The Molly Maguires (1970)

124 mins | Drama | 8 February 1970

Director:

Martin Ritt

Cinematographer:

James Wong Howe

Editor:

Frank Bracht

Production Designer:

Tambi Larsen

Production Company:

Tamm Productions
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HISTORY

Writer-producer Walter Bernstein was initially set to adapt The Molly Maguires from a story by Wayne G. Broehl, a professor at Dartmouth College where Bernstein had been a student some twenty years earlier, as noted in the 22 Oct 1969 Var. Bernstein’s Parnassus Productions was slated to produce, with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on board as distributor, according to items in the 16 Dec 1964 Var and 17 Dec 1964 NYT. By spring 1967, the project had moved to Paramount Pictures, as stated in the 2 Apr 1967 NYT, which announced that Martin Ritt would direct. Ritt was said to be eyeing Richard Harris and Albert Finney for the leading roles.
       In summer 1968, while filming was underway in Pennsylvania, Martin Ritt reportedly told members of the local press that Walter Bernstein’s script, about a secret society of Irish coal miners in 19th-century Pennsylvania, was an original work. An article in the 12 Jun 1968 Var noted that Ritt’s claim sparked controversy and a public rebuttal from Arthur H. Lewis, whose 1964 book, Lament for the Molly Maguires, had sold in Jan 1967 to Tamm Productions for Paramount. Lewis countered that he was contractually entitled to an “adapted from” or “suggested by” credit in Ritt’s film. Meanwhile, the Var article made no mention of Wayne G. Broehl, whose story about the “Molly Maguires” had previously been linked to the project.
       A production chart in the 10 May 1968 DV cited 6 May 1968 as the first day of principal photography, which began on location in Pennsylvania. Cast and crew were mostly lodged in Hazleton, ... More Less

Writer-producer Walter Bernstein was initially set to adapt The Molly Maguires from a story by Wayne G. Broehl, a professor at Dartmouth College where Bernstein had been a student some twenty years earlier, as noted in the 22 Oct 1969 Var. Bernstein’s Parnassus Productions was slated to produce, with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on board as distributor, according to items in the 16 Dec 1964 Var and 17 Dec 1964 NYT. By spring 1967, the project had moved to Paramount Pictures, as stated in the 2 Apr 1967 NYT, which announced that Martin Ritt would direct. Ritt was said to be eyeing Richard Harris and Albert Finney for the leading roles.
       In summer 1968, while filming was underway in Pennsylvania, Martin Ritt reportedly told members of the local press that Walter Bernstein’s script, about a secret society of Irish coal miners in 19th-century Pennsylvania, was an original work. An article in the 12 Jun 1968 Var noted that Ritt’s claim sparked controversy and a public rebuttal from Arthur H. Lewis, whose 1964 book, Lament for the Molly Maguires, had sold in Jan 1967 to Tamm Productions for Paramount. Lewis countered that he was contractually entitled to an “adapted from” or “suggested by” credit in Ritt’s film. Meanwhile, the Var article made no mention of Wayne G. Broehl, whose story about the “Molly Maguires” had previously been linked to the project.
       A production chart in the 10 May 1968 DV cited 6 May 1968 as the first day of principal photography, which began on location in Pennsylvania. Cast and crew were mostly lodged in Hazleton, PA, although some stayed at a motel in nearby Wilkes-Barre, PA. As stated in the 8 May 1968 Var, those staying in Wilkes-Barre were transported via helicopter to the main set in Eckley, PA, a mining village just outside Hazleton. There, a coal processing plant, referred to as a “coal breaker” in the 8 May 1968 Var, was reconstructed at a cost of $200,000, and some forty existing buildings were painted in a “drab gray” color to represent a “grimy” 1876 coal mining town, as stated in a 14 Jul 1968 LAT article. Other alterations included the removal of telephone and power poles, television antennas, and some commercial signage. The refurbished coal breaker was said to draw “thousands of visitors,” who began selling “ice cream, balloons, and Molly Maguire dolls” at the site, resulting in a “carnival atmosphere” that Ritt curbed by establishing a new closed-set policy. Some visitors were still allowed, such as local television producer George Strimel who, according to the 5 Aug 1968 DV, spent six weeks on set shooting behind-the-scenes material to be aired in a fifteen-episode series called The Moviemakers, on Scranton, PA’s WVIA-TV. (According to conflicting information in the 31 Dec 1969 Var, the program was titled On Film and entailed only thirteen episodes, the first of which would air on 19 Jan 1970.)
       Other Pennsylvania filming sites included the towns of Bloomsburg and Llewelyn; the boroughs of Mauch Chunk, Weatherly, and Ashland; and the counties of Luzerne, Carbon, Schuylkill, and Columbia.
       Three crew members died while production was underway in Pennsylvania, according to the 17 Jul 1968 Var, including construction supervisor Elmer Rodgers and property master Robert McQuellis, both of whom suffered fatal heart attacks. The third victim went unnamed but was said to have been in charge of catering. The deaths prompted some speculation that the altitude in Hazleton, said to be “the highest city in Pennsylvania” at 1,832 feet, posed a health hazard that may have contributed to the deaths. Also noted in a 13 Jun 1968 DV brief, Sean Connery incurred minor injuries during the filming of a brawl scene involving five stuntmen, in which the actor had declined to use a double.
       In late Jul 1968, production moved to Hollywood, CA, where a final six weeks of interiors were scheduled to be shot at Paramount’s studio lot, according to the 31 Jul 1968 Var. There, a set representing a coal mine tunnel was built across three soundstages, and was described in the 29 Aug 1968 DV as the “longest single interior set” ever to be constructed on a soundstage. The structure was over 400 feet long, and incorporated roughly “100 tons of Pennsylvania anthracite…imported for authenticity.” An article in the 25 Sep 1968 LAT claimed the set cost $260,000, and that the excessive coal dust required crew members to wear “special jumper suits” and painters’ masks during the filming of action and explosion scenes.
       On 25 Sep 1968, an end-of-filming party took place at the Mucky Duck pub in Santa Monica, CA, as noted in a DV item published two days later. Differing estimates for the final budget were listed in the 25 Sep 1968 LAT, 22 Oct 1969 Var, and 15 Jan 1970 DV as $8 million, $9 million, and $11 million, respectively.
       Although Charles Strouse was named as the composer in a 22 Jan 1969 Var, the task ultimately went to Henry Mancini, whose score was set to be released on a soundtrack album from Paramount Records, the 14 Jan 1970 DV noted. The following traditional Irish tunes are heard in the film: "Eileen Aroon," "Cockles and Mussels," and "Gary Owen."
       The picture received an “M” (for mature audiences) rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, as announced in the 12 Mar 1969 Var. Though it was initially slated for a summer 1969 release, delays occurred due to a “backlog” of completed productions at Paramount, as noted in the 22 Oct 1969 Var. In the meantime, Pennsylvania historian Charles McCarthy challenged the film’s title, contending that “there was never any organization of rebelling coal miners” who called themselves the Molly Maguires. Rather, he claimed that a “notorious labor baiter” named Franklin B. Gowan had coined the derogatory term. Filmmakers stood by their decision to use the name regardless of its origins.
       On 28 Jan 1970, a dual world premiere was scheduled to take place in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, PA, before a general release in those cities. Openings followed in New York City on 8 Feb 1970, and in Los Angeles on 11 Mar 1970. Critical reception was tepid, although Tambi Larsen earned an Academy Award nomination for Art Direction. The picture ultimately grossed only $1.1 million in film rentals, according to a chart in the 6 Jan 1971 Var.
       The Molly Maguires marked the feature film acting debut of Art Lund. Jim O’Neill was listed as the film’s publicist in the 10 Apr 1968 Var, and the following actors were named as cast members in DV items published between 25 Mar 1968 and 27 Jun 1968: Patrick Sullivan Burke; Roger Creed; Charles Hicks; Nicholas Dimitri; George Petrie; Carl Saxe; Gil Perkins; John McDonald; Craig Peterson; John Orchard; Michael St. Clair; John Winston; James Dixon; Peter Foster; J. P. Burns; Ian Abercrombie; Lewis Loghran; and Reverend John W. Guscott, a Pennsylvania clergyman, who was set to play a bailiff. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
17 Dec 1964
p. 1.
Daily Variety
25 Mar 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
10 Apr 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Apr 1968
p. 15.
Daily Variety
26 Apr 1968
p. 24.
Daily Variety
7 May 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
10 May 1968
p. 8, 10.
Daily Variety
8 May 1968
p. 14.
Daily Variety
27 May 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
13 Jun 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
24 Jun 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
27 Jun 1968
p. 6.
Daily Variety
26 Jul 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
5 Aug 1968
p. 11.
Daily Variety
29 Aug 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
27 Sep 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
14 Mar 1969
p. 6.
Daily Variety
30 Dec 1969
p. 4.
Daily Variety
14 Jan 1970
p. 14.
Daily Variety
15 Jan 1970
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
13 Apr 1968
p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
30 May 1968
Section E, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
14 Jul 1968
Section Q, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
25 Sep 1968
Section F, p. 1, 9.
Los Angeles Times
11 Mar 1970
Section C, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
12 Mar 1970
Section G, p. 1.
New York Times
17 Dec 1964
p. 48.
New York Times
2 Apr 1967
p. 11, 22.
New York Times
16 Jun 1968
Section D, p. 9.
New York Times
9 Feb 1970
p. 46.
Variety
16 Dec 1964
p. 5.
Variety
10 Apr 1968
p. 20.
Variety
17 Apr 1968
p. 20.
Variety
8 May 1968
p. 32.
Variety
15 May 1968
p. 5.
Variety
12 Jul 1968
p. 4.
Variety
17 Jul 1968
p. 4.
Variety
31 Jul 1968
p. 13.
Variety
7 Aug 1968
p. 5.
Variety
27 Nov 1968
p. 5.
Variety
22 Jan 1969
p. 18.
Variety
12 Mar 1969
p. 17.
Variety
16 Jul 1969
p. 32.
Variety
22 Oct 1969
p. 24.
Variety
10 Dec 1969
p. 32.
Variety
31 Dec 1969
p. 6.
Variety
6 Jan 1971
p. 11.
Vogue
15 Feb 1970
p. 42.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Martin Ritt Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2nd unit dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2nd unit photog
Asst cam
2nd unit cam
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
Women's ward
Men's ward
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Scr supv
Tech adv mine operations
Constr supv
Prop master
Key grip
Gaffer
Casting
Casting
Stunt dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Suggested by the book Lament for the Molly Maguires by Arthur H. Lewis (New York, 1964).
DETAILS
Release Date:
8 February 1970
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania: 28 January 1970
New York opening: 8 February 1970
Los Angeles opening: 11 March 1970
Production Date:
6 May--late September 1968
Copyright Claimant:
Tamm Productions
Copyright Date:
5 January 1970
Copyright Number:
LP37376
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
124
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
22074
SYNOPSIS

In 1876, the Molly Maguires, a secret society of immigrant Irish coal miners terrorizing the eastern Pennsylvania anthracite belt, are infiltrated by company detective James McParlan, who poses as fugitive murderer James McKenna. McParlan rents a room in the home of disabled miner Raines, and courts Raines's ambitious daughter, Mary. Having secured a job as a miner, the detective ingratiates himself with coworkers by leading the Gaelic football team to victory over its Welsh rival and by beating a brutal policeman. Furthermore, McParlan allays the suspicions of Molly leader Jack Kehoe by casting the decisive vote to murder a mine superintendent, and by rescuing another Molly during the assassination. Following the death of Mary's father, Kehoe and McParlan, claiming Raines's right to a burial suit, break into, loot, and set afire the company store. When Mollies Kehoe and McAndrew attempt to sabotage a mine, however, McParlan alerts Police Chief Davies, and they are arrested. At the trial the detective's testimony results in the Mollies' conviction and death sentence. Shocked by McParlan's duplicity, Mary rejects the agent. While the gallows are being constructed in the jail yard, McParlan confronts the imprisoned Kehoe, then departs for reassignment as head of the Denver Pinkerton ... +


In 1876, the Molly Maguires, a secret society of immigrant Irish coal miners terrorizing the eastern Pennsylvania anthracite belt, are infiltrated by company detective James McParlan, who poses as fugitive murderer James McKenna. McParlan rents a room in the home of disabled miner Raines, and courts Raines's ambitious daughter, Mary. Having secured a job as a miner, the detective ingratiates himself with coworkers by leading the Gaelic football team to victory over its Welsh rival and by beating a brutal policeman. Furthermore, McParlan allays the suspicions of Molly leader Jack Kehoe by casting the decisive vote to murder a mine superintendent, and by rescuing another Molly during the assassination. Following the death of Mary's father, Kehoe and McParlan, claiming Raines's right to a burial suit, break into, loot, and set afire the company store. When Mollies Kehoe and McAndrew attempt to sabotage a mine, however, McParlan alerts Police Chief Davies, and they are arrested. At the trial the detective's testimony results in the Mollies' conviction and death sentence. Shocked by McParlan's duplicity, Mary rejects the agent. While the gallows are being constructed in the jail yard, McParlan confronts the imprisoned Kehoe, then departs for reassignment as head of the Denver Pinkerton Agency. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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