Irish Film Institute -Bold Emmett, Ireland’s Martyr

Bold Emmett, Ireland’s Martyr

Director: Sidney Olcott

After Gene Gauntier disbanded her company and ended her professional relationship with Sidney Olcott, he returned to Ireland one last time where he made Bold Emmett and All for Old Ireland. Jack Melville starred in a number of O’Kalem films from The Kerry Gow(1912) to All for Old Ireland (1915) which are no longer extant. This is his sole surviving appearance, as the eponymous hero.

Despite the misspelling of Robert Emmet’s name throughout and some historical inaccuracy (Emmet found in the rising of 1803 not 1798), the film is typical in its pursuit of authenticity in character and setting. Emmet is here positioned as an exceptionally courageous and cunning figure (who evades capture by English troops by hiding up a chimney or playing his tin whistle) among a nation of courageous individuals. In fact, the leading figure in the film is not Emmet at all but fellow United Irishman Con Daly, played by Olcott, who also wrote and directed the screenplay. The English are represented as gallant and fair-minded rather than brutal oppressors but their occupation of Ireland is viewed as foreign and based on force. The scenario is least sympathetic to local informer Fealy (Robert Rivers) – a despised figure central in much romantic literature of Ireland’s struggle for independence.

A year after the production of Bold Emmet, the O’Kalem’s representations of historical subjects would seem outdated, displaced by the violence of the 1916 rising.

Notes by Tony Tracy

Book Tickets