The Quiet Man (1952) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A retired American boxer returns to the village of his birth in Ireland, where he finds love.

  • 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.

  • Sean Thornton arrives by train in Castletown in Ireland coming from Pittsburgh and in the train station, he seeks direction to Inisfree. Michaleen Oge Flynn comes with his horse-drawn chaise and takes Sean to Inisfree. Along their way, Sean sees the red-haired Mary Kate Danaher in the field and a cottage in White O'Morn that belongs to the widow Sarah Tillane. Sean tells to Michaleen that he was born in that cottage and he wants to buy the real-estate. The coachman recognizes him and then they meet Father Peter Lonergan that had known Sean's family and welcomes him. When Sean meets Miss Tillane, her neighbor Squire 'Red' Will Danaher that wants to buy the property and marry Tillane is very upset with her. When she sells the real-estate to Sean, Will becomes his declared enemy. Sean decides to get married with Mary Kate and he hires the service of the matchmaker Michaleen; however, he does not succeed since Mary Kate is the sister of Will Danaher. However, Michaleen, Father Peter Lonergan, and other locals lure Will and he consents the marriage of his sister expecting to marry Miss Tillane. When he finds that he was deceived, he does not pay the dowry for his sister. Mary Kate tries to force Sean to take her money by force from her brother, but Sean does not want to fight against Sean. Mary Kate and the locals believe that he is a coward, but Sean actually wants to forget a fatal incident from his past and start a new life.

  • Retired boxer Sean Thornton returns to his native Ireland to live out his remaining years. He purchases the cottage in which he was born from the widow Sarah Tilane raising the ire of "Red" Will Danaher who had long had his eye on the property. He no sooner arrives than he sees the beautiful red-haired Mary-Kate, Danaher's sister. He runs up against local custom in trying to see her however, requiring Will Danaher's permission to court his sister and then facing several steps in the courting process before they can marry. With the help of several friends - who make Will think Sean is sweet on the widow Tilane - they are quickly married. Sean has a secret however, one that forced him to leave his boxing career and America.

  • The Duke, (Sean) knowing he has a special talent in the "Art of Boxing", prefers to be called a coward & possibly lose the "Love of His Life" than possibly taking another life by his unheralded talent as a boxer! Meanwhile, Does O'Hara have an Ulterior Motive for Love? Or is it True Hollywood Conniving? Is it her Pockets she wants filled or her Heart? You decide which? Does Sean, after taking so much, feel good after that first punch to Will? Or do you see any remorse at all? You decide which?

  • Following a professional incident, Sean Thornton voluntarily decides to cut his chosen career short, and leave his Pittsburgh base to return to his Irish homeland, specifically Inisfree where he was born, has not been since he was a child and knows no one. Without knowing the situation before his arrival, he plans to buy and live in the cottage where he and seven generations of Thorntons before him were born to farm the land. Immediately upon his arrival, he falls in love at first sight with feisty local spinster, Mary Kate Danaher, who in turn is quietly and cautiously attracted to this stranger. If a courtship is to happen between the two of them, they must go through the official and traditional channels of rural Ireland. Thus, their possible courtship could be threatened by Mary Kate's eldest brother, Will Danaher, not giving his consent, as an issue has placed Sean in Will's bad books. The rest of the community, who like Sean and want to see a Sean and Mary Kate union, try to help them get Will's consent, but in the process they may further threaten the romance based on Mary Kate's traditional versus Sean's modern approach to marriage, in combination with the reason Sean left his American life behind, about which he has told no one in Inisfree.

  • After accidentally killing an opponent in the ring, boxer Sean Thornton leaves America and returns to his native Ireland, hoping buy his family's homestead and live in peace. In doing so, he runs afoul of Will Danaher, who long coveted the property. Spitefully, Will objects when his fiery sister, Mary Kate, begins a romance with Sean, and refuses to hand over her dowry. Mary Kate refuses to consummate the marriage until Sean retrieves the money.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • An American, Sean Thornton (John Wayne), arrives in Ireland and plans to settle in Innisfree, where he was born. On the way to Innisfree with Michaeleen Oge Flynn (Barry Fitzerald), Sean spots a redheaded woman moving a flock through the fields. He becomes interested in this unknown woman, and greets her at the church entrance the next day, where he learns her name - Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O'Hara), a redhead with a temper to match.

    Sean wants to buy the ancestral Thornton cottage from well-to-do widow, Sarah Tillane (Mildred Natwick), and finds himself in a squabble with "Red" Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen), a neighbor and would-be suitor of the Widow Tillane. Mrs. Tillane, angered by Danaher's presumptuous attitude and bragging at the local pub, sells the land to Thornton. When Sean goes to claim the cottage, he finds Mary Kate there, cleaning it as a good Christian act. Thornton easily fits into Innisfree, earning a reputation as a quiet, peace-loving man. Danaher, however, holds a grudge. When Thornton arranges to court Danaher's sister, Mary Kate, the real fun begins. Thornton learns that Ireland's quaint charm includes some old-fashioned rules of courtship. He needs Squire Danaher's consent to marry Mary Kate, since their father is deceased. He and the local shaughraun (matchmaker), Michaleen Flynn, pay a formal visit to Danaher to ask for Mary Kate's hand. Danaher refuses and orders the two men out of his house. Sean and Mary Kate are devastated. Sean is puzzled by social rules that seem archaic to him, and takes out his frustrations by seemingly reckless cross country rides. Concerned, Thornton's newfound friends - Flynn, Reverend Playfair (Arthur Shields), and Father Lonergan (Ward Bond) - concoct a plot to trick Danaher into consenting to the marriage. They lead Danaher to believe Sean is courting the widow Tillane, who will have nothing to do with Danaher until Mary Kate is married off and out of the house. Danaher agrees to the courtship when Thornton wins the local cross country race, claiming the Widow's bonnet as his trophy.

    The Thornton/Danaher courtship quickly skips a few months of steps and soon turns into a wedding, but Squire Danaher, furious upon learning (at the reception) that he has been duped, reneges on Mary Kate's promised dowry of 350 pounds (Irish Currency). The money is a trifle to Sean Thornton, who has learned for himself that money isn't worth fighting for, and refuses to "shame" himself by begging for it. Mary Kate perceives Sean's lack of action as cowardice, and refuses her new groom his marital privileges. Tension builds in Innisfree, a highly sporting community, as the townspeople hope for a fight between Thornton and Danaher. However, Thornton refuses to fight. He suffers the guilt of a terrible secret concerning his last prize fight, which only the Reverend Playfair knows.

    As tensions grow, Father Lonergan counsels Mary Kate about her duties as a married woman, as Reverend Playfair councils Sean about what the dowry means to his wife. Although Mary Kate acquiesces, she feels that the dowerless marriage is improper and leaves Sean. To Sean, this is the last straw. He goes to the train station, literally drags his wife back to Squire Danaher's farm, collecting a very large crowd along the way, as the neighboring towns realize that Sean is about to confront Will Danaher and demands Mary Kate's dowry. Danaher refuses to pay the dowry, so Sean calls off the marriage - claiming that the dowry is their custom, not his. Shamed in front of the whole county, Danaher gives up the dowry (350 pounds cash). To further prove a point Sean stalks over to the nearby threshing furnace, where Mary Kate open the door for Sean to throw the money into the fire. This infuriates Danaher and he takes a swing at Sean, who defends himself. Mary Kate sees that her husband is willing to fight and heads home to cook dinner.

    For the rest of nearby residents of Innesfree, farmhands, the train engineers and passengers who've stayed for the event, the long awaited fight breaks out - starting at Danaher's farm and heading into Innesfree. During this Sean learns Danaher is, indeed, a worthy opponent. Many a side bets are laid - including Reverend Playfair, the visiting Bishop, and the local constabulary. By the end, the two men respect each other and have become fast (if drunken) friends. After the fight, the town gathers together to also help save Reverend Playfair's job and Will Danaher starts formally courting the Widow Tellane.

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