The Lad from Old Ireland

Director: Sidney Olcot

During the first Kalem visit the company shot in and around Cobh (then Queenstown) Co. Cork, where they landed, Blarney Castle (also in Cork) and by the Lakes of Killarney, Co. Kerry. The Lad from Old Ireland, the only surviving film from that visit, broke with the crude early stereotypes of the Irish (‘Paddy’ – the labourer – and ‘Bridget’ – the domestic servant) from the early silent period. It also crystallises a number of motifs of the Irish in American cinema including images of rural Ireland as a pre-modern space, the centrality of family relations, Irish-American politics and the recurring theme of the returning emigrant. Here Terry (Sidney Olcott), having gained his fortune, now seeks emotional fulfilment with a local ‘collenn’ Aileen (Gene Gauntier). In its treatment of this theme, the film anticipates John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952). It also prefigures the later film’s visualisation of the passage from modernity to tradition by means of train and then horse and cart. The final shots of the film are now lost but records tell us that it ended with the announcement of Terry and Aileen’s marriage. The film was released in the US to popular acclaim on Thanksgiving Day, 1910 and re-released several times afterwards. The Mirror commented: ‘The picture is genuine Irish and needs no labelling to prove it. It carries its authenticity on its face’.

Notes by Tony Tracy

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