26 May 2012 | barryrd
Parnell's story brought to the silver screen
The character of Parnell has interested me ever since I read James Joyce's Ulysses. I caught this movie by accident when channel surfing and landed on TCM, the source of many old movie nuggets. "Parnell" brings us some first rate actors, from Clark Gable to Myrna Loy, Edmund Gwyn and Donald Crisp. The viewer sees the main outline of the controversy involving Charles Parnell and Kitty O'Shea and its impact on the Irish Free State bill. The movie is dressed up in melodrama with violin music to the strains of Irish ballads. This cloying treatment, not unusual in Hollywood, does not detract from the story of a great man and the overlooked merits of this film. Parnell brought the Irish factions together to achieve a significant breakthrough in his time and might have saved many troubles. Parnell was the stuff of greatness and his story has been enshrined in history and literature. We know that the struggle for Ireland continued beyond his life; still, his story reverberates. This movie gives a sense of the tragedy but the poor sound and grainy film are a bit of an irritation. Also, the choice of Clark Gable, Hollywood's rugged icon of the 1930's, for the role of Parnell, falls flat. This is unfortunate because the movie is far from a disaster. Nevertheless, I would like to see a film with a more complete story, with more character development and background. It would tell the epic tale of Parnell's achievements and the forces that shaped Ireland in the late nineteenth century. The British movie industry does those period movies very well. This movie gives us a taste of that history.