By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin March 17, 2012 at 1:00AM
All good wishes for a happy St. Patrick’s Day from me—and two of the cutest Our Gang kids from the early-talkie period, Bobby “Wheezer” Hutchins and Mary Ann Jackson. The original caption from the 1929-30 season refers to them as “a couple of Micks.” Hard-working publicists at every studio in Hollywood hauled out the shamrocks for poses such as this on an annual basis—no less so at the comedy headquarters of producer (and Our Gang creator) Hal Roach, himself of Irish heritage. (In fact, there is a veteran Irish standup comedian who bears the same name.) My collection seems to be shy of other corny publicity shots to commemorate this March holiday, so I hope you will indulge me if I post some other Irish-themed photos instead.
After a record-breaking run on Broadway, Ann Nichols’ cross-cultural play Abie’s Irish Rose made its first trip to the screen in 1928, with Charles “Buddy” Rogers incongruously cast as Abie Levy and red-haired colleen Nancy Carroll as the girl he loves, Rosemary Murphy. Here is a piece of sheet music featuring the film’s adorable female star.
Clara Bow came from Scotch-Irish stock, but she posed for every conceivable holiday (except, perhaps, Chanukah) and no one ever questioned her heritage. Her beaming smile and curvy figure were all that mattered, as in this giant-shamrock pose from the Paramount studio in the late 1920s.
The brothers Warner were Jewish but happened to employ some of the most prominent Irish-American actors in Hollywood, including James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, and Frank McHugh. They costarred many times and even headlined a movie called The Irish In Us (1935). Cagney and company were also charter members of a social group that columnists called the Irish Mafia but its members referred to it as the Boys Club. In addition to the Warner gang the group included Spencer Tracy, Lynne Overman, Ralph Bellamy, Frank Morgan, and “occasional guest” James Gleason, whom McHugh said “we all revered.” Here, McHugh and Cagney share lunch in the Warner Bros. dining room with their congenial costar in City for Conquest (1940), Ann Sheridan (who probably had Irish roots as well).
It doesn’t get more Irish than this: a formidable gathering on location in the Old Sod during filming of The Quiet Man in 1951: Francis Ford, John Wayne, Victor McLaglen, director John Ford (Francis’ brother) and, seated, the one and only Barry Fitzgerald. The unit photographer for Republic Pictures didn’t think to pose this group; the picture was taken by the local newspaper!
Filming of The Quiet Man was quite an event during the summer of 1951, and Ford not only allowed but encouraged the locals to observe and even appear as extras in some of the scenes. One can only imagine what it was like to have a tiny Irish village inhabited by a corps of actors and crew members from Hollywood...but it looks like the citizens are having a great time as they surround John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, and John Ford.