Seán Crosson “Ar son an Náisiúin” | My Assignment Tutor

“Ar son an Náisiúin”: The National Film Institute of Ireland’s All-IrelandFilmsSeán CrossonÉire-Ireland, Volume 48, Issue 1&2, Spring / Summer 2013, pp. 191-210(Article)Published by Irish-American Cultural InstituteDOI: 10.1353/eir.2013.0014For additional information about this articleAccess provided by City University of New York (4 Sep 2014 09:26 GMT)Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Films 191Seán Crosson “Ar son an Náisiúin”:The National FilmInstitute of Ireland’sAll-Ireland Films1On 4 september 1948 the Irish Independent carried a small announcement on page ten indicating that the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) had authorized the flming of the All-Ireland hurlingand football fnals of that year. These fnals were to be flmed by theNational Film Institute (NFI) of Ireland, set up three years earlier,and this announcement marked the beginning of the frst sustainedperiod of indigenous flming of Gaelic games in Ireland. Althoughimportant research has been done on the crucial link between thecodifcation and popularization of Gaelic games in Ireland and thedevelopment of Irish nationalism in the late nineteenth century, therole that flmic representations of sport may have played in this developing process in the twentieth century has as yet been the subject oflimited investigation.2 This article builds on previous research aboutthe representation of Gaelic games in early newsreels between 1920and 1939 in order to consider the flmic depictions of All-Ireland fnals produced by the NFI and their role, particularly in the 1940sand 1950s, in representing and affrming the Irish nation through1. I want to acknowledge the generous support of the staff of the Irish FilmInstitute’s (IFI) Irish Film Archive, especially that of Kasandra O’Connell, SunnivaO’Flynn, and Rebecca Grant, in the completion of this article, including the archive’spermission to use screencaps from its flms and records featured in this article. I alsowant to thank Bill Morrison, former senior publicity offcer with Bord Fáilte, andProfessor Mike Cronin, academic director, Boston College-Ireland, for informationprovided regarding Bord Fáilte and Aer Lingus.2. See, for example, W. F. Mandle, The Gaelic Athletic Association and Irish Nationalist Politics, 1884–1924 (London: Christopher Helm, 1987); and Mike Cronin,Sport and Nationalism in Ireland: Gaelic Games, Soccer, and Irish Identity since 1884(Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999).192 Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Filmssport.3 These flms also offer fascinating insights into Irish societyin the postwar period, while sharing intriguing links with one of themost accomplished (and controversial) sports flms ever made, LeniRiefenstahl’s Olympia (1938).Filming Gaelic Games after Irish IndependenceThe frst two decades of independence saw little indigenous flmwork produced in Ireland, with coverage of Gaelic games left primarily to foreign newsreel companies. These representations, found inPathé, Movietone, and British Gaumont Newsreels and less often insome American major studio shorts, though important as among theonly moving-image representations of players of the period we have,nonetheless sometimes presented these games condescendingly.Even where depictions were more positively disposed, the narration,offered in contrived, clipped, upper-class “Oxford” accents, often indicated less about the sport and more about the lack of understanding of Gaelic games among British commentators.4 The GAA itselfexpressed alarm at some of the more questionable representations;the release in Britain and Ireland in 1937 of one particularly offensivedepiction of Irish sport, the short flm Hurling (fgure 1) producedby MGM in 1936, motivated a delegation from the GAA to visit theIrish flm censor and demand that offensive scenes be removed.5The NFI of IrelandThe year 1936 would also be crucial for the facilitation of indigenous flming in Ireland, including that of Gaelic games. In 1936Pope Pius XI issued his encyclical “Vigilanti Cura,” which recognized the potentially “great advantage to learning and to educa-3. See Seán Crosson and Dónal McAnallen, “‘Croke Park Goes Plumb Crazy’:Pathé Newsreels and Gaelic Games,” Media History 17, no. 2 (2011): 161–76.4. Ibid., 165–67.5. For further information on this flm, see Seán Crosson, “‘Shillalah SwingTime. . . . You’ll Thrill Each Time a Wild Irishman’s Skull Shatters’: RepresentingHurling in American Cinema, 1930–1960,” in Screening Irish-America: RepresentingIrish-America in Film and Television, ed. Ruth Barton (Dublin: Irish Academic Press,2009), 148–64.Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Films 193tion” of the cinema.6 Pope Pius’swords inspired clergy members toget more involved in flm production and eventually to organizethe NFI of Ireland in 1945 underthe patronage of Dr. John CharlesMcQuaid, archbishop of Dublin. The Institute was initially set upto import and distribute educational flms around Irish schoolsand parish halls but soon began making flms of its own. Fromthe beginning these flms would place a strong emphasis on affrming and celebrating the still relatively new independent stateof Ireland. This is apparent in one of its frst documentary flms,A Nation Once Again (Brendan Stafford, 1946), made to mark thecentenary of the death of Thomas Davis, the leader of the nationalistYoung Ireland movement of the 1840s. Described by Ruth Barton as“a classic instance of the use of history as a legitimizing discourse,”7the flm provided, as the title suggests, a nationalist and uncontestedaccount of Irish history and identity. While exploring Davis’s legacyand celebrating his political ideals, it prominently featured Eamon deValera, the then taoiseach, as well as aspects of Irish society and culture, including Gaelic games. In one sequence, narrating over imagesof Gaelic football and Irish dancing, Dan O’Herlihy reminds us thatDavis’s teaching is “the sure basis on which to plan a united nation,free from shore to shore, and the hope of all true Irishmen is that in6. Pope Pius XI, “Vigilanti Cura: Encyclical Letter of Pope Pius XI on the Motion Picture,” The Holy See, accessed May 2012, Ruth Barton, Irish National Cinema (London: Routledge, 2004), 67.Figure 1. Press sheet for the 1936MGM flm Hurling, which describedthe game as “Ireland’s athletic assaultand battery.”.Press sheet kindly supplied by Paul Balbirnie. Copy availableat Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Filmsthis as in most things else this man was prophet as well as leader.”Thus O’Herlihy connects Gaelic games, a set of sports that operatedthen as now on an All-Ireland basis, with Irish nationalism and itsambition for a united Ireland, a theme that would be continued in theInstitute’s highlights flms of All-Ireland fnals.Among the original directors of the Institute was PádraigÓ Caoimh, the then ard-rúnaí (general secretary) of the GAA. Following the 1947 All-Ireland football fnal between Cavan and Kerryin New York, Ó Caoimh realized the importance of and demand inIreland for quality moving-image representations of Gaelic games.The highlights footage of this match,shot by New York–based Winik flmsunder Ó Caoimh’s supervision, was amajor attraction in Irish cinemas andparish halls, particularly in the countiesfeatured. This is evident, for example, inthe flm’s prominence in advertisementsfrom the period where it was frequentlygiven billing above popular Hollywoodfare (fgures 2 and 3). Inspired by thissuccess, Ó Caoimh set about facilitating through the Institute the flming ofhighlights of all subsequent All-IrelandFigure 2. Advertisement for fnals.screening of the 1947 All-Irelandfootball fnal, The Anglo-Celt, 20September 1947.Figure 3. A further advertisement from The Anglo-Celt, 11 October 1947.Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Films 195The NFI’s All-Ireland FilmsThe Institute’s flms of All-Ireland fnals are each about ten minutesin length, following the pattern of the popular short of the 1947 fnal. This was also the approximate length of the one-reel flms thatpreceded features in Irish cinemas during this period, includingsport-themed shorts such as Hurling (1936). Although this brevitywas criticized in the press at the time,8 these highlights packages werenonetheless a considerable improvement on previous newsreel depictions of Gaelic games, which were rarely longer than 2½ minutes,and offered more detailed accounts of the buildup and the role ofthese games in national life. In some instances, as in the highlightsof both the 1949 All-Ireland football and hurling fnals, additions include footage of teams in training before the fnal itself. Some of thehighlights packages, such as the flm of the 1948 hurling All-Ireland,also feature the arrival of supporters from all over the country toDublin on fnal day, while scenes outside Croke Park prior to thethrow-in are found on many of the packages. Some flms featured theparade of supporters to the stadium, as in the shots of Dublin followers processing from Fairview and Marino behind a horse-drawncarriage prior to the 1958 football fnal. These shots offer fascinatingrenderings of the urban space prior to games—with crowds arrivingat Kingsbridge Station (renamed Heuston in 1966) and gathering onO’Connell Street—as well as visual depictions of the various meansof transport to games during that period, from bicycle to horse andcart, to car and bus. One shot from the 1948 football-fnal highlightsshows the back of an open-top cattle lorry packed with standing supporters. Most of the flm packages also include highlights of the minor fnal that preceded the senior game.Film production of the games themselves now involved twocameras rather than the one used previously in newsreel footage;the flms also provided considerably fuller coverage (though by nomeans comprehensive), including identifcation of prominent players by name, a rare occurrence in previous newsreel footage of AllIreland fnals. Given the stature of the players and teams featuredin these highlights packages, including nine players from the GAAhurling and eleven from the GAA football teams of the millennium,8. “All-Ireland Final Film,” Tuam Herald, 3 Nov. 1956.196 Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Filmsit is not surprising that they became popular cinema attractions in thepre-television era.9 These flms also provided vital instructional toolsfor Gaelic clubs training young players in both Gaelic football andhurling across the country throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.However, correspondence between the NFI and the GAA indicatesthat the Institute had some diffculties extracting payment for flmshired, and not all flms loaned were returned. As the Institute’s secretary G. J. McCanny remarked in one letter to the association’sdevelopment director, “The attached invoice has been treated as ifit were a hurling ball, having been pucked to and fro between hereand Croke Park, and I’m anxious it should come to rest.”10 It wouldappear that the NFI had particular problems in reacquiring flmsloaned to clubs across the border, as is evident in another letterfrom McCanny to the GAA: “We cannot agree to supply Six-County residents with flms. We have experienced too much diffculty inthe past even in cases where the flm has been collected here, andtoo many flms which we know were defnitely posted to us failedto reach us.”11Production, Distribution, and Receptionof the NFI’s All-Ireland FilmsThe All-Ireland flms were initially shot with two cameras, each positioned on the Hogan stand side of the feld, and the rushes weresent on Sunday evening to London for development. The next morning, Seán O’Sullivan, the frst secretary of the NFI, accompaniedby Mícheál O’Hehir (who provided the commentary until the late1950s), traveled by plane to the Carlton Hill Studios in London,where the sound and commentary were added.12 These flms, dis-9. See, for example, “Competitions for Sixty Juvenile Hurling Teams,” Kerryman, 27 Mar. 1965, for a report of the use of the NFI All-Ireland flms for instructional purposes in County Kerry.10. G. J. McCanny to Mr. Prenderville, Gaelic Athletic Association, 5 Oct. 1977.See Irish Film Institute (IFI), Item Number 16245, Box 317.11. G. J. McCanny to M. de Prionnbhiol (draft), Gaelic Athletic Association, 25July 1975. See IFI, Item Number 16256, Box 317.12. These details were given by Seán O’Sullivan in the documentary series Memories in Focus (Peter Canning, Memories in Focus [Dublin: RTÉ, 1995]).Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Films 197tributed initially by Abbey Films, were screened as short attractionsbefore feature flms in cinemas around the country by Friday of thefollowing week. They proved popular above all in the counties featured in the All-Irelands themselves, particularly before the adventof live television coverage of All-Irelands after the establishment ofTelefís Éireann in 1962.Beginning in 1948 George Fleischmann (fgure 6) flmed thematches with assistance from the English-born sound technicianPeter Hunt. From 1953 onward, Brendan Stafford, assisted by Robert Monks, took on the flming responsibilities, supported by variousother cameramen including Vincent Corcoran, Tommy Hayde, andPádraig Thornton, and continuing in the role into the mid-1960s. In asignifcant piece of self-reflexive footage, the buildup to the 1957 football fnal includes images of the cameramen climbing to their elevatedposition before the game and beginning to flm (fgure 4).Particularly in the early years, the footage is clearly the work of cameramen learning the art of flming Gaelic games and challenged aboveall by the speed of play and the size of the ball used in hurling, as wellas by the limitations of the technology that required reloading of flmstock at short, regular intervals. During the period of Monk’s involvement cameramen shot the games on Newman Sinclair 35 mm camerashired from London. These were clockwork cameras that could hold amaximum of two hundred feet of flm—equivalent to approximatelytwo minutes of footage—before the magazines had to be reloaded.1313. Robert Monks, Personal Interview, 17 Apr. 2008.Figure 4. Cameramenpreparing to flm the 1957All-Ireland football fnal.Courtesy of the IFI IrishFilm Archive.198 Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland FilmsAs a result, flmmakers missed many of the scores, and it is sometimes diffcult to follow individual passages of the play, although thecommentary of Mícheál O’Hehir in particular nonetheless manages tocommunicate some of the excitement and signifcance of the occasion.Another commentator who featured regularly in the packages by thelate 1950s was Frank Ryan, who spent a period as secretary of the NFI.As with the 1947 fnal flm, announcements for these flms featuredprominently, sometimes above titles of popular Hollywood releases,especially in local newspapers (fgure 5), while newspaper reports indicate that local audiences took considerable interest in the sportsscreenings. The Meath Chronicle of 9 October 1954 describes the flmof the 1954 Meath-Kerry All-Ireland football fnal, for instance, asone that viewers “should not miss,” after being screened to “enthusiastic audiences” in the Lyric and Palace cinemas at Navan and in theSavoy at Kells.14The Tuam Herald of 3 November 1956 also describedthe “great interest taken in the NFI’s flm of the All-Ireland footballfnal shown at the Mall and Odeon cinemas this week. Sean Purcelland Frank Stockwell [two of Galway’s star players at the time] wereguests at the Mall on Monday night, and the two Tuam men heardthe Croke Park plaudits re-echo in the cinema when they flashed onthe screen.”15In addition to the 35 mm prints sent to cinemas until the late1950s, 16 mm prints produced from the mid-1950s were exhibitedin clubs and parish halls around the country by using mobile projectors from the NFI. By 1958 the Institute was flming the games on16 mm rather than 35 mm and would continue with this format insubsequent years. Prints of the fnals were also occasionally screenedabroad, including to Irish soldiers in the Congo in 196016 and toviewers in London, New York, and Cyprus.17 The 1960 Rome Olympics also included a special screening of the Institute’s flms of thefootball and hurling fnals from the previous year.18 Footage from14. “Gaelic Fields and Forum,” Meath Chronicle, 9 Oct. 1954.15. “All-Ireland Final Film,” Tuam Herald, 3 Nov. 1956.16. “Final Crowd May be a Record,” Irish Independent, 23 Sept. 1960.17. “London Calling,” Irish Independent, 27 Oct. 1961; G. J. McCanny to SeánÓ Síocháin (draft), Gaelic Athletic Association, 8 Aug. 1969 (IFI, Item Number16267, Box 317); and Tom Hyde, National Film Institute, to unknown recipient, 24Oct. 1967 (IFI, Item Number 16292, Box 317).18. “Irish Films for Olympic Games,” Irish Independent, 21 July 1961.Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Films 199the Institute’s flm of the 1962 hurling fnal was incorporated into anepisode of the popular series Irish Diary, broadcast on twenty U.S.channels in the mid-1960s.19 The British Broadcasting Corporationaired highlights of the football flm taken from the Institute’s footagein 1957 before flming highlights from some fnals themselves from1959 onward.20 The flms also enjoyed some critical success at flmfestival screenings, winning awards in 1956 and 1958 at the Festivalof Sports Pictures at Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy.21 Indeed, by theend of the 1950s the flms had become a crucial source of revenuefor the Institute; minutes from the Institute’s Finance and GeneralPurposes Committee meeting of 3 January 1958 noted that “the estimated proft on the GAA flms in 1957 would be between £180 and£200,” a not inconsiderable sum at the time.22Initially working in black-and-white, the Institute began flmingin color beginning with the All-Ireland football fnal of 1958, partlyin response to competing newsreels of All-Irelands emerging frstfrom Universal Irish News in that year and subsequently from Gael19. Mick Dunne, “U.S. Viewers to See Hurling,” Irish Press, 14 July 1964.20. “Croke Park Can Hold 76,000 for Final,” Irish Independent, 20 Sept. 1957;Kenneth Wolstenholme, “Why Keep This Great Game Such a Big Secret?” SundayPress, 13 Sept. 1959.21. “Italian Award for Film of G.A.A Matches,” Irish Independent, 7 Mar. 1956;“People and Places,” Irish Press, 9 Jan. 1961.22. Minutes of Finance and General Purposes Committee Meeting, NationalFilm Institute of Ireland, 3 Jan. 1958 (IFI).Figure 5.Announcement for theshowing of the All-Irelandhurling fnal in 1953,Munster Express,2 October 1953.200 Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland FilmsLinn’s Amharc Éireann series.23The color footage also provided a distinguishing aspect for the Institute’s flms from the black-and-whitetelevised images broadcast by Telefís Éireann from the All-Irelandfootball semifnal between Kerry and Dublin in 1962.Parallels with Olympia (1938): “Ar son an Náisiúin”Of all of the cameramen who flmed All-Irelands for the NFI, GeorgeFleischmann (fgure 6) had both the most colorful history and arguably the greatest influence on the initial style and focus of the flmsthemselves, a focus that continued to be evident after Fleischmann’sdeparture in 1953. He was a Sonderführer Lt. (or specialist leader)with the Luftwaffe during World War II, and his plane was shot downover Ireland in 1941. Fleishchmann was subsequently interned in theCurragh until the end of the war, then remained in the country.24Fleischmann’s arrival inIreland, while unexpectedand uninvited, was fortunate for the development ofsports flming in the country. His specialty was operating a camera: he trainedat the Berlin Film Academy and worked for Universum-Film A.G. (UFA),the major flm studio inGermany, during the 1930sand 1940s.25 At the end ofthe war Fleischmann received a statement from the German authorities indicating that thecamera was his to keep; it was returned to his possession, along with23. Louis Marcus to Luke Dodd, Head of Irish Film Archive, 14 Oct. 1998 (IFI,ARC 52); Monks, Personal Interview, 17 Apr. 2008.24. Canning, Memories in Focus; Patrick J. Cummins, “Emergency” Air Accidents—South-East Ireland, 1940–1945 (Waterford: Aviation History Ireland, 2003), 45.25. Harvey O’Brien, The Real Ireland: The Evolution of Ireland in DocumentaryFilm (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), 79.Figure 6. George Fleischmann. Memories in Focus [Documentary Series]. Dir. Peter Canning.Dublin: RTÉ, 1995.Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Films 201the rest of his flming equipment.26 In a sign of the scarcity of suchequipment in Ireland in the postwar period, Fleischmann quickly became a much-sought-after cameraman.27During Fleischmann’s time with UFA he had worked as a cameraoperator on Leni Riefenstahl’s sports documentary Olympia (1938),the seminal depiction of the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics. Whereasit would be wrong to overstate the similarities, particularly given theFascist context of 1930s Germany and the vastly superior resourcesavailable to Riefenstahl, there are nonetheless intriguing parallelsbetween Olympia and the early Institute flms of All-Irelands. First,there are similarities in the flming of the games themselves. This ismost evident when one compares the flming of association footballin the second of the two related flms that Riefenstahl made of the1936 Olympics, Olympia 2. Teil—Fest der Schönheit (1938), withthe NFI’s All-Ireland flms in thelate 1940s. Both adopt similarprincipal camera positions—oneelevated camera from the standat midfeld and one roving camera to the right of this positionbehind the goal (fgures 7 and 8,fgures 9 and 10). As the Institutecontinued to flm All-Ireland fnals, their camera positionsevolved to more elevated positions closer to both goals in anattempt to capture more scores.A second parallel betweenOlympia and the NFI flms is theprominence of radio commentators in both productions. In theoriginal version of Olympia, Germany’s leading radio commenta-26. Canning, Memories in Focus.27. O’Brien, Real Ireland, 79.Figures 7 and 8. Screen grabs from theNFI footage of the 1949 (above) and1948 All-Ireland hurling fnals. Courtesyof the IFI Irish Film Archive.202 Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Filmstor Dr. Paul Laven28 introducesevents, describes athletes, andprovides running commentaryon the various competitions featured in the flm. Indeed, radiocommentators fgure prominently in the flm itself, apparently(as their language and appearance would suggest) from Italy,France, Japan, Spain, the U.S.,and Germany, all of whom areflmed seemingly broadcastingthe games live from Berlin, although the images were actuallyrecorded after the event (fgures11 and 12).In a similar fashion PádraigÓ Caoimh arranged for the leading Irish radio sports commentator of the time, Mícheál O’Hehir,to provide the commentary forthe NFI All-Ireland flms untilthe late 1950s. From the establishment of 2RN in 1926, radio played acentral role in the popularization of Gaelic games via live coverage ofmatches, most famously through the distinctive and thrilling voice ofO’Hehir, who began broadcasting in 1938.29 Indeed, O’Hehir is oftenprominently featured in the work itself (fgure 13); producers clearlywanted to build on his huge radio following by depecting him relayingthe action to “wireless” sets across the nation during the game. Someof the highlights packages also include images of families gatheredaround the radio, listening to the games themselves (fgure 14).28. Larry Hartenian, “The Role of Media in Democratizing Germany: UnitedStates Occupation Policy, 1945–1949,” Central European History 20, no. 2 (1987): 184.29. Raymond Boyle, “From Our Gaelic Fields: Radio, Sport, and Nation in PostPartition Ireland,” Media, Culture, and Society 14, no. 4 (1992): 623–36.Figures 9 and 10. Screen grabs from the1936 Olympic Games Association Football fnal. Olympia. Dir. Leni Riefenstahl.Berlin: Olympia-Film, 1938.Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Films 203However, the German and Irish productions are most comparable in their affrmation and celebration of the nation through sportsevents. Riefenstahl’s flming of the Berlin Olympics in 1936—oftenreferred to as the “Nazi Olympics”—was centrally concerned withcelebrating the achievements of Nazi Germany and affrming theGerman nation.30 As Taylor Downing notes in her study of Riefenstahl’s flm,It’s clear that it was decided at the highest level in the Reich, probablyby Hitler himself, that the Games should be used as an opportunityto promote the achievements of Nazi Germany before the war. Hitlerdecided that money would be no problem in creating a national spec-30. Richard D. Mandell, The Nazi Olympics (Urbana, IL: University of IllinoisPress, 1987).Figures 11 and 12. Some of the radio commentators featured in Olympia (1938)Figures 13 and 14. Screen grabs from NFI flms of Mícheál O’Hehir at work(on the left during footage of the 1948 All-Ireland hurling fnal) and of a familylistening to their radio, presumably to his commentary, in the footage of the 1948All-Ireland Gaelic football fnal. Courtesy of the IFI Irish Film Archive.204 Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Filmstacle to show off Germany to the world. . . . The Nazis intended thegames to promote the “new order” in Germany.31Although aspirations for an international audience are less evident(apart from occasional references to Irish-America) in the Institute’sAll-Ireland flms at least until the 1960s, the post–World War II milieu after “The Emergency” nonetheless provided the perfect arenafor the popularization of national spectacle through flm. SouthernIreland’s neutrality during the war reinforced the country’s independence against heavy criticism by Winston Churchill and other worldleaders, and as the Institute’s flms of Gaelic games indicate, celebrating the nation was a recurring concern of the coverage, particularly inthose flms produced until the end of the 1950s.The focus in NFI All-Ireland flms of this period on the ceremonythat preceded each game provides evidence of this recurring theme.Such flmic openings included the foregrounding of the national anthem and national flag as well as the focus on the attendance of dignitaries such as the president of Ireland, An Taoiseach, and the variousbishops in attendance, including, at the 1952 football fnal, the PapalNuncio, Archbishop Gerald O’Hara (fgure 15). The recurring shotsof religious fgures in attendance is striking, as in the buildup to the1951 football fnal where O’Hehir commented on the “many personalities of the political, ecclesiastical, and diplomatic world [who]view the colorful scene below.” Particularly in the case of the footballfnals, it would appear that these bishops were often invited, depending on which county qualifed for the fnal, as in 1955 when BishopDenis Moynihan of Kerry and Rev. Dr. Fitzpatrick, a representativeof the Dublin diocese, participated in the prematch ceremony whereboth these counties featured. Indicating the church’s dominant rolein the 1940s and 1950s, these bishops initiated proceedings by throwing either the ball (Gaelic football) or the sliotar (hurling) in amongthe players, following the singing of the hymn “Faith of Our Fathers”and the ceremonial kissing of the bishop’s ring by the team captains(fgure 15). Signifcantly, by the 1959 football fnal the GAA presidentDr. J. J. Stuart, and not a bishop, threw the ball in; the practice of having bishops begin games was discontinued by the mid-1960s.31. Taylor Downing, Olympia (London: BFI, 1992), 30.Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Films 205These prominent images also provide a further parallel with Olympia, which similarly foregrounds the presence of political leaders, especially Hitler, and dignitaries present at the games from early onin the flm. These dignitaries and religious fgures in the NFI flmsdo not, however, dominate proceedings quite in the manner of Hitler, who appears to preside over events, particularly in the Olympic Stadium; from his opening address to the end of the match, thecamera returns repeatedly to him. Yet as Mike Huggins has pointedout in respect of newsreel coverage of association football in Britain between 1918 and 1939, the NFI flms were also concerned withsupporting the status quo in Irish politics and society.32 Indeed, theforegrounding of political and religious fgures in the NFI All-Irelandflms resembled the prominent depiction of members of the Britishroyal family in English soccer newsreels: it reinforced the signifcanceof both the sport and the dignitaries featured in national life. Surviving foreign newsreels of Gaelic games held before the Institutewas established focus on the prominent role of the clergy, but Irish32. Mike Huggins, “Projecting the Visual: British Newsreels, Soccer, and Popular Culture, 1918–1939,” International Journal of the History of Sport 24, no. 1 (2007):96–97.Figure 15. The Cavan captain Mick Higgins is captured kissing the ring of the Papal Nuncio (Archbishop Gerald O’Hara)prior to the 1952 football fnal. Courtesy of the IFI Irish FilmArchive.206 Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Filmspolitical fgures rarely appeared in such footage. The NFI productions, through more detailed portrayals of prematch ceremony, alsoconfrm the growing importance of such ritual.33This focus on maintaining the status quo in the Institute’s flmsis also evident in how they portray dissent or downplay controversy.Spectators, whether wading through the canal next to the stadiumto gain access to games (1958 football fnal footage) or seated precariously on the walls surrounding the stadium or on the roof of theHogan stand (recurring images found throughout the 1950s footage),appear to have taken increasing risks to watch All-Ireland fnals as the1950s progressed and attendances soared. However, the commentarygives little sense of the obvious dangers for such spectators. Attendance at All-Ireland fnals in the 1950s and 1960s reached recordbreaking levels, exceeding 90,000 by 1961.34 Such masses far exceeded the capacity of Croke Park and led to serious overcrowding attimes, including the 1953 All-Ireland football fnal, which attracted athen-record attendance of 86,155 (exaggerated somewhat by O’Hehiras 90,000 in his commentary). But the dangers of such overcrowdingare downplayed in O’Hehir’s commentary (“even the spacious andever-improving Croke Park seems to burst at the seams”), despite thefact that we see in the footage that a large portion of the crowd hadto be allowed onto the pitch just prior to the game to relieve the dangerous situation on the terraces. All-Ireland fnals during these yearswere also occasionally marred by moments of foul play or violence;yet such moments are rarely evident in the Institute’s footage.Central to these flms is an emphasis on All-Ireland fnal day asa national occasion for the whole island, “north, south, east, andwest,” as O’Hehir remarks in his commentary prior to the 1948 football fnal. The 1954 football fnal included a pageant for Irish unityat halftime—“one Ireland, Ireland one, Éire gan roinnt (Irelandwithout division),” O’Hehir comments. Irish nationalist history andculture are also foregrounded repeatedly, reinforced by the decisionto set opening credits to music on most of the packages released inthe 1950s: the air from the politically charged eighteenth-century33. Crosson and McAnallen, “Croke Park Goes Plumb Crazy,” 165.34. Eoghan Corry, The GAA Book of Lists (Dublin: Hodder Headline Ireland,2005), 371–412.Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Films 207aisling poem, Fáinne Geal an Lae (“The Dawning of the Day”).35The 1948 coverage of the Gaelic football fnal between Cavan andMayo has a strongly nationalist tone, especially in the buildup sequence that recalls Bloody Sunday on 21 November 1920 and theshooting of Tipperary footballer Michael Hogan by British soldiersafter their invasion of Croke Park. The commentary pays homageto the 1916 Rising, with accompanying shots of the General PostOffce on O’Connell Street; O’Hehir refers to the alleged contribution of post-Rising rubble to the building of Hill 16, still one ofthe best-known spectator areas in the stadium. Furthermore, a longtake during the parade preceding the 1957 hurling fnal prominentlycaptures the banner “Ar son an Náisiúin (For the Nation)” (fgure16). The footage from the 1954 hurling fnal includes the prematchparade by thirty-two Irish-speaking and flag-bearing boys representing, as O’Hehir remarks, “the counties of our country and each carrying a hurley depicting the aim of the GAA to put a hurley in thehand of every boy in the country.” The Irish language also featuresprominently not only in the credit sequences but also in O’Hehir’scommentary, which is peppered with passages in Irish, while exhibitions of Irish dancing precede the 1955 and 1956 senior games. Inall of this footage the flms repeatedly affrm the Irish nation and its35. As George Petrie noted, “The aisling poems used the ‘guise of a love-songput on to conceal treason’” (George Petrie, The Ancient Music of Ireland [Dublin:M. H. Gill, 1855], 37).Figure 16. Parade prior to the 1957 hurling fnal with thebanner “Ar son an Náisiúin” visible. Courtesy of the IFIIrish Film Archive.208 Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Filmsculture as well as its leading political and social fgures, while downplaying controversy and dissent.ConclusionThe arrival of live television coverage reduced demand that the Institute continue flming All-Ireland games. The Institute respondedby improving its own coverage of the games, partly responding torequests from the GAA to focus more on continuous play rather thanscores.36 The coverage during this period focuses more on the gamesand less on the buildup; a third cameraman was employed by themid-1960s to get better close-up work. Although the NFI intermittently continued flming until the mid-1970s, interest in viewing thehighlights nevertheless decreased; by 1968 General Film DistributorsLtd. (the company that had distributed the flms in Ireland from thelate 1950s) informed the Institute that it “would prefer not to participate in their distribution, as indeed very little interest had been evidenced by any of our exhibitors in the fnals over the past few years,due no doubt to the very extensive coverage by Telefs Eireann.”37The GAA, which had given the Institute £500 each year from1948 for the production of the fnal flms, discontinued this funding in 1968.38 As the 1960s progressed, the Institute became increasingly dependent on orders from Bord Fáilte and Aer Lingus for itsflms—as the Institute’s Tom Hyde remarked in his response to General Film Distributors’ letter quoted above, “Thank God for BordFáilte and Aer Lingus.”39The beginning of the highlights packages ofboth the 1961 hurling fnal and the 1962 football fnal feature an AerLingus plane landing at Dublin Airport. The packages in the 1960sseem increasingly to be engaged with an international audience; thenationalist overtones evident in the earlier flms, particularly in thebuildup to games, feature much less. Although reflecting a chang-36. Seán Ó Síocháin to Desmond Hand, National Film Institute, 12 Aug. 1965.See IFI, Item Number 16280, Box 317.37. J. J. O’Brien to Tom Hyde, National Film Institute, 30 Aug. 1968. See IFI,Item Number 16283, Box 317.38. G. J. McCanny to Seán Ó Síocháin (draft), 8 Aug. 1969.39. Tom Hyde to J. J. O’Brien, General Film Distributors Ltd., 5 Sept. 1968. SeeIFI, Item Number 16283, Box 317.Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Films 209ing Ireland during this period, this development also revealed theInstitute’s increasing dependence on Aer Lingus and Bord Fáilte forfunding through the decade; both organizations used the Institute’sflms for screenings for employees and customers and for promotional purposes.40 The Institute’s accounts from the GAA Film Productions in 1967 and 1968 (fgure 17) exhibit this dependence on AerLingus and Bord Fáilte, with most of the funding coming from thesesources by 1967.The NFI’s All-Ireland highlights flms represented a crucial stepin the evolution of indigenous-sports flming in Ireland and also constituted an important part of an emerging and distinctive flm culture in the country during the postwar period. If, as Susan Haywardsuggests, flm can function as “a cultural articulation of a nation,”textualizing “the nation and subsequently [constructing] a series ofrelations around the concepts, frst, of state and citizen, then of state,citizen, and other,”41 these flms represent some of the most pertinent and popular examples of such an articulation. These productions, particularly until the end of the 1950s, repeatedly spotlight theIrish nation, its language, culture, and political and religious leaders.Featuring some of the most acclaimed sporting heroes of their time,the Institute’s productions enjoyed considerable popularity when exhibited in cinemas across Ireland, especially until the arrival of television. Although live-television coverage of All-Ireland fnals wouldeventually lead to the discontinuation of the Institute’s flming ofthem, the flms continued to offer a signifcant instructional tool forGAA clubs across the island in the 1960s and 1970s and provided AerLingus and Bord Fáilte with important promotional material. Still,the most important period of their production unquestionably layin the late 1940s and 1950s, a time from which little other footage ofGaelic games survives. These flms provide rare positive portrayals ofIrish society and its sports culture in a challenging decade character-40. Bill Morrison, “Re. Bord Fáilte’s Use of the National Film Institute’s AllIreland Films,” e-mail to Seán Crosson, 12 Apr. 2012; Mike Cronin, “Re. Aer LingusScreening of National Film Institute’s All-Ireland Films,” e-mail to Seán Crosson,11 Apr. 2012.41. Hayward, French National Cinema, x.210 Éire-Ireland 48: 1 & 2 Spr/Sum 13 The NFI of Ireland’s All-Ireland Filmsized, as Terence Brown notes, by “stagnation and crisis.”42 Althoughthe NFI flms share some formal similarities with Leni Riefenstahl’sOlympia, the most signifcant parallel is in how both projects ultimately affrmed the status quo and the reigning political and socialleaders in public life. In Ireland this occurred during a time whenpopular protest might well have been warranted. The country experienced a severe depression, and many endured considerable poverty and hardship as employment fell by 12 percent between 1951and 1958 and emigration passed well over the 400,000 mark bythe end of the decade.43 Yet during that same period attendance atGaelic games increased dramatically, reaching over 85,000 for AllIreland hurling-fnal days in the mid-1950s and over 90,000 for theAll-Ireland football fnal by 1961.44 The Institute’s footage of theseAll-Irelands—works that were centrally concerned with representingand promoting the nation through sport—constitute distinctly Irishsports flms that played an important role in affrming Ireland in atime of crisis.42. Terence Brown, Ireland: A Social and Cultural History, 1922–2002 (London:Harper Perennial, 2004), 199–226.43. Dick Hogan, “Emigration Study Reverses the Perspective,” Irish Times, 1 Feb.2000.44. Corry, GAA Book of Lists, 371–412.Figure 17. National Film Institute GAA Film Production accounts, 1966 and1967. IFI, Item Number 16238, Box 317.


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