July 10th, 1964

Tue, Jul 10, 2012, 01:00

FROM THE ARCHIVES:Seamus Kelly described a chaotic press conference given by the veteran Hollywood director John Ford (born John Feeney) about the Seán O’Casey biopic Young Cassidy that he was about to direct in Dublin: in the event, illness forced Ford to withdraw after a few weeks’ shooting and he was replaced by the British cinematographer and director Jack Cardiff.

SITTING IN on a press conference with John Ford is a bit like trying to conduct instant lion-taming sessions in a three-ring circus that’s playing in three widely spaced townlands at once. In the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin, yesterday evening, Mr. Ford, in fine fettle for a 68-year-old survivor of the Hollywood jungle, made an excellent entrance, wearing sneakers, something loose and off-white, and a spectacular black patch over the left eye-piece of his glasses.

After the customary greetings and the receipt of a beaker of Black Velvet, the G.O.M. raised his gravel-pit voice in a Ford version of a Sellers-Poona accent and said: “Ordah for his Lawdship, Ladahs and Gentlemen.” Lord Killanin then introduced the co-producers of the film, “Young Cassidy”, Robert Emmet Ginna and Robert Graff, and the star of “Young Cassidy,” Rod Taylor, and battle commenced. Somebody asked what bearing “Young Cassidy” would have on Seán O’Casey’s autobiographical sextet. Rod Taylor said: “Young Cassidy is a young man who closely resembles Seán O’Casey.” Mr. Ford said: “Tell me, who was at Ernie O’Malley’s funeral – did they do the right thing by him? Did he get military honours?” Rod Taylor came back with: “The Irish Guard of Honour at President Kennedy’s funeral was the most magnificent thing I’ve seen – were they the Royal . . . ?” Mr. Ford saved general embarrassment by asking: “How’s Myles na Gopaleen?” When he had been told, he mentioned that Shivaun O’Casey, Seán’s daughter, is playing the part of Lady Gregory’s maid in the film (“I met her in Santa Fé, Mexico . . . at Mass . . .”). [...]

Somebody asked about the leading parts in the film. Mr. Ford said that there were “about 42 ‘bit parts’ in Hollywood parlance – I call ’em cameos – all played by Irish artists . . .” [...] Somebody then asked: “What will the film cost?” and Mr. Ford, quite succinctly, answered: “It’s none of your goddam business.” Bob Ginna, oiling turbulent waters, jumped in with a figure of $2,000,000. [...] Rod Taylor took over and said: “It’s a great script, everybody fell in love with it, and we had no trouble in selling it to Hollywood, once John Ford said he’d like to make it . . .” [...] Around about this point, the great director was using an Americanised version of Connemara Gaelic with great freedom, fluency and point. A woman journalist dared to address him as “Mr. Ford” and asked: “Can you really speak Irish?” The maestro lifted the black eyeshade once again: looked out from under it like Balor, and said: “Where d’ya get that Ford? O’Feeney to you.”


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