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Coming into clover: Ireland and the Irish in early American cinema, 1895–1917

Peter Flynn, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Coming Into Clover traces the evolution of cinematic representations of Ireland and the Irish in early American cinema. From the birth of the medium in 1895 until the full emergence of the so-called classical cinema in 1917, these images underwent a fascinating evolution with the crude "stage Irish" stereotypes of Paddy and Bridget steadily giving way to a more positive and diverse set of representations beginning in the early- to mid-teens. The reasons for this transformation are many, but can be traced to two seemingly separate yet inter-dependent factors. Firstly, the social and economic forces that gave rise to the classical mode of production demanded an overall gentrification of the form and content of American cinema. Secondly, an increasingly powerful and influential class of Irish-Americans took an active role in transforming the nativist perceptions that for so long had worked to ostracize them from mainstream society. The result was the emergence of set of visual and narrative tropes that would define Hollywood's representation of the Irish for next three decades.

Subject Area

American studies|Film studies

Recommended Citation

Flynn, Peter, "Coming into clover: Ireland and the Irish in early American cinema, 1895–1917" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3325276.