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 setting. Emmet is here positioned as an exceptionally courageous and cunning figure (who evades capture by English troops by hiding up a chimney or playing his tin whistle) among a nation of courageous individuals. In fact, the leading figure in the film is not Emmet at all but fellow United Irishman Con Daly, played by Olcott, who also wrote and directed the screenplay. The English are represented as gallant and fair-minded rather than brutal oppressors but their occupation of Ireland is viewed as foreign and based on force. The scenario is least sympathetic to local informer Fealy (Robert Rivers) – a despised figure central in much romantic literature of Ireland’s struggle for independence.
A year after the production of Bold Emmet, the O’Kalem’s representations of historical subjects would seem outdated, displaced by the violence of the 1916 rising.
Notes by Tony Tracy
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