Friday, April 24, 2009

'Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky

Ninety-three years ago today, a group of patriots (or terrorists, depending on your side) rebelled in Dublin against the most powerful empire in the world. That the Easter Rising actually failed, and due largely to the comedy of errors that passed for a plan among the conspirators, is actually sort of a reflection on Ireland itself. Whatever is chaotic and untamed in the American spirit is perhaps a reflection of the Irish influence on our own culture. We broke free of England's yoke after less than a century of high taxes and lousy government; they took seven centuries of vicious abuse before they finally managed to kick the Saxons out. All the while fighting among themselves as only the Irish can do.

This is also an excuse to post a video of the opening of one of my favorite movies. When she died I waxed on about Deborah Kerr's performance in this film, and now I have a chance to give a glimpse of what she was like. Not the matron of The King and I, not the over-sentimental but underplayed Terry McKay of An Affair to Remember, but a young, vibrant, adorable Irish girleen Bridie Quilty, whom I fell in love with by the end of this little clip. You will too.

Double points to the writers for using the word "unbesmirched." It's a fun word to pronounce, isn't it? Go ahead and say it out loud: "Unbesmirched." The father, W. O'Gorman, doesn't seem to have any other credits at IMDb, but he's the most quintessentially Irish actor I've ever seen. So is the singing of "The Boy from Killane," which marks the hour clearly as closing time at the pub. (See if you can make out a single word of their singing.)

Behind all the humor is the incredible bravery of the rebels, many of whom were executed with the most summary of trials. Ireland may have its troubles today, but the fact that it's a nation to have troubles at all is due to "those fearless men but few." Every nation needs bumbling, passionate rebels, so there will always be a free country for girls like Bridie to love and defend.

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