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Far & Away (1992) 1. While watching think about the immigrant experience.

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Presentation on theme: "Far & Away (1992) 1. While watching think about the immigrant experience."— Presentation transcript:

1 Far & Away (1992) 1. While watching think about the immigrant experience.

2 What to Know: Story: This is the story of Irish immigrants to America in the late 1800s, who struggle with hunger, hatred, prejudice and “just plain hard work” to start a new life. In this movie, the daughter of a wealthy landlord left a big house and privileged life to become an immigrant; the son of a poor tenant farmer found success as a boxer—for a while! Like the people in this film, many immigrants came to the United States following Reconstruction and leading up to WWI (1877-1914). They all had very different reasons for coming. Joseph’s reasons represent more common push factors. (1992; Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Directed by Ron Howard; Imagine Films; Boxing, Romance, Drama, US History; PG-13; 130 min) Setting: Ireland and America – early 1890’s Main Characters: Joseph Donelly – the youngest son of an Irish farmer; one of three brothers Mr. Daniel Christie – the landlord for Joseph, his family, and most of his neighbors Shannon Christie – Mr. Christie’s daughter, who thinks of her family’s status as a prison Mr. Stephen Chase – Mr. Christie’s property manager, who wants to marry Shannon Mike Kelly – The "ward boss" in Boston, who ran the "social club" for Irish people

3 Day 1 Far and Away begins its story in Ireland. Joseph Donnelly (Tom Cruise), a headstrong Irishman, is the son of a poor tenant farmer who will never be able to reach his true potential and realize his dreams if he remains on the family land. A rich landlord, Daniel Christie (Robert Prosky), owns the Donnelly’s land. This was the case for the majority of farmers in Ireland, which caused them to leave Ireland for the United States. The beginning of the film creates the situation for the meeting of Joseph and Shannon and the plot for the rest of the film. A carriage carrying a rich, aristocratic lord kills Joseph’s father. His father is brought home to die and instills the dream of owning land in Joseph. The desire to own land is another reason why Joseph and other immigrants leave Ireland for the United States. Farmers who were under the control of the rich landlords had additional problems besides not being able to own their own land. It was difficult to provide for their families on very little money and land because they were under the control of their landlords. During the funeral Shannon’s future fiancée, Stephen Chase (Thomas Gibson “Aaron Hotchner”), sets fire to Joseph’s home because the Donnelly family has not paid their rent. Joseph vows vengeance and leaves the only home he has ever known to find Daniel Christie and kill him. The extreme violence and animosity by the upper class against tenant farmers in Ireland is based on the violence that led nineteenth century immigrants out of Ireland (Daniels 2002; Meagher 2005). Stephen Chase and Joseph Donnelly perfect the tensions between the two classes in Far and Away.Daniels 2002Meagher 2005

4 Critical Thinking – Day One 1. Joseph is a poor tenant farmer. Notice how he is dressed and how he carries himself. Describe him. 2. Mr. Christie and Joseph both feel “oppressed” and long for “freedom.” They are not referring to actual slavery as was constitutionally banned in the United States in 1865. What is keeping Joseph from feeling free? What is keeping Mr. Christie from feeling free? 3. Why does Shannon want to go to America? What type of life is she leaving behind? What type of life is she expecting to find? 4. Why does Joseph decide to take Shannon up on her offer to go to America? What is he is looking for? Why does he not have it at home? How does he expect to get it in America? 5. Shannon is an Irish aristocrat – upper class by birth, never having to worry about money or hard work. Up to this point she has had six different costumes. This was fairly typically for a proper lady of the Victorian Era. What can be observed about her clothing and how she wears it? What does this say about her?

5 Day 2 Shannon and Joseph embark on their journey after she rescues him from a duel with Stephen Chase. Shannon resembles the naivety of most immigrants of the time when they came to the United States. A gentleman onboard her ship promises to help her when she arrives in the United States but seems to only be after the fortune she has in the form of spoons. Shannon starts to leave with the gentleman when he is killed. The spoons he was trying to steal are tossed out onto the crowd and stolen by the onlookers. As a result, Shannon loses her fortune and must rely on Joseph’s assistance. With nowhere to go, Joseph and Shannon seek the help of a fellow Irishmen, Mike Kelly (Colm Meaney). Kelly becomes the brutal antagonist of the film, as he runs what could be the equivalent of the corrupted Tammany Hall in the urban cities of the nineteenth century (Daniels 2002; Meagher 2005). Kelly finds the pair jobs and a home in a brothel that he controls. This is where the filmmakers take advantage of the time period. Most new immigrants found homes in boarding houses or tenements, but the film looks to sensationalize the time period by placing them in a brothel to live (Daniels 2002; Meagher 2005; Ebert 1992).Daniels 2002 Meagher 2005Daniels 2002Meagher 2005Ebert 1992

6 Critical Thinking – Day Two 1. Mike Kelly is the area Ward Boss. What does he want from Joseph? What does he provide for Joseph and Shannon in return? What are the “strings” attached to this arrangement? 2. Shannon is adjusting to live in poverty – both at her job and in her private life. How have her clothes and behaviors changed? How is she still holding on to her old ways? 3. Boxing was an extremely popular sport in the late 1800s that reached its peak in popularity in the 1930s. How did joining the boxing scene at Mike Kelly’s “Social Club” (“The Burle-Q” – a play off the word “burlesque”) change Joseph’s experience in America?

7 Day 3 After realizing he will never be able to afford a horse and wagon to Oklahoma by working in the meat factory, Joseph becomes what many Irish immigrant men of the time became, a boxer (Daniels 2002; Meagher 2005). His time as a boxer is a central part of the film because it helps him gain money and boosts his self- esteem, which will help him in his fight for land at the end of the film. It also sets up the separation of Joseph and Shannon when they are kicked out of their home and jobs when Joseph loses a critical fight.Daniels 2002Meagher 2005

8 Critical Thinking – Day Three 1. Up to this point Joseph and Shannon were comfortable in an Irish neighborhood of Boston. Few immigrants were actually banished from their community like this. The situation was added to make the movie interesting and to show how hard life could have been without a community with a similar background. Once they are no longer protected by the Ward Boss they face many hardships. Describe them. 2. Joseph, now alone, headed west and was in the Ozarks of Missouri eight months later. What major industry is he now working in? Why are they blasting the mountain? What do you notice about the other workers? 3. Joseph hooks up with a wagon trail headed to Oklahoma. Who does he find? How have they adjusted to their life in the West? Who seems the most changed and adapted? How does this show? 4. The Oklahoma Land Rush actually happened – five times. The first was in 1889. This scene depicts the biggest of these events in which around 100,000 people raced to claim 42,000 pieces of land totaling over 6.5 million acres – of free land. Those who went ahead “sooner” than allowed did break the law but many were able to keep their land. This is where the state of Oklahoma gets its nickname, The Sooner State. Describe what you saw. Notice (by the clothing) who was in charge of keeping order during this madness. Was it worth it?

9 Wrap Up Shannon and Joseph each separately have their own journeys to Oklahoma for the Land Race of 1893. Joseph works on the railroad, while Shannon comes on the train with her parents and Stephen Chase. The scene where Joseph is working on the railroad shows a valuable part of immigrant history when immigrants worked to build the railroads of the United States. On the train taking the employees to the next section of the railroad, the audience can see Irish, Chinese, and other immigrant groups. The couple’s dream of land is finally recognized with the Oklahoma Land Run of 1893. This is when the film embraces the immigrant’s dream, to have his or her own land. This is based largely on the American dream but most immigrants during the nineteenth century were not lucky enough to own their own land. The majority of immigrants settled in cities where they were “stuck” for the rest of their lives because it was difficult to get out of the financial difficulties they were in. Shannon and Joseph find each other the day before the race and the second antagonist of the film, Stephen Chase, works to keep the two apart. Stephen does not want to give up his oppressive tendencies in the United States. The film adequately portrays the history of the Oklahoma Land Run in the first few minutes, but then the competition between the two rivals, Joseph and Stephen, takes over. The ending points out the happiness and hopefulness of immigrants who wanted their dreams to come true in the nineteenth century, as Shannon and Joseph’s did in the film (Daniels 2002; Meagher 2005).Oklahoma for the Land Race of 1893Daniels 2002 Meagher 2005


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