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 The Quiet Man

The Quiet Man

Thursday April, 18 2019 at 09:45 PM

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John Ford, the director of such classic films as The Grapes of Wrath (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941) and The Searchers (1956), turned to his own Irish heritage for The Quiet Man (1952). In the film, John Wayne plays Sean Thornton, a man who was born in Ireland, but moved to the United States as a young boy. He grew up in Pittsburgh and eventually became a prizefighter. After accidentally killing a man in the ring, he returns to Ireland and buys the house he was born in. Sean falls in love with the beautiful and strong-willed Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O'Hara). Her brother, "Red" Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen), is one of the wealthiest men in the area and he is upset that a "yank" bought the property he wanted. Sean and Mary Kate's strong personalities clash as Sean learns Irish customs, particularly those concerning her dowry. The film culminates in a raucous fistfight between Sean and his new brother-in-law.

The Quiet Man is based on a 1933 Saturday Evening Post short story, but the final movie script is really a reflection of Ford's idealized view of his parents' homeland. In his biography of John Wayne, John Wayne's America: The Politics of Celebrity, Garry Wills notes the script "does not represent the real Irish culture of the time - but it does embody John Ford's world." In spite of the Academy Award winning director's well-known reputation, Ford had trouble finding a studio willing to back his Irish story. Eventually a doubtful Herb Yates at Republic Pictures agreed to the project.

Everything about the film, however, made Yates nervous. From the script to the casting, and especially the nearly two million dollar budget, Yates had doubts. In order to help Ford keep costs down, John Wayne agreed to do the film for one-hundred thousand dollars. As a part of the budget cuts, Ford decided not to take Wayne's regular makeup man, Web Overlander, to Ireland. Wayne used Maureen O'Hara's assistant instead, but after only one day, the actor's sensitive skin puffed up. Overlander was in Ireland a few days later.

Several family members of the cast and crew also made the journey to Ireland. Wayne brought along his four children and when they saw John Ford, they asked if they could be in the film. Ford agreed saying, "Why not, everyone else is getting into the act!" Maureen O'Hara had also convinced Ford to put two of her brothers in the film, and Ford's own brother, Francis, had a role. This was Francis Ford's twenty-ninth appearance in one of his brother's films.

In spite of Yates' doubts about the film's success, critics loved it. Kay Proctor wrote in the Los Angeles Examiner, "Never before I'm sure, have you seen a movie quite like this one, nor will you again, unless you go see it twice or more. Which incidentally, is what I recommend you do."

The Quiet Man was also a success at the Academy Awards. It was nominated for Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Victor McLaglen), Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction, and Sound Recording. John Ford received his fourth Oscar for Best Director and Winton Hoch and Archie Stout received the award for Best Cinematography.

Director/Producer: John Ford
Producer: Merian C. Cooper, Michael Killanin
Screenwriter: Richard Llewellyn, Frank S. Nugent
Cinematographer: Winton Hoch, Louis Clyde Stouman
Music: Victor Young
Editor: Jack Murray
Cast: John Wayne (Sean Thornton), Maureen O"Hara (Mary Kate Danaher), Barry Fitzgerald (Michaleen Flynn), Ward Bond (Father Peter Lonergan), Victor McLaglen (Red Will Danaher), Mildred Natwick (The Widow Sarah Tillane), Jack MacGowran (Feeney)
C-130m. Closed captioning.

by Deborah Looney



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