7.0/10
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29 user 11 critic

Shake Hands with the Devil (1959)

Not Rated | | Action, Drama, History | 24 June 1959 (USA)
In 1920s Ireland, I.R.A. members are being lead by the war mongering Dr. Sean Lenihan (James Cagney), as they fight oppressive British forces.

Director:

Michael Anderson

Writers:

Rearden Conner (novel), Marian Spitzer (adaptation) (as Marian Thompson) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
James Cagney ... Sean Lenihan
Don Murray ... Kerry O'Shea
Dana Wynter ... Jennifer Curtis
Glynis Johns ... Kitty Brady
Michael Redgrave ... The General
Sybil Thorndike ... Lady Fitzhugh
Cyril Cusack ... Chris Noonan
Marianne Benet Marianne Benet ... Mary Madigan
John Breslin ... Timmy McGrath
Harry Brogan Harry Brogan ... Tom Cassidy
Robert Brown ... First Sergeant 'Black & Tans'
Lewis Casson Lewis Casson ... Judge
Christopher Casson Christopher Casson ... Brigadier
John Cairney ... Mike O'Callaghan
Harry H. Corbett ... Clancy (as Harry Corbett)
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Storyline

In 1921 Dublin, the I.R.A. battles the "Black & Tans", special British forces given to harsh measures. Irish-American medical student Kerry O'Shea (Don Murray) hopes to stay aloof, but saving a wounded friend gets him outlawed, and inexorably drawn into the rebel organization under his former professor Dr. Sean Lenihan (James Cagney), who has "shaken hands with the devil" and begun to think of fighting as an end in itself. Complications arise when Kerry falls for a beautiful English hostage, and the British offer a peace treaty that is not enough to satisfy Lenihan. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A story of love and hate...and the sudden sound of guns! See more »

Genres:

Action | Drama | History

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Ireland | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

24 June 1959 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Raging Men See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Although only ever referred to as "The General", Sir Michael Redgrave's character was meant to be Michael Collins. This was often done in Hollywood movies, taking liberties with historical events so that revered figures were not tainted by any controversy resulting from artistic license. Another example is In Harm's Way (1965), where Henry Fonda was Chester Nimitz, but never named as such in the movie nor the credits. Like Collins, "The General" personified a realist statesman in the mold of the American "Founding Fathers", motivated by his desire for a better future, rather than just rage like James Cagney's character. Like Collins, the General agreed to negotiate a treaty with the British to give Ireland (except for Ulster) self-rule within the British Empire (similar to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, and South Africa). Like Collins, he makes the case that it will give them the "freedom to become free" without the need for continued bloodshed. See more »

Goofs

In response to Kerry's (Don Murray) horror upon hearing that his friend Paddy Nolan's body is to be dumped unceremoniously in a park (probably St. Steven's Green), The Commandant (James Cagney) bemoans the fact that the IRA cannot risk the public ceremony of burying the boy with full honors in Glasnevin like Parnell. Charles Parnell, the 19th century Irish Patriot who called for home rule is not buried in Glasnevin, a Catholic cemetery, as he was a protestant. Ironically, Glasnevin is where The General, Irish patriot, Michael Collins is buried not far from the resting place of Kitty O'Shea, Parnell's mistress. Michael Collins grave is the most visited in Glasnevin. See more »

Quotes

Eileen O'Leary: 'Tis a small thing to do for Cathleen O'Shea, whose son once showed Eileen O'Leary a very great kindness.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Century of Cinema: Ourselves Alone? (1995) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Shake Hands with Devil - Cagney brilliantly illustrates dangers of fanaticism
2 April 2007 | by mfredenburgSee all my reviews

Up till the time I saw this film I was not much of a Cagney fan. But after seeing this film; and "White Heat," I now understand why Cagney was such a big star.

His portrayal of Sean Linahan as a member of the Irish Republican Army brilliantly portrays the thin line between being a dedicated freedom fighter/idealist and a fanatic. Sean Linahan has let hatred take control of his life and he now sees everything through the narrow prism of hate. As a fanatic he operates on an "ends justifies the means basis." Other characters in "Shake Hands with the Devil" are portrayed as men of character, who while fighting for freedom still hold on to their humanity and their compassion.

This is very good movie that is very relevant in today's world and can be used as a starting point for a discussion on modern day Islamic Terrorism or any ism in which the ends justifying the means becomes a standard, not an exception.

As a period film that seriously addresses mankind's nature, this film will be as current 20 years from now as when it was released.


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