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The Plough and the Stars

The Plough and the Stars(1937)


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Sean O'Casey's name appears above the film's title. Barry Fitzgerald, Denis O'Dea, Eileen Crowe, F. J. McCormick and Arthur Shields, Fitzgerald's brother, (who is credited on the film as having "assisted" Ford in his direction), were Abbey Theatre players who had acted in O'Casey's long-running play in Dublin. All of the above cast members except Fitzgerald made their talking-picture debuts in this film. (The Plough and the Stars was Fitzgerald's first American film.) Una O'Connor and J. M. Kerrigan were former Abbey Theatre members. Eileen Crowe and F. J. McCormick were married at the time of this production. Studio publicity touted the film, which was the last film John Ford directed for RKO, as a natural successor to the successful 1935 film, The Informer. Ford, Dudley Nichols, George Bernard McNulty, Joseph August and Cliff Reid also worked together on The Informer. According to Hollywood Reporter, RKO wanted to borrow Spencer Tracy to play the Jack Clitheroe part, but M-G-M refused to loan the actor because they felt the part was not strong enough. Articles in New York Times give the following information about the production: Maureen Delaney of the Abbey Theatre was hired to appear in the film but did not make the trip to Hollywood. RKO wanted to borrow Pat O'Brien for the film but was turned down by Warner Bros. To avoid fire hazards during the battle sequences, Polglase's post office set, which was built entirely on an asbestos-lined sound stage, was mounted over a huge tank of water.
       Modern sources give the following additional information about the production: As a trade-off for hiring the Abbey Theatre actors, the studio insisted that Barbara Stanwyck be cast in the lead. 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. The financial failure of the modestly budgeted film caused RKO to reassess its commitment to producing "prestige" films. Documentary footage of the actual Easter Rebellion was intercut into the film. Modern sources credit Nathaniel Shilkret as the music director and Walter Plunkett as costume designer. Additional cast members from modern sources include Mary Quinn and Frank Baker. Modern sources conflict in completing character names. In O'Casey's play, however, the Irish leaders are called Padraic Pearse and General Connolly.