The Quiet Man (1952)
Ford, Wayne and O'Hara's Irish Western
Well, I can't say it's true, and I won't say it's not, but there's been talk - Father Lonergan
Director John Ford and legendary actor John Wayne collaborated on a fair few movies, many of those being memorable westerns. But it is in fact "The Quiet Man" a romantic drama, an almost quirky comedy which really stands out as something special. Maybe it's the fact that this is John Wayne toning down his machismo and playing a semi romantic role, maybe it's the fiery chemistry between John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara or it could be the various quirky characters we meet in its glorious Irish setting, but there is something special about "The Quiet Man" which wins you over and stays with you long after the movie has ended.
Returning to Ireland from his life in America, Sean Thornton (John Wayne - Operation Pacific) is not only trying to escape his past but also reclaim the family home and lead a quiet life in a pleasant little cottage. In doing so not only does Sean finding himself upsetting ill tempered local Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen) but also falling for his beautiful spinster sister Mary Kate (Maureen O'Hara - Miracle on 34th Street). Despite numerous obstacles, traditions and quirky rituals Sean is determined to not only court Mary Kate but also to marry her. But will Sean's past, the thing he is running away from return to put a spanner in the works.
You could say that "The Quiet Man" is a movie with 3 sections the first being Sean Thornton turning up in Inisfree the small village in Ireland where the locals at first are suspicious then warm to the handsome young man as they learn that in fact he is one of their own. It's a nice intro with plenty of humour as we are introduced to the quirkiness of the Irish locals, their love of singing and drinking but at the same time we are made aware that there is something a little mysterious about Sean, that he is either hiding something or running away from something. And at the same time director John Ford interweaves the beautiful scenery, the hills, valleys and the old village buildings, especially the cottage Sean settles in to paint a picturesque picture of Ireland.
This first part lays way nicely to the second section as Sean falls for the lovely Mary Kate Danaher but at the same time comes up against a whole lot of tradition in his attempts to court and marry her. It's strangely unbelievable as we are given one tradition after another, the chaperoned carriage ride, the need to ask permission of Mary's brother to date let alone marry and the interference of the locals. But at the same time it's both funny and sweet, the quirkiness is still present where as the romance between Sean and Mary whilst abrupt also has those moments of tenderness.
And all of this leads to the final section of "The Quiet Man" where having married Mary, Sean still has to prove to her his love, sort out issues with her brother and of course his mysterious past has to be revealed. Now I will be honest the mysterious past isn't shocking but it leads way to an amusing and spectacular fight sequence which is once more full of Irish quirkiness as half way through the fight they stop for a pint of the black stuff.
All of which makes "The Quiet Man" a really nice movie with a not so much complex storyline but one which entertains. And John Ford has great fun with the whole Irish set up, the quirkiness of the characters, the seemingly strange traditions and the wonderful back drops.
But what also makes "The Quiet Man" such a nice movie is that whilst John Wayne is once again playing a variation of himself it's not that larger than life character but rather a quieter one thanks to the past he is hiding. So whilst we get Sean Thornton being handsome, powerful, fearless and someone you don't mess with he's not looking for trouble he's just looking for love and peace, a blend which doesn't always go hand in hand. You can't but help smile as that famous John Wayne walk makes a scene walking along an old road unintentionally humorous but on a whole it's one of Wayne's best performances showing some acting skills whilst still delivering that familiar John Wayne persona.
And it has to be said that the chemistry he has with Maureen O'Hara is seriously special. To say it is fiery would be an understatement as they go from a tender moment to what now would be called violence, but it works in the context of the story. And it also has to be said that Maureen O'Hara is just stunning, what man wouldn't fall for her despite her strong will and fiery temperament.
Aside from John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, "The Quiet Man" is a movie filled with quirky characters from Ward Bond as Father Peter Lonergan through to Victor McLaglen as Squire 'Red' Will Danaher. But it is Barry Fitzgerald who fills the movie with Irish quirkiness as Michaleen Oge Flynn a character which at times is nigh on impossible to understand with his strong Irish accent but one which delivers laugh after laugh especially as he befriends Sean the minute he gets off the train.
What this all boils down to is "The Quiet Man" is a very special movie, it is not what you would necessary expect from John Wayne and John Ford but it works. It's entertaining from start to finish as it combines drama with romance and a liberal sprinkling of comedy making you smile. And with great chemistry between John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara you do end up championing them to get together.
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