Young Cassidy (1965)

“There are things to be written in this country by brutal, drunken working men like me.”

Synopsis:
Famed playwright John Cassidy (Rod Taylor) fights for Ireland’s freedom, falls in love with a bookstore employee (Maggie Smith), and sees his first plays performed.

Genres:

Review:
Many viewers seem to agree that this biopic of playwright Sean O’Casey’s early years (based on his memoirs) features fine performances, but fails to cohere as a compelling narrative. Taylor is wonderful as Cassidy (why was O’Casey’s name changed?), and it’s nice to see young Maggie Smith playing a romantic role; however, the story as a whole simply isn’t all that interesting. As noted in the New York Times original review (see link below), the screenwriters never establish what Cassidy is fighting for in the earliest scenes — and, though we can fill in the blanks with our own knowledge of Irish history, it’s frustrating to be given so little information. The most interesting scenes in the film come at the very end, when Cassidy is forced to face the fact that Ireland isn’t ready for the type of “raw” story he wants to tell.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Rod Taylor’s powerful performance as John Cassidy
  • Maggie Smith as Cassidy’s love interest, Nora
  • A fine depiction of turn-of-the-century Ireland

Must See?
No. Despite Taylor’s strong performance, this is not must-see viewing.

Links:

2 Responses to “Young Cassidy (1965)”

  1. Rather in agreement with the points here; not a must.

    However, though agreed as well that I wouldn’t call the film wildly compelling, it’s certainly watchable; acted and filmed well – even if it doesn’t rise above standard bio-pic stuff (esp. as witness the dialogue from time to time).

    Taylor impressively rises to the occasion (at times, this portrayal of O’Casey is a bit like watching Albert Finney in ‘Tom Jones’, what with all of the sexual friskiness), and Smith has a luminous turn (not surprisingly, managing to overcome the limits of the role as written). The real scene-stealer here, though, is Michael Redgrave (as W.B. Yeats), who makes every moment he has crackle.

    The most ‘disturbing’ sequence, as noted, comes near the end, when the audience at a play (we’re to imagine they’re watching a performance of ‘The Plough and the Stars’) actively insults the play, the author and the cast as the latter valiantly continues.

    Perhaps my fave sequence comes when Taylor demands to speak with Smith at her home, knowing full well that she’ll agree to talk with him – if only to stop the whole hawk-like neighborhood from grasping for juicy gossip.

    The final scene between Taylor and Smith, though plausible, is among the oddest in love story endings.

  2. btw…

    As the wonderful Robert Osborne mentioned at the TCM screening, O’Casey himself took the name ‘John Cassidy’ in his autobiographical book.

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