The Shamrock Handicap

John Ford

It. tit.: La corsa a ostacoli di Shamrock; Sog.: Peter B. Kyne; Scen.: John Stone; Didascalie: Elizabeth Pickett; F.: George Schneiderman; Int.: Janet Gaynor (Sheila O’Hara), Leslie Fenton (Neil Ross), J. Farrell MacDonald (Cornelius O’Shea), Louis Payne (Mr Miles O’Hara), Claire McDowell (Molly O’Shea), Willard Louis (Orville Finch), Andy Clark (“Chesty” Morgan), Georgie Harris (Bennie Ginsburg), Ely Reynolds (Virus Cakes), Thomas Delmar (Michael), Il primo John Ford / Early John Ford 63 Brandon Hurst (counselor); Prod.: William Fox; Pri. pro.: 2 maggio 1926. 35mm. L. or.: 1732 m. D.: 67’ a 23 f/s. Bn.


T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Another horseracing picture, this one set in both Ireland and the U.S., The Shamrock Handicap is an efficient but relatively impersonal Ford film despite its backdrop in the land of the directors’ ancestors. Fox star Janet Gaynor is featured as Lady Sheila O’Hara, the winsome daughter of an impecunious landlord (Louis Payne) who brings his prize horse, Dark Rosaleen, to America to compete in a race called the Shamrock Handicap. Despite the title, there is no emphasis on anti-Irish prejudice, but there is plenty of ethnic humor in the film, much of it stereotypical. Ford’s gift for landscape is abundantly on display in this film, beautifully shot by George Schneiderman, who makes the most of the pastoral setting of County Kildare. Based on a story by Peter B. Kyne (most renowned for his Western novella The Three Godfathers, twice filmed by Ford himself), The Shamrock Handicap deals with the financial hardships of modern Ireland but without any reference to its recent War of Independence or Civil War. Its lushly romantic view of Ireland as a lost Eden is an early example of the pattern Ford would pursue in his more celebrated later films about Ireland, especially The Quiet Man. This silent film has a frequently melancholic air but lacks the depth of emotion Ford would bring to those later films. The section of The Shamrock Handicap set in America deals with the struggles of those caught up in the Irish diaspora, but the scenario offers a sense of hope that Ford’s somber visuals often undercut. J. Farrell MacDonald, as the horse trainer, is a treat to watch, as always, and Leslie Fenton is Gaynor’s earnest love interest, a crippled jockey who competes in the climactic steeplechase.

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Preserved with support from The Mayer Foundation.