The Quiet Man
St. Patrick's Day is a perfect time to celebrate the first American film shot on location in Ireland. The Quiet Man, John Ford's most personal project, and one that had a long road to the screen, is the perfect St. Patrick's Day movie.
John Wayne stars as Sean Thornton, a mysterious American who has decided to return to his homeland after years of living in the States. Born in the Irish town of Iniss Free, Thornton wants to purchase the home where he was born and settle down for a quiet, peaceful life. Fortunately for the audience, what he finds is anything but quiet and peaceful.
First, he convinces the current owner to sell his family home to him. This raises the ire of Will Dannaher (Victor McLaglen), his neighbor who has wanted the land for many years. Thinking he has been cheated out of what rightfully belongs to him, Dannaher challenges Thornton to a fight, but our hero refuses. Then, as if he doesn't have enough trouble with the new neighbor, Thornton falls in love with Dannaher's sister, Mary Kate (Maureen O'Hara). The brother refuses to let them court, which is his right in traditional Ireland, so Thornton's friend, Michaelene (Barry Fitzgerald) and the town priest (Ward Bond) scheme to get the two lovebirds together.
Will Mary Kate and Sean find true love? What is Sean's deep, dark secret reason for refusing to fight? Will this end his romance with Mary Kate and cause him to lose the respect of the townspeople?
The cast is a familiar one to those who are avid John Ford fans because the director liked to use the same group of actors and technical people on as many films as possible. John Wayne was his favorite leading actor and appeared in many films helmed by his mentor.
We are used to seeing The Duke play the tough, cowboy hero, and this role isn't much different, but he does get the chance to show a sensitive side. He is very charming as his character tries to woo Mary Kate and win the favor of the townspeople. Maureen O'Hara is one of the few leading ladies who can match him. She's tough, beautiful and quick with her wit. McLaglen rounds out the cast by effectively portraying Thornton's nemesis.
Born as Sean Aloysius O'Feeney, John Ford fell in love with the story of The Quiet Man when it appeared as a short story in The Saturday Evening Post. It reminded him of his Irish heritage and he wanted to bring it to life. Even though he was a successful director and made a great deal of money for just about every studio in Hollywood, none would let him make The Quiet Man. He shopped it around for almost ten years, but to no avail.
Finally, he formed a relationship with Republic Pictures, a small, undistinguished studio that specialized in westerns. Ford made a deal with Republic. He agreed to make a western for them and use some of the profits to finance The Quiet Man. With a shoestring budget and relying on old friends John Wayne, Victor McLaglen and Maureen O'Hara, he made Rio Grande. It went on to become one the studio's most profitable films.
With Rio Grande a success, Ford packed up the gang and headed to Ireland to make his film. However, he still had problems with the studio. Studio head Herbert Yates demanded that the film run at two hours and Ford was forced to make painful cuts to the movie. From what I have heard, these scenes would have made the film even better. They added more character to the picture and effectively set up the plot line.
Ford cut what he could, but the film still ran at two hours and nine minutes. The master wasn't about to sacrifice his vision any more, so he screened the film for the studio. The executives were amazed at the beauty and compelling storyline. A buzz was developing in the crowd. Then, at the two-hour mark, half way through the climax, Ford stopped the film. He informed the crowd that he could not make anymore cuts to the film, so, to meet the demand of a two-hour running time, he had to stop the film at this point. Everyone went nuts, the studio loved the film, it runs at its current two hours and nine minutes and Ford was awarded the Oscar for Best Director that year.
If you want to know more about The Quiet Man and John Ford, look for the 40th anniversary edition of the video. It contains a fantastic ½ hour special hosted by Leonard Maltin that tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the film.
Check it out this weekend.
Directed by John Ford
Written by Frank Nugent
John Wayne Sean Thornton
Maureen O'Hara . Mary Kate
Victor McLaglen . Will Dannaher
Barry Fitzgerald .. Michaeleen
Ward Bond .. Father Lonnergan
Francis Ford Old Dan Tobin
Copyright 2000 - WaffleMovies.com