The Quare Fellow


1h 25m 1962
The Quare Fellow

Brief Synopsis

A prison warden finds his belief in capital punishment tested.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Prison
Adaptation
Release Date
Nov 1962
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Anthony Havelock-Allan Productions
Distribution Company
Ajay Film Co.; Astor Pictures
Country
United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the play The Quare Fellow by Brendan Behan (London, 24 May 1956).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Synopsis

Thomas Crimmin, a staunch advocate of capital punishment, is beginning his duties as a Dublin prison warder. Regan, a senior warder, is opposed to hanging on the grounds that it solves nothing. Among the inmates are two "quare" (condemned) fellows awaiting execution for murder. After one of them commits suicide in his cell in spite of a reprieve, Crimmin visits the other man's wife, Kathleen. Mutually attracted, they drift into an affair; and Kathleen confesses that her husband killed his brother because he had found him in bed with her. Learning that the quare fellow withheld this evidence at his trial, Crimmin persuades Kathleen to tell her story to the prison governor. The appeal is denied, however, and Crimmin is forced to assist at the hanging. When Regan is retired, Crimmin knows that he will continue the old man's efforts to abolish capital punishment.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Prison
Adaptation
Release Date
Nov 1962
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Anthony Havelock-Allan Productions
Distribution Company
Ajay Film Co.; Astor Pictures
Country
United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the play The Quare Fellow by Brendan Behan (London, 24 May 1956).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Articles

The Quare Fellow


Writer director Arthur Dreifuss made a rare foray into A productions with the 1962 prison drama The Quare Fellow, adapted from Brendan Behan's first play. Although he and co-writer Jacqueline Sundstrom made some significant changes to the original, The Quare Fellow remains a fascinating look at life in a Dublin prison and contains one of Patrick McGoohan's best leading performances.

Behan's 1954 play had become an international sensation when produced by Joan Littlewood's improvisational Theatre Workshop in 1957. It told of the reactions among convicts in an Irish prison to the arrival of a "quare fellow," an unseen prisoner condemned to death for a crime never discussed, though it clearly is an object of disgust to the other men. With its claustrophobic atmosphere and liberal use of Irish slang and folk music, the play captivated audiences and launched Behan on his brilliant though tragically short career.

One of England's greatest producers, Anthony Havelock-Allan, picked up the film rights, hoping to add the picture to a string of hits that included Noel Coward's World War II drama In Which We Serve [1942] and David Lean's acclaimed Brief Encounter (1945, from a Coward play). He turned the production over to Arthur Dreifuss, a German-born director who had spent most of his career in Hollywood directing and occasionally writing B movies like Eadie Was a Lady [1945], with Ann Miller, and Boston Blackie's Rendezvous [1945]. Most recently, Dreifuss had been working with producer Sam Katzman on such drive-in fodder as Life Begins at 17 [1958] and Juke Box Rhythm [1959].

In adapting the play, Dreifuss and Sundstrom turned Behan's rollicking folk drama into a social-problem film focusing on the evils of capital punishment. Although they kept much of his prison atmosphere and, as in the play, kept the main convicted prisoner unseen, he opened the story up with scenes set outside the prison and shifted the focus from the ensemble to a new prison guard (McGoohan) who starts out believing in capital punishment and, through his involvement in the quare fellow's case, comes to change his views. The most extreme changes, however, related to the condemned man's crime, which is clearly defined as a murder committed in a moment of passion. To accommodate that change, Dreifuss added a female lead to the all-male play, casting popular film star Sylvia Syms as the condemned man's bitter, hard-drinking wife whose involvement with McGoohan could bring out a secret capable of changing the man's sentence.

One wise move Havelock-Allan and Dreifuss made was shooting The Quare Fellow on location in County Wicklow, Ireland, giving the picture an air of authenticity. Adding to that atmosphere was Peter Hennessey's stark black-and-white cinematography.

The film's greatest asset, however, was McGoohan's performance in the leading role. McGoohan was working extensively in film and television and on stage at the time, and had won a British Academy Award for his television work in 1960. He also had spent a year in the popular British series Danger Man, which would be revived in 1964 and sold in U.S. syndication as Secret Agent. His role as Crimmin in The Quare Fellow was a distinct change of pace from his stage typecasting as angry young men and his usual film roles as fiery troublemakers. Also, the role of a farm-raised Irishman allowed him to draw on his roots in rural Ireland (although he had been born in the U.S., his parents had returned to Ireland while he was still young).

The Quare Fellow received solid reviews in both England, where it received the British Producers' Association Award for Best Film, and the U.S, with many critics hailing its sense of atmosphere, McGoohan's performance and the work of the supporting cast. The film's only drawback, in the eyes of many critics, was the unnecessary and poorly rendered supporting performance by Sylvia Syms. Nonetheless, the film did not move Dreifuss permanently into top productions. He would soon return to work with Katzman, directing exploitation fare such as Riot on Sunset Strip [1967] until his retirement in 1968. McGoohan, however, would continue building his career with the second run of Danger Man and the cult television hit The Prisoner.

Producer: Anthony Havelock-Allan
Director: Arthur Dreifuss
Screenplay: Dreifuss, Jacqueline Sundstrom
Based on the play by Brendan Behan
Cinematography: Peter Hennessy
Art Direction: Ted Marshall
Music: Alexander Faris
Principal Cast: Patrick McGoohan (Thomas Crimmin), Sylvia Syms (Kathleen), Walter Macken (Regan), Dermot Kelly (Donnelly), Jack Cunningham (Chief Warder), Hilton Edwards (Holy Healy), Philip O'Flynn (Prison Governor), Leo McCabe (Dr. Flyn), Norman Rodway (Lavery).
BW-85m.

by Frank Miller
The Quare Fellow

The Quare Fellow

Writer director Arthur Dreifuss made a rare foray into A productions with the 1962 prison drama The Quare Fellow, adapted from Brendan Behan's first play. Although he and co-writer Jacqueline Sundstrom made some significant changes to the original, The Quare Fellow remains a fascinating look at life in a Dublin prison and contains one of Patrick McGoohan's best leading performances. Behan's 1954 play had become an international sensation when produced by Joan Littlewood's improvisational Theatre Workshop in 1957. It told of the reactions among convicts in an Irish prison to the arrival of a "quare fellow," an unseen prisoner condemned to death for a crime never discussed, though it clearly is an object of disgust to the other men. With its claustrophobic atmosphere and liberal use of Irish slang and folk music, the play captivated audiences and launched Behan on his brilliant though tragically short career. One of England's greatest producers, Anthony Havelock-Allan, picked up the film rights, hoping to add the picture to a string of hits that included Noel Coward's World War II drama In Which We Serve [1942] and David Lean's acclaimed Brief Encounter (1945, from a Coward play). He turned the production over to Arthur Dreifuss, a German-born director who had spent most of his career in Hollywood directing and occasionally writing B movies like Eadie Was a Lady [1945], with Ann Miller, and Boston Blackie's Rendezvous [1945]. Most recently, Dreifuss had been working with producer Sam Katzman on such drive-in fodder as Life Begins at 17 [1958] and Juke Box Rhythm [1959]. In adapting the play, Dreifuss and Sundstrom turned Behan's rollicking folk drama into a social-problem film focusing on the evils of capital punishment. Although they kept much of his prison atmosphere and, as in the play, kept the main convicted prisoner unseen, he opened the story up with scenes set outside the prison and shifted the focus from the ensemble to a new prison guard (McGoohan) who starts out believing in capital punishment and, through his involvement in the quare fellow's case, comes to change his views. The most extreme changes, however, related to the condemned man's crime, which is clearly defined as a murder committed in a moment of passion. To accommodate that change, Dreifuss added a female lead to the all-male play, casting popular film star Sylvia Syms as the condemned man's bitter, hard-drinking wife whose involvement with McGoohan could bring out a secret capable of changing the man's sentence. One wise move Havelock-Allan and Dreifuss made was shooting The Quare Fellow on location in County Wicklow, Ireland, giving the picture an air of authenticity. Adding to that atmosphere was Peter Hennessey's stark black-and-white cinematography. The film's greatest asset, however, was McGoohan's performance in the leading role. McGoohan was working extensively in film and television and on stage at the time, and had won a British Academy Award for his television work in 1960. He also had spent a year in the popular British series Danger Man, which would be revived in 1964 and sold in U.S. syndication as Secret Agent. His role as Crimmin in The Quare Fellow was a distinct change of pace from his stage typecasting as angry young men and his usual film roles as fiery troublemakers. Also, the role of a farm-raised Irishman allowed him to draw on his roots in rural Ireland (although he had been born in the U.S., his parents had returned to Ireland while he was still young). The Quare Fellow received solid reviews in both England, where it received the British Producers' Association Award for Best Film, and the U.S, with many critics hailing its sense of atmosphere, McGoohan's performance and the work of the supporting cast. The film's only drawback, in the eyes of many critics, was the unnecessary and poorly rendered supporting performance by Sylvia Syms. Nonetheless, the film did not move Dreifuss permanently into top productions. He would soon return to work with Katzman, directing exploitation fare such as Riot on Sunset Strip [1967] until his retirement in 1968. McGoohan, however, would continue building his career with the second run of Danger Man and the cult television hit The Prisoner. Producer: Anthony Havelock-Allan Director: Arthur Dreifuss Screenplay: Dreifuss, Jacqueline Sundstrom Based on the play by Brendan Behan Cinematography: Peter Hennessy Art Direction: Ted Marshall Music: Alexander Faris Principal Cast: Patrick McGoohan (Thomas Crimmin), Sylvia Syms (Kathleen), Walter Macken (Regan), Dermot Kelly (Donnelly), Jack Cunningham (Chief Warder), Hilton Edwards (Holy Healy), Philip O'Flynn (Prison Governor), Leo McCabe (Dr. Flyn), Norman Rodway (Lavery). BW-85m. by Frank Miller

The Quare Fellow - Patrick McGoohan Stars in the Powerful 1962 Drama THE QUARE FELLOW on DVD


Fans of actor Patrick McGoohan will be excited to discover The Quare Fellow, a superior drama filmed in Ireland with an exciting and mostly unfamiliar cast. Adapted from a play by Brendan Behan, the film examines capital punishment through the experience of the prison guards charged with carrying out an execution. The taut direction of Arthur Dreyfuss avoids most of the clichés associated with the subgenre and enhances colorful characterizations completely at odds with the John Ford image of Irishmen -- we don't meet any jolly drinkers with elfin senses of humor. The jailbirds are a fatalistic bunch that wavers between cynicism and contrition. The visiting hangman gets stinking drunk on a pub crawl, almost starting a riot when he foolishly reveals his profession.

The handsome B&W show was produced by Anthony Havelock-Allan, a famous name familiar from many prestigious David Lean classics. That the film isn't as well known is perhaps due to its odd title. "Quare" is an Irish pronunciation of "queer"; "The Quare Fellow" refers to a prisoner isolated on Death Row, who is treated differently than the other inmates.

Eager new prison guard Thomas Crimmin (Patrick McGoohan) is assigned to help senior warder Regan (Walter Macken) prepare for a double execution. The rank and file convicts initially take advantage of Thomas' inexperience, stealing free drinks of rubbing alcohol. Concerned about possible disturbances, the warden and his guards are relieved when one of the condemned men is granted a pardon. Crimmin takes a room in the same house where lives Kathleen (Sylvia Syms) the wife of the remaining Quare Fellow. Drinking heavily, Kathleen vents her frustration on the new boarder. She receives abuse of her own from some of the locals, who consider her responsible for her husband's conviction. Thomas discovers that Regan is opposed to the hanging on religious grounds and begins to take Kathleen's side. She confesses to Crimmin that she indeed was the reason for the murder, a fact that did not come out at her husband's trial.

The Quare Fellow's strong suit is Brendan Behan's rich and convincing dialogue. None of the characters uses a stock Irish accent and nobody quotes folk poetry or acts like Barry Fitzgerald. The various warders and convicts are individualized people with a sense of humor; everyone's trying to get along. Thomas Crimmin is initially proud of his new job but is soon questioning all he believes. He's an easy touch for a cigarette or an unscheduled work stretch, and some of his charges appreciate the favors. But all of the prisoners respect Regan, who is due to retire as soon as the execution is done. Regan puts all of his effort into a last minute pardon appeal, much to the displeasure of the warden.

The prison is a rough but reasonably civilized place. Arriving to serve a long stretch, a new convict is reminded by his peers that as long as he's there he'll not see a full sky or a woman. The prison governor visits and tells the inmates that they can give him their complaints, but the offer is an empty formality.

This is one of the popular Patrick McGoohan's best film performances; fans familiar only with the actor's secret agent characters will marvel at the flexibility he brings to the role. His young Thomas Crimmin is simultaneously tough and vulnerable, a good man who wants to do the right thing. But when Crimmin is drawn to the unstable Katherine, the suspicious locals are given another reason to hate them both. A pub lies so close to the prison that the customers can hear the convicts' chanting. The gossip grapevine insures that no secret remains private for long, in or outside the walls.

Director Arthur Dreyfuss contributed to the script under his real name, Dreifuss. His work is fluid and unfussy; we soon become unaware where the camera is or if the cuts demonstrate good continuity. Only twice are the editors forced to stretch the available film. On the main prison floor, a jarring freeze frame of a cellar walkway is employed every time an unseen prisoner begins to sing from below stairs. In the pub, a grossly mismatched insert isolates the box of nooses and hanging paraphernalia inadvertently left by the drunken hangman.

The film never directly shows the face of the condemned man, the "Quare Fellow" at the center of the story. The tension ratchets up on the night of the hanging, with a last-minute appeal looking more hopeless as the minutes tick by. Katherine and Thomas are both overcome by guilt, and show it in different ways.

Beautiful Sylvia Syms (Bachelor of Hearts, Victim) is a fine match for McGoohan; we understand their sudden and somewhat shameful romance. With its unfamiliar setting and its attention to detail, The Quare Fellow soon has us absorbed in their emotional dilemma.

Kino's DVD of The Quare Fellow is a good transfer of this B&W film from 1962. Although the film is presented flat full screen, the text in the main titles mattes off perfectly on a 1:78 widescreen monitor. The proper aspect ratio is probably 1.66:1. Audio is very clear, although some accents and unfamiliar phrases make us regret that English subtitles are not included.

A photo gallery is included along with a half-hour short subject, Brendan Behan's Dublin. Using voiceover and folksongs, the colorful film functions as a cultural travelogue of the author's city circa 1966.

For more information about The Quare Fellow, visit Kino International. To order The Quare Fellow, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

The Quare Fellow - Patrick McGoohan Stars in the Powerful 1962 Drama THE QUARE FELLOW on DVD

Fans of actor Patrick McGoohan will be excited to discover The Quare Fellow, a superior drama filmed in Ireland with an exciting and mostly unfamiliar cast. Adapted from a play by Brendan Behan, the film examines capital punishment through the experience of the prison guards charged with carrying out an execution. The taut direction of Arthur Dreyfuss avoids most of the clichés associated with the subgenre and enhances colorful characterizations completely at odds with the John Ford image of Irishmen -- we don't meet any jolly drinkers with elfin senses of humor. The jailbirds are a fatalistic bunch that wavers between cynicism and contrition. The visiting hangman gets stinking drunk on a pub crawl, almost starting a riot when he foolishly reveals his profession. The handsome B&W show was produced by Anthony Havelock-Allan, a famous name familiar from many prestigious David Lean classics. That the film isn't as well known is perhaps due to its odd title. "Quare" is an Irish pronunciation of "queer"; "The Quare Fellow" refers to a prisoner isolated on Death Row, who is treated differently than the other inmates. Eager new prison guard Thomas Crimmin (Patrick McGoohan) is assigned to help senior warder Regan (Walter Macken) prepare for a double execution. The rank and file convicts initially take advantage of Thomas' inexperience, stealing free drinks of rubbing alcohol. Concerned about possible disturbances, the warden and his guards are relieved when one of the condemned men is granted a pardon. Crimmin takes a room in the same house where lives Kathleen (Sylvia Syms) the wife of the remaining Quare Fellow. Drinking heavily, Kathleen vents her frustration on the new boarder. She receives abuse of her own from some of the locals, who consider her responsible for her husband's conviction. Thomas discovers that Regan is opposed to the hanging on religious grounds and begins to take Kathleen's side. She confesses to Crimmin that she indeed was the reason for the murder, a fact that did not come out at her husband's trial. The Quare Fellow's strong suit is Brendan Behan's rich and convincing dialogue. None of the characters uses a stock Irish accent and nobody quotes folk poetry or acts like Barry Fitzgerald. The various warders and convicts are individualized people with a sense of humor; everyone's trying to get along. Thomas Crimmin is initially proud of his new job but is soon questioning all he believes. He's an easy touch for a cigarette or an unscheduled work stretch, and some of his charges appreciate the favors. But all of the prisoners respect Regan, who is due to retire as soon as the execution is done. Regan puts all of his effort into a last minute pardon appeal, much to the displeasure of the warden. The prison is a rough but reasonably civilized place. Arriving to serve a long stretch, a new convict is reminded by his peers that as long as he's there he'll not see a full sky or a woman. The prison governor visits and tells the inmates that they can give him their complaints, but the offer is an empty formality. This is one of the popular Patrick McGoohan's best film performances; fans familiar only with the actor's secret agent characters will marvel at the flexibility he brings to the role. His young Thomas Crimmin is simultaneously tough and vulnerable, a good man who wants to do the right thing. But when Crimmin is drawn to the unstable Katherine, the suspicious locals are given another reason to hate them both. A pub lies so close to the prison that the customers can hear the convicts' chanting. The gossip grapevine insures that no secret remains private for long, in or outside the walls. Director Arthur Dreyfuss contributed to the script under his real name, Dreifuss. His work is fluid and unfussy; we soon become unaware where the camera is or if the cuts demonstrate good continuity. Only twice are the editors forced to stretch the available film. On the main prison floor, a jarring freeze frame of a cellar walkway is employed every time an unseen prisoner begins to sing from below stairs. In the pub, a grossly mismatched insert isolates the box of nooses and hanging paraphernalia inadvertently left by the drunken hangman. The film never directly shows the face of the condemned man, the "Quare Fellow" at the center of the story. The tension ratchets up on the night of the hanging, with a last-minute appeal looking more hopeless as the minutes tick by. Katherine and Thomas are both overcome by guilt, and show it in different ways. Beautiful Sylvia Syms (Bachelor of Hearts, Victim) is a fine match for McGoohan; we understand their sudden and somewhat shameful romance. With its unfamiliar setting and its attention to detail, The Quare Fellow soon has us absorbed in their emotional dilemma. Kino's DVD of The Quare Fellow is a good transfer of this B&W film from 1962. Although the film is presented flat full screen, the text in the main titles mattes off perfectly on a 1:78 widescreen monitor. The proper aspect ratio is probably 1.66:1. Audio is very clear, although some accents and unfamiliar phrases make us regret that English subtitles are not included. A photo gallery is included along with a half-hour short subject, Brendan Behan's Dublin. Using voiceover and folksongs, the colorful film functions as a cultural travelogue of the author's city circa 1966. For more information about The Quare Fellow, visit Kino International. To order The Quare Fellow, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Filmed on location in Ireland. Released in Great Britain in November 1962; running time: 90 min.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1962

Released in United States 1962