The Quiet Man
Although one of the best romantic comedies to come out of Hollywood, there’s no denying that The Quiet Man is set in an Ireland that’s never existed anywhere except in the movies, and that’s despite being filmed on location. But to nitpick minor things like this would be to miss the whole point of the film’s charm.
Sean Thornton (John Wayne) returns from America to his boyhood home of Innisfree, Ireland, determined to buy his old house (White O’ Morning). On his way, he spies and instantly falls in love with the local Squire’s sister, Mary Kate Danaher (O’Hara), but Squire Red Will Danaher (McLaglen) is not so happy. In fact, he swears that Thornton will ‘regret it till his dying day, if ever he lives that long’. With the help of the local matchmaker and Comedy Drunk, Mickeleen Flynn (Fitzgerald), the parish priest (Bond) and the Protestant Minister and his wife, he gets to marry Mary Kate, but there’s still the small matter of the bride’s dowry....
Full of quotable dialogue (‘Do you see that road over there? Well, don’t take that, it’ll do you no good.’) and outstanding set pieces, this film features the best fight ever committed to celluloid, with the whole town watching on and betting wildly on the outcome as Thornton and Danaher knock seven shades out of each other—a fight so compelling, it revives men from their deathbeds, causes both Protestant and Catholic clergy to place large bets and impels the local landlord to offer drinks on the house.
But it’s just one of the stand-out moments in Ford’s consistently enjoyable comedy. There’s the running joke about a ‘sleeper bag’, the broken bed (which causes Mickeleen to mutter ‘impetuous...Homeric’), Father Lonegan’s dogged but unsuccessful pursuit of Ireland’s biggest fish, the curious courtship between Danaher and the Widow Trelawn (Natwick).
A rare film where the romance is actually consistent with the characters, the central pairing of Wayne and O’Hara anchor the film, offering a contrast to the more whimsical nature of the supporting turns, most of whom are Ford regulars.
Ford realised that a man like Wayne required an equally strong foil and in Wayne’s long-time friend O’Hara he succeeded beautifully. Her Mary-Kate is fiesty enough to stand up to Wayne’s presence, even lay down the law, and is his equal in every sense.
The Quiet Man won Oscars for Best Director and cinematography.