Book + DVD Review: The Woman Who Married Clarke Gable



Cathy Butler takes a look at The Woman Who Married Clark Gable.

Edited by Lance Pettitt and Beatriz Kopschitz Bastos (Sao Paulo, USP/Humanitas Press, 2013).

256 pages + DVD.

ISBN: 978-8577322251 (paperback).


Many established directors have had their ‘pivotal short film’; a successful short that gains critical success, does well on the festival circuit, and gives the director a more recognisable name. This is especially true of Irish directors, for whom the transition from shorts to features is a rite of passage of sorts, with very few Irish filmmakers progressing to features without having a few shorts in their back catalogue. This book, a bilingual publication from Humanitas and the WB Yeats Chair of Irish Studies in Brazil, takes a look at the early career of Irish director Thaddeus O’Sullivan, and, more specifically, his ‘pivotal short film’, The Woman Who Married Clark Gable.

The book comprises three critical essays on the subject of O’Sullivan’s work, by scholars Lance Pettitt, Roy Foster, and Anelise R. Corseuil. It also features the short story of the same title by Seán O’Faoláin that O’Sullivan’s film is based on, as well as the adapted screenplay by Andrew Pattman. In this way, the book serves as an examination of the process and effects of adaptation, as the various texts show the transition from short story, to screenplay, to produced film.

Pettitt’s opening essay is a thorough and in-depth account of O’Sullivan’s early career, from his emigration to London, his time as an art student in that city, and his first produced films. The piece takes its title and central focus from a quote from O’Sullivan regarding his emigrant existence as similar to being in a “ ‘crack’ – somewhere between the two cultures.” Pettitt examines the effect of this existence on O’Sullivan’s work, and his struggles as an artist in ‘60s and ‘70s London. It is a common theme of Irish artists and filmmakers – the need to emigrate to seek out success. The experience of being an Irish artist producing work in another country, and the merging of elements of an artist’s native culture with the culture of their adopted home, is engagingly brought to light through the examination of O’Sullivan’s work at that time, and resonates with the climate of Ireland’s arts industry of recent years, where the arts took something of a back seat in the wake of the country’s economic downturn.

The concluding essays, from Foster and Corseuil, look at Clark Gable in terms of its adaptation, both critiques proposing that O’Sullivan expands upon and adds greater depth to the themes and characters that are briefly sketched in O’Faoláin’s short story. The film follows a few days in the lives of married couple Mary and George, played by Bob Hoskins and Brenda Fricker, in Dublin city in the 1930s. Mary is a devout Irish Catholic, and George is British and a half-hearted Methodist, which is the first obvious point of conflict between the two. They share an enjoyment of cinema, however, but Mary’s enjoyment starts to get out of hand when she starts to imagine that George is in fact Hollywood actor Clark Gable. After seeing him perform in the film San Francisco, where his character turns from non-believer to believer throughout the course of the film, Mary develops an infatuation with Gable, much to George’s chagrin.

The inclusion of O’Faoláin’s short story, Pattman’s adapted script, and a DVD of the final produced film give the reader/viewer the opportunity to assess the adaptation from start to finish. Considering the story and film side-by-side, the film is certainly a more developed narrative, with greater characterisation and emotional resonance. It omits the more ironic voice of O’Faoláin’s omnipotent narrator, and ultimately produces a more engaging and impactful story. Hoskins and Fricker’s performances add great weight to the piece, and engross the viewer in the couple’s journey. The film is a good example of that rare adaptation that adds more to the original text than it takes away.

For a slim volume, this examination of The Woman Who Married Clark Gable manages to serve as both an introduction to the early work of Thaddeus O’Sullivan, and as an engaging examination of prose-to-screen adaptation. As with most academic texts, it may be of more interest to students and researchers than to the casual enthusiast, but it is certainly a welcome addition to the body of Irish film criticism.


The Woman Who Married Clark Gable is available from the IFI Film Shop.


Competition: Win a Copy of ‘Thaddeus O’Sullivan: The Early Films , 1974-1985’ on DVD

thaddeus osullivan

As part of their Christmas campaign, the festive folk at the IFI Film Shop have given us a copy of Thaddeus O’Sullivan: The Early Films , 1974-1985 to giveaway.

From the best in Irish film and T.V. to the top DVDs of 2014, from documentaries to dramas, from serials to sci-fi – One Million Dubliners, Jimmy’s Hall, Frank, Finding Vivian Maier and Ida,  there’s hundreds of gift ideas for film lovers at the IFI Film Shop which has extended opening hours right up to Christmas Eve! There really is something for everyone, so why not pop in and check it out for yourself!

From the 10th of December they are a running a 12 days of Christmas competition via their Film Shop Twitter account (IFI_FilmShop), all you have to do is retweet to be in with a chance of winning some great film prizes e.g. newly released DVDs, iconic film posters.

Competition Offer

We have a copy of Thaddeus O’Sullivan: The Early Films , 1974-1985 to give away. The two-disc, digitally remastered DVD features five films that O’Sullivan made between 1974 and 1985, including the BAFTA nominated The Woman Who Married Clark Gable (1985) and a rarely shown film on Jack B. Yeats (1981), as well as authoritative versions of his RCA and BFI work from the 1970s.

To be in with a chance of winning, answer the following question:

Who starred as master criminal Michael Lynch in Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s 2000 film Ordinary Decent Criminal?

Email your answer to by Monday, 22nd December when the Film Ireland Hat will carry out a large heist and select a winner.

The Early Films (1974-1985)
Dublin-born Thaddeus O’Sullivan is one of Ireland’s most distinguished cinematographers and film directors. His award-winning feature films include Stella Days, The Heart of Me, Nothing Personal and December Bride. With this new DVD the IFI Irish Film Archive brings together five of his earliest films digitally re-mastered and made available for the first time since their original, limited release 30-40 years ago. The collection represents an important and vibrant period in the 1970s and ’80s when key Irish filmmakers were working in formally experimental and critically questioning ways within what is now called the first wave of Irish cinema.

This collection traces O’Sullivan’s early endeavours as a student in London, at Ealing Art College and the Royal College of Art, where he made the experimental student works Flanagan (1974) and A Pint of Plain (1975) through to his first commercial cinema release, the BAFTA-nominated The Woman Who Married Clark Gable (1985) starring Brenda Fricker and Bob Hoskins. In the BFI-funded On a Paving Stone Mounted (1978) which features performances by Christy Moore, Stephen Rea, Gabriel Byrne and Miriam Margolyes and his cine-essay Assembled Memories (1981) about the life and work of painter Jack B Yeats, viewers can better appreciate how O’Sullivan experimented with film to explore memory, migration and creativity.

Flanagan (1974, 11min)
A Pint of Plain (1975, 40min)
The Woman Who Married Clark Gable (1985, 28min)

On a Paving Stone Mounted (1978, 92min)
Assembled Memories: Jack B. Yeats, 1871-1957 (1981, 35min)
Aspect Ratio: All 4:3 except for The Woman Who Married Clarke Gable 16:9
Region: Free, Pal
Sound: Stereo
Length: Disc One 79 mins, Disc Two 127 mins
Language: English
Colour: Assembled Memories colour
All other titles black and white

EURO 21.99 includes postage and packing. Available for EURO 19.99 in person at the IFI Film Shop.

If ordering more than one copy, please call the IFI Film Shop on 01 679 5727


Thaddeus O’Sullivan on DVD


Five early rarely-seen films by Thaddeus O’Sullivan, are released this week on DVD by the Irish Film Institute and St Mary’s University, London as part of the IFI’s ongoing series of archive-based DVD releases.

The two-disc, digitally remastered DVD features five films that O’Sullivan made between 1974 and 1985 including the BAFTA nominated The Woman Who Married Clark Gable (1985) and a rarely shown film on Jack B. Yeats (1981), as well as authoritative versions of his RCA and BFI work from the 1970s.

These early films launched a career which later included features December Bride, Ordinary Decent Criminal and Stella Days and television work that includes Amber and the Emmy Award-winning Into the Storm/Churchill at War. Working regularly in Ireland and England he occupies a tantalising position between his native and adopted cultures, existing as he once termed it, “in the crack between [British and Irish] cultures.”

Thaddeus O’Sullivan: The Early Films, 1974-1985 is available from the IFI Film Shop in person, on 01 679 5727 or online at priced €19.99 (or €21.99 inc. shipping).


National Film School Lecture Series:

National Film School Lecture Series in association with Bord Scannán na hÉireann/The Irish Film Board welcome Thaddeus O’Sullivan as part of its National Film School Lecture Series on Wednesday, February 9th at 10.30am. All are welcome to attend.

Thaddeus O’Sullivan is one of Ireland’s leading film and television directors. Born in Dublin, he graduated from the Royal College of Art in London and began his career as an avant-garde film maker and freelance cinematographer. His credits include: December Bride (Special Prize, European Film Awards); Nothing Personal; Witness to the Mob (TV); Ordinary Decent Criminal (with Kevin Spacey and Peter Mullan); The Heart of Me (with Helen Bonham Carter); Silent Witness (TV); and Into the Storm (TV – Primetime Emmy nomination: Best Director)

The lecture takes place in Room C028 at 10.30am