Oscar Movies: Molly Maguires–Martin Ritt Directs Sean Connery and Richard Harris

This historical drama from blacklisted director Martin Ritt and Walter Bernstein is loosely based on real-life events.

Richard Harris stars as James McParlan, an operative for the Pinkerton Detective Agency in 1876. The Pinkertons have been hired by a major coal company to infiltrate and expose an underground terrorist organization, the “Molly Maguires,” operating within the mining communities of Pennsylvania.

Since most of the miners are Irish, McParlan is chosen to pose as a new worker. Indeed, as irish immigrant himself, he quickly wins the trust and loyalty of the local terrorist leader, Jack Kehoe (Sean Connery), as well as the love of his landlord’s beautiful daughter, Mary Raines (Samantha Eggar).

The group he’s supposed to betray is protesting truly wretched working conditions, the lawman’s loyalties become divided between the law and his countrymen.

No doubt, Ritt and Bernstein want to send political message, but the movie is too grim and overwrought.  The two blacklisted artists would collaborate to better effect in making The Front, in 1976.

The movie was a huge commercial flop, especially considering the huge budget that was spent on building a nineteenth century mining community on location, in a small Pennsylvania town.

Oscar Context:

The Molly Maguires was Oscar nominated for Best Art and Set Direction, but did not win.  The winner was  Patton.


Running time: 124 minutes.


Directed by Martin Ritt


Written by Walter Bernstein


DVD:  April 27, 2004

Paramount Home Video