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The Plough and the Stars

(1936 b 67')

En: 5 Ed: 6

In this abbreviated version of Sean O'Casey's play about the Irish rebellion of 1916 a woman weeps while her husband fights.

In Dublin Nora Clitheroe (Barbara Stanwyck) loves her husband Jack Clitheroe (Preston Foster) but is afraid he will fight for the Irish Republic citizen army. Ned Brennan brings Jack a dispatch telling him to report as commandant, and Jack learns that Nora burned a previous letter appointing him. Nora cries and asks Jack not to leave; but he goes with Ned. Mollser Gogan (Bonita Granville) comes in to comfort Nora. An Irish army officer declares Ireland is a free nation and calls on them to fight. In a pub the meeting is discussed. Bessie Burgess (Eileen Crowe) thinks of those fighting for Belgium on the Sommes, and she quarrels with Maggie Gogan (Una O'Connor), who breaks a window. Nora waits up for Jack and tells young Mollser that a woman is not happy without a man, because woman's nature is to love just as a man's is to fight. In the pub Fluther (Barry Fitzgerald) tries to fight the young Covey, but the bartender stops it.

Around a table men sign the Irish declaration of independence. Jack and Nora come out of church and walk in the park. Jack is summoned to Liberty Hall. The Irish Republican Army marches into the post office and raises their flag. Nora waited up all night for Jack. The British troops attack the post office with machine guns. Mollser is ill with tuberculosis. Nora and Fluther hear the shooting and artillery. Nora runs to the lines and calls them cowards for being afraid to be afraid. She sees prisoners walk past. People break into shops and loot. Bessie and Maggie take a baby carriage to gather loot. Jack and two others volunteer to go to their other position. Nora finds Jack on the street and asks him to come home; but he says he can't turn back.

The rebellion is crushed, but snipers still fight. Fluther drinks. A sniper raps on a roof window to no avail and is killed. Jack kills a soldier and is let in from the roof. He hugs Nora. Soldiers are coming, and Nora hides Jack's rifle and gun belt in Mollser's coffin. The soldiers come in and search. Jack is questioned. At a hospital the wounded general is shot by a firing squad. Jack and the men carry the coffin and see the Irish flag being taken down. Jack tells Nora that it's not the end but the beginning, that men will fight until Ireland is free. Nora says the women will go on weeping.

This movie barely touches on O'Casey's concern that care for the poor should take precedent over the violent struggle for independence which caused a patriotic riot when the play was first presented in 1926. The only principal character to die, Mollser, dies because of poverty. Yet the film emphasizes the dilemma that men fight while women love and weep.

Copyright © 2000 by Sanderson Beck

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