For Ireland’s Sake

Director: Sindey Olcott

The O’Kalems’ returned for a fourth time to Killarney in 1913 but under new management. After her resignation, along with Olcott, from Kalem in 1912, Gene Gauntier capitalised on her own fame as an actress to form her own production company – the Gene Gauntier Feature Players. The ‘GG’ logo can be seen on the intertitles of this film. The film repeats and builds on several elements of The Colleen Bawn, most notably its dramatic use of well-known landmarks such as Muckross Abbey and the Gap of Dunloe and its insistence on the authenticity of these locations for the viewer. The framing device of a cave (where Marty hides) from the earlier film is once again effectively deployed. The film is however a considerable improvement on the Boucicault adaptation in every respect. It is also a reworking of the revolutionary theme from Rory O’More centering on conflict between the Irish dream of political independence and British suppression of that ambition. It concludes with a similar intervention from a Catholic priest (played by the charismatic Olcott) who facilitate the escape of the lovers from prison and their eventual escape from Ireland. America is once again figured as a land of promise and new beginnings: “To the west, to the west! To the land of the free!”. Although set – it would appear – around the revolution of 1798/1803 it is useful to remember that the film is made three years before the 1916 rising. It is notable that Gauntier’s character (Eileen) takes a more significant part in the drama than earlier films, reflecting, perhaps, her status as a producer. In its narrative cohesion and cinematic execution, For Ireland’s Sake ranks among the highpoints of the O’Kalem films.

Notes by Tony Tracy.

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