The Rising of the Moon, The (1957): John Ford’s Anthology Film

John Ford directed The Rising of the Moon, an anthology film that consists of three episodes set in Ireland.

“The Majesty of the Law,” based on the story by Frank O’Connor in Bones of Contention
“A Minute’s Wait,” based on a 1914 one-act comedy by Martin J. McHugh
“1921,” based on the play The Rising of the Moon by Lady Gregory.

The Majesty of the Law

Police Inspector Dillon (Cyril Cusack) walks through the countryside to see an old friend, Dan O’Flaherty (Noel Purcell). Along the way, he encounters Mickey J. (Jack MacGowran), a poitín maker (bootlegger) who is not Dillon’s target, but accompanies Dillon to O’Flaherty’s stone cottage where Dillon serves O’Flaherty a warrant for striking Phelim O’Feeney. While they are socializing, O’Flaherty refuses to pay the fine, claiming he has done nothing wrong, nor will he allow O’Feeney to pay; instead, he heads off to prison.

A Minute’s Wait

A train pulls up to the Dunfaill station in County Kerry, where Paddy Morrisey (Jimmie O’Dea) announces there will be “a minute’s wait”. The passengers and crew crowd into the bar for refreshments, served by Pegeen Mallory (Maureen Potter). Later, Paddy finally proposes to his longtime girlfriend Pegeen.

Mrs. Falsey (May Craig) chats with her friend Barney Domigan (Harold Goldblatt), while her niece Mary Ann MacMahon (Maureen Connell) meets his son Christy (Godfrey Quigley). Domigan is on his way to arrange a marriage between Christy and a woman with nice dowry. Mrs. Falsey persuades him to change his mind by informing him that the U.S. Army has awarded Mary Ann $10,000 for her father’s death in battle. The young couple, unaware of this, insist they will only marry each other.

The train is repeatedly delayed, to the befuddlement of older English couple (Anita Sharp-Bolster and Michael Trubshawe). First, they are displaced from their first class compartment to make way for a prize-winning goat, then, they have to share their new compartment with lobsters intended for the bishop’s golden jubilee. Finally, the bar receives a phone call asking that the train add on another car needed to accommodate a hurling team whose bus has broken down nearby after a match. When the English couple finally get off for some tea, they are left behind when the train finally departs.

Sean Curran (Donal Donnelly) awaits his execution in Galway prison by the British during the “Black and Tan War”. This is very unpopular with the Irish public who consider him a hero. A sizable crowd of nuns and other demonstrators continually parade around, chanting the rosary. The British warden (Joseph O’Dea) allows two “nuns” (Doreen Madden and Maureen Cusack), one of them claiming to be Curran’s grieving “sister”, to visit him briefly; the false sister (an American citizen) swaps clothes and places with Curran in his cell while the lights have gone out during a staged power outage. Unsuspecting Police Sergeant Michael O’Hara (Denis O’Dea) helps the pair into a waiting carriage. He notices that one is wearing high heels, but thinks little of it.

The city is sealed off as the manhunt for the fugitive begins. O’Hara is assigned to watch a section of the waterfront and daydreams of what he could do with the £500 bounty. Already conflicted by divided loyalties, he is visited by his overtly nationalistic wife (Eileen Crowe). Then, Curran shows up disguised as itinerant ballad singer Jimmy Walsh. O’Hara is suspicious and has him sing; Curran chooses the patriotic “The Rising of the Moon”. Despite his unconvincing rendition, he manages to slip away on a boat sent for him while O’Hara bickers with his wife.

When the policeman sees Curran getting away, and considers raising the alarm, but instead he starts singing “The Rising of the Moon.”

Tyrone Power as Introducer/narrator

The Majesty of the Law

Cyril Cusack as Inspector Dillon
Noel Purcell as Dan O’Flaherty
Jack MacGowran as Mickey J.
John Cowley as Phelim O’Feeney

A Minute’s Wait

Jimmy O’Dea as Paddy Morrisey, the porter
Maureen Potter as Pegeen Mallory
Paul Farrell as Mr. O’Brien, the train engineer
Harold Goldblatt as Barney Domigan
May Craig as Mrs. Falsey
Godfrey Quigley as Christy Domigan
Maureen Connell as Mary Ann McMahon
Michael Trubshawe as Colonel Frobisher
Anita Sharp-Bolster as Mrs. Frobisher

Denis O’Dea as Police Sergeant Michael O’Hara
Eileen Crowe as Police Sergeant’s Wife
Donal Donnelly as Sean Curran
Maureen Cusack as “Sister Mary Grace”
Doreen Madden as “Sister Matthias”
Joseph O’Dea as British Warden
Maureen Delany as Old Woman
Frank Lawton as British Officer
Edward Lexy as Quartermaster Sergeant


TCM played this rarely seen film on July 17, 2020, as tribute to John Ford.