Parnell


1h 59m 1937
Parnell

Brief Synopsis

True story of the Irish politician whose fight for freedom was compromised by his affair with a married woman.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Historical
Biography
Release Date
Jun 4, 1937
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Parnell by Elsie T. Schauffler (New York, 11 Nov 1935).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 59m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Synopsis

In 1880, Charles Stewart Parnell returns to his native Ireland after a lengthy visit to the United States. Hailed by his people as "the uncrowned King of Ireland," he is hated by the English for his stand on home rule for Ireland. He is arrested for perdition, but is released after the next election to serve in the House of Commons. While he is in prison, Captain William O'Shea and his patron, The O'Gorman Mahon, go to see him in hopes of securing Parnell's help with O'Shea's political career. When they are both serving in the House, O'Shea convinces his wife Katie, for whom he cares little, to invite Parnell to dinner. Hearing Parnell speak, Katie is immediately impressed by him and after their meeting, he is impressed by her as well. When he is accused of being responsible for the notorious Phoenix Park murders of two English officials some years before, he welcomes an investigation because he is innocent. He then returns to Ireland to calm the people who were starting to turn against his words in favor of action. On his return to England, Parnell is too ill to go to dinner at the O'Sheas', so Katie brings him to her estate in the country. At the inquiry into the murders, a caligrapher named Pigott swears that a seditious letter is written in Parnell's handwriting. Katie finds a letter written by Pigott to Parnell that has the same word misspelled as the phony letter and Pigott is revealed as a forger. Asking to be excused from the court, Pigott then commits suicide. Parnell is then exonerated and has the support of Prime Minister Gladstone, who promises Home Rule. Just as Parnell and Katie are about to leave for a dinner party at Gladstone's home, however, they are served with papers that name Parnell a corespondent in O'Shea's divorce case against Katie. Gladstone refuses to speak with Parnell when the scandal breaks and most of the members of Parnell's own faction turn against him. Fearing that his personal scandal will ruin Ireland's political situation, all but a few of his closest advisors seek another leader. During a heated argument with his colleagues, Parnell has a heart attack. Though Campbell, his devoted secretary, wants to summon Katie, Parnell insists on going to her. A short time later, as he faces death, he calls his men to him and offers them advice on the future of their country. After they leave, he dies, with Katie by his side.

Cast

Clark Gable

[Charles Stewart] Parnell

Myrna Loy

Katie [O'Shea]

Edna May Oliver

Aunt Ben

Edmund Gwenn

Campbell

Alan Marshall

[Capt. William] Willie [O'Shea]

Donald Crisp

Davitt

Billie Burke

Clara [Wood]

Berton Churchill

The O'Gorman Mahon

Donald Meek

Murphy

Montagu Love

Gladstone

Byron Russell

Healy

Brandon Tynan

Redmond

Phyllis Coghlan

Ellen

Neil Fitzgerald

Pigott

George Zucco

Sir Charles Russell

Eily Malyon

Irish woman with dead child

Erville Alderson

Father

Russell Simpson

Father

Halliwell Hobbes

W. H. Smith

J. Farrell Macdonald

Irish Laborer

Pat Moriarity

O'Brien

Murray Kinnell

Webster

D'arcy Corrigan

Committee man

Dermott Quinn

Committee man

Jack Kennedy

Committee man

Tom Mahoney

Committee man

Drew Demorest

Committee man

Jack Murphy

Committee man

Joe North

Butler in O'Shea's Home

Pat Flaherty

Member of Parliament

David Macdonald

Member of Parliament

Thomas Carr

Member of Parliament

Leo Mccabe

Member of Parliament

Pat O'malley

Irishman

James Blaine

Irishman

William Stack

Conservative member

Leonard Mudie

Conservative member

Zeffie Tilbury

Old lady

Ricardo Mandia

Italian laborer

Ian Maclaren

Member of House of Commons

Tyrone Brereton

Member of House of Commons

Ramsay Hill

Member of House of Commons

Geordie Mackay

Messenger boy

Robert E. Homans

Irish cop

Wade Boteler

Irish cop

Charles Mcnaughton

Hot potato man

Otto Fries

Singing Irish member

Douglas Gordon

Cockney porter

Yorke Sherwood

London cabby

Joseph R. Tozer

London bobby

Tom Ricketts

Elderly man

Jimmie Mcelveen

Young man

Dick Elliott

Middle aged man

Alec Craig

Middle aged man

Rita Page

Young girl

Wally Maher

Villager

Frank Sheridan

Sheriff

Sr. Frank Mcglynn

Landlord

Robin Adair

Officer

Craufurd Kent

Speaker of house

Charles Irwin

Usher

Pat Somerset

Frank Lockwood

Keith Kenneth

Doorman

Frank Baker

George Davis

Jameson Thomas

Judge Nanan

Lumsden Hare

Editor

Frank Elliott

Judge Day

Marion Ballou

Speirs Ruskell

George Cowl

Leyland Hodgson

Olaf Hytten

Corbet Morris

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Historical
Biography
Release Date
Jun 4, 1937
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Parnell by Elsie T. Schauffler (New York, 11 Nov 1935).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 59m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Articles

Parnell


Although primarily remembered today as the biggest box office bomb that Clark Gable would experience in his storied career, the lushly mounted historical drama Parnell (1937) is far from the train wreck that most critics of its day (and since) made it out to be. While its pacing is stately to a fault, the film boasts strong performances from its distinguished cast of players, and the King of Hollywood gave a thoughtful portrayal of what would be his only attempt at a historical film biography.

The life of Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891), the Irish statesman whose heartfelt and nearly-realized ambitions to obtain home rule for his country foundered on his scandalous relationship with a married woman, became the basis for a popular Broadway play in the '30s. MGM was only too happy to option the property as worthy of their leading male star; the noted playwrights John Van Druten and S.N. Behrman were engaged to adapt the late Elsie T. Schauffler's stage success.

The story opens as Parnell (Gable) is winding up his 1880 visit to the United States, in which he was wildly successful in gaining popular and financial support for the efforts of his National Land League. His return to Ireland's shores finds him immediately jailed by the British government for seditious speech; it does little to break his stride, as the parliamentarian and his cronies (including Donald Crisp and Edmund Gwenn) very efficiently run the party's affairs from his cell. It's here that Parnell receives the unwelcome solicitations of Capt. Willie O'Shea (Alan Marshal), an oily and moneyed political tyro who wants to curry the "Uncrowned King of Ireland's" favor for his own ambitions.

In response to Parnell's indifference, Willie calls upon the considerable charms of his estranged wife Katie (Myrna Loy), hoping that her delivery of a dinner invitation would be more difficult to resist. Watching Parnell taking the floor at Parliament, she's struck by his courage in confronting Prime Minister Gladstone (Montagu Love). Upon their introduction, she's further moved by his confession of seeing her for the first time. "It's a beautiful scene," Loy would recall in her autobiography Being And Becoming. "You can feel the beginning of the love that would rock the British Empire." Their relationship intensifies when Parnell is indicted for complicity in the notorious political assassinations known as the Phoenix Park murders. Not only does Katie stand by him, she delivers the exculpatory evidence.

While Gable was earnest in his efforts, he never appeared to find a comfort level in the role. His attempts at affecting a brogue can be charitably deemed inconsistent, and this most macho of movie stars seemed ill at ease with revealing a more sensitive side to his character. "I learned about another side of him at that time," Loy recalled for Gable biographer Lyn Tornabene in Long Live the King. "He was a man who loved poetry and fine literature, read it, and knew it. He would read poetry to me sometimes during breaks, but he didn't want anyone to know it." Gable, of course, shrugged off the critical and popular response to Parnell, and resolved never to take on any similar period project. Fortunately, he was persuaded to change his mind later when he was offered the role of Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind (1939).

Loy recalled in her autobiography that Joan Crawford had been slated for the role of Katie O'Shea, and that she herself had been originally tapped for The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1937). MGM flipped the assignments, Loy opined, because of adverse public reaction to Crawford's efforts in the historical drama The Gorgeous Hussy (1936). Years later, Loy still bristled at the public hostility that dictated the studio's decision and the casting of Parnell. "Disgruntled fans wrote to the studio by the thousands--they did that in those days," she recalled. "Some of the critics complained that we played against type. We were actors, for God's sake. We couldn't be Blackie Norton and Nora Charles all the time."

Producer/Director: John M. Stahl
Screenplay: John Van Druten, S.N. Behrman, based on the play by Elsie T. Schauffler
Cinematography: Karl Freund
Film Editing: Fredrick Y. Smith
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: William Axt
Cast: Clark Gable (Charles Stewart Parnell), Myrna Loy (Mrs. Katie O'Shea), Edna May Oliver (Aunt Ben Wood), Edmund Gwenn (Campbell Parnell's Secretary), Alan Marshal (Captain William O'Shea), Donald Crisp (Michael Davitt).
BW-119m. Closed captioning.

by Jay Steinberg
Parnell

Parnell

Although primarily remembered today as the biggest box office bomb that Clark Gable would experience in his storied career, the lushly mounted historical drama Parnell (1937) is far from the train wreck that most critics of its day (and since) made it out to be. While its pacing is stately to a fault, the film boasts strong performances from its distinguished cast of players, and the King of Hollywood gave a thoughtful portrayal of what would be his only attempt at a historical film biography. The life of Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891), the Irish statesman whose heartfelt and nearly-realized ambitions to obtain home rule for his country foundered on his scandalous relationship with a married woman, became the basis for a popular Broadway play in the '30s. MGM was only too happy to option the property as worthy of their leading male star; the noted playwrights John Van Druten and S.N. Behrman were engaged to adapt the late Elsie T. Schauffler's stage success. The story opens as Parnell (Gable) is winding up his 1880 visit to the United States, in which he was wildly successful in gaining popular and financial support for the efforts of his National Land League. His return to Ireland's shores finds him immediately jailed by the British government for seditious speech; it does little to break his stride, as the parliamentarian and his cronies (including Donald Crisp and Edmund Gwenn) very efficiently run the party's affairs from his cell. It's here that Parnell receives the unwelcome solicitations of Capt. Willie O'Shea (Alan Marshal), an oily and moneyed political tyro who wants to curry the "Uncrowned King of Ireland's" favor for his own ambitions. In response to Parnell's indifference, Willie calls upon the considerable charms of his estranged wife Katie (Myrna Loy), hoping that her delivery of a dinner invitation would be more difficult to resist. Watching Parnell taking the floor at Parliament, she's struck by his courage in confronting Prime Minister Gladstone (Montagu Love). Upon their introduction, she's further moved by his confession of seeing her for the first time. "It's a beautiful scene," Loy would recall in her autobiography Being And Becoming. "You can feel the beginning of the love that would rock the British Empire." Their relationship intensifies when Parnell is indicted for complicity in the notorious political assassinations known as the Phoenix Park murders. Not only does Katie stand by him, she delivers the exculpatory evidence. While Gable was earnest in his efforts, he never appeared to find a comfort level in the role. His attempts at affecting a brogue can be charitably deemed inconsistent, and this most macho of movie stars seemed ill at ease with revealing a more sensitive side to his character. "I learned about another side of him at that time," Loy recalled for Gable biographer Lyn Tornabene in Long Live the King. "He was a man who loved poetry and fine literature, read it, and knew it. He would read poetry to me sometimes during breaks, but he didn't want anyone to know it." Gable, of course, shrugged off the critical and popular response to Parnell, and resolved never to take on any similar period project. Fortunately, he was persuaded to change his mind later when he was offered the role of Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind (1939). Loy recalled in her autobiography that Joan Crawford had been slated for the role of Katie O'Shea, and that she herself had been originally tapped for The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1937). MGM flipped the assignments, Loy opined, because of adverse public reaction to Crawford's efforts in the historical drama The Gorgeous Hussy (1936). Years later, Loy still bristled at the public hostility that dictated the studio's decision and the casting of Parnell. "Disgruntled fans wrote to the studio by the thousands--they did that in those days," she recalled. "Some of the critics complained that we played against type. We were actors, for God's sake. We couldn't be Blackie Norton and Nora Charles all the time." Producer/Director: John M. Stahl Screenplay: John Van Druten, S.N. Behrman, based on the play by Elsie T. Schauffler Cinematography: Karl Freund Film Editing: Fredrick Y. Smith Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons Music: William Axt Cast: Clark Gable (Charles Stewart Parnell), Myrna Loy (Mrs. Katie O'Shea), Edna May Oliver (Aunt Ben Wood), Edmund Gwenn (Campbell Parnell's Secretary), Alan Marshal (Captain William O'Shea), Donald Crisp (Michael Davitt). BW-119m. Closed captioning. by Jay Steinberg

Quotes

Trivia

The original play opened in New York on 11 November 1935.

Joan Crawford was originally assigned the role of Katie O'Shea but left before shooting began because of differences with director John M. Stahl. She switched roles with Myrna Loy, who had been assigned to Last of Mrs. Cheyney, The (1937).

The film lost $637,000 at the box office and is considered by many to be the worst flop in Clark Gable's and Myrna Loy's distinguished careers.

To get Gable and Loy in the mood for the sad ending of the movie, the director put on sad music over and over again. Gable complained to then-girlfriend 'Carole Lombard' and the next day instead of the regular music a jazzy version of "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You" started playing.

Notes

According to contemporary news items, M-G-M originally purchased Elsie T. Schauffler's play in early 1936 as a possible vehicle for Brian Aherne. In July 1936, Patric Knowles was tested for the role that eventually went to Clark Gable. Actor Hugh Buckler, who died in an automobile accident just prior to the start of production on Parnell, was supposed to play a featured role in the picture. Joan Crawford, who originally was cast in the role of "Katie," left the production just before shooting began because of differences with director John Stahl on the interpretation of her character. At that time she took over Myrna Loy's role in The Last of Mrs. Cheyney and Loy took over Crawford's role in Parnell. A production chart in Hollywood Reporter on December 7, 1936 listed Tully Marshall in the cast, but his participation in the released film has not been confirmed. While most non-musical M-G-M films of the period were shot on a four or five week schedule, it took over three months to complete filming on Parnell. Hollywood Reporter news items indicate that filming stopped for about three weeks in late February and early March 1937 while addtional script work was done. The film received a number of bad reviews, among them Variety's which called it "dull entertainment," and New York Times's which said that Parnell was "singularly pallid," but it also received some excellent notices, including that in Daily Variety which called it a "brilliant trophy" for M-G-M.
       The film was not listed in any "best film" lists or box office champions' lists, and is frequently mentioned in modern sources as the biggest "flop" of Gable and Loy's otherwise thriving careers at the time. According to information in the Howard Dietz Collection at the AMPAS Library, the film cost $1,547,000 and grossed $1,576,000, resulting in a net loss for the studio of $637,000. Life magazine featured the picture as its "film of the week" in June 1937. The article on the picture mentioned that the many "character extras" used for the film received Ten dollars per day for their work. The pressbook for the film noted a commercial tie-in between it and the General Mills Co., makers of the popular "Bisquick" baking mix, which featured pictures of prominent M-G-M stars, among them Gable, on their boxes. An unidentified note in the AMPAS library file on the film noted that Jack D. Moore was an uncredited set decorator on the film. The story of Charles Stewart Parnell and Katie O'Shea was also the basis for a BBC mini-series, produced in 1990, that was shown in the United States on PBS television from December 1991 to January 1992. That production, entitled Parnell and the Englishwoman, starred Trevor Eve as Parnell and Francesca Annis as Katie.