Wayne Tribute: The Quiet Man (1952)

Wayne Tribute: Honoring the Duke–Most Powerful Star in Film History

Produced in Ireland in the picturesque village of Cong, County Mayo, “The Quiet Man” is the most successful of John Fords postwar films. Ford proves that after 30 years of directing he can still be fresh and exciting.

Based on the famous Saturday Evening Post story by Maurice Walsh, Frank S. Nugent's script depicts the life of Irish villagers, their land, their customs, and their mores. Its powerful love story boasts a wonderfully lyric and bucolic quality. John Wayne plays an Irish-American boxer who returns to Ireland and falls in love with a hot-tempered colleen (played by Maureen O'Hara at her most erotically beautiful). The movie describes a most touching romanceJohn Ford's first overt foray into the genre, albeit one replete with humor and folklore.

The distinguished critic Andrew Sarris has noted that, “The Quiet Man” is Ford's last big popular hit, a film that in its “measured pacing and charming, and scintillating fusion of characters and nature, was also one of the most appealing of Ford's highly formalized achievements.” As usual, Ford doesn't neglect the broader context: A large, thriving community of congenital busybodies as they gather around the spectacle of two lovers in a Homeric idyll. Never before or after was Fords sensuality so studied in dealing with his archetypal couple.

From the first moment that Waynes returning native falls under the spell of Ireland's landscape and mores, he seems enmeshed in a dialectical conflict between the warm browns and reds of carnal passion and the cold blues and greens of Catholic protocol.

As Sarris observed, Maureen OHaras scarlet hair becomes as much a force of nature as a figure of style. Their first kiss, which takes place during a storm by a doorway, is done with a baroque sweep and tension worthy of El Greco.

As always under Fords tutelage, Wayne is great. What is unexpected is the flair for comedy he demonstrates here. Acting in the deadpan, tight-lipped style that has made him popular. John Wayne is more powerful than ever, precisely because he is pitted against a woman of spirit whom he must conquer, literally and figuratively.

Wayne plays Thornton, a six-foot-four-inch Pittsburgh steel worker and former boxer, who once killed a man in the ring, which forces him to retire to Ireland. He wants her and no obstacle, whether her brother or she herself (who will not consent until he retrieves her dowry) will stand long in his way. By the end, he has dragged her kicking and screaming to their home

The central romance is set against a broader comedy of manners, with Ford examining his native Irelands marriage protocol with a humorous eye. Indeed, for many, Ireland is the real star of this unique picture, which differs in mood, story, tempo, style and technique from Hollywood romances, and it's also different from Fords other movies. Rural Ireland serves as the proper stage for a farce about marriage customs.

Most people remember the John Wayne-Victor McLaglen's brawl, one of the longest fights on record. With the possible exception of “The Spoilers,” the fight here is like no other that has ever been fought on screen. But “Quiet Man” has many artistic merits, not least of which is the authenticity of the physical locale and the background music.

At Oscar time, the Academy voters were unable to decide between this film, Zinnemanns Western allegory “High Noon,” and Cecil B. DeMilles “The Greatest Show on Earth.” In the end, they split their votes: “High Noon” won a Bets Actor award to Gary Cooper as Best Actor; “The Quiet Man” best director to Ford; and “The Greatest Show on Earth” Best Picture.

Cast

Sean Thornton (John Wayne)
Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara)
Michaeleen Flynn (Barry Fitzgerald)
Father Peter Lonergan (Ward Bond)
Red Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen)
Mrs. Sarah Tillane (Mildred Natwick)
Dan Tobin (Francis Ford)
Credits:

Argosy Production
Distributed By Republic
Produced by John Merian C. Cooper
Directed by John Ford
Screenplay: Frank S. Nugent, based on the short story Green Rushes by Maurice Walsh
Camera: Archie Stout
Art director: Frank Hotaling
Editing: Jack Murray
Music: Victor Young