Articles & Reviews:  The Manions Of America



 

Movies Made For Television: The Telefeature and the Mini-Series 1964-1986

The Manions Of America

By: Alvin H. Marill


This handsome romantic drama chronicling the lives of two 19th-century families - one Irish, the other English - and the American dynasties they began, was the collaborative work of daytime soap opera queen Agnes Nixon (creator of "All My Children") and British writer Rosemary Anne Sisson (creator of  "Upstairs, Downstairs"). The three-part, six-hour saga, the work of two directors and three photographers, served ultimately to introduce to American audiences Irish actor Pierce Brosnan, playing Rory O'Manion, who rises from immigrant to successful Philadelphia businessman and Union Army Captain during the American Civil War. Kate Mulgrew plays Rachel Clement, who captures the heart of and eventually marries Rory O'Manion. Filmed entirely in and around Dublin (which doubled for Philadelphia of the middle 1800s).


 

TV Guide 

The Screening Room:  The Manions Of America

by Judith Christ

(Sept. 26 - Oct. 2, 1981)


The lavish mini-series The Manions of America (9 PM ABC) opens its three-night run tonight and, like many of its predecessors, it mines drama from history: in this case the plight of 19th century Irish who fled British rule - and a devastating famine - to seek their fortunes in the United States. Featuring a richly textured script (by Upstairs, Downstairs contributor Rosemary Anne Sisson) and evocative location filming (in Ireland), Manions also offers some fine acting from Kate Mulgrew, Linda Purl, David Soul and TV newcomer Pierce Brosnan - who, in the leading role, is reminiscent of James Dean.



 

N.Y. Times:  And Now, An Irish Version Of Roots'

By John J. O'Connor

September 27, 1981

 

Take a thick slice of turbulent history, put it into the hands of the queen of American soap opera, and the result is bound to be like ''The Manions of America,'' the six-hour mini-series that ABC-TV will broadcast this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 9 P.M. Designed as the equivalent of ''Roots'' for Irish-Americans, the story was devised by Agnes Nixon, creator of the daytime serials ''All My Children'' and ''One Life to Live.'' The scripts were written by Rosemary Anne Sisson, whose television credits include several episodes of Britain's ''Upstairs, Downstairs'' as well as Australia's ''A Town Called Alice,'' the next offering on public television's Masterpiece Theater. The billing can get complicated. A novelized version of the story is being marketed in a Dell paperback as ''Agnes Nixon's 'The Manions of America' by Rosemary Anne Sisson.''
 

Reportedly inspired by tales she heard in her own Irish-American childhood, Miss Nixon traces the beginnings of an American family dynasty from the dirt-poor O'Manions of Ireland to the prosperous and influential Manions of Philadelphia. The O is dropped to make the name less Irish for openly prejudiced Americans. Any resemblance between the Manions and such families as the Kennedys of Boston or the Kellys of Philadelphia is undoubtedly calculated.


The story opens in 1845, when the Great Famine was ravaging Ireland. Young Rory O'Manion (Pierce Brosnan) is understandably upset as he watches the wealthy British landowners ride arrogantly to the hounds across property that belongs to his family. Unable to get a doctor for his mother, who is dying in childbirth, he tells the privileged foreigners: ''Someday you'll pay for this. We will set our country free again.'' His mother gives Rory a ''holy medal'' for the new baby, Sean, and makes Rory swear that he will always look after his youngest brother. Keep your eye on that holy medal. It inevitably becomes a key device in the overall plot that has enough convolutions and coincidences to keep the average soap opera going for at least a year. 

There are, of course, many Irelands. There is the land of leprechauns and quaint little people, the cute things memorialized on St. Patrick's Day souvenirs. There is the country of outrageous, sly conniving, the kind of stuff explored in the hilarious novels of Honor Tracy. And, saturated with centuries of religious and political strife, there is everything in between.

 
Miss Nixon chooses to focus on the passionately romantic aspects of the picture. Her he ro Rory is dark-haired, a physical attribute that provides an immediate clue to his wildly tempestuous nature. Forcontrast, Ror y's twin brother Padraic (Nicholas Hammond) is fairhaired, l eaving him free to be a gentle poet, more disposed to compromise th an to violent confrontation. Little or no time is wastedon subtleties of characterization. This is a world of quickly recognized ty pes, all in the service of a plot that canters along briskly, movi ng on before questions of simple logic might become serious. 

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to undertake any sympathetic treatment of Ireland without making England appear villainous. Miss Nixon gets around this sticky problem by recuiting a few ''enlightened'' British characters for the Irish cause. Rachel Clement (Kate Mulgrew) arrives in Ireland after her uncle is killed in a hunting accident. Her spunkiness is quickly apparent when she laughingly observes to her father that ''the most generous thing uncle ever did for us was dying.'' When she spots handsome Rory coming across a field, Rachel falls passionately in love. As if that's not enough, Rachel's brother David (Simon MacCorkindale), a British soldier stationed in Ireland, falls passionately in love with Rory's sister Deirdre (Linda Purl). Supposed enemies are thus reconciled in the neatly alliterative affairs of Rory/Rachel and David/Deirdre. 

When Rachel manages to get Rory a job as groom in her family's stables, he proceeds to instruct her as to the role of the British i n Irish history. Rachel is properly appalled but Rory remains torn, confessing that ''I want you night after nigh t after night but Ireland dies day after day after day.'' Meanw hile, he is not terriblyhappy about David's wooing of his sister, sho uting ''Isn't it enough to take our land - do you have to take our wo men too?'' But David is hopelessly smitten with Deirdre ever since th e day he told her ''My name is David'' and she perkily replied ''And mine's me own business.'' Although without benefit of clerg y, David and Dierdre exchange vows of eternal faithfulness before he is dispatched to India. Needless to say, this further complica tes the plot when he is erroneously reported killed in action and a d istraught Deirdre, living in Philadelphia, marries a rich Yankee banker named Caleb (David Soul). 

Rory has his own problems, not the least of which is his twin brother. Rory is furious when Padraic agrees to become a collections agent for one of the landlords. Padraic, not the sharpest of fellows, is somewhat puzzled when the dunned Irish farmers seem to resent his periodic requests for money. When one of the farmers suddenly turns friendly, a grateful Padraic joins him for a drink and foolishly tells him of Rory's role in a killing. The farmer turns out to be an informer for the British. In an ensuing fight, Rory accidentally kills Padraic, who dies with a curse on his lips. This becomes the ongoing justification for all of the unbelievable disasters that will later haunt Rory's life. At first episode's conclusion, he is smuggled onto a boat heading for America and more sweeping adventures, including the loss on a later boat trip of his brother Sean, the one he swore to protect. That's where that holy medal pops up again.

''The Manions of America'' is less an exploration than a construction, jumping to a panting bed scene whenever the more violent actions subside temporarily. The cast is competent. Mr. Brosnan and Miss Mulgrew even manage to be sympathetic and believable despite the generally wooden dialogue. Rachel: ''I love you forever.'' Rory: ''I love you too.'' Filmed entirely in Ireland, the production does look good. Occasionally, the plot machinations generate a perverse interest of their own. The only thing lacking is substance. Stan Kallis produced for EMI Films. Part one was directed by Joseph Sargent, parts two and three by Charles S. Dubin.




N.Y. Times: 'THE MANIONS'

By:  John J. O'Connor

September 30, 1981


This evening at 9 o'clock, ABC-TV begins ''The Manions of America,'' a six-hour drama that follows a poor Irish family to prosperity and influence in this country; the other two installments will be broad cast tomorrow and Friday, also at 9. The story was ''created'' by Agnes Nixon, whose successful credits in daytime soap opera include ''One Life to Live'' and ''All My Children.'' The scripts were written by Rosemary Anne Sisson, who was connected with a good many episodes of ''Upstairs, Downstairs.'' the toniest of Britain's soap operas.
At the core of this saga, sweeping with something of a vengeance, is the character of Rory O'Manion, the dark-haired, hot-headed rebel whose hatred for the English is eternally fixed during the Great Famine of 1845. Complicating matters is the fact that Rory falls into an affair with Rachel Clement, a tempestuous English beauty who inherits her uncle's estate in Ireland. Fortunately, Rachel comes to sympathize strongly with the Irish side of things. Also fortunately, she is played by Kate Mulgrew, who, despite affecting a British accent that makes her sound like Tammy Grimes, happens to have a face like, as they say, the map of Ireland.

Add to this fictional stew Rory's defiant sister, who is wooed and won by Rachel's aristocratic brother, then move all of the action to Philadelphia, where prejudice against the Irish is openly vicious, and the outlines of Miss Nixon's scripts only begin to come into focus. The whole is drenched, of course, in spurts of violence, dribbles of convenient coincidence and gushes of passionate lovemaking. The story moves along briskly enough to make thought superfluous.

The performers, most of whom keep a straight face, include Linda Purl, David Soul, Simon MacCorkindale and Kathleen Beller. Even Anthony Quayle pops into the picture for a few scenes. Miss Mulgrew is a pleasure to watch in any circumstances. And, as Rory, Pierce Brosnan is dashing, handsome and, unbelievably enough, fairly convincing. That is indeed acting.



 
The Sun: Manions

June 19, 1982


The stormy love affair between Rory Manion (Pierce Brosnon), a rebellious Irish groom and Rachel Clement, the headstrong daughter of an English landowner, is interrupted when Rory is forced to flee to America.

His sister is also parted from her lover when he is posted to India but the four are destined to meet again in this exlposive saga of ill-fated passions set in the 19th-century Ireland and America.

It is the handsome Brosnan who plays the hero of the story, which is set in the middle of the 19th century. Brosnan is an Irish patriot who becomes involved in the movement to free Ireland from British rule.

Former telly supercop David Soul plays Caleb Staunton, an American lawyer and staunch suporter of the Irish freedom fighters.

The series - filmed in Dublin - features secret Irish gun running raids on the British, and rioting.
Because of the present sensitive political situation in Northern Ireland, the series has become a hot potato for the BBC. Last night a BBC spokesman admitted that the series was about to be "greatly edited."

He said: "It is a six-hour series but we are cutting it down into one feature-length film. That means about 90 minutes or perhaps two hours."



 

The Hollywood Interview:   Pierce Brosnan

November 1999

[Excerpt]
 

"But The Manions of America was my ticket to America and the performance had a rawness and an energy to it that I haven't had onscreen since then, irony of ironies, which I'd like to get back to."

 

 

Slanted Fedora: Voyager Convention

Philadelphia, PA

November 17, 2001


Q:
Could you tell me what it was like working with Pierce Brosnan on the Manions of America?

KATE MULGREW: What was it like to work with Pierce Brosnan on The Manions of America?  Of course every woman wants to know this question.  Because he is divinity itself, is he not?  However I've got to tell you the truth.  We didn't go for each other. We just didn't have chemistry. Neither I for him, nor he for me, as a result, it really worked it. We were on location together for one year in Ireland.  He had fallen in love with his then wife Cassie, who has subsequently died of cancer. Ovarian cancer.  She gave him three beautiful children. I watched that happen.  I was engaged to be married, that failed. But again, in Ireland, on location for a year you, you form something that is very intense.


 

Pat Sajak Weekend: Kate Mulgrew Interview

Fox News

March 9, 2003


Pat Sajak:  (referring to two pictures of Kate and Pierce Brosnan from Manions of America that preceded the segment) Who are those two kids in that shot there?  That would look like Pierce Brosnan, maybe?

Kate Mulgrew:  Oh yes.  Pierce.  And a very young, very happy Kate Mulgrew.  There she is.  Darling fellow.

Pat Sajak:  What were you shooting then?

Kate Mulgrew:  The Manions of America.  On location in Ireland.  And as I just said to you in the break, it was a fabulous time in my life.  Pierce was great.  You know this was his big break, and we were all living in a castle together in the south of Ireland and I must say it was one of those moments – God – blissful.  Wonderful.



 

Editmentor Wordpress: Actors in tiny boxes

August 25, 2009


Jill D’Aubery: I was an ADR editor for a number of years and it isn’t easy for an actor!!! The best loopers I worked with had the attitude that this “is the last chance I have to get it right.” The actors who simply could not manage it were the ones who assumed the ADR editor was out to destroy their performance. And there are many reasons to loop dialogue…”Manions of America” took place during the potato famine in Ireland in 1845, but a great deal of it was shot with the sound of cars, busses, motorcycles, airplanes, etc. over the dialogue and that just wouldn’t work! “Manions” was Pierce Brosnon’s first American work, and he was in just about every scene of that 6-hour production. We spent a whole week in New York looping every day and he was intent on learning the process and doing it right. And he was terrific!!! To this day he is one of my most favorite actors as far as looping goes.