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Visiting Cagney’s Neighborhood

By Peter Duffy In the final moments of the gangster film “Little Caesar” (1931), Edward G. Robinson’s Rico Bandello, mortally wounded by gunfire, utters his dying words: “Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Rico?” The critic Robert Warshow used this scene to argue that, in the gangster genre, the mobster’s “whole life is […]

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The Faith of Frank McCourt

By Peter Duffy Frank McCourt, who died on Sunday at age 78, was the most Catholic of authors. The rites and rituals of Ireland’s Catholic Church of the 1930s and ’40s exist at the core of “Angela’s Ashes” (1996), his great Bildungsroman. That book’s hilarious and irreverent chapter on Mr. McCourt’s preparation for, and eventual […]

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From Eire to America

The Irish Americans 
By Jay P. Dolan 
(Bloomsbury, 352 pages, $30) By Peter Duffy Irish people of Protestant affiliation first began settling in British America in significant numbers in the 1720s. By 1790 they represented a sixth of the population of the young United States. Such pioneers are impossible to extricate from the early history […]

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The Rebel Had Second Thoughts

By Peter Duffy Thomas D’Arcy McGee By David A. Wilson (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 432 pages, $39.95) In the summer of 1848, during the worst days of the Great Irish Famine, a band of idealistic revolutionaries tried to spark the starving Irish people into rebelling against their cruel British overlords. But the writers, poets and orators […]

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New York and the Famine

By Peter Duffy On this St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland is peaceful and prosperous. The animosities of the past will have little bearing on the great parade that travels up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The so-called Celtic Tiger, with its cubs more interested in the strength of the euro than the durability of sectarian differences, appears […]

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