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The filming of The Quiet Man was the culmination of a dream by John
Ford to make an Irish picture in Ireland. He bought the rights to the
story over a decade before and peddled it to every studio in Hollywood
and was turned down.
He went to Republic Pictures partly because John Wayne was just winding down his contract with them and he wouldn't have to pay him extra, and partly because Herbert J. Yates's small studio was the last stop. Ford got the permission for The Quiet Man on the condition he do a sure fire moneymaking John Wayne cavalry picture first. So Ford, Wayne, and Maureen O'Hara did Rio Grande first before setting out for Ireland.
In her recent memoirs O'Hara said that this was her role of a lifetime, she knew it would be before one frame of film was shot. She'd been playing in a load of ridiculous Hollywood drivel films as a redheaded Bedouin princess and she did them essentially for the money. This one was to be a labor of love.
Love yes, but a labor nonetheless. John Ford was a talented, but strange man to work for. He could be a bully and a tyrant on any set he was on. She was grateful to him for the career making roles she got with him, but recognized his faults. She relates in her memoirs that Ford used his influence to knock her out of an Oscar Nomination for Mary Kate Danaher in 1952 over some trivial offense Ford thought O'Hara committed and took umbrage.
It was a family affair for Wayne of sorts as well. His kids came to Ireland with him and you can see them at the horse racing scene as extras. Young Patrick Wayne spoke his first movie lines. He also had with him his second wife, Esperanza Baur who was not his kid's mom. She was a tempestuous sort and they would soon part in a very ugly divorce.
Sean Thornton who was born in Innisfree, but went to America as a toddler, has come back to his native Ireland after making a name for himself as a prizefighter and killing a man in the ring. He and Maureen O'Hara have an instant attraction for each other. However Wayne does run afoul of her bully of a brother, Squire Will Danaher played by Ford regular Victor McLaglen.
Wayne and O'Hara marry, but McLaglen won't turn over the bride's dowry. And Wayne won't contest him for it.
So with a little help from The Taming of the Shrew and a bit of Falstaff thrown in, things are put right in Innisfree. More I won't say.
As in all of John Ford's films and this is one of the best, he got some grand performances from some of the most minute characters in the film. Some of his regulars like Ward Bond, Mildred Natwick, Ken Curtis, Barry Fitzgerald and Arthur Shields with the rest of the roles played by Dublin's acclaimed Abbey Theatre players. One of my favorites is Jack McGowran who played Feeney, Squire Danaher's little toady factotum.
The music was arranged by Victor Young who did a grand job of using traditional Irish melodies in the score. One song, The Isle of Innisfree was recorded by Bing Crosby for Decca and sold a few platters for him the year The Quiet Man came out.
The Quiet Man is an annual classic for St. Patrick's Day, the same way It's A Wonderful Life is for Christmas. At least in America it is. I've wondered if it is as well received in Ireland as it is here. I think John Ford, the former Sean O'Fearna, was hoping it would turn out that way.
Mr. Ford, you got your wish.
The lush and beautiful countryside of Ireland provides the setting for this
engaging tale of an Irishman, raised in America, going back home to escape a
past he'd just as soon forget. In `The Quiet Man,' director John Ford
returns to his own roots, going on location to tell the story of Sean
Thornton (John Wayne), a man troubled by an incident that changed his life,
and now doing what he can to forget about it and just move on. And toward
that end, Sean travels to the place he knows so well from the stories told
him by his mother, to Innisfree, intending to buy the cottage in which he
was born, White O'Morn, where he can make a fresh start and build a new life
for himself. There's a problem, however; the land and the cottage is owned
by the widow Sarah Tillane (Mildred Natwick), and borders the estate of one
Red Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen), who not only fancies the widow herself,
but wants to buy her land. Squire Danaher (as he's known) is not the only
one Sean must deal with, though, as other matters arise upon his arrival in
the small hamlet of his birth. And her name is Mary Kate (Maureen O'Hara)--
who just happens to be Squire Danaher's sister. But Danaher or no, it makes
no difference to Sean, who as soon as he lays eyes on Mary Kate determines
to make her his wife.
Sean soon learns that in Ireland, however, such things are pursued quite differently than in America. To win the hand of Mary Kate he must employ the services of Michaleen Flynn (Barry Fitzgerald) a kind of matchmaker/chaperone/marriage broker, who will help him secure the consent of Squire Danaher, without which the marriage cannot and will not take place. So Sean has no choice but to acquiesce to the local traditions and customs, and Michaleen forthwith commences the appropriate overtures. In the meantime, he awaits the decision of the widow Tillane as to the purchase of White O'Morn, which he is determined to have at any cost.
John Ford directed more than 140 motion pictures, going back to the days of silent films, and his favorite star, with whom he worked in at least a dozen of his feature films, was John Wayne. And when you think of the John Ford/John Wayne collaborations, it's the Western that instantly comes to mind: `Stagecoach,' `She Wore A Yellow Ribbon,' `Fort Apache,' `Rio Grande' or `The Searchers,' (to name a few). Yet, `The Quiet Man' is perhaps their most memorable effort, and remains a favorite among fans to this day. Ford (who received an Oscar for Best Director for it) presents the story on a very personal level, and in Sean and Mary Kate gives the audience characters to whom they can relate; and it's that personal connection he affords the viewer that may suggest the main reason behind this particular film's popularity. That, plus the fact that at the core of this story there is an honesty and genuine sincerity that rings so true-to-life. Ford also successfully captures the essence of all that is good and positive about Ireland, from the richness of all of his characters to the lavish cinematography that brings the country so vividly to life. It's quite simply a wonderful, uplifting film, impeccably crafted and delivered by Ford and his superb cast.
Too often, John Wayne's work gets a bad rap; no matter what role he takes on, you're liable to hear `John Wayne is always John Wayne, the only difference is the character's name.' And, as he proves with his portrayal of Sean Thornton, it's not only a false statement, it's so unfair to an actor who brought so much to so many, in his craft as well as in his personal life. The Oscar he finally received for 1969's `True Grit' was way overdue, especially when you consider his performances in such films as `The Searchers,' `Red River' and, of course, this one. Is he the best actor of all time? Of course not; but he is good at what he does, much better than he is usually given credit for. And he (and his films) can always-- always-- be counted on to provide good, solid entertainment. Together, he and Ford have provided some of the most memorable moments in the history of the movies, and his pairing with Maureen O'Hara was a stroke of genius. There's real chemistry between them, which enables them to play so well off of one another. They made five films together between 1950 (`Rio Grande') and 1971 (`Big Jake'), and there is always that spark of magic between them, but never better than in this film.
A gifted actor, Maureen O'Hara is also, without question, one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the silver screen. It's easy to understand how Sean Thornton can fall instantly in love with her when he first sees her walking through the fields of Innisfree. It's entirely believable. And when you get to know the woman behind the beauty-- who Mary Kate is down deep-- it's even more understandable. Perfectly cast, O'Hara, like Ford, returned to her roots to make this film (she was born in Milltown, Ireland, near Dublin), and apparently it agreed with her, because her performance is nothing less than natural and inspired. Mary Kate Danaher, in fact, is arguably one of her-- if not `the'-- most memorable roles of her career.
The supporting cast, topped by Fitzgerald (who is absolutely unforgettable as Michaleen) also includes Ward Bond (Father Lonergan), Francis Ford (Dan Tobin), Arthur Shields (Reverend Playfair) and Jack MacGowran (Feeney). A delightful and endearing motion picture, `The Quiet Man' is, of all of John Ford's achievements, one of his best. And Sean, Mary Kate, Michaleen and all the people of Innisfree are ones you'll remember and want to visit again. It's the magic of the movies. I rate this one 10/10.
What's not to like about this picture? A classic directed by the legendary John Ford. John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara light up the screen. Wayne's performance is brilliant, but what really stands out is that he is playing a regular guy with real feelings and emotions--no army uniforms, no indians to fight, no cavalry coming to the rescue--just a great performance. The supporting cast is unmatched--including great performances by Victor McLaglen, Barry Fitzgerald and Ward Bond. Look closely for Ken Curtis (Festus, from Gunsmoke) in an uncredited role. The scenery is absolutly breathtaking--it makes me want to go home to Ireland--and I'm not even Irish. To top it off The Quiet Man has the greatest fist fight ever captured on film. This is one of my two favorite John Wayne movies. The Duke should have gotten an Oscar for this one. Movie viewers won't be disapointed by this one.
Maureen O'Hara in Technicolor is surely any Irishman's dream, and "The
Quiet Man" would be timeless for that alone. But O'Hara's performance
is all the more indelible for the great good humor she bestows on her
character, Mary Kate Danaher. Let's face it; with any other actress,
this could have been a disaster.
Sean Thornton (John Wayne) comes back to County Mayo, his birthplace, to find a peace he lost tragically back home in America. He immediately discovers some old friends, and a new one, too, Mary Kate, who while herding sheep stares back at him in what James Joyce might have called "a significant manner."
Director John Ford elects to shoot O'Hara from an odd angle, and with an unusual overhead shadow crossing O'Hara's face, that in anyone else's hands would have totally blown the shot but here creates something, well, "Homerific." It's one of many amazing shots in a film that seems more painted than photographed, and is perhaps the most strikingly lovely film ever made.
The shot of O'Hara looking back at Wayne also clues you onto something else, that this is going to be her story as much as it is Thornton's. In fact, it's really more about her than it is about him, a film about romance and a woman's liberation at the hands of her lover. We call them "chick flicks" today. But since John Wayne is the nominal star and no one ever confused Ford with Douglas Sirk, "The Quiet Man" isn't popularly regarded this way.
It's fun to read all the comments about poor Mary Kate and how this film glamorizes the mistreatment of women. They have one thing right, it's a film about spousal domination, but it's the wife ruling the husband. Think about it: She makes her lover do just about everything he does in the film, even risk bodily injury at the hands of her brutish brother (she doesn't know about his past and thinks she married "a coward.") People complain that he drags her across a dung-covered field, while a helpful woman hands him a stick "to beat the lovely lady with." But of course it's Mary Kate who's in total control of the situation. She wants Thornton to fight for her, in every sense of the word, and won't make it easy. She wants him to adapt to her culture, rather than adapt to his. (She's not one to be "honked at," as she puts it.) It's not surprising she trips and falls at one point while Thornton pulls her across a field; probably one of those puppet strings of hers got in the way.
But there are worse things in life than being enslaved by the likes of Maureen O'Hara, like not being enslaved by the likes of Maureen O'Hara. She's not only beautiful and pure-hearted, but such a hilarious joy to be around. O'Hara plays up the comedy of her scenes very well; she could have opted for a more regal distance from the slapstick but plays it as rowdy as the rest instead. The scene when she spits in her hand before shaking with matchmaker Michaleen Flynn (Barry Fitzgerald, who gives the next-best performance after O'Hara) tells you who she is better than any of her many sexy moments on screen. It also gets back to the point of why she's so essential in this film. She is Ireland, the spirit of Erin, and you want her to win, not because she's so pretty but because you know she's good and right for Sean, too.
About the only things wrong with the film are the action sequences, the horse race and the fistfight between Sean and Mary Kate's brother. It's not because the scenes aren't terrific, but because they are so abbreviated, especially the fistfight, which feels likes its building to something even funnier and more rousing than what's come before when it just sort of stops. Ford apparently had to do some cutting to get his film in at the required length, and with his focus as much on Mary Kate as possible, probably preferred to trim the scenes that had the least to do with her. But since the focus on O'Hara is what makes the film anyway, this is a small matter. Wayne fans wanting more action will just have to content themselves with almost every other film the Duke ever made.
Seeing this film for the first time reminded me a lot of "Local Hero," the 1982 comedy. Not only is "The Quiet Man" also a fish-out-of-water story about an American in the British Isles (Scotland in "Local Hero"), both films maintain a very delicate balancing act between whimsy and pathos, with "The Quiet Man," siding on the former direction and "Local Hero" the latter. Definitely worth checking out the one if you saw and liked the other. But "Quiet Man" was there first.
"The Quiet Man" is an Irish village version of "The Taming of the
Shrew," the tamer being an ex-pugilist Sean Thornton (John Wayne)
retired to the land of his fathers where he purchases "that little
place across the brook, that humble cottage." But no sooner does he
arrives on a soft spring morning than he falls in love with Mary Kate
Sean courts and weds her easily enough, but he has not worked out on the anger of her heavy and hard rich brother, the farmer Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen) who holds an envy against him for having bought the very property that separates his spread from that of the wealthiest widow in Innisfree Sarah Tillane (Mildred Natwick) whom Danaher strongly desires...
Danaher refuses to supply the traditional dowry, and Mary Kate accuses Sean for his apparent cowardice in not fighting for what is rightfully theirs...
The battle that follows (considered to be the longest recorded on screen) has Sean and his strong brother-in-law engaging in a climatic fight the townsfolk have long been anticipating with effervescent...
Maureen O'Hara is totally in her element as the fiery Irish girl whether as the bare-footed attractive woman looking after a number of sheep in the meadow, or as the troubled colleen trying to explain her problem to the devoted salmon-catching Catholic priest (War Bond) or as the proud beauty whom Wayne lets fall at her brother's feet... Maureen would play Wayne's love interest in four more features ("Rio Grande," "The Wings of Eagle," "McLintock," and "Big Jake"). Their screen relationship emphasized the strength of their chemistry...
Barry Fitzerald is simply superb as Michaeleen Flynn, the village matchmaker and cart-driver who can't seem to tell anyone something without winning a black beer from them first...
With an exciting Innisfree Races along the beach, a titanic fight from the farm, across the hillside, through a haystack and into a stream, and with emerald environments and great music, John Ford's romantic comedy is a marvelous entertaining film, painted beautifully, simply told with love and humor...
With 7 Academy Award Nominations, the film earns Ford his 4th and last Oscar for Best Director establishing a record which is still unbeaten and won another Oscar for the outstanding Technicolor for Best Cinematography...
"They don't make movies like this anymore" is the usual phrase heard
about classic movies. More appropriately "They CAN'T make a movie like
this anymore" applies to "The Quiet Man".
John Ford directed John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in a number of classic unforgettable Westerns with a familiar supporting cast including Ward Bond, Victor McLaughlin, Mildred Natwick and other pros. "The Quiet Man" moves these familiar icons from the post Civil War American West to the post World War II rural Ireland.
You don't have to be Irish to appreciate the visual beauty of the Irish countryside and villages or the beauty of Maureen O'Hara, but your appreciation of the story is enhanced if you know something about the unique Irish culture.
Ireland and America have been tightly bonded from the earliest Colonial Days of America and are permanently intertwined since the Potato Famine of the 1840's sent tens of millions of immigrants to populate the vast U.S.
John Ford perfectly casts John Wayne as the Irish born, U.S. raised troubled ex-boxer returning to his birthplace and Maureen O'Hara as the Irish beauty . The rest of the lovingly assembled cast contains mostly familiar faces in supporting roles.
The script covers vast ground in a mostly light-hearted manner. The story plays like most John Ford/John Wayne/Maureen O'Hara movies as one step larger than life.
It's clear that everyone appearing in this movie LOVES being in the movie. Maureen O'Hara never looked more beautiful and thrives as the woman in the middle between two warring men, her brother (Victor McLauglin) and her suitor (John Wayne).
The over-the-top village to village brawl between John Wayne and Victor McLaughlin is hilarious and ultimately warm hearted. It sums up the strange Irish notion that you have to physically pummel a man before you can have his friendship and respect.
There are big scenes and little scenes, but every scene is a delight.
This is a movie that can't and won't ever be made again. It's a movie that everyone should enjoy.
It's not only the fact that I'm actually from County Mayo in Ireland where
most of the outdoor scenes from The Quiet Man were filmed in the summer of
1951, that makes it my favorite movie of all time.
This film has damn near everything for everyone in it without being
offensive to anyone (Though the occasional hypersensitive Irish person or
Feminist or "Yank" might take unfounded offense at the various pokes of fun
that are made at various traditions!)
For the romantics this has romance in abundance and probabaly some of the most famously erotic (and much copied - A further indication of how hight in esteem this movie is held) scenes ever put on celluoid (without ever more that an absolute minimum of bare flesh being exposed to satify the puritans). Steven Spielburg most famously gives the cottage kissing scene the nod in "ET" and it was said of the "Wet shirt" Graveyard kissing scene in the rain that, during the many takes it took to get it in the can, Director John Ford only got John Wayne to do everything he wanted to do to Maureen O'Hara himself.
For the action brigade it has probabaly the longest and one of the most enthralling fight scenes of any movie.
For the comics the entire film is laced with Irishisms and good humor and wild banter and loads of "craic"
For the weepies it has tragedy and death and a haunting from the past.
And for the pure sentimental including myself the film has my beautiful country lavishly and lovingly displayed in glorious technicholor compliments of Winston C Hoch amnd Archie Stout which deservedly won it an Oscar for cinematography.
And it has all this and more...
If one cares to delve deeper it touches on themes of Shakespeare (Taming of the Shrew) and the best traditions of Irish literature (JM Synge and WB Yeats).
Testament to it's greatness are the many books and documentries that have been created about it in it's wake (Try Des McHales "The Complete Guide to the Quiet Man" or Gerry McEntees' "In the footsteps of the Quiet Man" for starters!) along with the many tourist that still visit Cong, County Mayo in search of their own dream Inishfree.
I've lost count how many times I've seen this movie both in Ireland and in Exile both here in the US and in England, but suffice to say that at this stage I can now quote liberally from such classic lines as Feeney's: "Silence if you please, Parlimentary procedure, Squire Danagher has the floor" or Micheleen Og Flynn's "Homeric, impetious" upon viewing the marriage bed of Sean and Mary Kate and coming to his own conclusions on the events that may have occured in it.
After owning a variety of VHS (both Pal and US versions) of the movie I've finally purchaced the DVD also which allows one (If one so wishes) to watch every frame of the movie digitally remastered - If you are a fanatic like me or Quiet Maniacs as we are sometimes known this allows you to catch a glimpse of such things as a fly landing on Maureen O'Hara cheek during one shot or (In a daring unintentionally risque scene for the 1950's) her momentarially exposing her underwear whilst jumping over a trunk.
If you haven't seen this movie (and I'm increasing surprised how many of the younger Blockbuster New Release weaned movie viewers haven't) get yerself down to yer local video store now and look in the Classic Shelves for one of those classics that is sure to be there alongside Ben Hur, Gone with the Wind and Casablanca and rent it out for a great nights entertainment. Better still go and buy a copy 'cos once you've viewed it once like me you'll most likely be hooked and will want to watch it again and again (Even sometimes late at night, round Christmastime, sipping a hot Irish whiskey!)
One of the best directed by John Ford. An emotional, humorous look at an
American, played by John Wayne, going back to his native Ireland and trying
to fit in with the present culture. Sensational scenery and the grand music
by Victor Young support this classic among classics. Breezy and rowdy. Too
beautiful to turn your back on. A great illustration of romance. The
interaction between Wayne and Maureen O'Hara is magical and hard to
Other classic performances are turned in by Victor McLaglen, Ward Bond and Barry Fitzgerald.
I can't say I've ever seen a film of such beauty as The Quiet Man. It is whimsical from start to finish, literally never hitting a sour note. Presenting the Irish culture from the point of view of an Irish descendant reclaiming his heritage, this film was an obvious labor of love from director John Ford. It even pokes fun at wife-beating and the IRA with complete good taste. I can't give enough praise to this movie, but out of all the great films from the brilliant John Ford, it's definitely my favorite.
Ireland has never been portrayed as lovingly as in this film. John Ford's
tribute to the land of his ancestors is about as good as a movie can get. Of
course, Ford's vision is, by today's standards, a bit outdated. The Ireland
of the time in the movie probably doesn't exist any more, but only in the
minds of those who knew the Emerald Isle back then.
The story is a bit passe, but we make excuses for seeing it once more whenever it plays on cable, as we take the journey to an ideal place that thanks to John Ford will live forever.
The best thing in the film is Maureen O'Hara. This actress beauty was legendary. Having met her on a few occasions, I can only say, that she is as beautiful in person as she is in films. Miss O'Hara graced this movie by only being there. The camera loved her; she's perfect as Mary Kate Daneher, the spinster, as the locals call her.
The other big assets of the film are the Irish actors that Ford entrusted key roles. Barry Fitzgerald, the impish Michaeleen Flynn, was delightful. Victor McLaglen, is excellent as Squire Will Danaher. John Wayne, as Sean Thornton, is a bit stiff, but maybe Ford's direction called for this actor to play himself in rural Ireland, who knows?
This is a film to be treasured.
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