Since it will soon be St. Patrick’s Day, I thought my classic film should in some way highlight Ireland, and my pick does just that, 1952’s Republic Pictures technicolor classic, The Quiet Man. The first time I saw The Quiet Man was when my late father-in-law rented it. I was in high school at the time and it was a Saturday afternoon which I was spending at my future husband’s family home. His dad loved movies and knew a lot about actors, actresses, good plots, good directors, and he assured me and his son that this was a wonderful movie. The Quiet Man stars John Wayne, but it isn’t Wayne in a Western or a War picture. The Quiet Man is really a simple tale, about an ex-boxer from Pittsburgh, PA wanting to go back to the land of his ancestors and put down some roots in order to live a more quiet existence.
Sean Thornton( John Wayne) arrives at the nearest train depot just a few miles away from the town of Innisfree, birthplace of his parents, grandparents, and various other ancestors. He wants to buy the family’s ancestral home, a quaint cottage on a good piece of land, known as “White-o-Morn”. After some confusing directions given to him by the locals, Michaeleen Oge Flynn ( Barry Fitzgerald) pulls up in his cart, hops on over to Thornton, and tells him that he can drive him to Innisfree. Thornton gladly accepts and soon he and Flynn have become fast friends, and Flynn remembers Thornton’s family before his parents sailed away to America. As soon as Flynn gets Thornton to Innisfree, Thornton wants to get out of the cart and stretch his legs and to have a smoke. As he is gazing around at the countryside, he sees a flock of sheep with the most beautiful shepherdess attending them. It is love at first sight for Thornton.
Thornton soon has a couple of problems on his hands in this new community. One, he has outbid the Squire “Red” Will Danagher in buying the family homestead. The Squire,( played by Victor McLaglen), is a bully and has a bad temper, especially at a “Yank” who would dare to buy land that is adjacent to his spread of property. Second, Thornton has unknowingly fallen in love with Mary Kate Danagher, the Squire’s sister. The Squire is outraged that the “Yank” wants to marry his sister and forbids the courtship to begin. It is at this point that some minor characters in the film come up with a trick to play on the Squire, in hopes of convincing him to let Thornton court his sister. The minor characters are the priest, Father Lonergan(Ward Bond), Rev. Playfair(Arthur Shields), and Mrs. Playfair(Eileen Crowe). The trio knows that the Squire is actually in love with the widow Tillane(Mildred Natwick), so they play on his fear of never marrying the kind widow. They tell the Squire that what woman would want to be his wife when a woman already lives in his home cooking and cleaning and overseeing things, that woman being his sister Mary Kate. At the annual horse race, they further trick the Squire into thinking that since he forbid Thornton from courting his sister that the “Yank” was now interested in courting the widow! Soon the Squire gives his permission for the “Yank” to court his sister.
The wedding happens and at the reception, the Squire decides to propose to the Widow Tillane in front of all the gathered guests. The widow is embarrassed and shocked that the Squire would do such a thing and she turns him down. That sets the Squire’s temper blazing. He finds out that he was tricked into letting his sister be courted by Father Lonergen and Reverand and Mrs. Playfair. In his anger he denies Mary Kate her dowry, which includes lovely furnishings, fine china, a piano, and money; items which she was planning on bringing with her into the marriage. Thornton tries to explain to Mary Kate that he loves her and doesn’t care about that other stuff, but she does, so much so, that she gets into a fierce argument at the couple’s new home and explains that she’ll cook and clean but not be a real wife for Thornton until she has all her things about her in her own home. She also accuses her new husband of being a coward for not getting into a physical fight with her brother over her dowry. Thornton doesn’t want to fight anyone physically anymore, and the Reverend Playfair, a boxing fan, knows the reason why Thornton is so reluctant to fight, and it is also the reason why Thornton has left America. In his last match under his fight name, “Trooper Thorn”, he accidentally killed his opponent. From that moment on, Thornton retired from boxing and vowed to not fight anymore.
Soon after the sad wedding reception has passed, folks in Innisfree who like the “Yank” convince the Squire to let Mary Kate have her things about her, and all but the money is brought to the newlyweds’ cottage. Mary Kate is happy, and after confessing to Father Lonargen how she has been treating her husband, Mary Kate allows herself to truly be Thornton’s wife, but soon she is nagging her husband again to confront her brother about the money he has withheld from her. Thornton refuses, and the next morning before Thornton has risen, Mary Kate has packed a bag and run off to the train station, as she is too embarrassed by his inaction to get her money for her from her brother. Thornton awakes, realizes where she has probably gone to, and makes his way to the train depot. The townsfolk of Innisfree see the “Yank” storming off to the depot and decide to follow him. He finds his wife, drags her off the train, and forces her to walk the 5 miles back to Innisfree and to her brother’s home. Thornton then confronts the Squire and demands that he give them Mary Kate’s money. The Squire refuses and Thornton then tells him to take back his sister. The Squire relents and hands over Mary Kate’s money and together she and Thornton throw it into the fire. Mary Kate really didn’t care about the money. She wanted to know that her husband would stand up for her, that he truly loved her. As the townsfolk watch, the Squire and the “Yank” have a brawl, punching each other all over the countryside and town. They manage to visit a pub, have a drink, and then brawl some more. The end result is that all negative feelings the Squire had for the “Yank” are now gone and they call a truce, to try and be friends. The film ends with the Squire and the widow beginning their courtship, and Mary Kate and Thornton happy in their love for one another.
The Quiet Man is a fun film to watch. It contains elements of drama, comedy, and romance. The viewer really cares about what is going to happen to the characters. The movie is beautiful to look at and most of the outdoor scenes were shot on location in Ireland. The technicolor shows the countryside to it’s full advantage. The acting is excellent, from the stars to the supporting character actors. The Quiet Man was nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor-Victor McLaglen, Best Art Direction, Best Sound, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It did win the Academy Award for Best Director-John Ford, and Best Cinematography-Winton C. Hotch, and Archie Stout.