Monday, June 10, 2013


An anthology movie with three stories of Irish life directed by John Ford as a kind of labor of love, on a fairly low budget with no star power except for the presence of Tyrone Power as a host. In "The Majesty of the Law," a policeman travels from city to country to serve an arrest warrant on his old friend Dan who kicked a neighbor's ass and won’t pay the fine. In "A Minute's Wait," a train pulls into a station and the porter announces, "One minute’s wait only!"; the passengers pour off the train and entertain themselves at the bar or amongst themselves. At the end of the minute, they get back on the train only to have a delay that results another one-minute wait… and another, and another. The last, "1921," based on a famous short play, is about an Irish political prisoner who is about to be executed by the British, and how with help from some unlikely folks, he escapes his fate.

Though the last story is somewhat more serious in tone than the rest, these are all basically comedies of character and circumstance. The first is akin to a shaggy-dog story as the policeman (Cyril Cusack) and his buddy Dan (Noel Purcell) do a long dance around each other, both knowing that the upshot will be that Dan will go to jail. Cusack doesn’t relish his job, and Purcell is too proud not to eventually face up to his just desserts—he even spurns an offer from the offended party to pay the fine himself so Purcell won't have to leave. Both actors are fine, especially Purcell. "A Minute's Wait" is the most fun as we are briefly immersed in the comic stories of a handful of characters including a man about to enter an arranged marriage, a woman with a niece of marriageable age, an engineer who tells a ghost story at the bar which keeps being interrupted by calls to get back on the train, a rather dour couple who cling to their first-class car, and a team of champion hurlers. There's even a goat who winds up riding first-class (pictured). The whole bit is predictable but quite fun. Best line: the porter proposing to the shopgirl by saying, "How’d you like to be buried with my people?" The last story has more dramatic heft but is still kept light and has a nice surprise ending. Among the standout performers in the latter two stories (many of them members of Dublin's Abbey Theatre) are Jimmy O'Dea as the porter, Paul Farrell as the engineer, and well-known stage actor Donal Donnelly as the prisoner. This is not typical John Ford fare, and the Irish accents are occasionally a bit thick, but as an anthology film, this is one of the better ones. [TCM]

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