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The O’Kalem Collection

The O Kalem collection includes films directed by Sidney Olcott for: The Kalem Company (The Lad From Old Ireland, Rory O’More, The Colleen Bawn, His Mother and ‘You Remember Ellen’), for the Gene Gauntier Feature Players (For Ireland’s Sake, Come Back to Erin) ,and the Lubin Company (Bold Emmet Ireland’s Martyr)
When New York’s Kalem Film Company came to Ireland in 1910 to make the short film The Lad from Old Ireland they made cinema history – the film was the first made by an American production company outside the US and also the first film ever made on two continents (and on the Atlantic Ocean in between). Led by actor/director Sidney Olcott and actor/writer Gene Gauntier they returned to Ireland several times between 1910 and 1915, to produce almost thirty Irish-themed films and earned themselves the nickname the O’Kalem’s in the process. The majority of their films were made in and around Killarney Co. Kerry, making extensive use of the dramatic landscape and using locals as extras.

The O’Kalem films can be considered important not only for their claim to be the first fiction films made in Ireland and on two continents, but also because they tell us much about the Irish emigrant experience in America at the start of the 20th century. They are also fine examples of silent era filmmaking by a large American studio.
For several decades the IFI Irish Film Archive worked to identify extant copies of the O’Kalem films held in international film archives, to centralize them and retrieve copies of them for the benefit of Irish audiences.

Rory O’More

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Inspired by the character of Sir Rory O’Moore, leader of the 1641 Rebellion, this short drama reimagines the dramatic story of Rory O’More’s (sic) capture and escape from British soldiers – and locates it in the Lakes of Killarney in 1798. Betrayed by an informer Black William, and with a substantial price on his head, […]

The Colleen Bawn

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The Colleen Bawn is an ambitious story that evolves from a simple rural tale to a complex narrative of social class, love, murder and deception. The film is Inspired by the true events of the 1819 murder of 15 year-old Ellen Scanlan in Co Clare, and based on the 1860 play of the same name […]

Bold Emmett, Ireland’s Martyr

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Irish revolutionary, Robert Emmett, leads a rebellion against British soldiers but his compatriot Con Daly is the true hero of the film. Despite the misspelling of Robert Emmet’s name throughout and some historical inaccuracy (Emmet fought in the rising of 1803 not 1798), the film is typical in its pursuit of authenticity in character and […]

You Remember Ellen

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Adapted by Kalem scenarist Gene Gauntier from the Thomas Moore poem of the same title, You Remember Ellen is a romantic drama of love across the economic divide. A humble, hard-working farmer’s daughter (Gauntier) lives a simple life until she happens upon a handsome young man on a country road. They fall in love and […]

The Lad From Old Ireland

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Terry (Sidney Olcott) , a poor Irish farmer, dreams of a better life and is tired of working the land. He decides to head west to build a better, more prosperous future in the USA. He bids farewell to his darling Aileen (Gene Gauntier) but promises he will return to her some day when he […]

Come Back to Erin

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Only one reel of this three-reel film has survived the ravages of time and so the tale is incomplete – but worth watching nonetheless. In this transatlantic tale feisty young Peggy O’Malley (Gene Gauntier) refuses her fathers’ orders to marry Jerry, the village blacksmith and runs away to New York City via steam-liner which she […]

His Mother

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A wealthy American touristic couple happen upon a talented violinist, Terence, and his mother in a small cottage in rural Ireland. Terence grasps the opportunity and, thanks to his mother’s meagre savings, leaves his peasant roots in Ireland for the bright lights of the New York stage – but he has abandoned his poor long-suffering […]

For Ireland’s Sake

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For Ireland’s Sake tells the story of Marty O’Sullivan (Jack Clark), a young blacksmith who forges pikes to be used as weapons against English soldiers.  Spotted by British Soldiers, Marty flees and manages to evade capture thanks to the quick thinking of his sweetheart Eileen (Gene Gauntier). She cunningly hides Marty in her voluminous cloak […]