Odd Man Out
Odd Man Out is a 1947 British film noir directed by Carol Reed. Set in an unnamed Northern Irish city (but clearly Belfast), it is based on the 1945 novel of the same name by F. L. Green and stars James Mason and Robert Newton.
|Odd Man Out|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Carol Reed|
|Produced by||Carol Reed|
|Written by||R. C. Sherriff|
|Based on||Odd Man Out|
by F. L. Green
F. J. McCormick
|Music by||William Alwyn|
|Edited by||Fergus McDonell|
|Distributed by||Rank Organisation|
|Budget||over $1 million|
|Box office||$1,250,000 (US rentals)|
Background to the novelEdit
F.L. (Laurie) Green's novel, also used as the basis of the 1969 Sidney Poitier film The Lost Man, was published in 1945. It followed upon wartime action by the IRA in Belfast, in consequence of which Northern Ireland undertook its first and only execution of an Irish Republican, 19-year old Tom Williams. In the novel, an IRA plot goes horribly wrong when its leader, Johnny Murtah, kills an innocent man, and he is gravely wounded. The source of Green's familiarity with the Belfast IRA at the time is thought to be the Belfast writer Denis Ireland. Ireland's anti-Partition Ulster Union Club had been infiltrated by the IRA intelligence officer and recruiter John Graham.
The film's opening prologue reads: "This story is told against a background of political unrest in a city of Northern Ireland. It is not concerned with the struggle between the law and an illegal organisation, but only with the conflict in the hearts of the people when they become unexpectedly involved."
The city and the organisation are never explicitly named. Irish and British audiences would have clearly understood the city as Belfast and the insurgent organisation led by Johnny McQueen (James Mason) as the IRA.
Johnny has been hiding the past six months since his escape from prison in a house occupied by Kathleen Sullivan (Kathleen Ryan) – who loves him – and her grandmother. To obtain funds, he is ordered to rob a mill. His men, however, question his fitness for the task. They have noticed a change in him since his escape, not least in his suggestion that negotiation might achieve their goals more effectively than violence. Dennis (Robert Beatty) offers to take his place, but Johnny turns him down.
Johnny, Nolan (Dan O'Herlihy) and Murphy carry out the robbery. As they leave, Johnny is confronted by an armed cashier. Johnny is shot in the left shoulder, then kills the cashier. Pat (Cyril Cusack) drives off at high speed before Johnny is fully inside the getaway car. Johnny falls off. While his confederates argue about what to do, Johnny gets up and dashes away, hiding in a row of air raid shelters.
Dennis orders the others to report to headquarters. Along the way, however, the trio arouse the suspicion of the police, out in force on a manhunt for the robbers. They are pursued, but get away. Pat and Nolan stop off at Theresa O'Brien's (Maureen Delany) large terraced house, but Murphy does not trust her and goes elsewhere. She reports the pair to the authorities while they drink large glasses of whiskey. As they leave, they are gunned down by the police, after they start pull out their revolvers.
Dennis finds Johnny, but the police show up nearby. Dennis is captured after drawing them away.
Johnny makes his way toward Kathleen's place, but collapses in the street. Passersby Maureen and Maudie take him home, thinking he has been struck by a passing lorry. They attempt to give first aide then see it is a gunshot wound. When the husband returns they discover who the injured man is, Johnny hears their debate and departs, getting into a parked hansom cab. "Gin" Jimmy (Joseph Tomelty), the cab driver, comes out and starts looking for a fare, unaware he already has a wanted man for a passenger. When he finds out, he drops Johnny off as quickly as he can.
Shell (F. J. McCormick) spots him dumping the now nearly unconscious fugitive. A poor man, Shell goes to Catholic priest Father Tom (W. G. Fay), hoping for a financial reward. By chance, Kathleen arrives shortly afterward, looking for help. Father Tom tells Kathleen that Johnny has killed a man and must pay the price. She replies that she will kill him herself rather than let him be taken and executed and she will kill herself to go with him and protect him, which the priest tries to talk her out of. Father Tom persuades Shell to fetch Johnny. Shell, while dropping off his pet bird at home, has to fend off another resident, the eccentric painter Lukey (Robert Newton), who wants him to pose for a portrait again; an argument starts between them. Meanwhile, Johnny revives and stumbles into a private booth in a crowded bar. Proprietor Fencie (William Hartnell) recognises him and closes his establishment a bit early. He then recruits Shell and the persistent Lukey, who separately have converged on the bar, to take Johnny away in a cab. Over Shell's protests, Lukey takes Johnny back to his studio to paint his portrait. Failed medical student Tober (Elwyn Brook-Jones) tends to Johnny's wound as best he can. Johnny hallucinates, thinking Father Tom is talking to him. Johnny then speaks aloud parts of 1 Corinthians 13, first verse 13 ("When I was a child..."), then 1-2 ("Though I speak...and have not charity, I am nothing.").
When a sympathetic police inspector (Denis O'Dea), who had earlier led a search of Kathleen's home and warned her against getting involved, shows up to try to get information from Father Tom, Kathleen slips away. She arranges passage on a ship for Johnny and goes searching for him. Shell starts Johnny toward Father Tom's, then goes ahead and encounters Kathleen. She takes Johnny toward the ship but sees the police closing in. Johnny is too far gone to notice them so when he asks "Is it far?", Kathleen replies "It's a long way, Johnny, but I'm coming with you". She then draws a gun and starts firing, forcing the policemen to shoot back, killing them both. Johnny has killed a man and therefore is damned. Kathleen, by committing suicide, a mortal sin, condemns herself, through love, to damnation as well, to try to protect him in the afterlife.
- James Mason as Johnny McQueen
- Kathleen Ryan as Kathleen Sullivan
- Robert Newton as Lukey, the artist
- Cyril Cusack as Pat
- F. J. McCormick as Shell
- William Hartnell as Fencie the barman
- Fay Compton as Rosie
- Denis O'Dea as Inspector
- W. G. Fay as Father Tom
- Maureen Delaney as Theresa O’Brien
- Elwyn Brook-Jones as Tober
- Robert Beatty as Dennis
- Dan O'Herlihy as Nolan
- Kitty Kirwan as Grannie
- Beryl Measor as Maudie
- Roy Irving as Murphy
- Joseph Tomelty as ‘Gin’ Jimmy, the cabbie
According to Richard Burton, the lead role was originally offered to Stewart Granger. Burton wrote in his diaries:
Reminds me of Jimmy Granger being sent the script of Odd Man Out by Carol Reed and flipping through the pages where he had dialogue, deciding that the part wasn't long enough. He didn't notice the stage directions so turned it down and James Mason played it instead and made a career out of it. It's probably the best thing that Mason has ever done and certainly the best film he's ever been in while poor Granger has never been in a good classic film at all. Or, as far as I remember, in a good film of any kind. You could after all have a ‘James Mason Festival’ but you couldn't have a ‘Stewart Granger’ one. Except as a joke. Granger tells the story ruefully against himself.
Aside from Mason, the supporting cast was drawn largely from Dublin's Abbey Theatre. Among the other members of the Organisation are Cyril Cusack, Robert Beatty, and Dan O'Herlihy. On his travels, Johnny meets an opportunistic bird-fancier played by F. J. McCormick, a drunken artist played by Robert Newton, a barman (William Hartnell) and a failed surgeon (Elwyn Brook-Jones). Denis O'Dea is the inspector on Johnny's trail, and Kathleen Ryan, in her first feature film, plays the woman who loves Johnny. Also notable are W. G. Fay—a founder of the Abbey Theatre—as the kindly Father Tom, Fay Compton, Joseph Tomelty, and Eddie Byrne. Albert Sharpe plays a bus conductor. A number of non-speaking parts were filled by actors who later achieved public attention, including Dora Bryan, Geoffrey Keen, Noel Purcell, Guy Rolfe and Wilfrid Brambell (a standing passenger in the tram scene). Few of the main actors in the film actually manage an authentic Ulster accent.
The bar set was based on the Crown Bar in Belfast; contrary to some sources, it was a studio set built at D&P Studios in Denham, Buckinghamshire, and was not filmed in the real Crown. However, much of the film was shot on location: Exterior scenes were shot in West Belfast, although some were shot at Broadway Market in London.
Composer William Alwyn was involved writing the leitmotif-based film score from the very beginning of the production. It was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Muir Mathieson.
The film's violent ending attracted advance criticism from the censors, and had to be toned down in the finished film.
Leonard Maltin gave the movie 4 out of 4 stars naming it "Incredibly suspenseful."
It ranked eighth among more popular movies at the British box office in 1947.
|Award / Film Festival||Category||Recipients and nominees||Result|
|Academy Awards||Best Film Editing||Fergus McDonell||Nominated|
|British Academy Film Awards||Best British Picture||Odd Man Out||Won|
I still consider it as one of the best movies I've ever seen and a film which made me want to pursue this career more than anything else...I always dreamt of doing things of this sort or that style. To a certain extent I must say that I somehow perpetuate the ideas of that movie in what I do.
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- Roman Polanski: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi, 2005. ISBN 978-1-57806-800-5. Pages 159, 189.
- Vidal,Gore. "Screening History - The William Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilisation 1991".(Harvard University Press).
- Kirby, Walter (10 February 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 38. Retrieved 2 June 2015 – via Newspapers.com.