“Young Cassidy” (1965) is a movie which is very close to my heart.
The movie was first directed by John Ford and later by Jack Cardiff when, after three weeks of filming, the legendary director, John Ford (“The Quiet Man” (1952)), was obliged to left the picture because of an illness. The talented cinematographer, Jack Cardiff (“The Vikings” (1958)) took over and finished the shooting.
Like “El Greco” (see the topic) “young Cassidy” is a biographical drama. This movie is based upon the early life of the famous Irish playwright Sean O'Casey (1880 / 1964). It was a fine opportunity to John Ford because he had already directed a movie version of O’Casey’s play “The Plough and the Stars” in 1936.
MGM began the production a year after O'Casey's passed away. However before his death, he had given his approval to the script including the change of his name in the film to John Cassidy.
The Australian actor Rod Taylor took the lead role in place of Sir Sean Connery who was not available because of the success of the Bond films. Dame Maggie Smith played the part of the shy bookstore clerk Nora. Julie Christie joined the company to play Daisy Battles a good-hearted prostitute (it was her first great appearance on the screen). Sîan Phillips was the melancholic Cassidy’s sister and the fellow working class stiff Mick Mullen was played with humanity by Philip O’Flynn.
Three distinguished actors complete this wonderful cast, Dame Flora Robson played with authenticity the poverty-stricken mother, Sir Michael Redgrave was a very impressive W.B. Yeats and Edith Evans was the old mischievous woman Lady Gregory.
The English actor, dramatist and critic, John Robert Whiting (“The Devils” (1960/1971)) wrote a solid screenplay based on Sean O'Casey's autobiography “Mirror in my House” and the prolific traditional Irish musician Seán Ó Riada composed a brilliant score.
The photography of Edward Scaife (“Khartoum” (1966), “Dirty Dozen” (1967) ; “Dark of the Sun” (1968)) is truly beautiful. Before the shooting, the “impertinent” Taylor suggested to Ford that he should shoot the movie in color but not in black and white as originally planned by the director. Like for “The Quiet Man”, the colors of the Irish country are magnificent and give a sensational poetic dimension to the story.
The Story : 1911, Dublin, the Irish people demanded the ending of the British’s oppression. A young Irish worker John Cassidy (Rod Taylor) wanted to become a pamphleteer against the social and political injustices in the Dublin life. But quickly, he realized that he could do more for his country with the pen than with the “sword”. He showed his play, “The Plough and the Stars », to W.B. Yeats (Sir Michael Redgrave), the founder of the Abbey Theatre who agreed to stage it. Unfortunately, the audience rejected Cassidy‘s vision of the Irish society. He lost his longtime friend (Philip O’Flynn) and his girlfriend’s love (Maggie Smith), but he didn’t give up his aim to be a playwright and understood that he had to leave Ireland for England to continue his career.
With “Dark in the Sun” (also directed by Jack Cardiff), this is the finest performance of Rod Taylor who keeps a very emotional memory of the picture. He plays his part with a lot of sensibility and a wonderful realism. In a recent interview for Turner Classic Movies Channel (TCM), Taylor remembered the day of scene following the funeral of Cassidy's mother under the direction of Ford. At the end of the shooting, the old veteran director said on the set : “You, Australian, son of a bitch… you made me cry. That's a wrap !”.
Among this fine cast, the magnificent actress Maggie smith gave a tremendous performance too. The talented actress played with a great intensity and conviction the part of Nora who is shared between her love and her idealist temperament to Cassidy’s character.
Taylor and Smith had both already given a remarkable performance in the MGM Production, “The V.I.P.’S” (1963) directed by Anthony Asquith with a fine cast including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Orson Welles, Louis Jourdan, Elsa Martinelli and Margaret Rutherford.
I have the feeling that “Young Cassidy” is a forgotten movie today which I deeply regret. But, if you like to see a lovely story without any intellectual pretentions, this picture is for you. Also, you will find all the ingredients of the best of John Ford’s films. For instance, the recurrent funny fight scenes in pubs with also very emotional moments, especially when Cassidy’s mother died, and when the two main characters decided to get separate from each other.
As to me, I feel the movie is quite different from the others. It’s a humanist message for a peaceful world and a true understanding between people. But it is also a great romantic poem which enhances the Irish mind… his courage and his dignity in face of adversity.
“Go ahead make your day”…
P. S. : If you want to know more about “young Cassidy”, please refer to :
(from the official web site dedicated to The Great actor Rod Taylor)
Also you can see the shot documentary "Sean O'Casey: The Spirit of Ireland" (1965), which is a kind of “making of” the picture with some interviews of Rod Taylor and Jack Cardiff.