Captain Boycott (1947)

Imdb Ranking 6.6

"In eighteen hundred and eighty in the reign of Victoria of England, a number of events occurred which led to a man giving his name to the languages of the world. That man was Captain Boycott. The wild county of Mayo in the west of Ireland, a land capable of giving happiness but producing only poverty and deep festering hatreds."

The movie open with a man being taken down who had been hanging upside down in a bog for three weeks with a hundred pounds of stone around his neck. Farmeers by the thousands have been thrown off their lands because they couldn't pay their rents. When the crops have a bad year, rent money is hard to come by, and the crops haven't been good for three years.

Watty Connell is handing out eviction notices for Captain Boycott and he has one for Hugh Davin (Stewart Granger). Davin has a beautiful horse but he owes rent on his farm. At night forty men, including Davis, meet and train as a military unit while waiting for guns to arrive. When Boycott's man, Watty Connell disappears, the police come asking Davis questions but later he shows up.

Captain Boycott shows up for a meeting and is not happy with the complaining tenants. Captain Boycott listens to the arguments of his tenants but says he will not be dictated to. He refuses to reduce rent by a penny, while the tenants had been asking for a thirty per cent reduction. The tenant spokesman tells Captain Boycott that he should look to what happened in Galway when tenants were thrown off their land, and then the tenants leave.

Captain Boycott and his men then head out to evict tenants, They fake like they are going south but then head north. The tenants start fires to block them. When Connell tells Boycott that Davin has entered his horse in the Cupcoming Cup race Boycott says: "He's a bad head, Connell. Always said so. That idea's beyond his station. I should have evicted him. Great mistake." Connell sais he offered his farm to the Killains but the girl didn't fancy it for some reason.

Boycott's men and the police then break down the door to the Fagan's house and forcibly evicts the family. Mrs. Fagan begs Captain Boycott for her home but he won't even answer her. She shouts as she is pulled away "May the curse Paladin be upon you." The Killains, a father and a daughter, move in to the Fagan house, and are guarded by the police.

At a meeting of tenants Davin says "When the Land League went to see the Captain what happened. Ten days later Michael here, and James Moore, and Andy Clark, were thrown off their farms. "I tell you why we sit down under it. Because the entire country is hypnotized by the grand talk of of Mr. Charles Stewart Parnell." "The leader, they call him. A renegade landlord swollen with his own importance, intoxicated by his own wild promises. And if the stories we hear about him are true, more interested in the woman he has, then in the people of Ireland."

Davin confronts Anne Killain and she tells him that they were evicted three years ago and that her father hasn't worked in three years. Davin says: "We are all part of a community and you are either for it or against it." She says: "Then we're against it and we'll stay against it." Davin says: "Not here you won't. Get out of this place." On her door there is a sign with a coffin and the words "Get Out."

Father McKeogh (Alistair Sim) says from the pulpit: "They will know the misery and distress which these evictions have caused. And I haven't lived in your midst for 20 years without understanding the resentment and bitter passions, which have been aroused. Oh, and i know that even though you are Irish, it could be that one or two of you might think to resort to violence. I must beg you to refrain. And do not think it is easy for me to ask you to love your neighbors without leaving out a couple here and there. And I might be accused of acting in a biased and unchristian manner if i were to indicate to you that I consider the actions of certain individuals of this parish to be very inhuman and utterly reprehensible. But if I were to hint that I think that certain other people have behaved in a way, which to say the least, is unneighborly, shortsighted and foolhardy, oh yes, I'd be going a long way outside the duties odf a parish priest if I were to pass judgement on these people. just as it would be improper for me to suggest a remedy. As, for instance, recommending you to go and listen to Mr. Parnell who I hear is speaking in Ennis this afternoon. And since the subjects come up, I don't mind saying that it is the purest piece of chance that mass is finished a bit earlier this morning than usual. However it might be for the one or two of you who might be thinking rightly or wrongly, of going to hear the great man."

The men travel over to Ennis to hear Parnell and throw things at him. Parnell (Robert Donat) gets up to speak he is cheered by the crowd. He says that if someone is evicted from a farm no one should ever bid on that farm. And if someone does they must be shunned. Davin and the other men are surprised and drop the things they brought to throw at Parnell.

Davin tells Boycott's servants they must leave Boycott's employ. Boycott comes to the pub and challenges Davin. Davin tells him that if he continues acting the way he has been, no one will work for him. Boycott recruits sympathy by writing a letter to the London Times. When volunteers come to harvest Boycott's crops, the police also come to protect them.

Anne and Mark Killain are now the targets of the targets if the farmers, Davin has fallen for Anne and goes over to warn them. Then the police knock down Davin's house and take his horse. At the auction for the horse no one will bid except Captain Boycott. Boycott needs the horse to win the Cup, because he needs the money to keep from going bankrupt. When Boycott comes out on the horse the crowd boos loudly.

Boycutt is easily winning the race and a crowd of men tush out on to the track to stop him. Then Fagan shoots Killain, and Killain throws Fagan off a cliff and kills him. Daniel McGinty then leads to group of men to get Killain over the objections of Davin. The mob heads for Killain but Davin gets there first. Killain is already dead, killed by the gunshot. Davin tells the mob that Killain is already dead. Father McKeogh then comes out and talks to the crowd.

Father McKeogh tells the mob that they have won. He says "in the future if any man offends against the community, you can ostracize him, you can isolate him, you can Boycott him."

A very good historical movie. Set in 1880s County Mayo, Ireland, Captain Boycott (Cecil Parker) is the tyrannical landowner who incurs the wrath of the local farmers when he begins to evict tenants unable to pay their inflated rent. Rather than retaliate with violence, Charles Parnell (Robert Donat), president of the Land League, suggests that everyone in the area ostracise Boycott and those willing to take over the property of recently evicted farmers. Boycott and his bailiff (Mervyn Johns) defy the proclamation by installing Mark Killian (Niall MacGinnis) and his daughter Anne (Kathleen Ryan) in a recently evicted farm. Farmer Hugh Davin (Stewart Granger) is in love with Anne and the locals question his desire for their cause given such a conflict of interest. When time comes for Boycott to harvest his crop he has to seek military help to complete the task – ruined by the expense his only hope for salvation is to win a local horse race. When Boycott’s own entry collects an injury he resorts to buying a replacement racehorse, Davin’s horse, by taking advantage of his position. He enters it in the big race, but just before the horse passes the winning post, the incendiary mood amongst the villagers explodes and they invade the track causing the race to be abandoned. It’s left to Father McKeogh (Alastair Sim) to deliver a closing sermon, suggesting that in future the farmers reject violence in favour of a more peaceful method of protest – ‘boycott’. It is from this incident that the word “boycott” entered the English language.
The New York Times Review from 1947

An episode in Irish history which occurred at a critical time and which prompted a new word in our language has been cleverly elaborated upon by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, producers of British films, to make an amusing, exciting and rather boldly rousing story for the screen. In fact, it has underpinned a drama which might be darkly suspected in these times. "Captain Boycott" is its title and it opened at the Winter Garden yesterday.

Let J. Parnell Thomas view it closely, for it hotly and approvingly reveals a case of farmer rebellion against the landed and privileged class. And although this historic sedition occurred in Ireland sixty-seven years ago and was only one in a long and bloody series whereby Ireland's "freedom" was obtained, it might be regarded as disturbing to certain leasers to sharecroppers in this land today. Also Mr. Thomas might find it personally embarrassing, since his own namesake, Charles Stewart Parnell, throws the most refractory punch in the show.

Briskly, this "Captain Boycott" tells us how tenant farmers in Parnell's Irish Land League resisted an outrageously haughty landowner, Captain Boycott by name, with a technique of non-cooperation when he persisted in bleeding them for rents, and how this treatment, in the end, was more effective than an advocated plan of violence.

But around and about this basic conflict, out of which the term of "boycott" actually came, the Messrs. Gilliat and Launder have constructed an elaborate and entertaining plot. A dashing young leader of the farmers, the beauteous daughter of a hated land-hopper and a racehorse belonging to the young man are among the active elements thereof. Also a generous assortment of rich and pungent Irish characters contributes not only to the action but to the spirit, humor and charm of the film.

In the role of the bold but temperate leader, Stewart Granger does a more impressive job of playing an Errol Flynn for the ladies than of shaping a genuine Mayoman. But Noel Purcell is terrific as a "bogger," Alastair Sim is deightfully arch as a parish priest, and Cecil Parker is a bulldozer of meanness as the despicable Captain Boycott. Other fine Gaelic personalities are put in by Mervyn Johns (as the bailiff to Captain Boycott), by Maureen Delaney, Eddie Byrne and, in a romantic way, by Kathleen Ryan, who plays an alien to the place.

Also, in one brief scene, Robert Donat imparts the eloquence and fire of Parnell in the delivery of his historic speech at Ennis advocating the "boycott."

With the added virtues of beautiful vistas across the Irish countryside, a sensitive score and the pace of a Western in the outdoor action scenes, the Messrs. Gilliat and Launder have given us a picture which should thrill, amuse—and counsel well.