Sean Thornton has returned from America to reclaim his homestead and escape his past. Sean's eye is caught by Mary Kate Danaher, a beautiful but poor maiden, and younger sister of ill-tempered "Red" Will Danaher. The riotous relationship that forms between Sean and Mary Kate, punctuated by Will's pugnacious attempts to keep them apart, form the main plot, with Sean's past as the dark undercurrent.Written by
Steve Fenwick <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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. See more »
John Wayne's wedding ring is clearly visible before he even meets Mary Kate Danniher. It is most clearly seen while he is remembering his mother's words before introducing himself to Michaleen. See more »
Father Peter Lonergan, Narrator:
Well, then. Now. I'll begin at the beginnin'. A fine soft day in the spring, it was, when the train pulled into Castletown, three hours late as usual, and himself got off. He didn't have the look of an American tourist at all about him. Not a camera on him; what was worse, not even a fishin' rod.
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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.
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