As a librarian, I spend a lot of time using the alphabet, so yes, I realize that I by reviewing The Quiet Man today, I am doing things out of order. But Maureen O’Hara died on Saturday, and I’ve been thinking about her and her movies a lot the last couple of days. Because of Miracle on 34th Street and The Parent Trap (the originals of both, NOT the inferior remakes), I grew up admiring Maureen O’Hara as a strong, beautiful woman, completely unafraid to be herself, no matter what society thought. After reading obituaries and tributes to her the last couple of days, I get the feeling that she truly was that way. Since Maureen O’Hara plays another beautiful, strong woman in The Quiet Man, I’m posting my review of it today as my little tribute to a wonderful actress.
I grew up watching John Wayne movies, so I’m not sure how I missed this one. No, it’s not a Western, but I’d seen lots of other non-Western John Wayne movies. But even though I had never actually seen The Quiet Man, I had seen E.T. the Extraterrestrial, so I was really excited to finally know which movie included the dramatic kissing scene that E.T. watches on TV. It was a gap in my movie trivia knowledge, and I was ecstatic to have it filled in. Beyond that bit of trivia, I was glad to finally see The Quiet Man for another reason: it’s a dang good movie!
So what’s the story? Sean Thornton left Ireland for America with his parents when he was three years old, but his mother always talked of Ireland as if it were paradise, so he decides to move back and buy the cottage where he was born. He sees fiery-spirited redhead Mary Kate Danaher as soon as he steps foot in the village of Innesfree and decides that she is the girl for him. Unfortunately, Sean offends Mary Kate’s brother almost as soon. Although Mary Kate makes no secret about her reciprocation of Sean’s feelings, will her brother and her Irish customs keep them apart?
The Good: I’m going to mention cinematography first, because this movie is so beautiful that it literally made me cry. During the race, when the horses are pounding across the beach with the green mountains in the background…oh, it’s amazing. I can’t even begin to describe the beauty of it all. I know that Ireland is beautiful, but photographers still have to have an eye to capture the beauty, and the cinematographer did a fabulous job.
This movie is perfectly cast. I can’t think of another actress who could have done a better job at playing Mary Kate than Maureen O’Hara. She’s strong and proud and just plain wonderful. John Wayne is good as always as the man who is trying to live his dream, but who just doesn’t understand the culture of the woman he loves. He’s confused and frustrated, but so wholly in love. John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara were good friends in real life, and they have excellent on-screen chemistry.
The supporting cast is also so good. Ward Bond makes a surprisingly convincing Irish priest. Victor McLagen, although perhaps a little old to look like Maureen O’Hara’s brother, is full of bluster and silly pride as Will Danaher. Barry Fitzgerald brings a fabulous sense of humor to the role of Michaleen Oge Flynn, and his real-life brother Arthur Shields is excellent as the Protestant Reverend Cyril Playfair. Mrs. Playfair, played by Eileen Crowe, is mischievous and fun. I love them all!
The musical score is gorgeous. Victor Young used a lot of old Irish melodies, but also wrote some beautiful themes of his own. The music complements the movie perfectly.
The story and screenplay are fabulous. I’m not a huge fan of romantic comedies in general, because they’re just so fake. But The Quiet Man is so real. Two proud, stubborn people fall in love, but have a hard time adjusting to each other. Even though they love each other, they don’t completely understand one another. Movies don’t usually show that. Romantic comedies also tend to end with the wedding as the happy ending, but The Quiet Man is not like that. I wish more moviemakers would be brave enough to tell a real story like this one.
The Bad: Because I am a modern woman, I was incredibly uncomfortable with the scene where Sean drags Mary Kate off the train and pulls her across the fields and through the village. Yes, she was asking something of him that he didn’t want to do, but he wasn’t trying to understand her culture, either. Also, I’m not sure how accurate the Irish culture was portrayed. It felt very stereotypical to me, but maybe the stereotype happened because of reality. I don’t know. I just had to turn off the cultural sensitivity part of my brain, and then I was okay.
The Ugly: Nothing, unless you are even more sensitive than I am about the dragging through the fields scene.
Oscars Won: Best director; best cinematography, color.
Other Oscar Nominations: Best picture; best actor in a supporting role (Victor McLaglen); best writing, screenplay; best art direction-set direction, color; best sound, recording.
Random Fact: Even though The Quiet Man won an Oscar for best color cinematography, I once had a library patron who refused to check out the copy we have because it wasn’t in black and white, which, according to her, was the original. I did some research and apparently, ABC only had a black and white print, so that’s what was shown on broadcast TV for a while. The patron never did believe me that The Quiet Man was originally in color. Sigh.