Shake Hands with the Devil (1959) 





Director:     Michael Anderson.

Starring:     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 (Mary Madigan),  John Breslin (Timmy McGrath),   Harry Brogan (Tom Cassidy),  Robert Brown (First Sergeant 'Black & Tans'),  Lewis Casson (Judge),  Christopher Casson (Brigadier),  John Cairney (Mike O'Callaghan),  Harry H. Corbett (Clancy).

IRA fights the Black and Tans trained to suppress the IRA  (with James Cagney)



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

Dublin, 1921.  "A city at war. Often in its turbulent history, the men of Ireland had arisen to fight for their freedom only to be crushed.  This was the year of total war.  It was also the year of the Black and Tans, the army assembled to replace the English regulars who had lost their taste for the suppression of men in search of freedom."

The Black and Tans descend on what appears to be a funeral procession in the local Glasnavin cemetery in northern Dublin, east of the Tolka Valley Park and just west of the National Botanic Gardens.  The Irish drop the coffin.  It splits apart, revealing its cargo of rifles.  The Irish run away, but the Black and Tans are able to catch a man known as Joe Cullen.  They arrest him, saying that he only has to tomorrow morning to live. 

At one of the graves, a man named Kerry O'Shea put flowers down.  He saw the raid.  And now an Irish woman from the funeral procession rushes over to Kerry and pretends that she is mourning for the dearly departed along with Kerry.  Kerry plays along with her.  The leader of the raid comes over and asks the man to identify himself.  Kerry tells him his name.  The leader asks him for identification.  Kerry pulls out his documents showing that he is American.  He says he came last year to bury his mother next to his father.  He is staying in Ireland because he is a student at the College of Surgeons, where his father was trained as a doctor. The Englishman asks him a few questions about the College and Kerry answers all of the questions correctly.  Satisfied with his identity, he asks who is the woman?  Kerry says she's a friend of the family. 

A Black and Tan rushes over to the leader to say they found these clothes under the bridge.  The leader says it must be O'Leary and they hurry away together.  The woman now with Kerry tells Kerry that she is Mrs. O'Leary and she knew Kerry's mother. 

A 1,000 pound reward is offered for information leading to the capture of Michael O'Leary on the charge of murder.  One of the medical students says if they catch him, it will be the firing squad for O'Leary, like what they did to Joe Cullen this morning. 

Kerry's roommate Paddy says everyone has heard the story of the brave American who struck a blow for the cause yesterday at Glasnevin Cemetery.  Kerry tells him to stop trying to recruit him for the cause because he got out all the desire for fighting while in France (WWI). 

The two roommates go to class.  Their professor is Sean Lenihan.  Kerry is distracted by a pigeon in the window next to him.  Kerry starts feeding some seeds to the pigeon.  Lenihan goes over and says something to the class birdwatcher.  Everyone gets a laugh out of that. 

Kerry and Paddy go down to the local pub.  They are interrupted when a Black and Tan comes into the pub.  He rudely handles one of the customers, while looking for O'Leary.  Not finding the man, he leaves the pub.  Paddy is mad about the incident, saying a man can 't have a quiet drink without being spied on. 

Kerry and Paddy start walking back to the campus.  A man on a bike deliberately hits Paddy from behind with his shoulder.  That causes Paddy to wake up and look around him.  He sees a car full of Black and Tans coming down the street.  The man on the bike stops, pulls the pin out of a grenade and throws the grenade into the car.  There's a big explosion that stops the car immediately.  Then one of the survivors gets out of the car and shoots the assassin in the back trying to ride away on his bike.  Kerry turns back to check on the man, but Paddy grabs him and says let's get out of here.  They start running down the street. 

All of a sudden a Black and Tan starts firing the machine gun at Paddy.  Paddy gets hit.  Kerry tries to help Paddy, but Paddy tells him to get out of here because he's done for.  A Black and Tan with a rifle tries to shoot Kerry, but Kerry throws his medical book at the fellow, grabs the rifle from the man's hands and hits the man with the rifle butt, knocking him out.  He helps Paddy get away from the scene of the explosion. 

Kerry left his book behind and it has his name on it.  He's in trouble now. 

Kerry has to carry Paddy to an apartment door and asks for help.  And old woman answers the door and Kerry tells her that Patrick Nolan is hurt.  The woman hesitates until Kerry tells the woman that Paddy told him to bring him to this apartment.  A pretty young woman also lives in the apartment.  She comes over to look at Paddy.  Kerry opens the back of Paddy's shirt and tells Paddy that he's going to need a surgeon.  Paddy tells Kerry to get Lenihan.  The young woman, named Mary, runs out the door to get Lenihan. 

Another resident of the apartment, a man, comes into the apartment.  He is disturbed by finding a bloody man in the room.  The fellow is angry saying that he told Mary and the old hag not to get involved with the Troubles.  Now Mary and Lenihan enter the room.  The man, Clancy, starts berating Mary and he looks like he's ready to slap her, but he doesn't. 

Lenihan gets the bullet out of Paddy, but the poor fellow soon dies.  The professor says to Paddy that he was a poor medical student, but a fine soldier.  Now the professor warns Kerry that the Tans will be around to question him.  Kerry says they're probably already at his room in the dorm because he threw a book at one of the Tans.

Lenihan sees Mary all dolled up to go entertaining a man looking for women.  He tells Clancy that he's nothing but a pimp.  The pimp sees the fury in Lenihan's eyes and tries to get out of the apartment.  Lenihan grabs the pimp and shoves his pistol in his face.  He says:  "Don't come back.  Ever.  And not a word."  He releases the pimp and Clancy wastes no time in running out of the apartment.  Lenihan now tells Mary that she's not keeping her appointment tonight or any night.  She starts crying and saying that what else could she do?  Her brother died fighting for the cause and she has to make money to look after the old woman.  Lenihan tells her to find another way of making a living.  Others have.  He storms out of the apartment.

Kerry looks at Lenihan as if he were some kind of heartless monster.  Lenihan has Kerry come with him.  They go into a place where they are repairing weapons for the cause.  The men refer to Lenihan as the Commandant.  He sends some men out on an assignment.  They have to get the plans to know what they are doing at Dublin castle. 

Lenihan tells Kerry he has two choices.  He can, one, join the cause, or, two, get the hell out of Ireland. Kerry says he's done with killing men.  Lenihan now takes Kerry in to see the General.  The General says that Kerry resembles his father.  He also mentions that when Kerry's father was shot, it was Lenihan who carried the man out so he wouldn't have to die on the cold, hard floor. 

A man named McGrath is brought in.  He is all shaken up because he just did kill the informant on Joe Cullen.  He says the woman victim was very lovely and now he can't get the way she looked at him when he shot her our of his mind.  McGrath now wants to quit the cause.  The General asks if McGrath's parents are alive?  Yes.  The General says they will accept his resignation, now that they know where to send McGrath's body.  He reminds McGrath:  "Once in, never out!"  McGrath agrees to stay in the fight for the cause.  Kerry is just disgusted with the techniques used to fight for the cause.  He doesn't even answer the General's question if Kerry wants now to get out of Ireland? 

Kerry, Lenihan and Cassidy drive to a meeting.  Kerry meets Chris Noonan.  Chris will look after Kerry until his boat comes in to take him to America.  A rough fellow named O'Brien starts insulting Kerry, calling him a coward.  He keeps on with it until Kerry can't take any more and knocks O'Brien down.  Kerry goes outside.  He talks with Noonan who, it turns out, loves to write Gaelic poetry.  Kerry says he wouldn't have guessed that.  Willie comes running over to tell Noonan that Liam O'Sullivan is breaking out of Dublin castle.  Noonan goes up to the radio room.  There he learns from Lenihan that O'Sullivan has a chest wound.  Lenihan is fixing him up.  They need Kerry to go on a little errand for them.  Kerry says he'll do it.

Kerry is in the bar and the bartender Kitty Brady is flirting with him.  Mrs. Fitzhugh is driving her car to the bar with Liam O'Sullivan in her trunk.  The Black and Tans stop her on the road.   They check her car, but since the trunk is locked, and Mrs. Fitzhugh doesn't have the key, they decide to skip it.  A dog, however, comes over and sniffs the trunk.  He starts barking at the trunk, so they grab the car keys from the ignition and open the trunk.  O'Sullivan is there, but with a pistol.  He fires the pistol and the Black and Tans shoot him multiple times.  Mrs. Fitzhugh is taken to Dublin castle. 

Now the Tans go into the pub.  They start frisking people for weapons.  Cassidy had told everyone that there were to be no weapons in the pub because they might be searched.  But O'Brien has brought a British service revolver.  He takes the revolver out of his belt and puts it on the counter.  Luckily, another bartender throws a dishtowel over the revolver.  But then, deliberately, O'Brien knocks the revolver on the floor of the pub.  Since it fell in front of Kerry, the leader of the Tans says that Kerry brought the weapon.  He arrests Kerry and take him away.  When the Tans leave, everyone in the pub gives O'Brien the evil eye.  The jerk says, well, why not?  It's better that it was him, and not O'Brien.  Kitty throws Kerry's drink right into O'Brien's face. 

The prison interrogator keeps asking Kerry questions that Kerry won't answer.  And each question means a fist smash in Kerry's face.

Lenihan has the old hideout striped of anything indicating that the men had ever been there.   Noonan says he doesn't think they will break Kerry.  Lenihan says he can't afford to think that they won't break Kerry.

The guys are going to try to get Kerry out of prison.  They dress up in uniforms and get into the prison.  When the Tans open the inner door, the men rush in.  Lenihan goes to get Kerry and sees that the young man has been badly beaten.  He sticks his pistol into the belly of one of the Tans, and the Tan immediately says he didn't do it.  Then who did it?  It was Colonel Smithson  Lenihan knocks the man out with his pistol.  He says that's for the man just standing around and watching the torture.

The team's driver blows his horn to warn the guys when he sees a staff car pulling up to the prison gates.  The ruse is discovered, but by know everyone is back in the truck.  The truck takes off and smashes the staff car, turning the car over on its side. 

Lenihan quizzes Kerry if he said anything to the Tans?  Kerry shakes his head no.  Lenihan says they have the name of the torturer and they will pay that man back a thousand fold for Kerry.

The ship shows up at the light house.  The truck arrives and two men help Kerry to the lighthouse.  O'Brien gets a look at Kerry's face and sees what pain he indirectly inflicted on the young fellow.  Lenihan says that the ship's here, but now Kerry says he's not going.  He says that Lenihan needs men, doesn't he?

Noonan says that the captain of the boat wants to go now.  Lenihan tells Noonan to tell the captain:  "No passengers."  Noonan is very happy for and proud of Kerry. 

Kerry has been healing up for a week and he wants to get back in the action.  Noonan tells him to wait a little longer.  Kitty comes out to tell Noonan that Cassidy wants to see him.  Furthermore, the Tans are saying that unless they are all turned in they'll take a hostage from every village.  Noonan says he better go see Cassidy.  Kitty and Kerry are all alone now and Kerry gives Kitty a passionate kiss. 

Mrs. Fitzhugh is thrown into Mountjoy Jail for two years. 

To get Mrs. Fitzhugh out of jail, Lenihan tells the guys that they are going to kidnap Colonel Smithson and then exchange Smithson for Fitzhugh.  Or they could capture the daughter of Sir Arnold Fielding, the advisor to the military governor, and make the exchange. The daughter is named Jennifer.

Jennifer is going to the horse races today.  And the Irish lads have set up a road construction delay on the highway on which Jennifer's car will travel.  When the car shows up Lenihan holds a gun on Captain Fleming and Jennifer in the back seat and Kerry takes the place of the driver, who is then taken away.  They start going now, but they run into a British road blockade.  Lenihan threatens to shoot the couple in the car if they don't cooperate and get them through the blockade.  They get through the blockade and the leader tells a soldier that the regular driver Ernie is up to his old tricks again.  The Captain had to get a driver from the 28th.  The soldier says that's funny because the 28th pulled out for India last month.  The leader realizes they have been tricked. He tells his men to shoot low and at the tires, but one of the bullets hits Jennifer in the arm. 

Noonan and O'Brien wait for the arrival of the car.  When it arrives they hold their weapons on the Captain.  They are going to take Jennifer with them and let the Captain head back to tell Jennifer's father about the exchange.  The Captain asks if they have no compassion for Jennifer because she has a wound that needs attention.  The stupid O'Brien says they won't have to worry about that because their commandant is the best surgeon at the College of Surgeons.  Lenihan tells O'Brien that he might has well have told the Captain his home address.  And, one thing's for sure.  He has assured the Captain's death.  The Captain grabs a rifle, but Kerry shoots him down. 

Lenihan sutures and bandages Jennifer's arm.  She says their doctoring on her probably makes them feel more like doctors again, instead of murderers.  The remark wounds Kerry and he takes a walk outside.  Lenihan comes out to speak with Kerry and tells him not to be so down on himself.  Ireland is in a war for its freedom and he wants Kerry to fight alongside him until the war is won.  Kerry stays quiet. 

The British big wigs are not sure what they should do about the exchange.  But Smithson says he'll get Jennifer back for them by doing things his way and that might include burning every village in Ireland to the ground. 

Captain Fleming is barely alive in the hospital, but Smithson has come to get some answers from the Captain. 

Lenihan is operating on a patient while instructing his students.  The Tans rush in and ask for Lenihan.  Lenihan tells the head nurse to tell the leader of the Tans to stand outside the operating room because the appearance of the Tans risks infecting their patient.  So the Tans stand outside the operating door. 

The operation finished, they roll the patient out of the operating theater.  The Tans check the face of the patient to make sure it's not Lenihan.  The Tans let the patient be taken to his room.  Meanwhile, the Tans start pulling one mask off after another from the doctors in the search for Lenihan.  But Lenihan is no longer in the operating room.  He was rolled out with the gurney into the patient's room and got away from the Tans. 

Lenihan and the General plan to catch Col. Smithson who will be at Ashtown Dock to see Lord Crandall off to England.  The General tells Lenihan that there is other good news.  There are peace feelers coming out of Number 10 Downing Street in London.  They are talking peace treaty.  Sean is not at all sure the news is good.  He says the British are offering them a dominion status and that's not what the Irish have been fighting for.  In fact, he says that a peace treaty like that might lead to a civil war in Ireland.  He tells the General not to settle for anything except making Ireland an independent Republic! 

Kerry goes in to check on Jennifer's healing process.  She's progressing nicely.  She still keeps riding Kerry about being a murderer, but Kerry has news for her.  Captain Fleming is not dead.  He's alive in the hospital.  Kerry says he's happy about that.  He says no matter what Jennifer thinks of him, he doesn't enjoy killing people.  Jennifer is a widow and tells Kerry that her husband wasn't quite as lucky as Captain Fleming.  Kerry says he's sorry about what happened to her husband.  Now Jennifer brings up what's going to happen to her if Lady Fitzhugh dies in prison?  Will they shoot her by firing squad?  Kerry says she will be sent home immediately to her father.  Jennifer doesn't believe that because, she says, she saw the fire and hatred in Lenihan's eyes towards her.  Kerry promises her that she will not be hurt. 

Kerry asks Noonan what will Lenihan do to Jennifer if Mrs. Fitzhugh dies in jail?  Noonan says it's best that Kerry not ask that question. 

Kerry takes Jennifer up to the top of the lighthouse for the real breath of fresh air that she so wanted and asked for.  She talks about Kerry kissing her, so Kerry gives her a good kiss on the lips.  She asks Kerry to take her away from here.  Now Kerry is thinking that the kiss was just part of a con game to get him to take her to safety and to never see Kerry again.   Kerry then says:  "There's just one thing wrong, though.  You couldn't have fooled me even for a second, if there hadn't been something there to believe."  Now they kiss again. 

Kitty brings some clothing over for Jennifer. 

Lenihan arrives and starts telling the men about the kidnapping of Smithson.   

Kitty is ready to leave, but she hears Lenihan's voice.  She doesn't want to face him, but she also says she's not afraid of him.  She puts her head out, but then just stands there half way in and half way out of the room with Jennifer.  Lenihan starts reading Noonan the riot act about that woman being here again.  Noonan tells Lenihan that Kitty has been very useful to them.  Lenihan now asks Kitty how much did she hear of their plans?  She says she didn't hear anything of their plans and she could care less about their precious plans.  Lenihan says they will make sure by forcing Kitty to stay in the light house as they carry out their plan tomorrow morning.  Kitty says fine and goes back into the room with Jennifer.  Jennifer sees that Kitty is as much afraid of Lenihan as she, Jennifer, is.

Lenihan goes over the plans with the men.  The call for action will be when Smithson himself says goodbye to Lord Crandall.

Kitty tells Jennifer that she could tell immediately that Jennifer and Kerry were in love with each other from the way they tried so hard not to look at each other.

During the night, Kitty sneaks out of the light house.  She goes down to the beach for a swim.  When she finishes she puts her clothes back on.  Then she gets a shock.  Lenihan is standing there right on the beach watching her.  He tells Kitty that he just wanted to make sure she wasn't thinking of leaving the boys.  She suggests that Lenihan has an obsession with her and that he wants to have sex with her.  She says now they are all alone and they can do it without anyone knowing.  She misjudged Lenihan because he starts to choke her.  He tells her to get away and don't come back here.  And if she informs on them, he will hunt her down and find her.  He now releases her as he pushes her down onto the sand.

Kitty runs to the town.  She knocks on the pub door.  The owner Donovan lets her in.  The place is in shambles.  The man tells her the Tans paid him a visit and when he couldn't tell them where Kitty was, they started wrecking the place.  Kitty asks why were the Tans looking for her?  Because they were looking for a lot of people and Kitty was one of those not around and they figured she was cooperating with the Irish rebels.  Kitty is scared out of her mind that they might capture her and torture her and she might tell them what they want to know.  Donovan gives her some money.  He says the beer man will be around bright and early and he can take Kitty down to Dublin and to the Ashtown Dock where she can take a boat over to Liverpool, England.  She can stay with his sister for awhile.  Kitty agrees to go, but being in Ashtown tomorrow may be dangerous.

Kerry comes into see Jennifer.  He tells her that he will get back to her. 

Ashtown Dock.  The rebel men are in place.  Kitty buys her steerage ticket and walks to the ship.  She is stopped by the Black and Tans.  The rebels see that Kitty is in trouble.  Kitty sees O'Brien and gets a shocked look in her eyes.  The leader tells the Tans to go after that fellow.  Lenihan concludes that Kitty has informed on them and the action starts.  Smithson arrives and Lenihan shoots him down. 

Lenihan always said O'Brien was a great fighter and he proves it again.  He grabs two pistols and breaks away from the Tans.  He then shoots down a number of Tans, until a Tan shoots O'Brien.  Kerry shoots the man who shot O'Brien.

Now Lenihan goes after Kitty.  She begs him not to shoot, but he shoots her twice in the mid-section.  As she goes down, twice she says she didn't tell the Tans. 

Kerry dives into the water and gets away.  Lenihan gets away too. 

Kerry makes it back to the General's hideout.  He's sad because they lost a lot of men and Kitty Brady.  But the other guys tell him not to be sad because a peace treaty has been signed and Ireland will be free.   The General comes out to confirm what the men just told Kerry.  Now the General sends some men to the lighthouse to let Jennifer go.  Kerry says he's going to the lighthouse too.  But now the news comes in that Mrs. Fitzhugh is dead. 

And now Lenihan comes to Jennifer's room to kill her.  He hands her a Bible so she can say some last words to God. 

Lenihan now goes down to kill Jennifer.  Noonan tells him that this will not bring Mrs. Fitzhugh back.  But Lenihan only says that they have no choice but to kill Jennifer.  He brings her out of the room and then takes her outside.  He takes her up a hill. 

Kerry arrives and Willie tells him that Lenihan took Jennifer up to the hill top.  Kerry starts running as fast as he can.

He gets to the top of the hill and tells Lenihan that now that they have a treaty, their commandant is now just killing for the sake of killing.  The other men arrive.  Lenihan asks each one if he is with their commandant?  None of them say yes.  So Lenihan says he'll take care of all of the men because they are all traitors to Ireland.  But now he has to pay a debt to Mrs. Fitzhugh.  He turns around to shoot Jennifer, but he hears Kerry cock his revolver.  Kerry shouts:  "I'm not going to fight your war."

Lenihan swivels around to shoot Kerry, but Kerry fires first.  The big man falls.  Kerry rushes over to him, but Lenihan dies.  Kerry throws the pistol out onto the beach. 


Good movie about a terrible period in Irish history where mercenaries hired by the British, and called Black and Tans because of the colors of their uniforms, abused the Irish citizens terribly.  In fact, the Black and Tans were so bad that the British people became upset over their dastardly deeds and called for their removal from Ireland.  The British government removed the Black and Tans.  The film deals with the actions some Irish men and women took to fight back against the Black and Tans.  An American named Kerry, who doesn't want to kill anyone anymore because he fought in World War I and is sick of killing, gradually gets sucked into siding with the Irish resistance due to the atrocities committed by the Black and Tans.  But working for the resistance is not easy, because the boss Lenihan is too willing to kill the British, as well as any Irish informers.  He's too excessively obsessed with dishing out death to anyone even slightly in his way.  So Kerry not only has to fight the British, but Lenihan too.

Cagney is very good as Lenihan.  He does a great job of being a somewhat demented, cold-blooded killer.  Glynis Johns (as Kitty Brady) was great as the flirtatious, somewhat older barmaid. 


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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