Ireland On Film: The Quiet Man

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Greetings, readers! Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day. So my pick this week is my St. Patrick’s Day viewing tradition: The Quiet Man. Released in 1952 and directed by John Ford, the film is memorable for its lead performances by Maureen O’ Hara and John Wayne, as well as its gorgeous Technicolor palate.

In The Quiet Man, Sean Thorton (John Wayne) journeys from Pittsburgh to his birthplace in Ireland with intentions of buying his family’s old farm. But things don’t go quite according to plan. Along the way he falls in love with Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’ Hara). Her brother, Will (Victor McLagen) is a prosperous but stubborn landowner. Will also wants the former Thorton farm. When the farm’s current owner accepts Sean’s offer instead of his, it starts the two off on a rocky relationship. Unwilling to let it go, Will refuses to give his blessing for Sean and Mary Kate to marry. A few of the townspeople conspire to make Will think the Widow Tillane (Mildred Natwick) wants to marry him, buy only if Mary Kate is out of the household. Will then gives Sean and Mary Kate his blessing.

At  Sean and Mary Kate’s wedding, Will finds out he has been deceived. Angered, he refuses to give Mary Kate her dowry, including the family fortune and furniture she’s entitled to. Sean is indifferent to Mary Kate not getting the dowry. But without it, Mary Kate sees their marriage as invalid. This sets up the battle of wills that culminates in the film’s third act, with Mary Kate setting out to hop a train to leave town since she now sees her husband as a coward, and a fistfight between Sean and Will to square the whole situation.

John Wayne may have been know for westerns. But The Quiet Man shows he can play much more than cowboys. The chemistry between Wayne and O’ Hara is fantastic. They made several films together. But The Quiet Man is the crown jewel of their pairings. It has a great mix of drama, comedy and is beautiful to behold. Cinematographer Winton Hoch does an incredible job of bringing Ireland to life in glorious Technicolor. The film ranks with The Wizard of Oz and Singin’ In The Rain as one of the best looking classics films ever made. It was filmed largely on location in County May and County Galway in Ireland.

In addition to its vibrant look and magnetic leading actors, The Quiet Man stands out because of its rich supporting cast. My two favorites are Barry Fitzgerlad as Michaleen Flynn, the local matchmaker, and Ward Bond as Father Lonegran, the colorful local clergyman. The town is full of colorful characters you would love to have a drink with. It’s part of what gives the film its charm.

The Quiet Man was a departure for both John Wayne and John Ford. But it remains one of their best collaborations. And Maureen O’ Hara, a fiery Irish woman herself, proved in it that she truly was the queen of Technicolor.

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