Screening of Edwin Porter’s 1913 film of The Count of Monte Cristo, starring James O’Neill and an illustrated talk on the relationship between James O’Neill, his son Eugene, and their Irish roots.
The opening night will be an evening honouring Eugene’s father James O’Neill who left New Ross as a five-year-old in 1851. He himself became a famous actor and we will be showing one of the first silent Black and White movies, the Count of Monte Cristo, with James O’Neill himself in the starring role, giving the young boy who left New Ross on the Graves ship, the India, his posthumous New Ross debut. This will be a very unique event with a specially commissioned original score by composer and pianist Philip Collins.
James O’Neill, who left New Ross with his parents and siblings in 1851, found fame across America later in the century with the lead role in The Count of Monte Cristo, a play based on the Dumas novel. He made the part his own and, in his son Eugene’s assessment, “a Monte Cristo without James O’Neill is just another old melodrama.” Despite his success and the wealth the play brought him, James felt blighted and imprisoned by the role, unable ever to find other, more fitting vehicles for his talent beyond that “old melodrama.”
Eugene too despised the play and, in his own writing life, lived by the Bible verse, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?” and set himself against the commercial theatre, “the hateful theatre of my father.”
The story of James O’Neill will be presented in an illustrated talk by O’Neill scholar, Dr. Richard Hayes of Waterford Institute of Technology, with support from American Shakespeare Company actor Patrick Midgely.