This was a significant departure for Republic Pictures, which specialized in low-budget westerns, comedies and war pictures. It was the company's first and only film to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.
At the film's conclusion, after the credits, we see Kate and Sean standing in their garden waving good-bye. Maureen O'Hara turns to John Wayne and whispers something in his ear, evoking a priceless reaction from Wayne. What was said was known only to O'Hara, Wayne and director John Ford. In exchange for saying this unscripted bit of text, O'Hara insisted that the exact line never be disclosed by any involved parties. In her memoirs she says that she refused to say the line at first as she "couldn't possibly say that to Duke", but Ford insisted, claiming he needed a genuine shock reaction from Wayne. The line remains a mystery to this day.
When John Ford screened his final cut for the studio's top brass they liked it, but it was 129 minutes. They reminded him they would not release a film over 120 minutes, citing the audiences could not/would not sit in a theater for over two hours. Ford staunchly objected claiming he already cut out 'all the fat' and there was nothing left to cut. They stood their ground & sent him back to cut nine minutes. Ford did his level best to contain his ire as he collected his film and fumed out the door. As the story goes, a few days later he called the brass and informed them 'the final print' was ready for the screening. When the last man took his seat Ford signaled the projectionist to dim the lights and run it. Then, at exactly 120 minutes, right in the middle of the climactic fight, the screen goes white and the house lights came up. There followed by a deafening silence. Ford said something like, 'As you can plainly see, there is nothing left to cut out. So, I give you 'The Quiet Man' at exactly 120 minutes! Now, you're begging me for the last nine minutes! Do you honestly think the audience will be any different?' Naturally, the studio relented and the rest, as they say, is history.
During the filming of a take of the scene where John Wayne first kisses Maureen O'Hara, she slaps his face. When he blocked the blow, she broke a bone in her hand. Since the movie wasn't being filmed in sequential order, she couldn't wear a cast to fix the broken bone.
Cohan's Pub in this film was actually a grocery store in Cong, County Mayo. It later became a souvenir shop, and was recently turned into a real Irish pub. It was officially opened on September 17, 2008, by Tara MacGowran, daughter of Jack MacGowran, who played Ignatius Feeney in the movie.
Whenever John Wayne lights up a cigarette, he takes exactly two puffs before pitching it away. Except before he kicks the bedroom door in and when sitting on the rock wall as he angrily walks home after being abandoned by Mary Kate in town.
The white haired frail Dan Tobin, who gets up from his death bed and runs to see the fight is John Ford's older brother, Francis Ford. Francis was a silent film actor and director in his own right, who died two years after the film was made.
Victim of censorship: In the scene when Michaeleen O'Flynn goes into the cottage bedroom and stares at the broken bed, he says "Impetuous. Homeric!" Then, if you pay close attention, you will see, immediately after he says "Homeric!" the film will jump. This is because a line was cut out-but some years AFTER the film's original release. Evidently, someone with clout complained when they heard him say, "Impetuous. Homeric. The power of the man!"
In the scene where John Wayne discovers Maureen O'Hara in his cottage, the wind whipped her hair so ferociously around her face she kept squinting. John Ford screamed at her in the strongest language to open her eyes. "What would a bald-headed son of a bitch know about hair lashing across his eyeballs," she shot back.
The last line of the wedding toast was censored by Republic Pictures. It should have said, "May their days be long and full of happiness. May their children be many and full of health. And may they live in peace and national freedom". After the film was completed, Republic Pictures decided "national freedom" in Ireland was too controversial a concept.
While all other saddled horses are seen with English saddles (as would be expected in Ireland during that time period), Sean's (John Wayne's) horse is saddled with a U.S. Army-issue McClellan cavalry saddle.
John Wayne and John Ford decided to play a trick on Maureen O'Hara during filming. They chose the sequence where Wayne drags O'Hara across the town and through the fields. Before shooting the scene, Wayne and Ford kicked all of the sheep dung they could find onto the hill where O'Hara was to be dragged, face-down, on her stomach. O'Hara saw them doing it; with the help of several friends, she kicked it off, only to have Wayne and Ford kick it back on. O'Hara and her friends kicked it off again, and Wayne and Ford kicked it back. This went on and on until right before the scene was shot, when Wayne and Ford got in the last kick. According to O'Hara, "Duke had the time of his life dragging me through it. It was bloody awful. After the scene was over, Mr. Ford had given instructions that I was not to be brought a bucket of water or a towel. He made me keep it on for the rest of the day. I was mad as hell, but I had to laugh too. Isn't showbiz glamorous?"
In an interview John Wayne said that the final fight scene was stylized to make it seem more interesting. The fighters use long, swinging "roundhouse" punches rather than the economical short punches a real prize fighter would use.
According to an interview in the Los Angeles Times on October 28, 2000, Maureen O'Hara recounted that she, John Ford and John Wayne made a handshake agreement in 1944 to do the film. When Ford pitched the idea to Hollywood producers, he was told that it was a "silly Irish story that won't make a penny." Wayne had a contract with Republic Pictures and approached studio chief Herbert J. Yates ("...a step down for John Ford", he said). He was told by Yates that the script was a silly Irish tale that would make no money. However, Yates would relent if Wayne, Ford and O'Hara together would make a western for Republic, a sure money-maker that would pay for the losses Republic expected to incur on this film. The picture made as a result of the agreement was Rio Grande (1950).
The famous fight scene was shot in the grounds of Ashford Castle, Cong, County Mayo. The stunt in which John Wayne punches Victor McLaglen into the river was performed by director John Ford's son, Patrick Ford (doubling for McLaglen).
John Wayne said that the role of Sean Thornton, now considered one of his best, was difficult for him. "For nine weeks I was just playing straight man to those wonderful characters, and that's really hard."
John Ford thought the scene where Thorton drags Mary Kate through the field and she loses her shoe and falls over was all spontaneous. Unknown to him, John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara had rehearsed the sequence meticulously.
Barry Fitzgerald, who plays the character of the Roman Catholic Michaleen Oge Flynn, and Arthur Shields, who played the Protestant vicar Cyril 'Snuffy' Playfair, were brothers in real life. They also appeared together in director John Ford's The Long Voyage Home (1940). They were both Protestants born in Dublin, Ireland. Shields was the family name. The Oscar-winner Fitzgerald, who was nearly eight years older than his brother, was born William Joseph Shields.
According to John Ford, studio head Herbert J. Yates disliked the title and wanted the film called "The Prizefighter and the Colleen." Ford disagreed because he was afraid that would give the plot away. Obviously Ford and his point prevailed.
The original White o' Morn cottage from the film is in a sheep field along a road that cuts from Maam Cross to the southern pass of N59. There you can see the bridge where Michaleen parts ways with Sean Thornton before Sean heads into the cottage for the first time and the remainder of the cottage itself. Unfortunately, only about twenty percent is left of the original cottage, having been carried away stone by stone by "Quiet Man" fans. There is a replica of the cottage at the Peacokes Hotel at the intersection of N59 and Maam (Maum) Crossing. The Quiet Man Bridge (where Sean reveals himself in the beginning of the movie) is about a mile or so east of the hotel, and has a sign telling you where to turn. The actual cottage is approximately one mile south of Maam (Maum) Village on N59. It is on the West side of the road with a gate. You can see the bridge John Wayne crosses the river on (you will need too as well). It is approximately 100 yards up the road. (GPS N53.50760 W009.56423) There are no markings to tell you where it is. The Quiet Man Museum is around the block from Pat Cohan's in Cong.
There is a long standing story, apparently true, regarding the scene where John Wayne scoops up the Holy Water from the font, outside the Catholic Church, for Maureen O'Hara to bless herself with. The problem was that John Ford chose this little church for this scene, but in reality, this church is not a Catholic church, but was, and still is, a Church of Ireland, or Protestant church, near the village of Cong, in County Mayo. The original scene was to have the Holy Water font, just inside the door, in the vestibule, but the local clergy weren't too happy. The Protestant clergy were unhappy at such a symbol of Catholicism, being placed inside a Protestant church, even if it was only for a couple of minutes, movie time. The Catholic clergy were equally unhappy that a Holy Water Font, highly symbolic in the Catholic Church, was to be placed inside a Protestant Church. After some negotiations, it was agreed that the font would be placed just outside the church and all would be satisfied. But rumor has it that John Ford told both clergy that unless this was sorted that very day, he would move the complete production back to America. So religious differences were set to the one side, cooler heads prevailed and the production continued in Cong and the surrounding areas.
The budget for the movie was $1,750,000, which was huge for a Republic Pictures production. John Ford agreed to cut costs and got John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara to work for well below their standard rates. Wayne was used to his standard Republic salary plus ten percent of the profits but he agreed to do the movie for 100,000 dollars, despite studio boss Herbert J. Yates constantly telling him the movie would hurt his career.
On the DVD commentary Maureen O'Hara dispels many myths about the film including one about a lack of accommodations for the crew in Ireland. According to O'Hara, the production spent six weeks shooting the exteriors in Ireland and filmed the interiors on sound stages in Los Angeles, California.
The station used in the opening sequence and during the scene where John Wayne slams the train doors looking for Maureen O'Hara later in the film is Ballyglunin Station, south of the town of Tuam, County Galway. It looks the same today as it did in 1951, when the film was shot with the only major difference being the bridge which crosses the railway tracks is now gone. This bridge was moved to Ballinasloe station, East Galway where it still stands today, after Ballyglunin closed down as a main line.
One of John Ford's budget-cutting measures was to forego using his usual make-up man Web Overlander. He told John Wayne he would have to use Maureen O'Hara's make-up person. But the actor was sensitive to make-up (which Overlander knew) and his face puffed up like a blowfish after one treatment. Ford immediately sent for Overlander.
John Ford sometimes resorted to cruel manipulation of his actors to get what he wanted. Although an ex-boxer, Victor McLaglen was a very mild man, and Ford was not convinced he could pull off the lengthy fight scene with John Wayne. The evening before shooting it, he ran McLaglen through the scene where his character throws the sister's dowry on the floor. In front of McLaglen's son, Ford cursed him for a lousy performance and said the next day's filming would be useless. McLaglen fumed all night and came on to the set the next day raging and primed for the big fight.
According to the production notes on the DVD. John Ford first acquired the rights to Maurice Walsh's short story, 'The Quiet Man' in 1936, but it would be another fifteen years before his dream of adapting the story to film would become a reality.
John Ford became unsure of himself and his story during production. Bickering with Herbert Yates took its toll on him, and he resented being at a minor studio where everything was generally second-class. At one point, nursing a bad cold, he told John Wayne that for the first time he had no idea where the story should go. "I don't know whether I've got a picture here or not," he said. Wayne recalled that in all the years he worked with Ford, he never saw him so down and so willing to admit his fears. While Ford was in bed sick, Wayne took the second unit crew over to Connemara and shot action scenes for the horse race sequence. The Duke got some great footage and his excitement had the desired effect on Ford. The director couldn't stand not being part of the action and was soon ready to go back to work. In spite of his deteriorating mental and physical condition during production, Ford was sad to leave Ireland. "It seemed like the finish of an epoch in my somewhat troubled life," he wrote to an Irish friend. "Galway is in my blood and the only place I have found peace."
Locals in the town of Cong, where location shooting took place, were understandably excited and thrilled to have the production there. Many of them got work on the set, including Joe Mellotte, whose job it was to stand by John Wayne and provide him with cigarettes throughout the day. But their enthusiasm also caused continuity nightmares because they were always hanging around the set, popping in and out of scenes where they shouldn't have been.
Several scenes were shot that never appeared in the movie: Mary speaking in Gaelic to greet Sean for the first time; a scene where Father Lonergan and Michaleen discuss betting on horses (deemed offensive because he is a priest); Wayne's first scene on the train, where he speaks to a mother and her child gives him an apple (in the existing opening scene, Wayne deboards the train holding the apple and thanks the unseen child).
The short story first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post titled "The Green Rushes" by Maurice Walsh. It was turned in to a screenplay by Richard Llewellyn but the first draft was set during the Troubles, when Republic Irishmen fought with the British Black-and-Tans, and John Ford felt the serious politics mixed badly with the light hearted love story, so had Frank Nugent re-write it. Despite this, Ford worried that the love story alone wouldn't be able to hold the movie together.
John Ford originally read the story that forms the basis of "The Quiet Man" in 1933, and purchased the rights for ten dollars. (The author, Maurice Walsh, later received another 6,000 dollars in payment for the rights, when the film was actually made.)
The town of Cong, in County Mayo where much of the Quiet Man was shot, was just getting electricity in 1951 when the actors and crew were there. A few scenes show utility poles, but no wires are clearly visible. The town folk were excited because they thought the electricity wouldn't cost anything. When they learned otherwise, they insisted they didn't want or need it - get rid of it. (Later, of course, their attitude changed.)
Cinematographer Winton C. Hoch encountered difficulties on location. During the six weeks of shooting in Ireland, there were only six days of intermittent sunshine, the rest were rainy and overcast. "Most of the time the clouds were moving across the sky, and the light was constantly changing," Hoch said. "I had to light each scene three different ways: for sunshine, for clouds, for rain. I worked out a set of signals with the gaffer, and we were ready no matter what the light was." It was difficult, but Hoch's method produced gorgeous results. Nevertheless, Yates did not like the look of the rushes. "It's all green," he commented, adding to John Ford's frequent frustration and depression during the shoot.
In a brief, uncredited cameo, actor Robert Armstrong appears as "the Sergeant Major," blowing the bugle to start the horse race. Armstrong, who played the show-biz producer Carl Denham in King Kong (1933), reprised the Denham role in Mighty Joe Young (1949), a John Ford/Merian C. Cooper production, just before "The Quiet Man" - directed by Ford - went into production.
After forming a new production company called Renowned Artists with Ronald Colman and Tay Garnett in 1937, John Ford announced "The Quiet Man" as the company's first production. As no adequate financing could be raised, Renowned was dissolved without making any films.
Production was a real family affair. John Ford's daughter assisted editor Jack Murray and her husband played a small role. His son Patrick was one of the second unit directors, along with John Wayne (his first assignment behind the camera). Ford even brought his local Hollywood priest, Father Stack, to bless the film and serve as technical advisor. Ford also cast his brother, respected stage actor Francis Ford, from whom he had long been estranged. Although this was Francis's 29th appearance in one of his brother's films, the two never socialized. Francis received his assignments by mail, shot his scenes and walked off without a word between him and his director brother beyond a short nod at the end of every day. Wayne brought his four children with him to Ireland and they appear in the Inisfree race scene in the cart with Maureen O'Hara. The two youngest were given a couple of lines in that scene.
In the scene where Sean Thornton, a.k.a. Trooper Thorn is talking to Reverend Playfair, the Reverend is showing Thornton his press clippings of sporting events, in particular the headline TROOPER THORN QUITS RING. Even though the headline indicates the reason for his quitting boxing was due to a fatal knockout, the story below reads as follows: "Trooper Thorn declares he has quit the ring for good and has hung up his gloves for the last time. Thorn's last fight was a knockout over Tony Gardello and so decisive was Thorn's victory that it will be some time before Tony can resume the fight game. Thorn has come up the in the fight game the hard way and it is a surprise to his many fans that he is retiring from the ring at this time." The first sentence indicates that Gardello was defeated badly and will be slow to return to boxing, but not dead, which conflicts with the headline.
In 1986, the wife of a young New York police officer, who was shot and paralyzed on the job, saw fit to tell reporters this was her husband's favorite movie and that he adored Maureen O'Hara. After reading the report, O'Hara flew to New York and went to the officer's bedside to offer comfort and boost his morale. She became actively involved with the couple during his long recovery and physical therapy, attended their baby's christening and marched in a parade on his behalf.
The names "Michaeleen" and "Og" (or Oge, same thing) are both terms of affection. "Michaeleen" simply means "little Michael" in the same way that Colleen means little girl or Kathleen is little Kathy, and "Og" means "young". So by saying "Michaeleen Og" his friends are simply calling Michael Flynn "young little Michael". (A Kilbeggan-born grandfather was called "Thomaseen" (Thomasheen) by his siblings, as he was the youngest.)
The film has some interesting thematic similarities and contrasts to an earlier John Wayne picture (without John Ford), Angel and the Badman (1947). In that Western, the outlaw Wayne must forgo violence for the love of a woman and to be accepted into her pacifist Mormon community. In this, he is a man sworn not to fight who must go through one last "donnybrook" to achieve the peace and balance of the community.