Fools of Fortune (1990)





Director:     Pat O'Connor. 

Starring:     Iain Glen (Willie Quinton), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Marianne),  Sean T. McClory (Young Willie Quinton),  Frankie McCafferty (Tim Paddy),  Niamh Cusack (Josephine),  Ronnie Masterson (Mrs. Flynn),  Tom Hickey (Father Kilgarrif),  Julie Christie (Mrs. Quinton),  Hazel Flanagan (Geraldine),  Amy Joyce Hastings (Deirdre),  Michael Kitchen (Mr. Quinton),   Mick Lally (Mr. Derenzy),  John Kavanagh (Johnny Lacy),  P.G. Brady (Thin Man),  Jimmy Keogh (O'Neill ).

a man wants vengeance after the British army destroys his family and  home at the onset of the Irish war of independence


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Flashback.  Before the fighting began in the last push for independence from Britain, a Protestant family, the Quintons, have a nice picnic on their lawn in front of their estate house with their friends.  The Quintons have a young boy named Willie Quinton and two smaller girls.   

The present.  Willie is a grown man living a solitary existence in a small cabin in an isolated area.  He stands at the sea shore and screams:  "Marianne!  Marianne!"  (Marianne is his cousin, who he fell in love with.)

Flashback.  Tim Paddy fast pushes Willie in a wheel-barrow around the area until they crash. 

The present.  Willie thinks back to his childhood when Father Kilgarrif would teach him the conjugations of Latin verbs. 

Flashback.  While Willie climbs around a big tree, Father Kilgarrif insists that Willie needs to know Latin for it is the root of so many other languages.  The family has lunch together and Mrs. Flynn serves the tapioca pudding as dessert once again.  Mrs. Quinton tells the family that Tim Paddy will pick up the new maid, Josephine.  After lunch, dad takes Willie to his place of work. Willie and dad say hello to the accountant Mr. Derenzy.  Dad now tells Willie that there is work to be done, so go off and find something to occupy himself. 

Willie goes downstairs to talk with his friend Johnny Lacy who hammers out hoops for the making of wooden barrels.  They talk about the coming of the new maid.  She is coming from Chicago. 

On their way home, dad tells Willie that Father Kilgarrif was defrocked and that's why he lives with them now.  He talks about Johnny Lacy being a good man, but there is a difference between the Protestants and the Catholics.  Dad says:  "It hasn't always been easy to be an Irishman in Ireland." 

Willie walks down the steps of his house, while his sisters run up the stairs, shouting about the new maid.  Willie gets excited and runs out of the house to find and take a look at Josephine.  He asks Tim: "What's she like Tim Paddy?"   He runs into his mother who is showing Josephine around the grounds.  Josephine smiles at Willie.

On their way home from church, the Quintons, riding in their carriage, come upon a group of Black and Tans in an argument with the locals.  Willie asks who those men are and dad tells him, adding that they have a bad reputation among the Irish.  Mother tells Willie to sit down and be quiet.  She doesn't want any problems with the Royal Irish Constabulary. 

Back to the present.  Willie wakes up from a nightmare.  He slugs down some Irish whiskey.   On the night stand there is a photo of Marianne.  Willie picks it up and looks at it intently. 

Flashback.  Willie tells Father Kilgarrif that the family saw the Black and Tans today.  Father wishes that there could be Irish independence without having to fight for it.  He says to Willie:  " . . . it can be love and mercy that changes things, not men with swords and guns." 

Some WWI veterans return home.  Mr. Quinton has hired one of the Irish veterans, a man called Doyle.  Mr. Derenzy tells him that Doyle could mean trouble for them.  After all, he fought alongside some of those Black and Tans.  Dad says he had to take the man in, because he worked here before the war.  (And because Doyle was mixed in with the Black and Tans, the Irish catholic workers don't like him much.)

A man from the Irish Republican Army comes to speak with the Quinton parents.  Dad later tells mother that they will give him some money, but there will be no IRA training at Kilmay and no storage of arms here.

As the IRA men drive away, Doyle studies the people in the car. 

Mrs. Quinton tells Willie that he has to go away to go to school.  Willie doesn't want to go. 

The children hear Johnny Lacy singing an Irish song and they come downstairs to enjoy the music. 

The car with the IRA men in it that visited the Quintons is waylaid by the Black and Tans.  All aboard are killed. 

Johnny finishes his song without music.  Then the music starts and the people start dancing.  Johnny is with Josephine, but he has eyes for Miss Sweeny and vice-versa.  Josephine tells Willie that she and Johnny are going to get married, but Willie has his doubts. 

Josephine looks for mushrooms on the property.  She finds Doyle hanging from a tree and screams out.  She runs back to the house screaming all the way.  Doyle was hanged and his tongue was cut out.  Mrs. Quinton wonders if Doyle was spying for the British. 

Willie and his dad see Sgt. Ruptkin of the Black and Tans.  Dad doesn't like the man.  He and Doyle fought together in the world war.  He inherited a grocers store back in Liverpool, England. 

At night Willie comes downstairs to listen to his mother playing the piano.  Later during the night Sgt. Ruptkin and some of the other Black and Tans throw gasoline into the Quinton home and set it afire.  Tim Paddy rushes inside the burning building and saves Willie.  He tries to go back and save others, but the fire is too intense.  So he goes to check on old Mr. O'Neil.  Willie's two sisters burn to death, along with Mrs. Flynn.  Mr. Quinton gets out of the house only to be shot dead by Sgt. Ruptkin.  The sergeant says that this is for his friend Doyle.  The murder is seen by Willie and Josephine hiding in the woods.  Sgt. Ruptkin now sees Tim Paddy and his old father.  The sergeant shoots both of the men dead.  Josephine almost gives her and Willie's presence away when she gasps:  "Oh, my God."  Sgt. Ruptkin looks into the woods, but can't see anything.  Later Mrs. Quinton comes out and finds her husband dead.  Willie goes over to his mother, who tells him that his dad won't wake up. 

Willie is now a young man.  He lives with his mother in an apartment.  Mr. Derenzy is in the process of explaining the finances of the business, most of which is over the head of Mrs. Quinton.  She doesn't want to hear about the business because it brings back bad memories to her of the death of most of her family.  She thinks of that horrible Sgt. Ruptkin.  She wonders why no one shot Ruptkin in reprisal, but Mr. Derenzy says that Ruptkin got away from everyone. 

Johnny Lacy is marrying one of the Sweeney girls.  Mrs. Quinton asks about Josephine, but is told that was over a long time ago.  Mr. Derenzy takes his leave, because he can see that Mrs. Quinton is obviously too distracted to listen to him.  He tells Willie that he will be taking over the businesses now that he has finished his schooling. 

Willie takes his mother to a restaurant.  Mom tells Willie that her cousin all the way from Dorset wants to come for a visit.  And Marianne is coming with her.  She instructs Willie to write to them and tell them that they are not ready for visitors at this time.  Willie agrees. 

Willie and his mom go to see their lawyer Lanningan.  Mother wants the lawyer to stop Mr. Derenzy from coming over to her house every six months with all those business papers.  She says it reminds her of too many painful memories.  A servant comes in to serve wine.  The poor man cannot speak.  The lawyer tells Mrs. Quinton that these visits were the wish of her husband.  She says she wants to be left alone to be in peace. And now she asks the lawyer to write to her cousin to tell her to stop sending her letters and asking to come visit. 

The cousin, Mrs. Whitcomb, arrives with Marianne in tow.   When Willie sees Marianne he is dumbstruck.  She has to ask him to help her down from the coach.  The two go down town to see the shops.  She likes Ireland.  Willie suggests visiting his old home, but Marianne thinks it would be too hard emotionally for Willie to deal with.  Willie says he will be okay and, especially so, since Marianne will be with him. 

Back to the present.  Willie is still in relatively great isolation in his little cabin.  The winds outside blow mightily. 

Flashback.  Willie and Marianne visit the old home.  Father Kilgarrif and Aunt Patsy are still in the wing of the home that was spared by the fire.  Checking on the remains of the main house, Willie tells Marianne that he is going to rebuild the house back to what it was, but it all proves too much for the young man and he breaks down and cries.  Marianne comforts him.   

Back to the present.  Willie looks at a portrait of his extended family. 

Flashback.  Willie asks his  mother to please stop drinking whiskey.  He even starts yelling at his mother asking him what are they supposed to do?  She asks about Sgt. Ruptkin again and Willie screams at her to just shut up about that man.  Mom now asks Willie to take Josephine out of the house for awhile.  She asks for a kiss before he goes.  He kisses her on the forehead. 

Willie walks with Josephine.  He tells her that he doesn't even know if Marianne loves him.  Josephine says that of course Marianne loves him.  Josephine tells him to write to Marianne and Willie promises to do so.  Back at home Mrs. Quinton drinks more whiskey.  She drops the whiskey glass and it shatters in the sink.  She picks up a large shard of glass. Suddenly, Willie has a premonition that his mother is in danger.  He runs back home, with Josephine following behind him.  He runs up the stairs and finds a blood trail on the rug.  He see his mothers legs sticking out from around a corner of the bed.  He goes closer and sees that a lot of blood has been shed onto the rug from his mother's body. 

Willie, Mrs. Whitcomb and Marianne attend the funeral.  Marianne walks with Willie after the funeral.  He tells Marianne that his mother killed herself.  He had to beg for a normal funeral for his mother.  Willie says that his mother was tedious and tiresome and he should be glad that she's dead.  This shocks Marianne, who begins to cry.  Willie walks away from her. 

Marianne talks with Josephine who tells her that it was so terribly hard on Willie to find his mother dead on the rug.  That evening Willie had planned to write Marianne a letter to tell her he was fond of her.  She goes on to say that Willie has been in love with her ever since that summer that she and her mother came for a visit. 

Back to the present.  Willie walks along the bleak, wind-swept landscape.

Flashback.  Willie calls out to Marianne who is sleeping in bed.  She is slow in getting up, so he returns to lay in his own bed.  Marianne comes into his room and snuggles up besides him.  She says:  "I love you, Willie."  They start kissing and then have sex (no nudity). 

Mrs. Whitcomb and Marianne are leaving to go home.  Marianne gives him a photo of herself and Willie thanks her.  She says goodbye. 

Marianne returns to Ireland looking for Willie.  She is pregnant with his child.  She tries first at the old home and is told that Willie has gone away and they don't know where he is now.  So Marianne asks to speak with Josephine.  She is now working at a convent with the nuns.  Marianne stops at the pub to ask Johnny Lacy about the whereabouts of Willie.  The bartender lets her speak with the pub owner.  Marianne is now getting the feeling that everyone is keeping something from her.  They seem not to want her to find Willie  Johnny Lacy tells her that Willie is best left alone. 

Marianne sees Josephine.  She tells Marianne that she doesn't know where Willie is.  Josephine gets very upset, and says that she should have never left Mrs. Quinton alone on that day.  She turns around and runs back inside. 

Marianne walks to the apartment where Mrs. Quinton and Willie once lived.  She sees that the place is up for rent.  Mr. Lanningan's old speechless servant sees her and runs to catch her.  Marianne thinks the man is a beggar and she asks him to please go away.  But the old servant has a note for Marianne. 

Now Marianne goes to visit Mr. Lannigan.  She tells him that she doesn't think she can live in that old home of the Quintons.  He tells Marianne that Willie's aunt will take her in.  Lannigan goes on to say that Willie visited him before he went away and indicated that he would be out of the country for awhile.  He left behind some monies for Marianee, possibly thinking that Marianne may become pregnant.   

Back to the present.  Willie helps bring some boats into shore. 

Emelda Quinton is a small girl in school now.  The aunts of Willie attend a birthday party for Emelda on the lawn of the burned out mansion.  At night Emelda thanks her mother for the birthday party.  Meanwhile her father works on the roof of his cabin.  Emelda meets Johnny Lacy.  He shakes hands with her and says he just wanted to say hello to her. 

At school some means girls say nasty things about Emelda.  They say she shouldn't be at the Catholic school because she isn't Catholic. 

Emelda's mother tells her not to concern herself about what the mean girls say about her.  She also tells Emelda that she and her father never had a chance to marry.  Her own parents wanted her to give Emelda up for adoption, but she just couldn't do that.  Emelda asks her mother if her father is really going to come back?    Mother says: "One day he will."

Emelda hears Father Kilgarrif  argue with her mother.  Mother is bitter about what happened to the Quinton family and mad that her parents turned their back on her.  Father says that Marianne neglects Emelda sometimes.  Marianne tells him he can go to hell. 

Emelda starts to have visions of the terrible deeds that happened at the Quinton mansion.  She sees the hanged Mr. Doyle.  She sees the suicide of her grandmother.  At school she breaks down screaming her head off.  She is so upset that she stops speaking altogether. 

Flashback.  Willie goes to Liverpool.  He finds the shop run by Sgt. Ruptkin.  At night he goes inside the home of Ruptkin.  The man hears some noise in his house and gets up to see what is going on.  He turns a light on and sees a scared young man in a corner.  He demands to know what this young man is doing in his house.  He thinks the fellow is trying to steal from him.  Ruptkin starts to push Willie around.  Willie tells the man his name is Quinton.  Ruptkin says he doesn't know what he's talking about.  Willie pulls out a knife and says:  "You killed my father!  You burned down our house!"  

Ruptkin starts talking to Wille and says he's sorry for what happened.  He also makes a bunch of excuses for his conduct.  It looks as though Willie has decided not to kill Ruptkin.  As Willie relaxes, Ruptkin breaks a bottle over a table end and tries to kill Willie with it.  Willie, however, stabs Ruptkin first.  As Ruptkin and Willie go to the floor, Ruptkin shouts with extreme hate:  "Bastard!  You fucking Irish bastard!"  Willie now stabs the man over and over again.

Back to the present.    Willie receives a telegraph that Josephine is very ill.  He decides to return to his hometown.  He goes to the convent to see the very ill Josephine.  She talks about how kind his father was.  Josephine then says the words:  "Emelda.  The blessed Emelda."  She falls asleep. 

Willie attends the funeral.  Also there are Marianne and Emelda.  After the funeral, Willie remains behind.  He talks with Father Kilgarrif.  The Father tells Willie that he can stay at home now for enough years have passed.   Willie rushes over to talk with Marianne.   Marianne doesn't move, but Emelda goes over and hugs her father.  Marianne starts walking away from them.  Emelda pulls her father along following after her mother.  Marianne tells Willie that their daughter has not talked since that day at school when she starting screaming.  Willie says it's his fault.  Marianne shakes her head no. 

Willie tells Marianne that he loves her. 

Emelda goes into the old house and looks around at the interior as it was before the fire.  She looks out the window and sees her parents at a younger age, chasing each other around a sun clock on a pedestal.  Emelda smiles a big smile.  Her young parents come over to the window and wave hello to Emelda.  She then sees them run off together and turn to say goodbye.  Emelda still has that big smile on her face. 


Spoiler Warning.  Good movie.  The film shows a bit of just how terrible the British were to the Irish through their supporting police officers, the Black and Tans.  These officers often took arbitrary reprisals on Irish villages and villagers killing innocent people in revenge for IRA attacks elsewhere.  The Black and Tans burned down the home of the Quintons, ruining the lives of the family survivors.  Only Willie and his mother survive  His mother suffers terribly from the injustice done to her family and from the fact that the killer has not been punished.  She eventually takes her own life.  And Willie goes to Liverpool to take vengeance on the killer of his family.  This turn of events throws a monkey-wrench into the workings of his love relationship with his cousin Marianne and into the life of his daughter Emelda by Marianne.  It all eventually gets sorted out, so there is a relatively happy ending to a terrible tragedy. 

The term fools in the title expresses the fact that the Protestant father and his family, always trying to remain politically neutral to avoid problems, ends up underestimating the strength of the forces involved in the coming war for Irish independence and the Brits determination to stop that movement for independence.  The political naivetι of the father failed to help the family prevent the coming tragedy that would befall the Quinton family. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


1916 – the Easter Rising in Dublin when armed Irish nationalists staged a rebellion against British rule of Ireland.

1918 – the revolutionary Sinn Fιin movement won 73 out of 105 seats in Ireland in the general election.

1919 (January) – the First Dαil declared an independent Irish Republic.

1919 (January) – the Irish Republican Army begins the guerrilla campaign known as the Irish War of Independence. The IRA would attack the Royal Irish Constabulary.

1919 (September) – the British administration outlaws the Dαil.

1920 (January) – the British government advertises in  Britain for men willing to "face a rough and dangerous task".  The recruits would join the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC).  Many of the recruits were First World War veterans. Their main role was in support as sentries, guards, escorts for government agents, reinforcement to the regular police and crowd control. They also ran a counter-insurgency campaign.  The new recruits were issued khaki army trousers and dark green RIC or blue British police caps.

1920 (March 25) – arrival of the first RIC recruits.  They were posted to RIC barracks, mostly in Dublin, Munster and eastern Connacht.  Christopher O'Sullivan writes in the Limerick Echo that seeing a group of new RIC recruits, the uniform of one of the recruits reminded him of the Scarteen Hunt, which had the nickname of "Black and Tans" for the coloration of their Beagles.

by 1921 (November) – about 9,500 Brits joined the RIC. 

As counter-insurgents, the Black and Tans would carry out reprisals, motivated by a spontaneous desire for revenge against IRA attacks.  The British government condoned these reprisals that were often characterized by their brutality.  Since the Black and Tans couldn't catch the actual attackers they carried out arbitrary reprisals on any handy target. 

1920 (summer) – the Black and Tans burned and sacked many small towns and villages in Ireland.

1920 (November) – in Tralee the Tans’ reprisal included the killing of three innocent residents. They closed all the businesses and let no food into Tralee for a week.

1920 (November 25) – the Tans abduct and murder a Roman Catholic priest.

1920 (December 11) – the Black and Tans sack Cork city burning out Cork center.

1921 (January)  --  the British Labor Commission publish a highly critical report of the activities of the Black and Tans and others working to enforce the government's security policy.  Over time the decision to carry out reprisals came more and more to be decided by the higher authorities instead of the local officials or the security forces themselves. 

1920-1922 – some 7,000 Black and Tans served in Ireland.

1922 – the Black and Tans were disbanded along with the rest of the RIC . More than 404 members of the RIC were killed in the conflict. (With 600 wounded..)



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