This year’s Chuck Ward Memorial Lecture “Irish Catholics in the Golden Age of Hollywood” will take place at the Irish Fest Center on Friday evening November 8th.
Before Johnny Depp and Public Enemies there was The Public Enemy. James Cagney’s 1931 portrayal of the urban Irish-American gangster Tommy Powers set the standard for the Hollywood gangster, and helped launch the golden age of Irish-American cinema. Cagney’s Irish gangsters shared the screen with a broad range of Irish characters, such as boxers, working women, priests, and entertainers. Films such as Angels with Dirty Faces, Gentleman Jim, Kittle Foyle, Going my Way, and Yankee Doodle Dandy presented these characters as inhabitants of an urban village, at once traditional and modern and both Irish and American.
At a time when the Depression caused many to rethink the American dream, these films offered an alternative social vision that prized community and solidarity over individual advancement, and local loyalty rather than the rootless freedom of the frontier. Among the most popular movies in America, these Irish urban village films attracted the great stars of the era including Milwaukee natives Spencer Tracy and Pat O'Brien, along with Bing Crosby, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Wallace Beery, Bob Hope, Ginger Rogers, Joan Crawford, Mary Pickford, Colleen Moore, and Olivia de Havilland.
Using some fascinating film clips, Christopher Shannon will present the stars and their movies as the national treasures that they are. He will talk about such classic films as Manhattan Melodrama, San Francisco, The Irish in Us, Amarily of Clothesline Abby, Irene, Boys Town, The Fighting 69th, The Bells of St. Mary's, My Wild Irish Rose, The Seven Little Foys, Bowery to Broadway, Doffy's Tavern, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, On the Waterfront and The Last Hurrah.
Christopher Shannon has a Doctorate from Yale University and teaches American and Catholic Church history at Christendom College Virginia. His most recent book Bowery to Broadway: The American Irish in Classic Hollywood Cinema has been described as “the standard work on Irish American representation in the classic Hollywood period” by Professor Ruth Barton of Trinity College Dublin. Christopher is also an accomplished exponent of traditional Irish music on the button accordion.
This presentation will take place at 7 PM following a reception at 6:30 PM. The Irish Fest Office is situated at 1532 Wauwatosa Ave.
The annual Chuck Ward Memorial Lecture is co-sponsored by Milwaukee Irish Fest and UW-M Center for Celtic Studies.