#49 in my ranking of John Ford’s filmography.
A trio of short films about Ireland, introduced by Irish-American actor Tyrone Power, The Rising of the Moon can best be described as nice. Based on three works of Irish fiction and theater written by Frank O’Connor, Martin McHugh, and Lady Gregory, while taking its title from the original title of the third work, it’s a trilogy of pastiches that try to paint the Irish character that John Ford loved. It doesn’t never gets the depth of feeling or sheer entertainment value as Ford’s The Quiet Man, but it’s never really boring. It’s just, well, it’s nice.
The first is titled “The Majesty of the Law” based on the short story by O’Connor. It’s about a police inspector, Dillon (Cyril Cusack), who decides to walk home from the constabulary in order to make a stop over at the house of Dan O’Flaherty (Noel Purcell) for what seems like a visit. Along the way, he meets the local moonshiner Mickey (Jack MacGowran), chastises him for what he’s obviously doing, and goes into the hut where Dan lives. Dan had assaulted a fellow villager, and Dillon is there to arrest him. It’s a small town environment where a local policeman knows everyone involved in a crime, and there’s a deep personal history between everyone. A conversation strikes up between the three that seems to be about the nature of the Irish character, the underlying niceness and fraternity across the small town communities along with the amusing contrast of antagonism that’s never all that dangerous. There’s the ironic ending where the man Dan had attacked tries to pay his fine for him, but Dan will not accept it from the likes of such a man and proudly delivers himself to the jail for his sentence, since he refuses to pay the fine himself.
The second story is the most amusing of the three, and the best of them. Titled “A Minute’s Wait” based on the one-act comedy by McHugh, it’s the story of a train stopped at a sleepy little station that keeps getting delayed from its one minute stop by different, very Irish, things while very Irish goings on happen at the same time. There are the older acquaintances who play matchmakers for the son and niece they represent. There’s the engineer who has a story about a ghost in a castle that the mousy woman who works behind the counter gets caught up in. There’s an older English couple on their way to a wedding who watch it all, flabbergasted, and end up getting left behind on accident. There’s the local cricket team that comes marching down the tracks and the train picks up. It’s really just a collection of moments, but they’re fun moments, building off of a little event portrayed in The Quiet Man of trains running late because train personnel have to hash out centuries’ old arguments during stops.
The final story is titled “1921” and based on the play “The Rising of the Moon” by Lady Gregory. It tells the story of an IRA member, Sean Curran (Donal Donnelly) who is about to be hung by the English military. His fate has become a cause celebre for the Irish people as a large mass of them parade in front of the jail. A pair of nuns arrive at the jail, one of them, Sister Mary Grace (Maureen Cusack), who is Curran’s sister. It’s a ruse, though, and the girl, an American with an American passport, trades places with Curran and allows him to escape. He still has to get out of militarized Dublin, though, and he takes on the disguise of a ballad singer. Whenever an Irishman recognizes him for who he is, the other immediately takes up Curran’s cover story and helps him along, eventually escaping after nearly coming to trouble under the watch of Sergeant O’Hara (Denis O’Dea) who only realizes who Curran is when he’s gotten away.
The first and third are nice little stories, but it’s the second that just goes for straight up entertaining and succeeds the most fully. The second isn’t a great piece of short film, though. It’s good.
The actors seem to be, except for Tyrone Power who only introduces the segments, Irish stage and screen actors living in Ireland, providing a very nice level of authenticity to the action.
Ford manages the interesting production well, but the depth is never there and the entertainment value somewhat limited. It’s nice.
The Majesty of the Law: 2.5/4
A Minute’s Wait: 3/4
Overall Rating: 2.5/4