Irish Soil

The Colleen Bawn
R: Sidney Olcott. B: Gene Gauntier from the play “The Colleen Bawn” by Dion Boucicault. K: George Hollister. D: Gene Gauntier, Jack J Cark, Sidney Olcott, J P McGowan, George H Fisher, Arthur Donaldson. P: Kalem Co. USA 1911
Print: Irish Film Archive; National Film & Television Archive

“Filmed around Beaufort and the Lakes of Killarney, Co Kerry. (…) When re-issued just before St Patrick’s Day, 1914 publicity by Kalem for the film announced that enough ‘real Irish soil’, which had been brought from the Colleen Bawn Rock, Killarney, was available to fill a box four feet wide, two feet long, and one inch deep and would be supplied with the film. Exhibitors were encouraged to invite their patrons to ‘Come and tread on Irish Soil!’, and ‘the multitude that respond will literally stand on Irish soil as they purchase their tickets’. The advertisement added that ‘Copies of affidavits from Father Fitzgerald, the parish priest, and municipal officials of Killarney, vouching for the authenticity of the soil, will also be furnished free of charge’. (Kalem Kalender, 1 March 1914:2). Irish distributor, Bradbury Films, Belfast.

Loosely derived from Gerald Griffin’s novel ‘The Collegians’ (1829), The Colleen Bawn concerned the real events surrounding the elopement and murder of a sixteen-year-old Limerick girl, Ellie Hanley (the ‘Colleen Bawn’, or ‘Fair-Haired Girl’), in 1819. As a young reporter. Griffin covered the subsequent trial of the girl’s lover, John Scanlan, a squire, who was defended by Daniel O’Connell, and the trial of his servant, Stephen Sullivan, who impersonated being a priest to ‘marry’ them. Both were found guilty and executed in 1820.”
Trinity College Dublin

“Filmmaker Sidney Olcott, born John S. Alcott in Toronto, Canada, was one of the more prolific directors in Hollywood during the silent era, known for his highly energetic style. He began his career in 1904 as an actor with Mutoscope, but soon became a general manager at Biograph. He then became the first director at Kalem Studios in 1907. Olcott was the first Hollywood director to make his feature films on location, and frequently traveled to such places as Ireland and Palestine for added realism. Later he became known as an innovator in the direction of Westerns. Olcott joined Famous Players in 1915 where he directed many of Mary Pickford’s films.”
Sandra Brennan


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