Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Juno and the Paycock

(The Shame of Mary Boyle, 1930)

What a rip-off! The only big name in the film is Barry Fitzgerald. He gets top billing. And what happens? Why, he delivers a stirring speech about freedom in Ireland, and then three minutes and twenty-seven seconds—by actual count—into the movie he gets machine-gunned to death! That’s all we see of him!

Paycock is the Irish pronunciation of peacock, and that’s exactly what this “Captain” John Boyle is: a loud-mouthed, strutting, self-important stupid lout and drunkard. His lower lip is always stuck out truculently, but he has no courage or fight in him. He has a son who lost an arm fighting for the Cause (I’m not clear on which Cause; there were several of them just on the Catholic side, and they all have sworn blood oaths against the others) and never got over it. He’s informing on one of the sides. (It sometimes seems to me that the Irish National Pastime is informing on one another.) Boyle also has a pretty daughter, Mary. A suitor hoping to win her hand (or, we find out, actually hoping to get into her knickers) phonies up a legacy of eight or ten thousand pounds, and the family goes on a spending spree with money they don’t have yet, and will never get. And then Mary gets pregnant by the young scoundrel …

This movie was based on a play by Sean O’Casey, and it is very stagebound, could have been filmed on one set. Maybe it would appeal to those who have a lot more interest in Ireland and the Irish than I do, but it would also help to be able to understand some of the almost impenetrable dialect. There is a long, long scene in the middle where people are sitting around the kitchen table singing Irish songs. One would have been enough. Actually, one would still have been too many. Another film of interest only to Hitchcock historians. Hitchstorians?