Unranked my my ranking of John Ford’s filmography.
I can’t review this film in full because its state is simply too incomplete to consider fully. There are only four of its seven reels still in existence, and two of the missing reels are the final two. Still, I watched what I could, and while I can’t give the film anything like a full measure, I can offer up some small thoughts.
Mother Machree, as far as I can tell, is the story of a woman and son who move from Ireland to America when they fall upon hard times at the death of the patriarch of their small family. Mother Ellen McHugh (Belle Bennett) takes Brian (Phillipe De Lacy as a boy and Neil Hamilton as an adult) from their native land, meeting up with a circus strongman, The Giant of Kilkenny (Victor McLaglen), on their way to the ship. After some time in America while Ellen has trouble finding any way of supporting herself and her son, The Giant arrives and finds them, offering to find her work in the circus that he’s then employed at. She becomes the half-woman, and…the movie misses a reel with Ellen suddenly decades older and working as a servant in a wealthy household, Brian apparently having been taken away from her many years before.
Yeah, this movie is incomplete. I really can’t give it any kind of grade.
The final remaining reel is of an older Ellen meeting up with her now-adult son Brian, who was apparently adopted by another rich family, and just as they are beginning to reconnect, the footage runs out.
I can imagine where the film was going to go (Brian would marry the girl that Ellen had been charged with raising, is my guess), but my guesses aren’t the movie.
It’s interesting to see some remnants of Ford’s early motifs and themes. There’s the man who comes into Ellen’s flat, supposedly trying to take advantage of her, before the Giant brings her off to the circus. There’s the lost old homeland of Ireland and leaving it for America. There was probably going to be a fair amount of common sense from the Irish that would presumably go up against the haughty rich people.
I don’t find it hard to imagine that this film, at its full length, offered up a fair amount to enjoy. However, since it’s simply too incomplete to tell for sure, I’ll just leave it at this: For 29 minutes, I wasn’t bored.