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The Molly Maguires is a 1970 film based on a novel by Arthur H. Lewis that was directed by Martin Ritt.

Set in late 19th-century Northeastern Pennsylvania, this social drama tells the story of an undercover detective sent to a coal mining community to expose a secret society of Irish-American miners battling exploitation at the hand of the owners.

Based on a true story, the film portrays the rebellious leader of the Molly Maguires and his will to achieve social justice.


The opening sequence of The Molly Maguires runs for 14 minutes and 51 seconds before the first word of dialogue is spoken. The movie was filmed in Eckley, Pennsylvaniamarker in 1969. The town was so unchanged from its 1870s appearance that the only major alteration needed for filming was to remove television antennas and install underground electric wiring.

The wooden "coal breaker" featured heavily in the film was built as a prop. It received little or no maintenance over the years and, even though it has been called a tinderbox, it still stands today — 40 years later.

The filming of the movie resulted in the town's being saved from demolition, and it was afterward turned into a mining museum under the control of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Portions of the film were also shot in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvaniamarker. The courtroom where the trial scene was filmed is in the Carbon County Courthouse, and is still used for trials today.

The Molly Maguires soundtrack composed by Henry Mancini (The Pink Panther, Charade, Silver Streak), replaced that originally composed by Charles Strouse. Mancini's score employed Irish modal harmony, played by period instruments including the Irish Harp, Tin Whistle (pennywhistle) and Squeezebox.

A big budget movie for its time, with stars Connery (still filming as James Bond) and Harris at career peaks, it was considered a major box-office failure. Social issue director Martin Ritt would score later with Norma Rae (1979).

Featured cast

Actor Role
Sean Connery "Black Jack" Kehoe
Richard Harris Detective James McParlan/McKenna
Samantha Eggar Miss Mary Raines
Frank Finlay Davies
Anthony Zerbe Tom Dougherty
Bethel Leslie Mrs. Kehoe
Art Lund Frazier
Philip Bourneuf Father O'Connor
Anthony Costello Frank McAndrew
Brendan Dillon Dan Raines, Mary's Father
Frances Heflin Mrs. Frazier
Malachy McCourt Bartender


The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Tambi Larsen, Darrell Silvera).


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