World War I seems far away from Ireland’s Dingle peninsula when Rosy Ryan Shaughnessy goes horseback riding on the beach with the young English officer. There was a magnetic attraction between them the day he was the only customer in her father’s pub and Rosy was tending bar for the first time since her marriage to the village schoolmaster. Then one stormy night some Irish revolutionaries expecting a shipment of guns arrive at Ryan’s pub. Is it Rosy who betrays them to the British? Will Shaugnessy take Father Collin’s advice? Is the pivotal role that of the village idiot who is mute?
Ryan’s Daughter is a 1970 epic romantic drama film directed by David Lean. The film, set in 1916, tells the story of a married Irish woman who has an affair with a British officer during World War I, despite moral and political opposition from her nationalist neighbours. The film is a very loose adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary.
The film’s stars are American and British: Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles, John Mills, Christopher Jones, Trevor Howard and Leo McKern. The score was written by Maurice Jarre. It was photographed in Super Panavision 70 by Freddie Young. In its initial release, Ryan’s Daughter was harshly received by critics but was a box office success, grossing nearly $31 million on a budget of $13.3 million, making the film the eighth highest-grossing picture of 1970. It received two Academy Awards, but was not nominated for best picture.
About the Story
The daughter of the local publican, Tom Ryan (Leo McKern), Rosy Ryan (Sarah Miles) is bored with life in Kirrary, an isolated village on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. She falls in love with the local schoolmaster, Charles Shaughnessy (Robert Mitchum). She imagines, though he tries to convince her otherwise, that he will somehow add excitement to her life.
The villagers are nationalists, taunting British soldiers from a nearby army base. Mr. Ryan publicly supports the recently suppressed Easter Rising, but secretly serves the British as an informer. Major Randolph Doryan (Christopher Jones) arrives to take command of the base. A veteran of World War I, he has been awarded a Victoria Cross, but has a crippled leg and suffers from shell shock.
Rosy is instantly and passionately attracted to Doryan, who suffers from intermittent flashbacks to the trenches of the First World War, also known as the Great War. He collapses. When he recovers, he is comforted by Rosy. The two passionately kiss until they are interrupted by the arrival of Ryan and the townspeople. The next day, the two meet in the forest for a passionate liaison. Charles becomes suspicious of Rosy, but keeps his thoughts to himself.
There is an intermission and an entracte. Charles takes his students to the beach, where he notices Doryan’s telltale footprints accompanied by a woman’s in the sand. He tracks the prints to a cave and imagines Doryan and Rosy conducting an affair. Local halfwit Michael (John Mills) notices the footprints as well and searches the cave. He finds Doryan’s Victoria Cross, which he pins on his own lapel. He proudly parades through town with the medal on his chest, but suffers abuse from the villagers. When Rosy comes riding through town, Michael approaches her tenderly. Between Rosy’s feelings of guilt and Michael’s pantomime, the villagers surmise that she is having an affair with Doryan.
One night, during a fierce storm, IRB leader Tim O’Leary (Barry Foster) – who had killed a police constable earlier – and a small band of his men arrive in Ryan’s pub seeking help to recover a shipment of German arms smuggled by boat from the storm. When they leave, Ryan tips off the British. The entire town turns out to help the rebels. Ryan is the most outwardly devoted to the task, wading into the breakers to repeatedly salvage boxes of bullets and dynamite.
O’Leary is overwhelmed by Ryan’s devotion, and the town is ebullient. They gleefully free the rebels’ truck from the wet sand, and follow it up the hill where Doryan and his troops lie in wait. O’Leary runs for his life. Doryan climbs atop the truck and wounds O’Leary with a rifle, but then he suffers a flashback and collapses. Rosy presses through the crowd in concern, outraging the villagers.
Ryan’s Daughter (1970)
Directed by: David Lean
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles, Trevor Howard, John Mills, Leo McKern, Barry Foster, Marie Kean, Arthur O’Sullivan
Screenplay by: Robert Bolt
Production Design by: Stephen B. Grimes
Cinematography by: Freddie Young
Film Editing by: Norman Savage
Costume Design by: Jocelyn Rickards
Set Decoration by: Josie MacAvin
Art Direction by: Roy Walker
Music by: Maurice Jarre
Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release Date: November 9, 1970