Arthur Shields in The River

The actor Arthur Shields, a protestant nationalist from Dublin, was a member of the Irish Volunteers who had fought in the actual 1916 Easter Rising, with its focal point being the General Post Office in O’Connell Street.

He spent the week of the rising in and around the G.P.O., retreating to a house on Moore Street with the rest of the insurgents from the G.P.O. and finally surrendering to British soldiers. (1)

In the 1920s, Shields appeared in the first productions of Sean O’Casey’s plays, The Plough and the Stars, Shadow of a Gunman and Juno and the Paycock, at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

In 1936, Shields was employed as an actor and as co-director by John Ford, fresh from his Oscar-winning success with The Informer (1935), to bring authenticity to the Hollywood version of The Plough and the Stars. He was to deliver especial verisimilitude to the scenes recreated from the rebellion, particularly in the G.P.O, himself playing the revolutionary leader, Padraig Pearse.

Ford notes in a contemporaneous interview in Photoplay:

A good many of the most outstanding incidents I have filmed have been things that members of the company have actually seen, or actually done in their lives. For these pictures that deal with the Irish uprising I’ve looked up former black-and-tan soldiers, former rebels, former onlookers, and given them parts; it adds to the sincerity because in the mass demonstration scenes they remember their own experiences and have real tears in their eyes – and every now and then some extra will offer a suggestion that lends to the authenticity of the production.

Some of them – Arthur Shields for instance – were really in the Dublin post office when it fell. They were in this pub we’ve reproduced when the call came to mobilize. I talk with them informally, and get their opinions, and listen to their anecdotes, and as a result get a better picture. (2)

Sean O’Casey had written to Shields on 19 May 1936, addressing his personal concerns about the film:

I of course know about the selection of E. Crowe, F. J. and Will and yourself for work on the film [… John Ford] knows a grand deal about the B and Tans […] he was over in Ireland then, he is a Galwayman. So don’t worry […] (3)

The meeting where the Irish Proclamation of Independence is signed, the last hours of the besieged GPO, and the execution of Connally (Moroni Olsen) have particular power and resonance, which cannot be said for the rest of the film. Shields has but one significant speech, allowing his graphic non-verbal performance to dominate in most of his scenes, notably the last hours of the GPO. Standing, Pearse declares:

Irishmen and Irishwomen, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a sovereign independent state, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades in arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations. (4)

Shields as Pearse then signs, followed by the seated Moroni Olsen as Connolly.

Even this appears to have been contentious. Correspondence at script stage from Sean O’Casey to Robert F. Sisk of RKO Studios, dated 29 March 1936, refers to letters from Fisk and Ford, and issues relating to cuts and the Censor:

I have made some suggestions that may meet the point about appreciation of the achievement of the Irish Soldiers that brought the Free State into existence. […] I have received the marked copy of the play, and feel a little furious about some of the cuts […] (5)

O’Casey concludes,

I may say that some of the cuts are the actual words spoken by Patric Pearse, Commander-General of the Irish Volunteers, at a meeting which I helped to organise. I can’t see why they should object to this. However, I will wait to see what the Censor will say to me. (6)

The Censor would be Irish American Catholic conservative Joseph I. Breen, the recently appointed head of the Production Code Administration, established in 1934. Under Breen’s leadership of the PCA, which lasted until his retirement in 1954, enforcement of the Production Code became rigid and notorious.

It is apparent that O’Casey and the filmmakers had to compromise: “Perhaps you mean that I should rewrite the marked passages in a way the Censor would pass […]”. (7)

Arthur Shields in The Plough and the Stars

Variety reviewed The Plough and the Stars after its release on 26 December 1936:

Story is an account of the Irish rebellion in 1916, a sanguinary outburst which failed of its purpose because the people were divided in allegiance, many Irish at the time fighting in France. It depicts the Irish character in various shadings of comedy, tragedy, sacrifice, selfishness and stupidity. (8)

The reviewer criticised the adaptation:

So many changes have been made in adapting this O’Casey play to the screen that the tragic original has been modified into a romantic melodrama. (9)

However, the drama documentary scenes that Arthur Shields had so contributed to the direction of were singled out for praise:

The scenes of the siege and recapture of the post office are exciting, realistic and tense […] One of the best directed scenes is the execution of the Irish general, played by Moroni Olsen (Connolly). The camera swings from the doomed man in a slow panorama along a garden wall towards the firing squad, whose job is finished just before they come into focus”. (10)

John Ford wrote Arthur Shields a handwritten personal note of thanks: “With deepest affection and regard from one who is grateful to him for his cooperation on The Plough and the Stars.” (11) And the opening titles of the film contain the credit: “Directed by John Ford assisted by Arthur Shields of the Abbey Theatre”.

Shields toured America with the Abbey several times in the 1930s before settling permanently in California, probably uncomfortable with a restrictively censorious and religious single tradition Irish state, which he likely felt was a betrayal of the liberal inclusive values espoused by the leaders of the Easter Rising.

Having initially taken leave of absence from the Abbey in 1938, Shields in fact ceased his association with the company for good (in 1946). It has been suggested that this was due in part to changing cultural climate of both the Abbey itself and of Ireland. Shields, a protestant nationalist, perhaps felt that Ireland was becoming increasingly dominated by the Catholic Church, and the Abbey’s rejection of the ‘The White Steed’ was a reflection of this. (12)

Arthur Shields in The River

In this context, it is interesting that in another film that blends documentary and drama, Jean Renoir’s The River (1951), Shields plays Irishman Mr. John, living in India and widowed father of an Eurasian daughter, Melanie (Radha). Renoir distinguished his casting of this film by giving roles to non-actors and actors very close to their real-life characters. Perhaps ironically, Mr. John’s Irish-American cousin, the war traumatised Capt. John, who has lost a leg in the fighting, is played by real life veteran and amputee, Thomas E. Breen, son of none other than the selfsame US Censor, Joseph I. Breen.

Also invalided by war was actor Esmond Knight, playing The Father, who was virtually blind from wounds suffered during naval action in 1941. He is flanked in the film by his real-life wife, actress Nora Swinburne, in the role of The Mother. The central character, Harriet, is played by non-actor Patricia Walters, a real-life daughter of the Raj, recruited by Renoir, while Melanie is played by the noted Indian dancer Radha. The young son, Bogey, is played (uncredited) by Rumer Godden’s own nephew, Richard Foster.

Much as portrayed in his previous film, The Woman on the Beach (1947), with its male characters, a blind and bitter painter and a combat traumatised naval veteran (13), Renoir seemed to have evolved his thinking from the politically motivated leftist position of the 1930s to view the destruction of World War II as a product of untrammelled male psyche and over-weaning masculine ambition on all sides. It led him to seek new alternative mindsets, while portraying conventional male characters as damaged mentally and physically, their growth stunted, unable to effectively move forward in the post-war world of peace and reconciliation.

The exceptions in The River would be Mr. John, of which more in a moment, and the poor pre-adolescent boy Bogey, whose unfettered and innocent masculine curiosity and conditioning, as son of ‘The Big House’, lets him follow his instinct to explore, leading him to attempt to collect and control (even colonise and command) nature, in the form of the wild cobra, which will not submit, and which ultimately bites back, killing him.

Edward Said has said words to the effect that the traditional colonialist narrative needs a white male hero and Renoir seems determined not deliver one in The River, instead presenting Mr. John as the most positive male character, and centring the drama round the narrator and protagonist of the novel, the young English girl Harriet.

Reference to a draft copy of the shooting script of The River by Jean Renoir and Rumer Godden (held by BFI Special Collections), complete with handwritten amendments, confirms that Mr. John is clearly Irish. When Captain John arrives at Mr. John’s house, he asks, “How is the family in Ireland?”, to which Mr. John replies, “Very well, I hope. I never hear from them. How is the family in America?” (14) Separately, critics Christopher Faulkner and Ronald Bergan, who often rely on Renoir’s son Alain as a source, both refer to Mr. John’s as being Irish. Recourse to the source autobiographical novella, The River by Rumer Godden, reveals that Mr. John and daughter Melanie are completely new characters created for the film.

Rumer Godden had come to Hollywood in the Summer 1949 to write the screenplay with Jean Renoir at his home in Beverly Hills. “‘We will put the book up on the shelf,’ said Jean. ‘Then we can keep the flavour while we recreate it in another medium.’” (15) She describes their shared method:

Renoir believed passionately as I did, that the only authenticity is truth […] Nowhere in the film of The River is there anything artificial that should be real, nowhere does anyone speak words they could not in real life have said […] (16)


Jean knew The River even more deeply than I, yet, as we worked, he would wait for minutes, half-an-hour, perhaps an hour while I searched for a word – though we kept what we could of the original dialogue there had to be more. (17)


I needed time to know the new characters – how they would speak, sound, originate. ‘No. Melanie would never have thought of that, done that …’ (18)

In a letter dated 25 October 1949, Jean Renoir writes from his Beverly Hills home to Godden who is now in England:

Well it’s done! We have a Cousin John and a Captain John. As you know, the first is Breen and the second is a very wonderful Irish actor, Arthur Shields. He was at the Abbey Theatre for years. Everybody here admires him but strangely enough this has rarely manifested itself in concrete parts”. (19)

A biographical profile of Jean Renoir, prepared by his wife Dido in 1958, lists Ireland as one of the countries the director has visited. (20)

Arthur Shields in The Long Voyage Home

Renoir was also a good friend of, and had worked with, screenwriter Dudley Nichols on several scripts, including his first filmed projects in Hollywood, Swamp Water (1941) and This Land is Mine (1943). Nichols had worked with Arthur Shields on the John Ford films The Plough and the Stars and The Long Voyage Home (1940), so maybe the connection was also made there. Certainly Renoir was corresponding from India with Nichols during the busy shoot, discussing the film in hand, as well as future project ideas. (21)

The River is a coming-of-age story told through the eyes of a young English girl, Harriet, growing up in the twilight of Imperial India. It is true that some Irish, a colonised people themselves, have nevertheless played their part in the colonial apparatus. So, what kind of Irishman does Arthur Shields play as Mr. John?

In this drama where art mirrors life, as exiled Irishman Mr. John, Arthur Shields encourages his daughter Melanie to embrace both her Western and Eastern heritages, while practising a life of tolerance, acceptance and contemplation himself, having opted out of the treadmill of wealth creation and status seeking.

In a longer version of the scene taken from the shooting script, Captain John and Mr John stand at the top of a set of steps leading down to the river.

Capt. John: “I just wanted to see how you spend your days. Is this your place of meditation?”

Mr. John: “Meditation is hard work. I’m too lazy for the big philosophies so I invent little ones of my own.”

Capt. John (sitting down): “Such as?”

Mr. John: “Digestivism. There is a magnificent sunset. I look at it and digest what I see.”

Capt. John: “A digestivist? That’s a good thing to be … But didn’t you ever do any work?”

Mr. John: “I did once, but I earned too much money. You see I’m rich.”

Capt. John: “How rich?”

Mr. John: “For you: [he measures a tiny distance with his finger and thumb]. For me: [he makes a wide ample gesture]. To have so much I had to learn, not to add, but to subtract. That wasn’t achieved in a moment.” (22)

This was reflected in the minimalist approach of Production Designer Eugène Lourié to the ‘Little House’, occupied by Mr. John and Melanie:

I designed the Mr John set as a large room with high ceilings. It was kept completely bare of decoration, conveying the quiet, reflective spirit of Mr John and the general feeling of simplicity in Indian interiors […] When Jean first came to the set, he was surprised by its sparseness. However, he soon accepted my point of view, and I saw him eagerly pointing to a lonely chair or a single sideboard, asking, ‘Is this piece really necessary?’ (23)

The River

Responding to the death of Bogey, Mr John echoes the sentiments of Renoir himself.

Mr John: “We should celebrate that a child died a child. That one escaped. We lock them in our schools, we teach them our stupid taboos, we catch them in our wars, we massacre the innocents. The world is for children. The real world. They climb trees and roll on the grass, close to the ants […]” (24)

The portrayal of Mr. John by Arthur Shields and his daughter Melanie by Radha represents a fresh and progressive representation of the Irish character, in a drama that Ian Christie notes,

Like another near contemporary film Rossellini’s Journey to Italy [Viaggio in Italia, 1953], The River has survived falling out of fashion to re-emerge as a touchstone for a certain kind of modernity in cinema. (25)

Indeed, Jacques Rivette in his 1955 article “Letter to Rossellini” also linked the two films:

There was The River, the first didactic poem: now there is Journey to Italy which, with absolute lucidity, at last offers the cinema, hitherto condemned to narrative, the possibility of the essay. (26)

To this end, the extended documentary sequences, capturing the rhythms, sights and sounds of life by and on the Bengal riverside, which in editing Renoir put together to act as a framework for the film, further disrupt and dissolve the flow of classical narrative, so that time sometimes seems to stand still and poetry can emerge out of prose.

Renoir in “Personal Notes” published in 1952, explained:

When I made La Règle du jour (in 1939) I knew where to go. I knew the evil which gnawed my contemporaries. This doesn’t mean I know how to give a clear idea of this evil in the film. But my instinct guided me. Consciousness of danger provided me with the situations and the answers, and my companions felt as I did. How worried we were! I believe the film to be good. But it is not so difficult to work well when the compass of disturbance plots one’s true course. (27)

I found the same kind of certainty with The River. I felt mounting inside myself this desire to make contact with my neighbour which I believe the whole world shares vaguely today. Perhaps evil forces deflect the course of events. But I feel in the heart of men a desire, I will not say for brotherhood, but – more simply – a curiosity. But this is better than nothing. Men are very tired of wars, privations, fears and doubt. We have not yet reached the period of great enthusiasms, but we are entering into the period of goodwill. I and my companions felt this in India, even during the bad days when Hindus and Moslems were killing one another. The smoke from fired buildings did not stifle our confidence. We thought only that these men were behind their times. (28)

The River

Satyajit Ray, the great Indian film director, who befriended and advised Renoir during the production of The River, did not see the finished film till much later, when he himself was well-established. In an 1982 article on cinematic representations of the sub-continent, “Under Western Eyes”, he wrote:

The sights and sounds and moods of India, or rather the Bengal riverside, were caught beautifully by Renoir in The River. But this too was primarily a story of Britons in India. The presence of a GI would date the story around the mid-40’s, a period of considerable political unrest. But Renoir’s placid poetic approach, and the script by Rumer Godden and Renoir, bar the intrusion of such elements. As a result an air of fairytale unreality pervades the whole film, and robs it of value as a social document. (29)

As we have seen, it was not Renoir’s intention to produce a “social document” per se, and indeed Ray himself was also a humanist filmmaker, focussing on the domestic, the interpersonal, the quotidian, to articulate the larger political and social picture, very much in the Renoir tradition. Each man worked with what they knew best, what they recognised to be authentic, remaining resolutely true to their own visions.

Ray continues:

As for innovation, all artists owe a debt to innovators and profit by such innovation. [Jean-Luc] Godard gave me the courage to dispense largely with fades and dissolves, [François] Truffaut to use the freeze. But all innovation is not external. There is a subtle, almost imperceptible kind of innovation that can be felt in the very texture and sinews of a film. A film that doesn’t wear its innovations on its sleeve. A film like La Règle du jour. Humanist? Classical? Avant-Garde? Contemporary? I defy anyone to give it a label. This is the kind of innovation that appeals to me. (30)

In 1971 Renoir re-watched The River, and wrote of the film and labour, the labour of the workers of Toni (1934), Le crime de Monsieur Lange (1935) and La Bête humaine (1938), the labour of war of La Grande illusion (1937) and La Règle du jour.

For people of my generation the God is action. The most popular form of this action is work. Modern society is founded on work. It is necessary to move, to buy and to sell, to produce, to manufacture. Among adults, meditation is still largely unknown. But now today, I know a lot of young people who meditate. It is very dangerous for the equilibrium of our commercial world. (31)

The characters of The River believe in work. They believe in the virtues that made the success of the Victorian era. Rumer Godden’s subject was not the condition of Hindus. What she and I dealt with in our screenplay of The River, was the story of an English family, symbolising the state of things, that if it exists again, historians in future centuries may categorise as the passing of an era. However perhaps the viewing public will guess that the fisherman that I show on the river boats, the coolies who animate the factories with the buzz of their incessant activity, the crowds that circulate in the bazaar, and those individuals from all classes who drowsily loll on the steps of the temples, are unconsciously the authors of the collapse of the world established by western technology. (32)

They will not revolt, they will not take up arms, they will calmly accept everything as it is. So very gently, and unawares, their belief in the vanity of effort, submerges the world. What real importance is it that aircraft fly, or that trains arrive on the hour, since these instances are but minute manifestations of the great dream of Brahma. (33)

Clearly, while ‘everyone has their reasons’, the western character that most embodies these philosophical principles is Mr. John. For him, it is not ‘the end of an era’, it is the starting of a new one, as it is ultimately for Harriet, too. And if Harriet is Rumer Godden’s fictionalised alter ego in the piece, then Mr. John is Jean Renoir’s.

The positive experience of filming The River prompted a return home, albeit briefly, for Arthur Shields. In 1950, a Press Release was issued by the producers Oriental-International Films Inc. on the occasion of Arthur Shields’ return to Ireland after the filming of The River, his first visit to Ireland in 11 years. The release reveals, “[he] will visit his sister, Mrs R. J. P. Mortishead of 50 Leeson Park, Dublin, and other relatives and friends” (34), and gives a brief account of Shields’ career to date. His brother-in-law, Mr R. J. P. Mortishead, was Chairman of the Labour Court.

The Irish Times, which had previously reported on his departure from Hollywood for India to play “a grand part”, announced his arrival in Ireland on 29 April 1950, with a front-page article entitled, “Former Abbey Actor In Dublin”. The piece noted,

In India he played in the first colour film made there, The River, produced by Jean Renoir [….] Mr. Shields said yesterday that he would like the producer of The River, M. Renoir, to make a film in this country, and he added that John Ford, the famous American producer is thinking of making a film here. (35)

Arthur Shields in The Quiet Man

That last film would be The Quiet Man (1952), which features Shields in a supporting role as the Protestant clergyman Reverend Playfair, playing alongside the more prominent part of his brother, Barry Fitzgerald, who plays matchmaker Michaleen Oge Flynn in his characteristically rather more broadly realised acting style.

Clearly Shields felt comfortable in himself after making The River. Indeed, the Shields Family Archive held by Special Collections at the Hardiman Library, NUI Galway, reveals, as archivist Fergus Fahey notes in the catalogue,

Perhaps reflecting Shields’ own lack of interest in some of the film and television work he was involved with the collection includes comparatively little material relating to this aspect of his career. A major exception being material relating to Jean Renoir’s The River, filmed in India during 1950. (36)

Photographs, letters, postcards, contracts, call sheets, room rosters and signed restaurant menus point to a happy time in his life and career, and work that he was proud of.

These documents – personal papers he kept – indicate the filmmakers clearly thought of themselves as politically aware Republicans: French Republicans in Renoir and his French team (La Marseillaise, 1937, etc.); an Irish Republican in Arthur Shields (Irish Volunteer veteran of GPO in the Easter Rebellion of 1916); and Indian Republicans – the Indian crew took the production team through a cross-cultural shared celebration of India’s Republic Day, 26 January 1950, and its run-up, including a Saraswati Puja Celebration on 23 and 24 January, she being the Hindu goddess of knowledge, learning, music and the arts, and sometimes referred to appropriately as “a mighty river with creative, purifying and nourishing properties”, the lively festivity intended to seek her blessing for the film, including Pushpanjali (Offering of Flowers) and Bisarjan (Immersion ceremony), this being followed on Republic Day, 26 January, by the raising of the new Indian Republic flag by Renoir, at the request by the Indian crew. (37)

Eugène Lourié describes:

Before shooting started we had our own Puja organized by the Indian crew. An idol of the goddess of learning and the arts – I believe her name was Saraswati, she sat next to a swan – was brought in and decorated with flowers, golden papers and lights. Alms were brought and the noisy celebration went on for many hours. Next, with not too much ceremony, the statue was immersed in the river opposite the Gwalior house [the main location, ‘The Big House’]. (38)

Rumer Godden also remembers:

Our crew made a pandal in the largest room of the Barackpore studio house and all of us, from Renoir and Kenneth McEldowney [the Producer], to the lowest caste of workmen and washers-up – though untouchables were not allowed – gathered to ask Saraswati’s blessing for the film. Cameras, the sound boom, all equipments were garlanded and, as the priest waved lights before the goddess, tall and graceful with her vina and her swan, on behalf of all of us I had to lay the book and the script of The River at her feet. When a scene of the film was shot, no matter if it turned out good or bad, to satisfy Hindu belief, it had to be included in the film, ‘If it is to prosper,’ the astrologers said. (39)

The invitation and schedule for this is signed by key Indian members of crew, including Hari S. Das Gupta, Sukhamoy Sen, Banshi Ash, Ram Sen Gupta and Bansi Chandra Gupta and 11 others (40), while a Dinner menu from the Great Eastern Hotel, Calcutta, for the evening of 25 January, marking Republic Gala Night, has line-drawings of Gandhi, Nehru and one other on its cover, and inside are the signatures of Rumer Godden, Jean Renoir, Dido Renoir, Claude Renoir, Adrienne Cori and Eugène Lourié. (41) So, in all, there were four full days of ceremonies and celebration, from 23 to 26 January.

The Irish Times report of April 29 1950 writes of Arthur Shields:

While he was in India, he celebrated Independence Day there with the Indians, and had with him his 1916 medal. ‘The unfortunate thing was’, he said, ‘that I could not remember the translation of what was on the medal. But it was grand to think that while I was celebrating with the Indians, some Indians in Dublin were celebrating here.’ (42)

It thus can be posited that Mr. John and Melanie progressively presage the principles of tolerance and consent that mark a post-colonial, multicultural, modern world. The River was made following global conflict, and in the twilight of colonialism, and it finds echoes in the present day.

Mr. John his daughter Melanie strive to embrace her cross-cultural heritage and identity, while practising a contemplative life of acceptance and consent, having opted out of the rat race of (colonialist and capitalist-driven) acquisitiveness, aggression and self-aggrandisement.

While it is in ‘The Big House’, which has become “the house of women”, a girl baby is born to replace the dead boy Bogey, and Harriet achieves rebirth and redemption on the river, and in the future, as we know from her adult narration, fulfils her feminist ambition of becoming a writer.

It suggests that Renoir’s film is much more sophisticated than it is sometimes given credit for, and also that Arthur Shields’ screen acting career is ripe for reappraisal.


Thanks to Rod Stoneman and the Huston Film School, NUI Galway, who commissioned my original lecture on Jean Renoir’s The River, out of which the research and this article developed. Thanks also to Professor Christopher Faulkner of Carleton University, Canada, for encouragement and opportunity to bounce the central idea off. Acknowledgement to Fergus Fahey and Special Collections, Hardiman Library, National University of Ireland Galway, who facilitated access to the Shields Family Archive.


  1. Extracts from Biographical History introduction by Archivist Fergus Fahey to the Shields Family Archive, held by Special Collections, Hardiman Library, NUI Galway, Ireland.
  2. Photoplay, Vol. 50, No. 41, 1936, pp. 14-5, 98-100.
  3. Letter from Sean O’Casey to Arthur Shields dated 19 May 1936, in the Shields Family Archive.
  4. Dialogue transcript of John Ford’s The Plough and the Stars, RKO Pictures, 1936.
  5. Letter from Sean O’Casey to Robert F. Sisk (RKO Studios, Hollywood) dated 29 March 1936. Published in David Krause (Ed.), The Letters of Sean O’Casey 1910-1941 (London: Cassell, 1975), pp. 618-9.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Review of The Plough and the Stars, Variety, 1 January 1937.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Handwritten, undated note, “To Arthur Shields …”, signed “John Ford. Hollywood. 1936”, in the Shields Family Archive.
  12. Extracts from Biographical History introduction by Archivist Fergus Fahey.
  13. A detailed account of the making of this film is contained in Janet Bergstrom’s “Oneiric Cinema: The Woman on the Beach”, Film History, No. 11 (1999), pp. 114-25. Because of the contentious themes of post-traumatic stress disorder and adultery, there were protracted negotiations with Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration in order to render this film ‘decent’ and acceptable to the Censor, while attempting to preserve Renoir’s vision. For further details of the PCA’s interventions and Renoir and RKO’s difficulties with Breen on this project, see also the internet-published Ph.D. dissertation by Elizabeth Vitanza, “Rewriting the Rules of the Game: Jean Renoir in America, 1941-1947”, pp. 197-201, available at http://evitanza.bol.ucla.edu/. Vitanza finds “The PCA file on the film contains sixty-eight pieces of correspondence between production staff members and chief censor Joseph I. Breen.”
  14. Undated draft copy of the shooting script of The River held by BFI Special Collections. It contains numerous handwritten amendments and rewrites.
  15. Rumer Godden, A House with Four Rooms (London: Macmillan, 1989), pp 104-5. Godden notes in the acknowledgements, “My thanks are due to Dido Renoir and Eleanor Wolquitt [the Production Secretary] for their valuable help in checking my remembrances of the filming of THE RIVER.”
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Letter from Jean Renoir in Beverly Hills to Rumer Godden in England, 25 October 1949, in Lorraine LoBianco and David Thompson (Eds), Jean Renoir: Letters (London: Faber & Faber, 1994), p 243.
  20. Indeed Rumer Godden records on 12 August 1949, “Dudley Nichols and his wife (he is a very famous screenplay writer here) gave a farewell party for me to which the Chaplins came but last night Jean and Dido and I dined alone; they filled the house with flowers and we had a barbecue all on our own and champagne and a great deal of talk and emotion […]” This was to mark her departure from Hollywood at the end of the screenwriting. Letter quoted in Godden, A House with Four Rooms, pp. 111-2.
  21. Biographical information personally compiled by Jean and Dido Renoir for publicity purposes, 27 March 1958. Published in Jean Renoir: Letters, pp xxiv-v.
  22. Undated draft copy of the shooting script of The River held by BFI Special Collections.
  23. Eugène Lourié, My Work in Films (San Diego-New York-London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985), p. 171.
  24. Dialogue extract from Jean Renoir’s The River, Oriental International Films, 1951.
  25. Essay by Ian Christie accompanying Criterion Collection DVD of Jean Renoir’s The River, 2005.
  26. Jacques Rivette, “Lettre sur Rossellini”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 46 (April 1955); translated as Jacques Rivette, “Letter to Rossellini”, Jim Hillier (Ed.), Cahiers du Cinema: The 1950s (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1985), p. 199.
  27. Jean Renoir, “Personal Notes”, Sight and Sound, Vol. 21, No. 4 (April-June 1952), pp. 152-3. Originally published as “On me demande …”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 8, pp. 5-8, the issue devoted mainly to Renoir.
  28. Ibid.
  29. Satyajit Ray, “Under Western Eyes”, Sight and Sound, Vol. 51, No. 4 (Autumn 1982), pp. 269-74.
  30. Ibid.
  31. Jean Renoir, “Le Fleuve”, 4 December 1971, a letter published in Ecran 72, No. 1 (January 1972); reprinted in Claude Gauteur (Ed.), Jean Renoir: Ecrits 1926-1971 (Paris: Pierre Belfond, 1974), pp. 269-72. My translation.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Ibid.
  34. Press Release from Oriental International Films, April 1950, in the Shields Family Archive.
  35. The Irish Times, 29 April 1950, p. 1.
  36. Extracts from Biographical History introduction by Archivist Fergus Fahey to the Shields Family Archive.
  37. Dated “Gwalior House, January 22nd 1950”, the typed invitation in the Shields Family Archive, starts, “You are cordially invited to attended the Saraswati Puja celebration on the 23rd January” and outlines a Programme for 23 January lasting to 24 January, and continuing on 26 January with a Programme for Republican Day, including the Flag Raising Ceremony performed by Jean Renoir. The reverse of the invitation is signed by some 16 members of the Indian crew and production team.
  38. Lourié, p. 160.
  39. Godden, A House with Four Rooms, p. 125.
  40. Dated “Gwalior House, January 22nd 1950”, the typed invitation in the Shields Family Archive.
  41. Menu for “Republic Gala Night, Great Eastern Hotel, Calcutta, 25th January, 1950”, in the Shields Family Archive. In addition, the cover bears a small crest for The Great Eastern Hotel, Calcutta, and the motto, Labor Omnia Vincit (“Work conquers all”). Inside, the menu presents first the option of a vegetarian largely Indian meal alongside a separate European meat-based menu, described in French.
  42. The Irish Times, 29 April 1950, p. 1.

About The Author

Antony Sellers is a filmmaker, based in Dublin, who is currently writing a book on the Italian director under the working title ‘The Gaze of Antonioni’.

Related Posts