THE QUIET MAN (1952) 

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John Wayne
Maureen O'Hara
Barry Fitzgerald
Ward Bond
Victor McLaglen
Mildred Natwick
Francis Tobin
Eileen Crowe
Arthur Shields

John Ford



About Wayne

About O'Hara

Time: 129 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Drama/Romance

Won Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Director. Nominations for Art Direction, Sound, Screenplay, Supporting Actor (McLaglen) and Best Picture.

I have to honestly say that this is the first John Wayne picture I've seen all the way through. I know he's an American icon, but I generally am not a big fan of the genres he mainly starred in, so I haven't watched any of his films. Besides, I find him to be a bit stiff and limited as an actor. The reason I agreed to watch THE QUIET MAN was because it's a love story that takes place in Ireland, so no indians or battleship fights. It is, however, directed by Wayne's oft-companion the renowned John Ford, who won an Oscar for this picture. Ford was originally from Ireland and always wanted to tell a story about his roots. Though it wasn't easy – the studios thought the picture wouldn't make any money – he finally got his way. THE QUIET MAN is certainly not the best love story ever filmed, but it's an engaging piece that really captures the spirit of its location and makes Wayne charming to boot. I'm not sure, as a woman of the 21st century, that I agree with the way he constantly man-handles Maureen O'Hara, but there are some moments when she deserves it. They certainly have an undeniable spark between them that elevates this somewhat simple tale.

The film opens with the arrival of Sean Thornton (Wayne), an Irish-born, but American-bred young man who returns to Ireland to settle among his family's roots. Most of the townspeople of Innisfree are thrilled to see one of their own come back home. His first order of business is to reclaim his family's cottage from the widow Tillane (Natwick). She is initially reluctant to part with the property, but an unwelcome visit by town bully Will Danaher (McLaglan), who's been trying to buy the land as well, convinces her to sell the land to Sean. This sparks a bitter feud between the two men, one Danaher wants to settle with his fists. Sean refuses to be goaded into violence, earning him the nickname "quiet man." Sean has sparked violent emotions in another of the Danaher clan, Mary Kate (O'Hara), but her feelings are more of the lustful variety. She initially tries to deny her love for Sean, but it's no use. He's a man who's used to getting his way and he's going to make her his wife come hell or high water.

"Have the good manners not to hit the man until he's your husband and entitled to hit you back."

Of course, her brother hates Sean and would rather die and have his sister live as a spinster forever than allow her to marry Sean. Sean enlists the aid of the town matchmaker and resident drunk Michaleen Flynn (Fitzgerald) to try to change Danaher's mind, but it's no use. Without his knowledge, Flynn and the town pastor, Father Lonergan (Bond), hatch a plan to make Danaher jealous by claiming Sean has designs on the Widow Tillane, who would consider marriage, but not to a man with another woman already in the house. Not about to lose to Sean again, he agrees to let him marry his sister with the understanding that he'll eventually marry the widow. Unfortunately, though the first part of the plan works perfectly, no one informs the widow of the scheme, who is outraged at Danaher's presumptuousness. To save face, Danaher denies Mary Kate her dowry, which consists of family heirlooms, mostly furniture, and 350 gold coins. Mary Kate is furious with Sean when he refuses to fight for her rightful possessions and refuses to have anything to do with him sexually until he claims them. Sean chooses his love for Mary Kate over his convictions, since one's past won't keep you warm at night. The stage is set for a major fight between the two men, which doesn't disappoint.

Having been to Ireland, a place I hope to return to someday, I have to say that Ford and crew captured the magic of this place perfectly. It was rare to shoot outside the United States at that time, but it's clear what a difference it makes. The fact that the film one the Oscar for Best Cinematography is not a surprise. There's nothing as green and beautiful as the countryside of Ireland and there's no way Ford could have created such a wonderful environment on a sound stage. The supporting cast made up of mainly Irish actors really went a long way in showing what living in a village is like. Yes, much of the action took place in the local pub, which is somewhat prejudicial, but believe me, in a town that size, there's really nowhere else to go. I didn't think the direction was anything special and would have given the award to Fred Zinneman for HIGH NOON, but that's just me. Since I wasn't watching the letterboxed version there might be a great deal that I missed.

Watching this film has actually made me intrigued enough to seek out other Wayne pictures. Despite his woodenness, he has an undeniable charisma. It's easy to see why O'Hara's character fell for him at first sight, though the village pickings before his arrival were pretty slim. I think he was a little rough with her, but the film is a product of the times it was made in and she wasn't exactly the most docile of creatures. O'Hara has a certain spitfire quality that was put to very good use in this role. For a film made in the 50's, there's a great deal of lustful manuevering going on in this picture. The pacing of the film is a bit slow, especially towards the end and really could use about 10 minutes trimmed out. There's not much of a plot and though the romance is fun, there aren't any real surprises to hold your apt attention. It's clear Wayne and O'Hara are going to be together and that he's going to fight her brother. The stuff in between doesn't really matter, though I guess it helps establish tradition and location. If you're looking for a love story with a little punch and want a good introduction to the Duke, THE QUIET MAN is a film worth checking out. It's nothing new, but the scenery and the romance make it a lovely way to pass the time.

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