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Date: Oct 25, 2011
Professor's Book Gives Movie Background
"The Mighty Macs" Found Common Ground with Book by Dr. Julie ByrneHofstra University, Hempstead, NY … If the plot of the recently released film The Mighty Macs sounds familiar, it might be because Hofstra University Professor Julie Byrne brought the story of the basketball team from Immaculata University back into the public spotlight in 2003 with her book O God of Players: The Story of the Immaculata Mighty Macs (Columbia University Press). Dr. Byrne’s book and the film chronicle the real life story of a women's basketball team from a small Pennsylvania Catholic college that won three consecutive national championships in the 1970s.
The Mighty Macs, produced and directed by Tim Chambers, stars Ellen Burstyn, Carla Gugino and David Boreanaz. The movie came about after Dr. Byrne, the Monsignor Thomas J. Hartman Chair in Catholic Studies at Hofstra, received a call from Mr. Chambers, himself a product of Philadelphia Catholic schools. Mr. Chambers was familiar with the Mighty Macs story, read O God of Players, and called Dr. Byrne to ask for the movie rights. While the movie is not based on Dr. Byrne’s book, she served as a consultant and has followed the film’s progress over the last few years.
Dr. Byrne's book told the history of the school from the 1930s through the 1970s championships, while the movie concentrates on just the last chapter beginning in the 1971-72 academic year, when the school, then called Immaculata College and an all-women's institution, overcame great odds to win its first national title. The team did not have a home court or the money to send the whole team to the national tournament, where it was seeded 15th in a 16-team field, and coached by a Protestant, 23-year-old Cathy Rush. The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, led the college and lent support as best they could.
"The script emphasizes the difference between the Cathy Rush proto-feminist mentality and the 1970s girls' Catholic school mentality," said Dr. Byrne, who noted that in the movie, Ms. Rush "came into the world of Immaculata and had much different ideas about what it meant to be a young woman in the 1970s. The movie is about the differences and also about finding common ground between the two worlds."
Dr. Byrne's book O God of Players adds a background story that shows continuity as well as difference. Mid-century Catholic Philadelphia was a culture of openness to women's sports unusual for its time, and Immaculata teams drew on a deep talent pool from local Catholic high schools. "So it was the chemistry of it all coming together," Dr. Byrne said. "The history of girls' basketball in Philly, the spark Cathy Rush provided, the support of the nuns right on time, and the advent of national women's tournaments all contributed to this real-life Cinderella story."
For more information on Dr. Julie Byrne visit: www.hofstra.edu/Faculty/fac_profiles.cfm?id=181 and for more information on The Might Macs visit www.themightymacs.com .
Related Link: More About Dr. Julie Byrne