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Heavily romanticised and full of caricatures - how Hollywood sees the Irish


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Irish typecasting: Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne in The Quiet Man

Irish typecasting: Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne in The Quiet Man

Irish typecasting: Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne in The Quiet Man

In the 1930s and 40s, Dublin City was movie mad. Picture houses dotted the streets, and I remember my mother telling me that between the Five Lamps and Fairview, there were seven cinemas she and her cousin constantly visited. They sometimes showed the same films for months on end, but cinephiles would go see these glittering Hollywood productions again and again to bask in a glamorous, sexually charged world so very different from the drab and repressed country they inhabited.

I've often wondered how those Irish audiences must have felt the first time they encountered that great staple of early Hollywood cinema - the Irish cop. Large and lumbering, with big feet and bemused expression, he would wander through street scenes humming a jig and twirling his baton till he espied wrongdoers and loudly berated them in an accent that was neither one thing nor another.

They were perhaps the earliest screen embodiments of Irish-American life, and first appeared in silent comedies, their ethnicity identified by tipsy, lilting jigs.


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