Monday, February 11, 2013

#910. The Quiet Man (1952) - The Films of John Ford

Directed By: John Ford

Starring: John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald

Tag line: "Action...Excitement...Romance...Fill the Screen !"

Trivia: Although made in 1951, is was Republic's first production to be shot outside the United States

John Ford’s The Quiet Man, which netted the director his fourth Academy Award, is as much a love letter to Ireland, the country of his ancestors, as it is the story of a couple whose marriage is torn apart by tradition.

John Wayne stars as Sean Thornton, an American who has settled in the small Irish town of Innisfree, where he was born. This doesn’t sit well with Sean’s neighbor, Will Danaher (Victor McLaghen) - called ‘Red’ by most everyone in the village - who was himself trying to purchase the property Sean now owns. 

To add insult to injury, Sean falls in love with Danaher's sister, Mary Kate (Maureen O'Hara), a fiery redhead with a temper to match. Several townsfolk, as well as the parish priest (Ward Bond), conspire to convince Danaher that it’s in his best interest to allow Thornton to marry Mary Kate. When the wedding is over, however, Danaher refuses to release his sister's dowry, and Sean refuses to fight him for it. 

Many in the village, including his new bride, think Sean a coward for not duking it out with his brother-in-law. But the truth is that Sean was an amateur boxer in America, and, after a tragedy in the ring, has vowed never to fight again.

Wayne and O’Hara do a fine job as the leads, and have a natural chemistry in their scenes together. In one of the film’s best sequences, the two are standing in a cemetery when a rainstorm rolls in. Mary Kate, frightened of the thunder, is comforted by Sean, who removes his jacket and wraps it around her. They embrace, then kiss, realizing, at that moment, their love is genuine. 

The real star of The Quiet Man, though, is the picturesque Irish countryside, never before captured quite as brilliantly as it is here. Partially shot on-location in the Counties of Galway and Mayo, the rolling hills and vibrant green pastures of the Emerald Isle make for a stunning backdrop to this tale of romance.

There’s no denying the film is dated; there are elements that modern viewers may find downright sexist, and the final scene, played almost entirely for laughs, gets pretty corny at times. Still, this is a movie with charm to spare. The story of a husband and wife coming to terms with their cultural differences, and doing so under the watchful eye of a tight-knit community, The Quiet Man is funny, touching, and oh so beautiful.

No comments: