St. Patrick’s Day
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St. Patrick’s Day Irish-American classics

St. Patrick’s Day
By Deborah Netburn, Whitney Friedlander and Patrick Kevin Day, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

Ah, St. Patrick’s Day; America’s drunken tribute to a whimsical idea of Irish culture. Four-leaf clovers! Leprechauns! Those green plastic hats the college kids like to wear! Guinness! The Blarney stone! “Kiss me, I’m Irish” T-shirts (worn by people who aren’t Irish at all). Fiddles! Clogging!

We’re all a little Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, right? No, not really. But still! Here are some classics of Irish American (and sometimes just Irish culture) that have shaped the way we in the entertainment-observing biz view the people of Celtic descent. (Stephen Chernin / Associated Press)
<b>The Irish American classic:</b> Sinead O’Connor on ‘Saturday Night Live’
Luck o’ the Irish: Not in this case. O’Connor was poised to have a lot of success in America after she released her cover of the Prince song “Nothing Compares 2 U.” But O’Connor’s luck ran out when she took her politics to the stage on “Saturday Night Live” and topped off an a capella performance by ripping up a picture of the pope. America never forgave her.

The take-away: Irish people sure do care about politics! (Jurgen Teller / Pop Eye)
<b>The Irish classic:</b> ‘The Quiet Man’
Luck o’ the Irish: It’s hard to think of a more quintessential American duo than director John Ford and star John Wayne, whose myth-making Westerns have become the icons for an entire genre. But years later, the Duke himself admitted that his favorite movie was the Irish romantic comedy “The Quiet Man.” Noted for its lush showcasing of the Emerald Isle, the film won two Oscars in 1953 for cinematography and directing.

The take-away: Lack of an effective Irish accent did nothing to hurt Wayne’s career. (Artisan Home Entertainment)
<b>The Irish American classic:</b> Riverdance / Lord of the Dance
Luck o’ the Irish: The Celtic clogging sensation hit in the mid-1990s: the overdramatic music, the rigid upper bodies, those furiously flying feet! And of course, Michael Flatley -- Lord of the Dance -- and his bilious white blouses, and blond curly locks. The first clogging show spectacular came to New York in 1996, and the following year, Flatley performed at the Oscars. The spectaculars still exist, but in a much smaller form now.

The take-away: Just because their top halves are still doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot going on down below! (Con Keyes / Los Angeles Times)
<b>The Irish classic:</b> ‘In America’
Luck o’ the Irish: Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan drew on his own experiences coming to America in the 1980s to create his personal film of a young Irish family making a go of it in New York City. Sheridan co-wrote the film with his two daughters and even nabbed several Oscar nominations, including one for best original screenplay. The film also made several critics’ best-of-the-year lists. Not bad for such a small and personal movie.

The take-away: Stuff you make up with your children can pay off big (see also: “Watership Down,” “Winnie-the-Pooh” and “The Hobbit”). (Barry Wetcher / Fox Searchlight Pictures)
<b>The Irish American classic:</b> ‘Far and Away’
Luck o’ the Irish: None of the principal players involved in the making of this 1992 film -- Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Ron Howard -- are Irish themselves (although we don’t have time to research their genealogies), but they were big stars! And big stars can play Irish! The film told the epic story of a young couple who leaves Ireland for a free plot of land in Oklahoma. Music was provided by Enya!

The take-away: If Nicole Kidman were Irish, she’d look more horsey, less put-together, and more beautiful. (Universal City Studios Inc.)
<b>The Irish classic:</b> ‘Leprechaun’
Luck o’ the Irish: On the surface, this seems like just another schlocky horror flick, designed to cash in on America’s latent fear of foreign cultures and its fascination with small people. But somehow Irish love pushed the little “Leprechaun” to become a minor box office hit. Made for less than a million dollars, it generated $8.5 million domestically, justifying the creation of sequel after sequel.

The take-away: Keep an eye on that young actress playing the daughter. That Jennifer Aniston is going places! (Trimark Pictures)
<b>The Irish American Classic:</b> ‘The Brothers McMullen’
Luck o’ the Irish: There are all sorts of clues that this romantic comedy written by, directed by and starring Ed Burns was the story of an Irish American family. First of all there’s the “Mc” in front of the “Mullen” and if that’s not Irish, what is? Then there is the green font on the poster and the clover leaves on some of the other marketing materials. Irish enough for ya?

The take-away: It ain’t easy being Irish, but heck, we wouldn’t have it any other way! (Ian Tong)
<b>The Irish classic:</b> Lucky Charms
Luck o’ the Irish: Nothing evokes images of Ireland more than a bowl of toasted oat cereal with the occasional dyed marshmallow (or “marbit” as General Mills calls it.) Though Lucky the Leprechaun has been working overtime to keep his bowl of cereal out of the hands of greedy American children since Lucky Charms’ creation in 1963, he’s been able to avoid the fate of less fortunate cereal mascots, such as the Fruit Brute and the Cookie Crook.

The take-away: That “magically delicious” flavor the leprechaun is always going on about? It’s not magic; it’s sugar. (Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)
<b>The Irish classic:</b> ‘Cheers’
Luck o’ the Irish: Beantown’s favorite bartender, Sam Malone (Ted Danson) had all the luck when it came to getting ladies. And the show didn’t do too shabbily, either. After a shaky start in the ratings in its first couple of years, “Cheers” went on to become a Nielsen powerhouse for NBC for a total of 11 seasons.

The take-away: Though the reality of Boston’s bar scene is no doubt a lot more grim, there’s no limit to America’s willingness to suspend disbelief. ()
The Irish classic: ‘Singin’ in the Rain’
Luck o’ the Irish: This classic Hollywood musical spoof on, well, Hollywood has three Irish-Americans leading its marquee: Donald O’Connor, left, and Gene Kelly as scheming friends Cosmo Brown and Don Lockwood, and Debbie Reynolds as the female linchpin to their plot.

The take-away: When in doubt, it’s best to make ‘em laugh. (Handout photo)
<b>The Irish classic:</b> Micky Ward
Luck o’ the Irish: Boxing’s famous little brother has had quite a year. Fellow Irish-American Mark Wahlberg played him in director David O. Russell’s Oscar-nominated movie “The Fighter,” meaning Ward left his home in Lowell, Mass., to spend several months on the awards circuit red carpet. Not bad for a retired junior welterweight who now owns a gym and an ice rink.

The take-away: How do you make the most out of your conflicted, constantly conflicting family? Let Hollywood make a movie about it. (Matt Sayles / Associated Press)
<b>The Irish classic:</b> Dropkick Murphys
Luck o’ the Irish: This Irish-American punk band known for publicly -- and loudly -- expressing their political and social views has been around in various iterations since 1996. They’ve campaigned for workers unions and against George Bush. Like any good Boston band, they also support the Red Sox (they’re seen here playing in Fenway Park during the 2007 American League Championship Series).

The band is possibly best known to mainstream audiences through movie soundtracks. Songs from their 2005 album “The Warrior’s Code” were used in Irish-American rich movies “The Fighter” and “The Departed.” Their music was also heard in the 2010 documentary “Restrepo.”

The take-away: Who says Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi have the monopoly on working-class anthems? (Elsa / Getty Images)
<b>The Irish classic:</b> ‘The Departed’
Luck o’ the Irish: The 2006 remake of Hong Kong’s “Infernal Affairs” is about double-crossing Irish mobsters and police officers in modern-day Boston. It scored four Oscars, including best picture and a long-awaited directing Oscar for Martin Scorsese (who, yes, is definitely not Irish).

The take-away: Ancestry doesn’t really matter; America loves a good crime drama. (Andrew Cooper / Warner Bros.)
<b>The Irish classic:</b> ‘The Black Donnellys’
Luck o’ the Irish: Creators Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco were flush with luck and good fortune after their film “Crash,” when their series about a messed up Black Irish family that keeps pulling the good son back in -- just when he thought he was out -- first aired on NBC in 2007. But it seemed their four-leaf clover wilted a bit when the series barely made it through Season 1.

The take-away: Don’t cast watered-down steamed cabbage and scrawny carrots when the script called for grisly meat and potatoes. (Virginia Sherwood / NBC)
<b>The Irish classic:</b> McDonald’s Shamrock Shake
Luck o’ the Irish: Sure, McDonald is often a Scottish name. And no, shamrocks don’t really taste like mint -- even if they are usually associated with the same color. But this 40-plus-year U.S. tradition comes but once a year and even helped fund the first Ronald McDonald House, which opened in Philadelphia in 1974.

The take-away: Why reflect on the calorie count when you can drink up a piece of history every spring? (McDonald’s)
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