Born in Philadelphia, Mark Connelly completed a masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he received a Ph.D in English. His books include The Diminished Self: Orwell and the Loss of Freedom, Orwell and Gissing, Deadly Closets: The Fiction of Charles Jackson, and several college textbooks. He currently teaches literature and film in Milwaukee, where he is the Vice-President of the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center of Wisconsin.
His latest book is The IRA on Film and Television.
You can visit his website at www.theiraonfilmandtelevision.com.
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Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Mark! Can you tell us where you are from?
I was born in Philadelphia, grew up in New Jersey, and now live in Milwaukee, where I teach literature and film.
Q: How did you come up with your title?
The title: The IRA on Film and Television was selected by the publisher McFarland to be descriptive.
Q: They say you can judge a book by its cover. Can you tell us a little about your cover and who designed it?
The cover, designed by McFarland, shows a still from Ken Loach’s 2006 film The Wind That Shakes the Barley which follows the creation of the IRA during the Irish War of Independence and its role in the Civil War that followed. The film was praised in the United States but led British critics to ask why Loach hated his own country.
Q: Can you tell us something about your book that would make me run out and buy it?
Anyone who is Irish or anyone who is fascinated by the interplay of film and politics would find this book interesting. The Irish Republican Army has been a feature of Irish life for over a century. Although a small underground organization with no global agenda, it has captured the attention of filmmakers in three countries. Over eighty motion pictures and major television shows (Hawaii Five-O, Columbo, Law and Order, Boardwalk Empire) have included IRA plots and characters. Acclaimed filmmakers such as Neil Jordan, John Ford, Carol Reed, John Frankenheimer, and David Lean have directed movies about the IRA. A vast array of major stars — James Mason, Brad Pitt, John Mills, Anthony Hopkins, Richard Gere, Robert Mitchum, James Cagney and Dirk Bogarde — have portrayed IRA figures. The films include documentaries, psychological dramas, action movies, Nazi propaganda, even a spaghetti Western.
Q: Are there any messages in this book that you want the reader to know about?
I think a quote by Joan Dean best sums up not only this book but much about our age:
History is no longer written by the victors. History is written by the filmmakers.
Q: What was your most favorite chapter to write and why?
I really had two favorite chapters: “American Angles” examines the role Americans played in both creating the IRA and shaping its cinematic image. Few Americans have heard of the Fenians, the Irish American Union and Confederate veterans who invaded Canada in 1867 to prompt the British to withdraw from Ireland.
“The Shamrock and the Swastika” analyzes the way filmmakers exploited the IRA’s tenuous relationship with the Nazis during World War II. Although the IRA had limited contact with the Germans, films have exaggerated the connection for both dramatic and political purposes.
Q: Why did you feel you had to write this book?
I was first interested in the IRA when I was eleven or twelve and saw The Night Fighters with Robert Mitchum. I had never heard of the Irish Republican Army or understood why the Irish were fighting the English in WWII. After studying history and political science in college and graduate school, I became intrigued by the role motion pictures play in shaping public opinion. Once I began collecting IRA films, I was amazed by the sheer number of motion pictures about a political movement in one of Europe’s smallest nations. I felt compelled to explore the way film has shaped the world’s impression of a conflict many have heard of but few understand.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Would love to find the site of my family’s village in County Monaghan, an area depopulated by the Famine.
Q: Are you a morning person or a night person?
I start writing at five am fueled by hot coffee and cold Diet Coke.
Q: Last but not least, the magic genie has granted you one wish. What would that be?
Erasing a $16 trillion national debt would be a wish that would benefit us all.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview! Do you have any final words?
Motion pictures by their nature have difficulty exploring complex political issues. If filmmakers have failed to capture the true nature of the Irish conflict, they have created an archetypal figure. Like the American outlaw, the Irish rebel can be cast as hero, victim, or villain.
Anyone wishing to learn more about the book should visit the website: