Killarney in the movies

Killarney in the movies

While Killarney isn’t exactly Hollywood in terms of film-making, film-production or film-writing or anything film related for that matter in 2014, there was a time when that was quite different. 100 years ago to be exact. Film-making was still in its infancy of course back then and any films that were being made were almost exclusively being produced in the USA. But as the 1910s began, things began to change and film companies started to look abroad for new locations and new horizons. And this is where Killarney comes into the picture.

The Kalem Film Company, an American film studio, were pioneers in this field. In 1910, they released the first production ever by an American company to be filmed outside the USA. The film was entitled A Lad from Old Ireland and it was filmed in the village of Beaufort which lies just five miles from Killarney. Killarney was an obvious choice for film studios thanks to its rather lovely scenery and the A Lad From Old Ireland was the first in a number of films to be shot in the environs of this town during this period.

The Kalem Company would film other acclaimed films such as You Remember Ellen, The Colleen Bawn and Rory O’Moore in Killarney after the success of A Lad From Old Ireland. Kalem, and indeed its star director Sidney Alcott, had forged a strong affinity with Kerry and they planned on building a permanent studio in Beaufort as a headquarters for any new projects. So what stopped them? Those pesky Germans and English that’s who. The outbreak of World War I to be more succinct. Back then we were part of the British Empire so technically Ireland was at war. So instead, Kalem moved their studio to Palestine and in 1915 released From The Manger To The Cross, the first ever five reel film and it grossed $1m at the box office (A huge amount in 1915). Oh what could have been.

A still from “A Lad From Old Ireland”

But Killarney’s film-making history doesn’t end there. British film-makers soon took an interest in Killarney thanks, again, to our rather lovely scenery (it’s not all we’ve got going for us – no wait, it is). In 1919 Regal Films released Father O’Flynn, which was, you guessed it, shot in Killarney and in 1936 (Bit of a jump, I know) Wings of the Morning, which starred Henry Fonda, was shot in Killarney.

The first feature length film with significant local involvement to be filmed in our lovely town was a movie based on the Irish War of Independence, The Dawn, again in 1936. The film was produced by local garage-owner turned film-maker Tom Cooper and used a local, amateur cast. The film has been described by Kevin Rockett (Don’t know who he is but he sounds important) as “one of the most remarkable films made in Ireland, in terms of the way in which it was produced and the finished product.”

Today, Killarney doesn’t get much film time. The Hollywood blockbuster Far, Far Away was filmed in Dingle in 1993 and Tom Cruise stayed in Killarney but that’s as close as we’ve gotten.

Our connection with movie industry hasn’t ended however – local boy Michael Fassbender has made quite a name for himself in the past few years with starring roles in films like Shame, Hunger, Prometheus, A Dangerous Method, Inglorious Basterds, X-Men:First Class and of course 12 Years a Slave for which is he nominated for an Oscar.

If you want to find out more about Killarney’s film-making past then The Beaufort Bar in Beaufort, naturally, is great place to visit. If Beaufort’s not on your itinerary then just take a stroll to what enticed all those film-makers here – our lakes and mountains!