THE MOLLY MAGUIRES (1970)

Filmic Context:  Print  -- Video

Print Resources

Adams, M.  "How Come Everybody Down Here Has Three Names? – Ritt, Martin Southern Films."  Southern Quarterly Review 19 (1981): 3-4.

Nothing about the Mollies, but plenty about director Martin Ritt’s other films.

Aufderheide, Patricia.  "The Language of Film and the Grammar of Politics."  Cineaste 15.3 (1987): 30-33.

This is an interview with screenwriter Walter Bernstein about language and film as a political utensil. Bernstein speaks of the Mollies as one of his most powerful films.

---.  "What Blacklist? -- The Screenwriter of The House on Carroll St."  Film Comment 24 (Jan./Feb. 1988): 2.

An article focusing on screen writer Walter Bernstein’s time on McCarthy’s list of suspected atheistic communists during the witch hunts of the 1950s, ending with his blacklist from the movie business.  He seems to have lucked out when compared to Sacco and Vanzetti.

Aurand, Harold W., and William Gudelunas.  "The Mythical Qualities of the Molly Maguires."  Pennsylvania Heritage 49 (1982): 91-105.

The significance of the Molly Maguires and labor violence in the coal fields lies in the myths that developed.  The various interpretations of the Molly Maguire episode in Schuylkill County are reviewed and critiqued.  There is no solid evidence of the guilt or innocence of the reputed Mollies.  The myth of the Molly Maguires served interests of nativists, Irish ethnicity, and the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad; it also gave labor a credible method of protest.  Documentation is based on newspapers, legislative hearings, and other materials.

Cameron, Julia.  "True Ritt."  American Film 5 (Nov. 1989): 42-48.

This article documents Ritt’s career and his voice.  Ritt’s self-ascribed workingman’s identity is focal in his interview and recollection of his movie’s core.  He believed in movies with social issues but about real people; he always stressed the people first, making his a “quiet radicalism.”  Ritt turned to stage direction when the blacklist disintegrated his movie career. The blacklist let up as his movie career took off.  He was amazed they let him make some of the movies he did, as the social message involved was obviously anti-capitalism.  In the end, he says the major difference between a movie star and a stage actor is “fuckability.”

Cepliar, Larry.  "The Communist Party in Hollywood." A Political Companion to American Film.   Gary Crowdus, ed.  Chicago: Lakeview Press, 1994.  66-70.

Ritt was blaclisted, and this article tracks the Communist Party in Hollywood.  Members did not spy or sabotage but had power in certain departments of Hollywood, particularly the Screenwriter’s Guild.  Whenever the Communist line agreed with the liberal Democrat’s, such as during WWII (1941-1945) and before, during the Spanish Revolution when all the new world order ideologies broke out into an armed conflict (1936-1938), the party “triumphed.”  Putting “isms” aside, the article resorts to documenting which organizations the C.P. was involved with and which attempted to undermine it.  Beginning as early as the 1930’s, the C.P. functioned as an active catalyst in Hollywood.  The hard times for the party were during the 1939-1941 clash of ideals the C.P. had with the liberal Democrats.  Afterward, with the People’s Popular Front Against Facism agreeing with the liberals that they can agree about the destruction of facism, the C.P. was “free” again to press the boundaries of political propaganda.  After WWII, their history turned bad.  “During those years, investigations, hearings, trials, blacklists, and shattered lives, the Hollywood Communists basically relied on their own resources to survive.  About one-third of them found the going too rough and turned informer” (70).  In closing, “In sum, communism in Hollywood made a mark but it did not spread wide enough or endure long enough to have a lasting impact, except for the individuals who were a part of it” (70).

---.  "The Hollywood Blacklist."   A Political Companion to American Film.   Gary Crowdus, ed.  Chicago: Lakeview Press, 1994.  193-199.

Ritt was backlisted.  “The Hollywood motion picture blacklist of the Forties and Fifties went through two phases.  It began as a limited tactic, devised by movie industry executives as a means to halt congressional hearings into 'Communist Infiltration' of the industry (by demonstrating that Hollywood was capable of cleaning its own house); it ended as a political lever wielded by the American right as part of its campaign to silence left-wing opposition to the Cold War” (193).  An article devoted to the complexity of this story.

Edelman, Rod.  "Martin Ritt."   A Political Companion to American Film.  Gary Crowdus, ed.  Chicago: Lakeview Press, 1994.  347-48.

 This article reviews the thread that binds all of Ritt’s films together.  “Ritt’s heroes and heroines are underdogs, otherwise average, who wish only to live their lives peacfully, and with dignity” (347).
The article talks about many Ritt films, such as Norma Rae (1979), Paris Blues (1961), Edge of the City (1957), Sounder (1972), The Great White Hope (1970), The Front (1976), The Molly Maguires (1970), and others.

Goldfarb, Lyn, and Anatoli Ilyashov.  "Working Class Hero."  Cineaste 18.4  (1991): 20-23.

This is an interview with director Martin Ritt focusing on various issues such as labor in art and the social aspects of motion pictures.

Kenny, Kevin.  "The Molly Maguires in Popular Culture."  Journal of American Ethnic History 14 (1995): 27-46.

Discusses assaults and assassinations in the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania in the 1860’s-1870’s blamed on the Molly Maguires.  Considering the organization left no account of its activities, the article traces depictions of the Mollies from eight novels and one film from 1870 to 1970, highlighting the transformation in their image from negative to positive.  In most contemporary accounts, the Molly Maguires were represented as a band of Irish cutthroats, engaging in violence for its own sake, for money, or for revenge.  The writer examines how the myth of the Molly Maguires was elaborated and contested in popular fiction and, more recently, in film.

McGilligan, Patrick.  "Ritt Large."  Film Comment 22 (Jan./Feb. 1986): 38-39.

Another interview with director Ritt.

Whitaker, Sheila.  The Films of Martin Ritt.  London : British Film Institue, 1972.

Slim book but makes some suggestive remarks about such things as heroes who begin and end alone, destroying their relationships; characters as doubles; choice that is not choice but illusion; ethnic groups; rituals (funerals, games, fire, water); individualism and the outsider; the influence of environment.

Zimmer, J.  "Martin Ritt 1920-1990."  Revue de Cinema 468 (1991): 11.

Reviews director Martin Ritt’s life in television, radio, and film.  Although in French, it is a worthwhile documentation of his life.

Video Resources

Harlan County, USA.  Producer and Director Barbara Kopple.  First Run Features, 1976.

 In 1973, in Brookside, Kentucky, miners vote to join the United Mine Workers of America.  Duke Power refused to sign the contract.  This is a documentary of different voices.  The miners on strike gummed up the roads, abusing scabs (replacement workers) by kicking their cars.  A man got murdered fighting with said scabs and, finally, Duke Power folded, signing a contract.  The documentary takes us into the politics of the labor union, with a murder of a whole family, of which another union leader is finally arrested.  The whole political angle is obscured by blurred lines of information, originating directly from media and without an inside tract.  What is moving is the closeness to the actual strikers that the documentary takes us.

Los Mineros.  Producer Hector Galan.  PBS Video, 1990.

Reviews the Mexican Catholic copper miners as they combat ferociously bigoted market conditions.  The Mexicans were brought to Arizona in the 1900s, recruited from Chihuahua because they were known to work hard for cheap pay.  The one facet of the market place threaded through their forty-year struggle was that of a dual wage system in which Mexicans were paid half of what often less-educated Euro-Americans received.  Their first organization, the IWW, or the Wobblies, were essentially socialists who were devoted to raising the standard of living of their Mexican communities.  On July 12, 1917, 2000 strikers were arrested, run out of town via a railroad which dropped them in the middle of the desert without food or water.  This historical event is known as the Bisby Deportation.  Walter Douglas, a copper baron and president of Phelps Dodge during this time, was adamantly against any labor movement.  In the Great Depression, when the economy plummeted, it seems that the political powers would have rather seen the Mexicans starve in their own country (of which many had never seen, being born in America).  There arose a great deportation of Mexicans back to Chihuahua.  With WWII, Mexicans went to fight and returned with a new sense of empowerment, having seen white boys shitting their pants while some of them had been fearless.  Back home, it was business as usual.  Returning vets saw nothing had changed, the segregation and the dual pay system were still in affect.  Well, the Mexican Union was formed due to this empowerment which the company refused to recognize.  A strike enhanced Mexican esteem until finally, in 1946, the dual pay system ended.
 

Copyright (c) 1999 by Peter A. Weisman, Undergraduate at Lehigh University.

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