kalem Company of New York City sent director Sidney Olcott (who also stars in the movie) and a film crew to Ireland. When it was released in November 1910 it was billed as “Kalem’s Great Trans-Atlantic Drama.”

Leaving aside the historical merit of this film, the storyline for The Lad from Old Ireland is something to be desired. The  extremely fast transition of time is both confusing and excessive. A period of seven years is passed in a single scene, and leaves me wanting to know how a construction worker from Cork can become the freakin mayor of Tammany Hall!

However, Olcott uses the camera extremely well in this film and manages to capture beautiful shots of rural Ireland and New York. Anyone who holds an avid interest in the history of film will not be disappointed with The Lad from Old Ireland.

Watch the full film HERE


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