The Molly Maguires (film)

The Molly Maguires is a 1970 American historical drama film directed by Martin Ritt, starring Richard Harris and Sean Connery.[2] It is based on a 1964 novel by Arthur H. Lewis.[3]

The Molly Maguires
Original promotional poster for The Molly Maguires
Directed byMartin Ritt
Produced byMartin Ritt
Walter Bernstein
Written byWalter Bernstein
Music byHenry Mancini
CinematographyJames Wong Howe
Edited byFrank Bracht
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • January 28, 1970 (1970-01-28)
Running time
124 min.
CountryUnited States
Budget$11 million[1]
Box office$2,200,000 (US)[1]

Set in late 19th century Northeastern Pennsylvania, this social drama tells the story of an undercover detective sent to a coal mining community to expose a secret society of Irish-American miners battling exploitation at the hand of the owners. Partly inspired by a true story, the film portrays the rebellious leader of the Molly Maguires and his will to achieve social justice.


The Molly Maguires were a secret organization of Irish coal miners established in nineteenth century Pennsylvania to fight oppressive mineowners. Led by Jack Kehoe, they plant gunpowder to destroy plant shafts and equipment, as Pinkerton Detective James McParland is employed to infiltrate the Mollies.

Kehoe and McParlan are working class immigrants from Ireland with essentially the same aspiration - advancement in the new society to which they have come. Kehoe kills to advance his cause. McParlan coldly betrays the group whose leader he has befriended. McParlan also develops a romantic interest in Mary Raines, but she ends up offended by his treachery. Awaiting execution, Kehoe tells his one-time ally that no punishment short of hell can redeem his treachery; Detective McParlan retorts that in that case, "See you in hell."


The opening sequence of The Molly Maguires runs 14 minutes and 51 seconds, through three Henry Mancini scores, before the first word of dialogue is spoken.

The movie was filmed in Eckley, Pennsylvania, in 1969. The town was so unchanged from its 1870s appearance that the only major alterations needed for filming were to remove television antennas and install underground electric wiring. A wooden coal breaker which was built as a prop and is featured extensively in the film, still stands to this day. The movie resulted in the town’s being saved from demolition. It was afterward turned into a mining museum under the control of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Portions of the film were also shot in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. The courtroom there where the trial scene was filmed is in the Carbon County Courthouse, used for trials until 1996.

The Molly Maguires soundtrack composed by Henry Mancini replaced that originally composed by Charles Strouse. Mancini's score employed Irish modal harmony, played by period instruments including the Irish Harp, Tin Whistle (pennywhistle) and Squeezebox. Both soundtracks were released by Kritzerland in 2012 on a limited edition CD, now sold-out.

A big budget film for its time, with stars Connery (who had recently quit playing James Bond) and Harris at career peaks, it was considered a major box-office failure. Social issue director Ritt would score later with Norma Rae (1979). This was the next-to-the-last film for legendary cinematographer James Wong Howe, who had previously worked with Ritt on Hud and Hombre.



The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Art Direction (Art Direction Tambi Larsen; Set Decoration: Darrell Silvera).[4]

See also


  1. "The Molly Maguires - Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
  2. Variety film review; January 21, 1970, page 18.
  3. "Lament for the Molly Maguires". American Film Institute. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
  4. "NY Times: The Molly Maguires". NY Times. Retrieved 28 December 2008.
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