The Irish have inspired, influenced and contributed to countless Hollywood films over the decades – and it’s no different when it comes to your favourite Christmas flicks. Though, in some cases, the connection isn’t always obvious.
From providing character inspiration through to designing outfits, here are five Irish contributions to Christmas movies that you might be surprised to hear about:
1. An Irish-American woman inspired Gone with the Wind
Released on December 15th, 1939, Gone with the Wind immediately became a box-office hit and went on to win eight of the 13 Oscars it was nominated for – as well as two special awards.
Today, it plays on our screens again and again over Christmas. But if you haven’t read the book, you might realise that there’s Irish connections beyond the surname of the protagonist – Scarlett O’Hara – and the title of the plantation she lives on – Tara.
Margaret Mitchell, the Pulitzer-winning author who wrote the original novel, had Irish blood on both sides of her family. And she grew up listening to her Irish-American grandmother’s Civil War stories.
In fact, the character of Scarlett O’Hara is loosely based on her grandmother – Annie Fitzgerald Stephens. They’re the same age, born in the same place and come from similar family backgrounds. Her father, Philip Fitzgerald, emigrated from Tipperary shortly after the 1798 Rising and became a rich, slave-owning plantation owner – much like Scarlett O’Hara’s father Gerald. Though his accent hailed from Meath, rather than Tipperary.
2. You’ve seen Philip Treacy’s hats in Harry Potter
The iconic designer is well-known for creating hats for the likes of Alexander McQueen, Chanel and Ralph Lauren. He’s also designed some for movie stars, pop stars and royalty. In fact, Lady Gaga called him “the greatest milliner in the world”. A sentiment which Vogue seems to agree with.
Treacy’s hats have featured soup cans, lobsters, ferris wheels, and beetles. But did you know his hats appeared in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire too? He designed, moulded and finished the chic hats worn by Fleur Delacour and her fellow Beauxbatons students. The pointed hats were Treacy’s take on a trilby for the wizarding world.
Originally from Ahascragh in east Galway, Treacy designed the hats in London – where he’s been for most of his career.
3. The word Gremlins may have its origins in Irish
Gremlins were originally known as mischievous creatures that sabotaged airplanes. The term was coined by British pilots in Malta and the Middle-East back in the 1920s. Then Roald Dahl, who himself was a fighter pilot in the RAF, based a book on them in the 1940s. This then inspired the 1980s Christmas classic Gremlins.
The origins of the word aren’t definitively known. But, according to the Oxford English dictionary, it may come from the Irish word for gruamín – which means ‘gloomy little person’. Etymologist Anatoly Liberman believes this is a better fit than any of its other suspected origins. But, unfortunately, there is no way of knowing if an Irish speaker was around when the term was first coined.
4. There’s some Irish characters in the German Die Hard
In this unexpected Christmas classic, Bruce Willis plays John McClane – an Irish-American policeman from New York – who becomes trapped in a skyscraper occupied by German terrorists on Christmas Eve.
But there’s another Irish connection which you wouldn’t have known about from watching the English version of the film. As it turns out, the German dub of Die Hard features terrorists with English names and Irish backgrounds. Hans Gruber became Jack Gruber – a radical Irish activist.
But this led to some awkward plot holes in Die Hard with a Vengeance when Gruber’s brother makes an appearance.
5. Maureen O’Hara worked her own miracle
Dublin-born Maureen O’Hara played Doris Walker, a Macy’s store executive, in the iconic Christmas film Miracle on 34th Street.
But in 1946, as production was underway, she was also seeking US citizenship. After passing her test on US history and government, she moved on to complete the process.
However, she was asked to forswear her allegiance to England. But since she considered herself Irish and without any loyalty to England, she refused.
At the time, the US state saw her as English. Where she had written ‘Irish’ on her paperwork, an anonymous bureaucrat had replaced it with ‘English’ – probably because Ireland was not yet a Republic.
But she refused to become a US citizen under these terms and, eventually, a judge amended her documents. As a result, she was the first person in the US to be officially recognised as an Irish citizen. Her dual citizenship then led to a change in the process for other Irish immigrants too.
Want to know more about the contributions Irish emigrants have made to the world of film? Visit EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum this Christmas.