Probably one of John Ford’s best films, and certainly his most beautiful, The Quiet Man focuses on Sean Thornton (John Wayne), his return to his native Ireland, his romance to the beautiful Kate (Maureen O’Hara), and his feud with her brother over the dowry. It is also probably the most Irish movie made in the US, which makes it perfect for St. Patrick’s Day (or the day after St. Patrick’s Day).
The movie is principally a love story. The first half focusing on Sean Thornton’s attempts to woo Kate Danaher and, once successful, earn her brother’s permission to marry. The second half begins at the wedding where an argument results in Will Danaher taking back the dowery. Kate is deeply upset about this because the lack of a dowery, in her mind, makes her something less than a wife, almost a maid. Sean Thornton at first thinks she is being greedy but to her this is not about the money, it’s about more than the money. To her, Sean letting Will take back the dowery was Sean letting a grave insult to him, and to Kate, slide and, one might argue, if he is willing to let Will bully him like that how can she ever expect him to stand up for her in the future? So the second half focuses on the question: Will Sean Thornton stand up for himself and take on Will Danaher?
You know the answer: Of course he will. This, I should mention, is very much set in John Ford’s world of manly fighting and tussling. Two men can have a fight over a girl, or a dowery, and end it shaking hands and walking away amicably. Or walking down to the pub for a drink together and then home for a meal. And Sean Thornton not only stands up to Will in the manliest 10-minute brawl in cinematic, he shows his love for Kate by dragging her all the way to the scene of the fight. (Ok, some parts of the movie might be a tad out-dated and slightly uncomfortable in today’s world)
This movie probably ranks as one of John Ford’s best. The cinematography, always a strong point of John Ford’s, is near perfection here with Ford filming much of it on location in Ireland, a country that provides no shortage of beautiful places to film. With quaint villages and lush landscapes the movie is almost a non-stop show of scenic beauty.
The casting is perfect. John Wayne once again proves, as he did in The Searchers, that he is to this day vastly underrated as an actor, and he is supporting, as in all John Ford movies, by a stellar supporting The aforementioned Victor McLaglen as the brother, Barry Fitzgerald as the local matchmaker, and Ward Bond as the priest, among others, all give performances that provide their own characters a degree of depth you don’t usually see in a supporting cast. Indeed, this is one of the best things about John Ford movies; by the end of the picture you feel you have come to know each of the characters, even the supporting players.
But what of Maureen O’Hara? Much like how Vivien Leigh has embodied and shaped our mind’s image of the antebellum southern belle with her performance of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, Maureen has done the same with the red-headed, green-eyed girls from the Old Country of Oireland. Her performance is as captivating as is her natural beauty. From the moment John Wayne first sees her he is spellbound and so are we. And she pulls it off without ever getting undressed.
In a way, her own natural beauty perfectly complements the natural beauty of Ireland around her.
But it’s not just beauty. She dominates this film almost as much as John Wayne, which is a hard thing to do given John Wayne’s presence. She holds her own pretty well to the extent that this is not a John Wayne-John Ford movie but a John Wayne-John Ford-Maureen O’Hara movie. Not many leading ladies could pull that off.
Actually, when you think about it, in a way this might be more her movie than John Wayne’s.
I hope everyone had a happy St. Patrick's Day. By the way, you can still watch this movie on Amazon Instant Video, if you want.