Excerpt from ‘The Callahans and the Murphys’

Irish Culture, Entertainment, Short Film
Directed by:
George W. Hill
Produced by:


5 min 23 sec

This excerpt from the 1927 MGM film The Callahans and the Murphys was believed to be lost. The silent comedy film, adapted from a novel by Kathleen Norris, stars Marie Dressler and Polly Moran and tells the story of two feuding Irish immigrant families living in a tenement. When the film was released, it caused outrage, with the Catholic Church calling for it to be banned, and the Irish diaspora picketing cinemas that screened it. The scene that caused the most consternation was set at a picnic on St Patrick’s Day, where the characters celebrate Ireland’s national holiday by dancing, drinking, and brawling. This depiction proved to be a stereotype too far for the Irish abroad. In response to the violent reaction the film provoked, MGM initially recut it and removed this objectionable scene. However, when this failed to placate Irish groups in America, England, and Australia, MGM withdrew the film entirely and allegedly destroyed all the prints.

The film was believed to be completely lost until recently. For two decades, this scene sat on the shelves of the IFI Archive under the name An Irish Picnic. It was only thanks to the enthusiasm of an IFI Archive staff member with a particular interest in silent cinema that its true identity was recently discovered.