Three Cheers For The Warners Irish
WB Knows Its Audience For The Great O'Malley (1937)
I never saw a campaign that so pandered to the Irish! They must have been quite a constituency among 30's pic-goers. Consider how stars and even directors proudly wore the green (if not the grin), from Pat O'Brien of this Warner programmer to John Ford, Cagney, others of the Irish community, most of whom took care of their own where jobs, needed cash, other relief, was needed. And yet Ford was years getting The Quiet Man off the ground, dominant thought being it was too sod-bound to sell. So what percentage of paying audience did the Irish represent? Enough apparently to pay ways for a Great O'Malley with negative cost of $285K. For WB, Irish translated to action, as in fist-flying and shillelaghs swung. This was image imprinted upon a people that
The Great O'Malley is remembered mostly for drag of Humphrey Bogart through what he'd call a "terrible" picture, "one of those things we did at that goddamned sweatshop." This was Bogart talking later in life to writer Richard Gehman, and yes, The Great O'Malley would have been unrelieved, and unrewarding, drudgery for a player who'd lately shown promise in The Petrified Forest. Or maybe what Bogart found terrible, and understandably so, was fact this began as an O'Brien vehicle and ended up being so for child actress Sybil Jason, HB pretty much crowded off the frame as born loser victim of ongoing Great Depression. He's really an update on Paul Muni's beat-down everyman, parked behind a same eight ball, not the sort of part to vault Bogart into meaningful leads. And talk about hardship cards being stacked: he's out of a job, with a lame daughter in English-accented Jason (that barely accounted for), trying to pawn war medals like Dick Barthelmess in earlier circumstance, plus being a hothead not easy to root for despite tough breaks. But Bogart, of course, could give poorly built parts like this texture, even in vacuum that was The Great O'Malley.
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The Great O'Malley, Her First WB Release
With regard to selling, it was Chin-Buster Pat vs. "Killer" Bogart, a misleading campaign in all particulars, being hewed to public perception of these two, and what we should expect in event of their teaming. Black Legion, actually filmed after The Great O'Malley but distributed first, had been a sleeper and further petrify of Bogart to forest of criminality; had the actor noticed promotion for The Great O'Malley, he'd have seen type-casting that would follow, and to some degree dog the rest of a career. "The Divil To Pay" and Pat referring to "me (Erin) ancestors ate your kind for breakfast" was copy a longer assimilated public would have to make best of translating, though everyone knew such oaths were shortcut to mayhem the fighting Irish theme promised. So what was payoff for this appeal to adherents of the ould sod? The Great O'Malley took $442K in domestic rentals, $187K foreign, for profit of $87K. It is available on DVD from Warner Archive, and streams in HD at Warner Instant.