You Remember Ellen

Director: Sidney Olcott

It was inevitable that Gauniter, as scenarist, would turn to Thomas Moore’s mid-nineteenth century ‘Melodies’ for inspiration; such was their renown and popularity among Irish Americans and beyond, and their suitability for adaptation in a setting as picturesque as Killarney. You Remember Ellen illustrates Moore’s short song (of the same name) which is ‘recited’ in the film’s intertitles. The film makes use of local settings familiar from earlier films (including a memorable image of heavy rain on Beaufort bridge) to tell the story of a humble young woman who marries a stranger named William (Jack J. Clark). When William tells her they must go wandering in search of a better life, she submits. When they take shelter in a castle, she is astounded to discover that she has become Lady Ellen of Rosna Hall. The song was based on a true story concerning the marriage of the Earl of Exeter in 1792, a narrative that also inspired poems by Tennyson and Longfellow. Despite this background, there is, in the extended Kalem adaptation, a strong sense that this is another emigration narrative, with rural Ireland presented as pastoral and unchanging and its inhabitans – notably Ellen’s parents – presented as loving, hospitable, and poor. In such a reading the young person leaves the land of their birth in search of a better life. Although this brings with it separation and emotional pain, this is compensated for through material gain.

Notes by Tony Tracy.

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