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Title: Representations of the Irish in early American cinema: 1910-1930
Author: Scott, Thomas James
ISNI:       0000 0004 5356 3296
Awarding Body: Ulster University
Current Institution: Ulster University
Date of Award: 2014
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In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the portrayal of the Irish in American cinema. This thesis makes a significant original contribution to existing research by examining a range of American-made, Irish-themed films produced between 1910 and 1930 that are either underrepresented in current discourse, or missing entirely. It adds to current debates in Irish, and American, film studies and shows that the 1910s and 1920s were highly significant years in the on-going history of American cinematic representations of the Irish. This thesis explores how the Irish were depicted between 1910 and 1930, and how , these depictions compare to the dominant, and generally negative, representations of the earlier period (1896-1910). In addition to the study of a large number of Irish-themed films, this thesis draws on a wide range of primary material, including archived newspaper articles a~d production documents, to discuss the recurring themes and characters that dominated Irish-themed films in the 1910s and 1920s, characters like the hard working Irish migrant, the virtuous Colleen, the social arbitrating Irish cop and the ready-to-reform Irish criminal. The study explores in particular, the lrish-themed films of Sydney Olcott, including the often overlooked Little Old New York (1923), and argues that these films made a significant contribution to the improved depiction ofthe Irish in the early 191Os. John Ford's earliest Irish-themed films are also relatively unexplored in current studies and this thesis considers them in detail, examining how his Irish lineage had an impact on the films in question. Additionally, the study examines a number of infamous Irish-themed films that caused controversy and offence, including MGM's ill-fated The Callahans and the Murphys (produced in 1927, and directed by George W. Hill). These controversies also demonstrate the impact that the American Catholic Church and Irish fraternities, including the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, had on the film industry at the time. This thesis finds that the period examined was undoubtedly one of the most important and transitional in the history of the on screen Irish. This study offers a detailed analysis of the remarkable development of the Irish character over such a relatively short period of time, demonstrating that the depiction between 1910 and 1930 was unquestionably better than that found in the foundational period of American cinema.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available