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Characters

The Irish in Film
An Annotated Database

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A Little Bit O'Irish in Film

The Irish depicted as 'stock' -- or as we say in the business -- bit characters embody the most stereotypical portrayals of the Irish. In Bringing Up Baby (1938) the Irish gardener seeks out two hidden bottles of whiskey in as many scenes. And 30 years later things have not changed much. Take for instance the single Irishman in Mel Brook's original 1968 version of The Producers. Here a drunk, played by Irish actor William Hickey, spills pearls of wisdom while precariously perched on a bar stool.

The 'charmer' is a favorite stock character and makes brief appearances in many films. Johnny Depp plays an Irish Traveller* - the epitome of charmers - in Chocolat (2000). In Auntie Mame (1958) the charmer steals the scene (and maybe even the silverware). He is larger than life, deep, and has many great goals to accomplish. Here the charmer is also a writer, a typical profession for the Irish in reality and fiction.

Yes, there is a distinct set of professions that the Irish character must pursue. Take for instance Humphrey Bogart in Dark Victory (1939). He plays an Irish horse trainer. His accent wanders in and out, but he must be Irish because all horse trainers are Irish. And they are - all horse trainers are Irish. The horse trainer in the bio-pic The Story of Seabiscuit (1949) is Irish. In real life he was Canadian, but I'm pretty sure he was of Irish descent. That still counts, doesn't it?

Many films depict Irish entertainers, who, over the years have become American entertainers through no fault of their own. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady (1950), The Seven Little Foys (1955) and many more headline the Irish entertainer. The Irish entertainer as stock character is just as plentiful. Consider the fathers in Ziegfeld Girl (1936) and The Boy with Green Hair (1948) and in The Great Rupert (1950) the trainer is Mahoney and you know the squirrel, Rupert, is Celtic - he wears a kilt.

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* Travellers, the word for Irish Gypsies, is spelled with two L's in Ireland.

 

                 

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