The eponymous Captain Boycott (1832-1897) was solidly played by Cecil Parker in this absorbing historical drama. The setting is 1800s Ireland, where land agent Boycott tells his tenants they must pay their rents or face eviction. Land League leader Charles Stewart Parnell – a memorable cameo by Robert Donat – suggests that, instead of reacting violently, unjustly evicted tenants should ostracise landlords and those willing to take over their farms. Boycott and his bailiff (Mervyn Johns) defy the edict by installing Niall McGinnis and his daughter Kathleen Ryan in an “evicted” farm. Even though the villagers’ leader (Stewart Granger) is in love with Ryan, Boycott writes to The Times (where else?) and obtains military protection to get in his harvest. Ruined by the expense, he admits defeat. And the verb “boycott” enters the English language.
There is plenty of excellent incident in the well-wrought screenplay and Launder’s direction is fast-paced and to the point, making excellent use of well-chosen Irish locations and Wilkie Cooper’s luminous monochrome cinematography. “In the best star role he has had in a long time (he) is the star turn,” wrote the Daily Mirror of Granger, and highly accomplished performances came from McGinnis, Noel Purcell, Eddie Byrne, Maureen Delaney and Eddie Golden.
UK / GFD / 1947 black and white
Director: Frank Launder
Writers: Frank Launder, Wolfgang Wilhelm, Paul Vincent Carroll, Patrick Campbell, from Philip Rooney’s novel
Cast: Stewart Granger, Kathleen Ryan, Cecil Parker, Mervyn Johns, Noel Purcell, Alastair Sim, Niall McGinnis