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When Irish Eyes Are Smiling
A mere century after the Famine, the way in which the Irish in America were physically depicted had been transformed from simianized brutes to wholesome folk. Red hair and freckles, in conjunction with the prescribed Aran sweater, personified this new look by the 1960s. It complemented the warm hospitality image that was carefully being constructed by the Irish tourism industry at this time. Likewise the appearance of the humble thatched cottage as a visual cue played on undercurrents of nostalgia that permeated Irish America in the wake of the phenomenal success of John Ford's The Quiet Man (1952). In that classic film, John Wayne returns to Ireland and refurbishes the family home. This concept of returning home was a key theme as post World War II prosperity and regular commercial flights made visiting Ireland a possibility for Americans who were three or four generations removed from their roots. The cottage was a poignant reminder too of the traditional world that was vanishing as Ireland leapt forward economically in the 1970s.

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