A clifftop Ferrari crash, an affair and a mental unravelling – the bizarre troubles that plagued Ryan’s Daughter

Sarah Miles says that after a few months, Ryan’s Daughter started to become a “way of life”. And the lines between reality and fantasy weren’t just blurring for this free-spirited young actress: the village on the hill outside Dingle which David Lean had built out of solid stone had a pub serving proper beer and a real peat fire. Visiting entertainment writers flown over first-class from Los Angeles and New York by MGM passed horse-drawn milk-carts on the road from Shannon, and wondered, although this was then 1969, whether Ireland had moved on from the First World War period in which Ryan’s Daughter was set.

The sense of blurred lines in what quickly became a cloistered film community in and around Dingle quickly gave rise to one of the more titillating pieces of gossip, as Miles, then 27, seemed irresistibly drawn towards co-star Robert Mitchum, who turned 52 that summer. In the film, Rosy Ryan, played by Miles, is prepared to cheat on her husband, played by Mitchum, in order to take up with Christopher Jones’s British army officer. Jones was then considered to be the new James Dean, but it became clear on set that Miles only had eyes only for Mitchum. She was attracted to his “bear-like proximity”, and eventually admitted to having an affair with him, but only years after Ryan’s Daughter, when she and her husband had split. Continue reading