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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

'Parnell' DVD: Frankly My Dear, Clark Gable Gives a Damn About Ireland

Parnell (1937)
The IMDb listing for the 1937 Clark Gable biopic "Parnell," which is a recent Warner Archive DVD release, describing this film as "moderately accurately historically" reinforces the sense that veteran Hollywood producer John M. Stahl is going more for romantic drama than the story of the life of a historic figure. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

The real-life Charles Stewart Parnell is a Victorian-era Irish politician during the period of the "troubles" with England regarding oppressive policies toward the Emerald Isle. Needless to say, relations between the two nations are far from magically delicious during this era.

Seeing Gable playing the titular role in a manner that evokes thoughts of Rhett Butler evokes nice memories of  "Gone With the Wind," which Gable makes two years later.

Gable fans may also enjoy the recent Unreal TV review of the Warner Archive DVD release of his films "After Office Hours" and the post on the Archive title "Teacher's Pet." These films show that Gable can do no wrong.

"Parnell" co-star (and fellow Hollywood royalty of Gable) Myrna Loy takes a break from her lighter role of Nora Charles in the uber-uber-awesome Warner "Thin Man" film series to play the more serious role of Katie O' Shea. Katie is the husband of a cad who is political colleague of Parnell.

The refusal of O'Shea to grant Katie a divorce in their loveless marriage is the only impediment to her finding happiness with the much more dreamy and honorable Parnell.

The brilliant casting continues with having Edna May Oliver, who shines in the Unreal TV reviewed Archive collection of the light-hearted "Hildegarde Withers" mysteries, as the very out-spoken and loving aunt of Katie. This is one Oliver who has the audience always asking for more.

"Parnell" opens with our hero taking his duly elected seat in the British parliament after finishing a successful American tour followed by essentially incarceration in name only on multiple charges of sedition. Parnell soon rises from his elected seat to advocate establishing a separate Irish parliament. This results in mayhem, and a proportional response by the English leaders, both of which evokes strong thoughts of the tactics of the Republicans and the Democrats in the current U.S. Congress.

Parnell meets the charming Katie in the midst of this uproar. This relates to the effort of Katie's spouse to establish a political alliance with Parnell, who enjoys rock star-level prestige with his constituency.

This wooing coincides with the dirty politics that are a central theme of the film becoming filthy. A serious charge that is leveled against Parnell results in both an adversarial proceeding and an intensifying of the devotion of Katie toward the unofficial king of Ireland.

An ensuing scandal that revolves around the Parnell/Katie relationship further threatens the political standing of our hero. This one shows, as Gable addresses in one of the best speeches in the film, that even crusaders are human and should not be held to unduly high standards.

Stating that the dramatic conclusion of the film clearly sends the message that the political leaders of the day will not have Charles Stewart Parnell to kick around anymore is not much of a spoiler considering that the text that scrolls at the beginning of "Parnell" states that his country betrays him. Regardless of the extent to which that claim, the closing moments, and the rest of the film accurately portray the life of the real Parnell, the biopic provides good escapist entertainment.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Parnell" is welcome to email me; your other option is connecting on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.