His Mother

Director: Sidney Olcott

A variation on the emigrant theme found in The Lad from Old Ireland, His Mother also engages with the emotional costs of migration on those left behind. Other familiar elements include the interior of the Irish cottage and the central role of the priest. While Gauntier and her future husband, Jack J. Clark, take central roles, the film belongs to Clark’s mother, Anna Clark, in the title role. Shot once again on both sides of the Atlantic – adding visual variety and authenticity to the story – the film seeks to reconcile the opportunities of the New World with the emotional ties of home. The film’s form created an important precedent in American cinema. The theme of reconciling the public and the private in a climactic musical performance would be used again in the James Cagney vehicle City for Conquest (1940), in the reuniting of Barry Fitzgerald’s priest character with his Irish mother at the end of Going My Way (1944) and in Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1947 Carnegie Hall where an Irish mother proudly watches her ‘Americanised’ son perform on the celebrated stage of the famous concert venue.

Notes by Tony Tracy.

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