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THE LAST HURRAH


Dothery
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Oh, my. My movie. It's all about James Michael Curley, Mayor/Governor/All-around Irish politician. He loved this picture. He wrote his autobiography and called it "I'd Do It Again," referring to the death scene in the movie.

 

My dad worked for a newspaper, and at one point the publisher went to jail for printing a cartoon about Curley showing him in prison in a striped suit and a ball and chain. Libel! said Curley. He never wore a striped suit or a ball and chain! Enright (the publisher) got a short term in jail and when he came out he had a bunch of friends he'd made inside. He made hay from his jail time, not becoming a crook but by telling their stories.

 

I love the picture because it captures the Irish wake and the Curley lineup of petitioners very accurately. I wish I had a nickel for every wake I've been to in and around Boston, and I didn't go to many, because I left home at 18 and didn't go back there to live. But they were such great places to get together. It's no wonder there are so many songs and poems about them. "Steve O'Donnell's Wake," for instance.

 

There were fighters, and biters

And Irish dynamiters

There was lots of whiskey, beer and wine and cake;

There were waiters and musicians

And Irish politicians

And they all got stewed at Steve O'Donnell's wake.

 

Of course christenings are a great place to meet and greet, as well. "The Tipperary Christening ..."

 

There was cold ice cream and cream that was hot

Bandy-legged frogs and Peruvian ostriches

Paddy foy grah, whatever that means

Made out of goose liver and grease.

 

Anyway. Watch The Last Hurrah. Such a great movie. And while you're at it, get Edwin O'Connor's book. It was terrific. Some paragraphs still stand out in my memory after all these years, like the one about the universally hated fellow who would escape his family and go for walks, and fall into the canal; people would always be rescuing him and bringing him home. But they realized luck like that couldn't last, and someone would recognize him and let him drown.

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I really like this film, too. I think it's one of Tracy's best and one of John Ford's best, and that's saying a lot.

What really makes this picture come alive are the many Ford stock players, who come in and add richly textured characterizations that just give THE LAST HURRAH a truly solid foundation upon which the star and the director can build.

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  • 4 years later...

The Last Hurrah is one of John Ford's finest films. I see it as his metaphor for the passing of the old Hollywood. The Mayor, played by Spencer Tracy, represents the old-time Irish-American political boss who is eclipsed by the more telegenic young candidate, who uses television to advance his candidacy. It's Ford saying that the old Hollywood of the studio system, with its stable of wonderful character actors, is being eclipsed by television. 

The wake scene is particularly demonstrative of that: so many old Ford actors in that scene, ostensibly lamenting the loss of a friend; but perhaps also representing and mourning for the passing of the old Hollywood.

One of my favorite scenes in the film features the great Edward Brophy, in this priceless bit:

 

 

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