Ryan's Daughter (1970)




Director:     David Lean. 

Starring:    Robert Mitchum (Charles Shaughnessy), Trevor Howard (Father Collins), Christopher Jones (Randolph Doryan), John Mills (Michael), Leo McKern (Thomas Ryan), Sarah Miles (Rosy Ryan), Barry Foster (Tim O'Leary), Marie Kean (Mrs. McCardle), Arthur O'Sullivan (Mr. McCardle), Evin Crowley (Maureen), Douglas Sheldon (Driver), Gerald Sim (Captain Barry Jackson).

an Irish woman has a passionate adulterous relationship with a British officer and is accused of treason



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

A young woman named Rosy Ryan watches as her umbrella flies out of her hand and down the cliffs of the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland.  Two men in a row boat pick the umbrella out of the water.  Rosy goes down some steps to the beach.  The half-wit man named Michael gives the umbrella to her.  He looks a little crazy.  Father Hugh Collins now comes up to Rosy and talks to her.  Rosy says she can't stand that Michael.  The priest asks her what she does all day long?  She says she's been reading.  He asks to see what she's reading and it's an example of a cheap romantic love story. She says she wasn't really reading it.  He tells her then she has nothing to do and:  "Doing nothing is a dangerous occupation!"

The little village looks pretty poor and run down.  Two British soldiers walk down the main street of town.  The Irish give the guys a hard time saying they should go home.  The soldiers go in to talk with Constable O'Connor.  Michael comes up the street with his one armed lobster and the girls start teasing him.  Then the boys and men gather around Michael and start tossing his lobster back and forth, back and forth.   Michael tries to get it back, but the men keep it away from him.  Father Collins comes to the rescue and condemns the young people for their teasing Michael. 

Rosy walks along the beach.  She throws her trashy novel into the ocean.  A bus stops and lets a man out.  He walks over to what looks like some kind of monument.  Rosy looks like she is going over to meet with the man. 

Father Collins goes into the bar.  Rosy's dad owns the place.  The Father mentions that he just saw Rosy down on the beach. 

Rosy and the man from the bus walk toward each other.  The fellow is Charles Shaughnessy.  The two walk together on the beach.  Charles has just gotten back form a conference of village school teachers in Dublin.  Rosy seems stuck on the teacher.  Mr. Shaughnessy had a wife, but she died at the age of 35.  Charles goes to the cemetery to pay his respects to his deceased wife. 

Back in town, Charles goes into the bar and the men there want to know what he saw in Dublin?  The owner asks if Charles passed by the main thoroughfare ofDublin, Sackville Street (known as O'Connor Street after 1924)?  Yes, he passed by it. Charles said it did look all shot up.  He heard that they used the same weapons that are being used on the Western Front (WWI).  What will they do with the Irish lads they took prisoner?  Charles says:  "They say they'll hang them, Father." 

When the two soldiers come in, the Irishmen stop speaking about politics and pay attention to the soldiers.  The corporal reads the newspaper headlines about the course of the war and one of the guys says the Jerries are really giving the British a hard time. McCardle says:  "You see, Tom, Jerry's a tougher proposition than unarmed Irish children."  This makes the British soldiers angry. 

Rosy goes into the school room through the Girls entry.  Charles leaves the bar.  She sees the teacher coming up to the school house.  He puts on some music by Beethoven.  He walks into the school room and sees Rosy there.  She tells him that she loves him.  He tells her that it is a common thing for a girl to take a fancy to the teacher.  She says he's too humble.  He says it would be a shame for a middle-aged man to steal the youth from a young girl.  He adds that she should be in a big city where's there lots of excitement, whereas he was born to be in a quiet place like their village.  She says:  "So, you don't want me then?"  Oh, he want her all right. He kisses and hugs her. 

Two young men are riding in a buggy and pass by the Constable.  After they pass each other, the Constable thinks he recognizes one of the young men.  He turns his bicycle around and rides to catch up with the buggy.  He does catch up with the buggy, gets a second look and turns around again and heads back. The driver tells the passenger that the Constable recognized him.  The passenger gets off the cart and runs to pull out a military rifle.  He shoots the Constable off the bike.  Then they turn the cart around to check on the Constable.  The Constable, still being alive, is now shot in the head.  His body is placed on the cart and the two young fellows race the horse.  They throw the body down a mine shaft along with the rifle and the cart.  The two fellows now start walking. 

The two lads are driving a truck by the shore road.  Michael is setting out to sea in the row boat.  Father Collins speaks to Rosy about the sacrament of marriage.  Rosy mentions that she is hoping that having sex with Charles will make her a new person.  Michael sees the two fellows backing up the truck to the beach.  The two guys are gun runners.  Rosy and Father walk over to the truck and say good morning.  Michael looks in the back of the truck and seems scared to find the fellow named Tinker in the back of the truck. 

The two gun runners are in the bar on the day of the marriage of Charles and Rosy.  Mr. Ryan goes in to get the fellows something to drink.  He sees the guys staring at a photo of himself and a Commandant Tip O'Leary.  O'Leary is now a wanted man by the British.  Ryan is just about to tell the guys something, when he is called outside to the buggies.  Tim says to his accomplice that the local lads are no good, so he will have to bring some hard lads over from Dublin. His accomplice refers to Tim as the Commandant. 

Charles and Rosy are married.  The husband now kisses his wife.  There is a big party outdoors as part of the wedding reception.  Michael keeps staring at the wedding couple.  The time has come for the husband and wife to retire for the evening.  The fiddler calls out for the kissing of the bride and the local boys go to town on Rosy.  Charles has to pick his bride up and take her inside the house.  Rosy is very eager to have sex with Charles.  Charles goes behind a screen to change into his pajamas.  He turns the light out and the crowd outside yells with glee.  The guys below start throwing corn seed at the window of the couple, until Mr. Ryan stops them.  When Charles finishes, he just plops down on his side of the bed .  Rosy is so disappointed.  He asks her if she is alright and she says yes, but she's not alright. 

In the morning the couple move into the school house.  He gives her a bowl of white flowers. Again she is expecting some action, but Charles just puts on some music and lights a fire.  Charles makes a scrap book of the pressed flowers for his work on:  "Flora of the Parish of Kirrary".   Later he works outside on his garden.  He comes in with his shirt off and Rose asks him not to put his shirt back on.  Charles feels funny with his shirt off so he decides to put it back on.  This both irritates Rose and disappoints her.  She throws the shirt at him.  So he decides he won't put his shirt on. 

Charles is teaching his class.  When he gets a break, he goes in to check on Rose, but finds her already gone.  She is walking down by the beach.  She is crying while she walks.  Father sees her and wants to know what's wrong.  She says she doesn't know (or won't say).  He says she has everything, but she says there's something missing (good sex and passion).  The father doesn't like it when he thinks she gets a little too smart-alecky and slaps her across the face.  She goes down to her knees on the beach. 

Michael is down by a boggy area picking flowers.  The bus stops and a soldier gets off.  The fellow has a bad right leg.  Michael and the fellow stare at each other for awhile.  A car comes by and the corporal gets out to tell Major Doruna that he has to change a wheel.  The Major doesn't seem to want to wait for the change of wheels, so the corporal just drives to the little village.  Everyone wants to see the British officer and everyone stares at the military vehicle as it passes. 

Rose is in the back of the schoolhouse hanging up her washing.  The vehicle stops to let Michael off and then goes on its way.  The Major was in the second battle of the Marne.  The corporal says he was in the same battle.  They arrive at their destination, a British army base.  All the guys want to see the new officer.  The corporal unpacks the officer's luggage and sets things up for him. 

The commanding officer tells the Major that a fellow named Ryan is an informer for the British.  The police slip him some money now and then.  He also says this Ryan is a bit of a bigmouth, but an all-right guy.  The superior officer admits to the Major that he has always been a coward.  He gets the shakes just thinking about the battlefield and is afraid that he might disgrace himself.  The Major says no one knows what they will do until they are put in a battle situation.  The superior officer sees a photo of the man's pretty wife and asks if she will be coming out to the base?  No.  The fellow warns the Major that around this village it's just old married ladies or virgins, nothing in between.  And the priest has eyes in the back of his head. 

The next day the Major walks right down the middle of the main street in the village.  One of the Irish women call out "Peg Leg".  He turns around and just stares at her until she fells uncomfortable and goes inside.  The Major goes into the bar and Rose is minding the place for her father.  She keeps thinking about the Major and keeps looking at him.  He lights up a cigarette.  Michael also just keeps staring at him.  The poor fellow keeps knocking his boot up against the wall and that makes the Major a bit jumpy.  Michael stops and gets scared when the man keeps looking at him.  The Major gets the shakes and Rose throws Michael out.   The guy has flashbacks to the battlefield.  Rose comes to the rescue and is gentle with him.  The two kiss each other.  They look at each other and start passionately kissing.  The Major grabs her right breast through her clothes.  She gets worried about what people might say, but he keeps kissing her.  She tells the major that she lives at the school house with her husband and her name is Rose Shaughnessy.   

Dad comes in with a whole bunch of village residents.  He says he can't say the officer is welcome, but he recognizes him as a real war hero. Dad shows Rose the new horse Princess he has purchased for her.  The Major soon excuses himself and leaves.  Rose is afraid that her affair shows on her face and is very worried.  Charles comes into the bar and gives his wife a peck.  At night in bed, Rose can't sleep and the major in his bed can't sleep either.  

The next day Rose looks toward the army base and thinks about the Major.  In their living quarters both are thinking of the other.  Rose goes outside at night.  She sees the Major walking over the hill and down to her.  She tells him to meet her in the tower.  Now she rushes back into the house.  Her husband is grading papers.  He comments that Rose is very restless and she says yes.  She now says that tomorrow she is going to take Princess out for a ride.

Rose waits near the tower as the Major rides up.  They go riding for awhile.  They see a huge collection of purple flowers in the woods.  Rose leads the way to a secluded place.  Rose is not quite so eager now as the Major takes the initiative, but she is so hot to trot that it doesn't take long to get her going.  She is not wearing a bra which makes it easier for the Major.  They lay on the ground and kiss while they have intercourse.  (very little nudity)  Rose does seem a bit conflicted, but is too weak to resist.  The major has flashbacks to the war.  She asks him how long will he be here?  He says his unit is at the front, but he doesn't have to go back. 

Michael is catching fish under a bridge.  He hears the two horses come walking over the bridge.  The horses stop and he hears Rose saying good night, darling.  Then he hears a gentleman says good night.  Rose does not return until after it's almost dark.  Charles has been waiting for her but she just wants to change and check out her appearance in the mirror.  She says her horse fell and the new Major helped get Princess up.  (She's a brassu one, isn't she?)  And now she says the Major said he will help her train Princess. 

Charles knows something is wrong and asks her:  "You'd never be unfaithful to me, would you?"  Then he apologizes for asking the question.  Rose doesn't say much of anything. 



Charles take the children down to the beach for a field trip. He tells the kids to spread out and start looking.  He sees two sets of footprints on the beach.  He starts following the footprints.  He notices the signs of a dragged leg and probably figures it's the Major.  He starts following the trail.  Maybe he is finally smartening up.  They usually say that if you think your partner is cheating, they probably are. 

Charles imagines he is watching the two come into his view.  He steps back behind a rock and watches the Major grab a fancy sea shell and give it to Rose.  He really has a long face and when the children come to him they ask him what is wrong?  He tells them it's nothing. 

Michael sees the children and Charles running on the beach.  He has followed the two lovers out to the beach.  A blonde girl that really likes her teacher, worries about him.

Michael comes looking for the couple, following their tracks.  He finds a ring that belongs either Rose or the Major.  As Michael leaves the cave he walked into, Rose sees him.  He keeps looking back in her direction and now she worries that maybe her secret is out in the open now. 

The kids are playing street hockey on the main thoroughfare.  Now Michael come along imitating the Major.  He puts some of the jewelry he found on his outer jacket like the Major.  One of the girls looks at Michael and says: "It's the Major!"  Michael salutes the girls and boys.  Father Collins comes out and says Michael is just asking for ridicule and tells him to take those imitation ribbons and medals off his chest.  Michael refuses to do that.  The town fool picks up a pipe and threatens to brain the Father.  The priest is shocked and says:  "Michael!"  He now asks what is Michael up to?  Just then Rose comes riding up the street on Princess.  Michael runs over to her and pours confetti over his head.  He salutes Rose.  The people are starting to catch on finally.  Michael grabs her horse and she asks him to please let go.  He lets go.  The kids and adults laugh their heads off.

The priest marches over to the school house.  He asks Rose what was the meaning of that pantomime?   He asks her where has she been?  Riding with Major Doryan. The priest says:  "You're bold as brass.  You think that's a suitable connection for a decent Irish wife?"  She says there is nothing between her and Major Doryan.  She also says she has already told her husband everything.  The priest wants her to confess, saying she will have to tell him in confession anyway.  She says she doesn't have to come to confession. 

Charles comes in, but says nothing to his wife.  He just speaks to the Father.  The Father hears the prayers of the children and then they all run out.  Father asks if there is something he can help Charles with?  He says no. 

When Charles comes in to be with his wife, he acts as if nothing happened.  He is even cheery when she shows him the heather she picked and tells him that she was never on the beach at all.  He finds beach sand in her hat rim. Now he goes to look at her clothing.   He finds the sea shell the Major gave her in her middle drawer.  He puts it back. 

When she comes back from being outdoors she asks him if there is something the matter?   Is there?, he asks.  Not with her.  Now Charles says so there is nothing wrong. 

Rose comes into the general store.  No one says anything to her.  They just ignore her.  She asks the cashier for a wash cloth.  Have none.  Potatoes?  Have none.  What are those then?  I have no potatoes.  The cashier says very loudly:  "The way I see it, Mrs. Kenyon, there's loose women and there's whores and then there's British soldiers' whores."

The Father, Michael and two other men are on the beach.  A storm is coming up.  A ship off shore works to bring cargo ashore. 

It's closing time for the bar and Ryan chases everybody out.  Tom opens the door from the bar to his living quarters and finds the Commandant standing right in front of him.  Now Tip O'Leary opens the back door up and seven rebels with rifles come into Ryan's house and go upstairs.

The strong waves are pushing the German weapons cargo on rafts onto the beach.  The Commandant says that they will go out tomorrow early and big up the cargo that has made it to shore.  They need 12 fellows to help them with the project.  It's Ryan's job to get the twelve men.     

The Constable needs his breakfast.  A gunman and Ryan go over to the man's house and the gunman tells the Constable not to make a sound.  Ryan has to put the handcuffs on the Constable.  He says he is doing this only under duress.  When Ryan is alone in the Constable's house he makes a phone call to the army base.  The rest of the gunmen get ready to go to the beach.  The Constable is all tied up and in the basement.  When they arrive they don't find any weapons.  They figure the rafts must have busted up.

They stand there and wonder what they will do when virtually the whole town comes down to the beach.   They treat O'Leary as a real hero.  Father brought the towns people down to the beach.  He says the weapons will be on the slabs out in the ocean. The people run to the slabs.  They get a grabbling hook onto one of the rafts and start pulling it in. Women jump into the ocean to pull the raft all the way in. 

The little girl that likes her teacher comes to his house and asks him to come to the beach because that's were the whole town is.  She says she thinks it's a wreck.

Maybe to throw off suspicion, Ryan works hard to get items into shore.  Women pick up rounds of ammunition from the shallow areas of the beach.  Charles and Rose come down to the beach.  The sassy woman from town with always something nasty to say, asks Rose:  "What are you doing here?"  The truck is started up and starts to take off.  The tires get stuck in the sand so everybody joins in to push the truck out of the sand.  As the truck heads up to the top of the cliffs, the people run behind it.  But, unfortunately, the British army is already at the top of the cliffs with the Major standing out front..

The people can't believe what's happening. O'Leary runs away through the people.  The Major grabs a gun and goes on top of the truck.  The people say no, no.  The Major shoots O'Leary once.  He aims to get another shot off, but can't hold the gun still because he's shaking too much due to his having another battle flashback. He falls down and Rose goes up to help him.  Charles goes and takes his wife away as the people yell and scream at Rose the slut.  A woman asks  the Father what will the British do with the male prisoners?  They will hang them, he says. 

At home Rose asks Charles if he knows or not?  He knows.  He says he knew from the beginning.  She asks him why didn't he say something?  He says he should have.  He didn't want to face the truth.  And he thought the couple would burn out on each other and she would come back to him. 

At night Rose is awake.  She goes to the window and sees the Major waiting for her on the hill.  She grabs a shawl and goes outside.  They run to each other.  They hug.  Charles watches her from his window.  In the morning, she rushes back to the house.  She goes inside.  She thinks she can just climb into bed, but the beds are already made.  And Charles is down by the beach.  A box of dynamite sits on the beach. 

The kids are in school and out of control.  Rose comes to speak to them.  She says she will lead the class, but the kids start walking out of class saying their parents told them not to speak to Rose Shaughnessy. 

She waits and waits for Charles to arrive.  The priest comes in to see Rose and Charles.  He asks her, you went from Charles' bed to be with the Major?  "Oh, Rose!"   Michael is out on the ocean with loads and loads of armaments.  The Father comes down to the beach.  The corporal and the Major stop the priest to ask what he is carrying (clothes for Charles)?  The priest uses the occasion to blast the moral hell out of the "fancy fellow".  He is furious. 

The priest finds Charles alive and sitting on the rocks by the ocean.  Father gives him his clothes and Charles gets dressed. 

Rose watches as Father and Charles arrive home.  Father leaves and Charles talks with Rose.  He tells her he is going to leave her.  She says about he illicit affair:  "It's over."  She says the Major knows already. 

Charles tells Rose that the Major would still be a ghost about the place.  She says that's right.  As they talk about splitting their money evenly the people of the town come for Rose.  One fellow throws a rock through the window.  The people come into the house while othrers surround the entire house.  They say that Rose is the informer.  The general store lady says if Rose was a man she would be shot.  Charles acts like he hasn't the foggiest clue to why the people may think that Rose is the informer.  The leader calls Charles deservedly  a "numbskull".  Charles argues that anyone could have called the army base from the police station.  No, because Tom Ryan himself had cut the telephone wires.  (But in reality Tom never cut the wires.)  Tom says yes twice, but leaves because he can't bear to look at his daughter's face. 

The women take Rose outside by force, while the men push Charles to the floor and hold him there.  When Rose comes out everyone calls her an informer.  She sees her husband being beaten up by the men, while the women all yell at Rose.  Rose will now have her hair cut off.  Tom Ryan just runs away.  He passes by the priest as he runs.  The priest arrives and forces his way to the front.  Rose's clothes are thrown out the window to the crowd.  When the priest comes up, the people all start leaving except for the sassy one.  But then she runs too when the priest directly confronts her.  Now Father goes into the schoolhouse.  He soon comes back out.   

Rose sits by the fire in a robe.  Her hair is chopped up and short.  Charles sits near her.  She has scratches on her face.  Charles gives her some liquor.  She takes a drink and then gives the glass back to Charles.  Michael sees the Major looking out to sea.  He goes up to the Major and gets a cigarette and then the cigarette case.  Michael now walks behind the Major imitating his limp. 

Charles tells his wife that the people just wanted a scapegoat.  He doesn't think anyone informed on the gunmen.  Charles adds that the people of this village were always jealous of Rose and they always gave him a hard time too.  He says he's not telling anybody that they have busted up until he is well out of it.  Michael takes the Major over to where he stored the weapons he collected. He opens a case and hands a German hand grenade to the Major.  The Major watches as Michael opens more and more of the boxes.  Finally he opens up a small box filled with detonators.  The Major tells Michael to give him those, but Michael will not surrender them.  So the Major takes one detonator and throws it at a huge iron container.  The detonator goes off with a boom that scares Michael so much that he runs off.  The major just sits watching the sun go down.  All of a sudden a huge explosion goes off.   Charles tells his wife that the army is probably just destroying the weapons still being found on the beach.  Rose thinks of the Major and goes out to run to the beach.  But Michael comes to her with such a sorrowful expression that she knows that the Major is no more. 

Charles packs up Rosy's stuff.  He tells her that it wasn't all her fault.  He should never have married her.  She agrees with Charles.  Rose is taken down to the bus stop with her worldly goods.  Everyone clears off the streets, except for the girl who loves the teacher.  Her parents tell her to get back in.  She drops her flowers and goes inside.  Charles picks the flowers up which undoubtedly pleases the girl.  Charles tells Rose that she will be out of it in five minutes.  She goes into the bar to say goodbye to her father.  She tells him she is going to Dublin.  She gives him a kiss, tells him she will write him and leaves.  Dad comes out to say goodbye to Charles.  The couple keeps up the pretense that they are still together.  The people start yelling at the couple as they head down the hill.  The priest, Michael and Charles wait with Rose for the bus.  A burst of wind takes her hat off and reveals Rose's short hair.  Michael is amazed to see her hair like that.  Charles runs the hat down and brings it back. 

The bus arrives.  Rose gives Michael a kiss.  Tears come down Michael's cheeks.  As a parting piece of advice, Father suggests that Charles stay together with Rose.  The bus leaves with Charles and Rose aboard. 



I really don't care for films about adultery.  So I just decided to almost go straight through this long film and get it over with.  It's a very good story, but I don't like these types of films.  Rose married Charles at too young of an age.  Charles is middle-aged and wants different things from life than a young person wants.  Rose had never sowed her wild oats and when a handsome Major comes along that needs help, she just jumps on him and is in an affair almost immediately.  The character of Charles is just disgusting.  Does the man think he's Jesus Christ, always turning the other cheek?   His reactions were just not realistic to me.  I would have been furious at Rose.  Immediately, I would stopped talking to her.  If she did not respond to this, I would start thinking about starting a new life elsewhere.  But, unlike Charles, I'm not Jesus.  My feelings would be too hurt and my thoughts too nasty to just treat an adulterous wife as if nothing has happened.  The relationship would end even if I still loved her.

It was neat seeing the whole town turn out to help the I.R.A. men, in spite of the danger of the presence of a nearby British army base.  Some of them certainly could have been killed. 

Robert Mitchum and Sarah Miles were just great in the film.  Trevor Howard as the priest was also good.   

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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