The Plough and the Stars (1936) - Director's Cut?

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brendangcarroll

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The Plough and the Stars (1936) - Director's Cut?

PostTue Jul 18, 2017 1:45 pm

Made as a follow up to the hugely successful THE INFORMER (1935), John Ford's much maligned screen version of THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS has long been regarded as one of his very worst films.

Well, I finally saw this film tonight, thanks to the wonderful Talking Pictures TV channnel here in England.

My Irish-born father absolutely loathed this film because he said it was a travesty of O'Casey's play and just a Hollywood fiction of the Easter uprising.

Well ...I read all the reviews on IMDB and elsewhere and I was expecting the worst.

But here's the thing: I was amazed to watch a pristine print of this film that bore NO relation whatsoever to that described in the reviews!

There was no newsreeel footage interpolated, no unfortunate added narration - and no extra footage by another director to explain Stanwyck & Foster's marriage! What gives?

What I saw was obviously a genuine John Ford film, beautifully directed and photographed, with many of his trademark camera set ups, close ups and scene compositions. His usual flair for narrative and the many subtle visual trademarks I saw, did not indicate a hatchet job by RKO. And the print was gorgeous!

The whole thing had an understated poetic quality and the pace and fluidity were striking.

So what was I looking at?

A pre-release print that had somehow survived in the UK .....but not in the RKO archives in LA?

It was certainly no turkey and even Stanwyck impressed me - her lack of accent did not matter, because Ford (in this print at least) let her face do all the acting for her. And she was great!

Barry Fitzgerald was clearly doing a warm up for his role in THE QUIET MAN, but the remaining Abbey Players were all fine and I believe acted large portions of O'Casey's dialogue intact. I do not have a copy of the play to make a comparison but will seek it out.

Una O'Connor showed what a fine dramatic actress she was in Ireland, before she found fame in Hollywood. Even Preston Foster demonstrated an impressive restraint and was highly impressive.

In short, it was really very good!

Ford did not have Max Steiner for this film (as he had on THE INFORMER and THE LOST PATROL) but Roy Webb did a fine job with a highly dramatic and vivid music score throughout.

But what of the source print?

Are there really two extant versions of this film? If so, I think I watched the long lost "Director's Cut" tonight!

How exciting!

What do all the film experts on NITRATEVILLE have to say about it?

Please comment and let ne know!
"Korngold has so much talent he could give half away and still have enough left for himself..." Giacomo Puccini (1921)
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Michael O'Regan

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Re: The Plough and the Stars (1936) - Director's Cut?

PostTue Jul 18, 2017 2:18 pm

I saw this only once, on TV here in the UK back in the early 90s and I really liked it. I'm Irish and it meant something to me. Good to know it's on Talking Pictures. I shall look forward to seeing it shortly.
I remember neither narration nor newsreel footage in the version I saw.
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Mike Gebert

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Re: The Plough and the Stars (1936) - Director's Cut?

PostTue Jul 18, 2017 2:49 pm

Looks like RKO recut it for the US and the British/Irish cut is different (and the director's preference). Here's an AFI page on it:

While Ford, who had fought with the studio to cast the Abbey Theatre actors, was on a post-production vacation, executive producer Samuel Briskin hired director George Nicholls, Jr. to reshoot certain scenes in the movie. The new scenes changed the relationship of the leads from husband and wife to boyfriend and girl friend. Although none of the trade reviewers mention this change and probably saw only the previously shot version, prints with this alteration were circulated in the United States. When Ford heard about the changes, he tried unsuccessfully to have his name removed from the credits. According to an interview with Ford, English and Irish distributors refused to show the altered version and only screened the original... Documentary footage of the actual Easter Rebellion was intercut into the film.


http://www.afi.com/members/catalog/Deta ... Movie=4358
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s.w.a.c.

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Re: The Plough and the Stars (1936) - Director's Cut?

PostTue Jul 18, 2017 9:04 pm

I saw a live staging of the play at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in the early '90s, which was quite moving, especially since the events depicted took place within a small radius of the theatre itself. I've been wanting to see the film version for years, even after reading that it wasn't necessarily a great adaptation, and this gives me some hope that a home video edition of some sort may yet surface. I'm still surprised it hasn't, even in a Warner Archive edition.
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brendangcarroll

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Re: The Plough and the Stars (1936) - Director's Cut?

PostWed Jul 19, 2017 6:25 am

Thanks for all these extra details!

I think a Blu-ray is now urgently needed with both versions and a "comparison featurette"! I am certain most people interested in John Ford's work (especially those living in America) have never seen the British cut!
"Korngold has so much talent he could give half away and still have enough left for himself..." Giacomo Puccini (1921)
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barry byrne

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Re: The Plough and the Stars (1936) - Director's Cut?

PostWed Jul 19, 2017 1:30 pm

It was certainly no turkey and even Stanwyck impressed me - her lack of accent did not matter

True, not the obvious or ideal choice but good enough in what is a challenging role.
Incidentally her birthday passed by unnoticed this week.
A better film than its reputation suggests and nice of Talking Pictures to run it again.

I wonder how Arthur Shields felt about re-enacting events in the GPO, given that he had actually been there in 1916?
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Harlett O'Dowd

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Re: The Plough and the Stars (1936) - Director's Cut?

PostWed Jul 19, 2017 2:25 pm

Would love to see either version of this.

And while we're on the Abbey Theatre, I had hoped that TCM would unearth a nice print of JUNO & THE PAYCOCK as part of its Hitchcock festival (but I was was more than satisfied by the silents)
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s.w.a.c.

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Re: The Plough and the Stars (1936) - Director's Cut?

PostThu Jul 20, 2017 6:38 am

Harlett O'Dowd wrote:And while we're on the Abbey Theatre, I had hoped that TCM would unearth a nice print of JUNO & THE PAYCOCK as part of its Hitchcock festival (but I was was more than satisfied by the silents)

I think Network in the UK put out a decent version on DVD (for those with all-region players), not sure if the title was part of the BFI restoration series or not. Would have been nice if they'd shown some Hitchcock rarities like the multi-director revue Elstree Calling (also on a Network DVD), or his Johann Strauss biopic Waltzes From Vienna.
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Michael O'Regan

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Re: The Plough and the Stars (1936) - Director's Cut?

PostMon Jul 24, 2017 8:22 am

Well, I presume the Talking Pictures screening was a once-off. It hasn't appeared again and is not in the listings for the coming week.
:?
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barry byrne

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Re: The Plough and the Stars (1936) - Director's Cut?

PostTue Jul 25, 2017 1:51 am

It has already run about six or seven times in the last few months so perhaps it is going back in the vault.

Now if some of their other films were put away, it might be nice as it reminds me how much I watch this channel.

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