1970 Sean Connery Film Romanticizes Militant U.S. Labor Organization

molly-mcguiresThe history of coal mines in America is filled with a lot of violence — unrest that many Americans know little about. The industry spawned war-like actions by workers and owners — from the Blair Mountain incident to a tent city in Colorado where machine guns were turned on American men, women and children.

In the 1970 film, The Molly Mcguires, Sean Connery plays the leader of a group of men in Pennsylvania fighting back against oppressive coal mine owners. However, they are not fighting back in the typical manner of the day (1876) by going on strike. They engage in acts of war, bombing trains, blowing up mines and assaulting company officers.

As Wikipedia explains, the Molly Maguires were

an Irish 19th-century secret society active in Ireland, Liverpool and parts of the eastern United States, best known for their activism among Irish-American and Irish immigrant coal miners in Pennsylvania. After a series of often violent conflicts, twenty suspected members of the Molly Maguires were convicted of murder and other crimes…

The film is about two hours long and is typical of its era. Of course, there has to be at least one bar room fight — which has an old ‘western’ feel to it. Despite being a period piece, it is a decent overview of the organization, and it shows, fairly accurately, what led to their demise.

The movie is available online and at Amazon.

For those interested in a more in-depth work, consider the Oxford University Press publication Making Sense of the Molly Maguires by Kevin Kenny.

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