(director: Jack Cardiff; screenwriter: John Whiting/based on the autobiography “Mirror in my House” by Sean O’Casey; cinematographer: Ted Scaife; editor: Anne V. Coates; music: Sean O’Riada; cast: Rod Taylor (John Cassidy), Flora Robson (Mrs. Cassidy), Maggie Smith (Nora), Julie Christie (Daisy Battles), Edith Evans (Lady Gregory), Michael Redgrave (W.B. Yeats), Sian Phillips (Ella), Pauline Delany (Bessie Ballynoy); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Robert Emmett Ginna/Robert D. Graff; MGM/Warner Archive Collection; 1965)

“Intelligent biopic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

British director Jack Cardiff(“Sons and Lovers”/”My Geisha”) took over the directing chores when John Ford left because of an illness. This is an intelligent biopic on some 12 years on the life of Irish playwright Sean O’Casey. It’s based on the massive 13-volume 1956 autobiography of O’Casey entitled “Mirror in my House.” It’s written by John Whiting.

Young John Cassidy (Rod Taylor) is a laborer by day and a pamphleteer by night in the Dublin of 1911. Cassidy supports his poor mom (Flora Robson) and ailing sister (Sian Phillips).

Cassidy eventually turns from openly fighting the British to writing political pamphlets against them, though it’s never made clear what he’s fighting for. He has sexual encounters with Julie Christie’s chorus girl Daisy he met in a riot caused by one of his pamphlets. He leaves her to begin an affair with the prudish small bookshop owner Maggie Smith.

When Cassidy’s play “The Plough and the Stars” is produced at the Abbey Theatre, a riot erupts in the audience. Later reviews claim it as a brilliant work.

The film ends with Cassidy leaving home for England amidst international recognition.

The performances of the Aussie Taylor and Christie are quite good and Cardiff did a decent directorial turn, and even though the biopic was flawed for lacking focus it’s still a film of merit.