Fassbender set to play man behind first Irish talkie

Actor Michael Fassbender, brought up in Kerry, may play the life of a Killarney man who spearheaded Ireland’s first full-length feature film with sound.

Over 75 years ago, Thomas Cooper directed The Dawn, an Irish melodrama which captured the glamour, romance and tragedy of the War of Independence.

A garage owner and cinema owner at the time, he was also one of three writers of the landmark 45-minute black-and-white film.

The film, completed in 1936, ran in Dublin, New York and Boston. A US film distributor is currently seeking to re-distribute Ireland’s first talkie movie in the States and the Irish Film Institute has begun a re-mastering project.

Arts and Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan is reportedly receptive to supporting the idea of a film on Cooper.

The Kerry-based minister recently opened a Dawn Film Trail.

The Dawn was one of a number of productions which drew on a rich local history of film-making and amateur acting.

In a rare co-incidence, the original script, written by DDA Moriarty and Donal Cahill, along with Cooper, came to light over Christmas.

Typed in black ink by Cooper’s secretary Babs Morris, and found in an unlabelled cardboard box, it survived three separate re-buildings of the cinema.

This and other film artefacts, including the old camera, are to occupy a dedicated room in the state-owned Killarney House, opposite the cinema.

Meanwhile, a new age dawns for the iconic film, with technical basics having to be addressed with some urgency.

Only four copies of the film, shot, scripted and completed in the town in the 1930s, are in existence.

One of those is held by the British Film Institute.

A rare screening last year found the film to be “fragile”.

The Cooper family, who still run the cinema, decided it had to be the last screening until work was carried out. Cooper’s granddaughter Michelle Cooper-Galvin said a re-mastering project was under way due to a renewed interest internationally in the concept of black-and-white.

As well as being the country’s first full-length feature film with sound, it introduced silhouetted scenes and other techniques.

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