Home Rule in Hollywood

Published in Issue 6 (November/December 2019), Letters, Volume 27

Sir,—Tony Tracy’s article on Hollywood’s view of Parnell (HI 27.5, Sept./Oct. 2019) brings to mind an anecdote by León Ó Broin. A senior civil servant by day, in his leisure time he wrote books, including a biography of Parnell in Irish. His next-door neighbour was Jimmy Montgomery, the state’s film censor and a noted wit. In his autobiography Just like yesterday, Ó Broin tells the story:

‘Being aware of my interest, Jimmy Montgomery rang me up at Finance one day and invited me to see a film on Parnell he was about to censor. I naturally dropped everything and, going from the rere of Government Buildings through Leinster House, was soon in the little studio in Molesworth Street. It was already full, with some people sitting on the floor. There were a few survivors of the old party there as well as men who had written about Parnell or acted in plays about him. The lights were lowered and we saw a poor film with Clark Gable in the leading role but without a beard, as if he feared his fans would not accept him otherwise. When it was over and the lights went up we turned to Jimmy on the dais behind us. He was stroking his chin. “Ladies and gentlemen”, he said, “I don’t know what you thought of that. I thought it was a barefaced travesty”.’

—Yours etc.,

DONAL McGAHON

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