The Quiet Man Film Analysis Essay

In 1996, The Quiet Man topped an Irish Times poll for the best Irish film of all time. Almost ten years later, with many more Irish (and Irish-themed) films made, The Quiet Man still occupied number four in a poll of 10,000 people across Ireland. John Ford's greatest commercial success, the film also set a template for Ireland's representation, and promotion, for over half a century.

This book, The Quiet Man ... and Beyond, involves both critical analysis of aspects of The Quiet Man as myth, commodity and fetish and the celebration of a film that has sustained considerable academic attention and popular appreciation since its release in 1952. Among the topics considered are the complexity of the film's relation to Ireland, to Irish literature and to John Ford's other films; its perceived place with regard to indigenous Irish cinema; and the phenomenon of its circulation and reception as a cult film over the years.

Contributors include Ruth Barton, James P. Byrne, Sean Crosson, Fidelma Farley, Roddy Flynn, Adrian Frazier, Luke Gibbons, Michael Patrick Gillespie, Conor Groome, John Hill, Des MacHale, Barry Monahan, Brian O'Conchubhair, Diog O'Connell, Caitriona O'Torna, Tom Paulus, Sean Ryder, Eamonn Slater and Rod Stoneman.

About the Editors

Sean Crosson is a lecturer on Irish and world cinema with the Huston School of Film & Digital Media at NUI Galway, where he is Programme Coordinator of the MA in Film Studies. Rod Stoneman, formerly Chief Executive of Bord Scannan na heireann/The Irish Film Board, is the Director of the Huston School of Film & Digital Media at NUI Galway.

The Quiet Man (1952)


After spending most of his unhappy life in America, Sean Thornton arrives in the little Irish village of Inisfree to find the peace and paradise his mother used to talk about. The first thing to catch his eye (after the cottage where he was born) is the beautiful and fiery Mary Kate Danaher. Having bought the homestead from the wealthy Widow Tillane (much to the anger of Mary Kate's brother Will, who wants the property for his own), he sets about courting the young woman. But her brother will not permit it, so the local priest, the vicar and his wife, and Michaleen (the village matchmaker and bookie) trick Will into believing that if he marries Mary Kate off, he will finally be successful in his pursuit of the widow. At the wedding, however, Will discovers she has no intention of marrying him, even if he does fancy himself "the best man in Inisfree." He refuses to give Mary Kate her dowry. Sean thinks the furniture and money are unimportant, but Mary Kate insists they belong to her and without them she is not a married woman. She refuses to sleep with Sean and berates him for being a coward who won't stand up to her brother. But neither she nor anyone else in the village (except the vicar) know that Sean has sworn off fighting after accidentally killing a man in the boxing ring. When Mary Kate attempts to leave her husband, he follows her to the train station five miles away and drags her back to town on foot. Flinging her at Will's feet, he tells him the marriage is over unless she gets her full dowry. Will begrudgingly throws the money at him. Sean and Mary Kate pick it up and fling it into a furnace. Satisfied at last, she returns to their home while Sean and Will battle it out.

Director: John Ford
Producers: Merian C. Cooper, John Ford, Michael Killanin
Screenplay: Frank S. Nugent, Richard Llewellyn, based on the story "Green Rushes" by Maurice Walsh
Cinematography: Winton C. Hoch, Archie Stout
Editing: Jack Murray
Art Direction: Frank Hotaling
Music: Victor Young
Cast: John Wayne (Sean Thornton), Maureen O'Hara (Mary Kate Danaher), Victor McLaglen (Red Will Danaher), Barry Fitzgerald (Michaleen Flynn), Ward Bond (Father Lonergan), Mildred Natwick (Sarah Tillane).

Why The Quiet Man is Essential

One measure of this film's enduring appeal: In 1986, 34 years after its release, the wife of a young New York police officer, who was shot and paralyzed on the job, saw fit to tell reporters The Quiet Man was her husband's favorite movie and that he adored its female star, Maureen O'Hara. After reading the report, O'Hara flew to New York and went to the officer's bedside to offer comfort and boost his morale. She became actively involved with the couple during his long recovery and physical therapy, attended their baby's christening and marched in a parade on his behalf. Another measure: A short time later, New York Post writer Dick Ryan made a somewhat bizarre point of referencing the film in an article about President Ronald Reagan's Iran-Contra troubles. Whatever Ryan's thesis, the movie has remained in the consciousness of film audiences.

The Quiet Man is not often included in critics' lists of John Ford masterpieces - that distinction usually goes to The Searchers (1956), Stagecoach (1939) or his cavalry trilogy. But it has always been perhaps his most popular, even with Ford himself. A highly personal project for the legendary director, he often cited it as his favorite and considered it his "sexiest" picture. On those terms, it may seem tame to today's audiences who are used to scenes of nudity and near-explicit lovemaking, but the chemistry between O'Hara and John Wayne can't be denied. They were one of the best (and sadly underrated) romantic screen teams of all time in their five films together, largely because, as Wayne's son Michael has said, "She could match John Wayne kiss for kiss, punch for punch, stride for stride."

O'Hara's Mary Kate Danaher is no demure Irish lass. She's tough, outspoken, aggressive, stands up to her brother, wallops men and bridles at the term "spinster." She's hell bent on maintaining her identity and independence even after marriage by insisting her husband fight for the money and household goods that are rightfully hers but denied by her stubborn, bullying sibling. "In characteristic American fashion, he feels his masculinity and ability to provide for her impugned, until she finally makes him understand that it is not the money but what it stands for," remarked critic Molly Haskell. "The dowry and furniture are her identity, her independence."

At the same time, she's never pictured as a horrible shrew. She first appears as a vision in the meadow, her red hair gleaming in the sun, captivating the audience as surely as she does Wayne's Sean Thornton. Their romantic scenes together are both tender and highly charged (even "causing" a storm to whip up suddenly), and their marriage is a true partnership, an equality pushed by her insistence on the dowry. She doesn't resort to coy feminine wiles to get her way, but at the end of the movie, when she whispers something into her husband's ear and they race joyfully and eagerly back to their cottage, it's clear she's a freely sexual woman.

Perhaps that's why the film is often lauded for its depiction of a liberated woman, even within the confines of traditional Irish Catholic society. Brandon French - whose book On the Verge of Revolt (Frederick Ungar, 1978) carries a picture on its cover of O'Hara as Mary Kate standing toe-to-toe with Wayne - notes Mary Kate's rejection of her husband's mastery over her by tearing from his hands the stick another woman has given him to beat her and throwing it away. His delighted acquiescence to this act (and to her suggestive whisper at the end) is indicative of the sexual equality Ford depicts in this relationship. "This enlightened treatment of sexuality promotes, as few American films have, the superiority of a mature and liberated love relationship," French writes.

Ford also undercuts our expectations of Wayne as a strong, dominating man. He's no shrinking violet here, and the film isn't a comedy about a tough guy becoming henpecked. But Wayne's Sean Thornton arrives in Ireland carrying the emotional baggage of a troubled past, and he comes to see how this woman and the land she is an indelible part of can redeem him. When he kicks in their bedroom door after she's refused to have sex with him on their wedding night, we expect a scene of marital rape such as the one in Gone with the Wind (1939). Instead, he asserts his bond with her, throws her on the bed, then leaves the room to spend the night in his sleeping bag. And when he buys her a horse and cart, he lets her drive --an insignificant gesture in today's world but no small thing, either in 1950s Hollywood or the romanticized Ireland Ford portrays.

When critics do carp on the movie, it's exactly for this - the "unreality" of the world Ford creates. Yes, surely nowhere in Ireland is as stereotypical as Ford's glorification (and the country's troubles are only hinted at by the benign presence of two IRA men). But Ford isn't interested in presenting historical fact. This is the Ireland of his imagination and longing, the same sentiment felt by Sean Thornton when he arrives from America seeking the "heaven" his dead mother told him about. Ford's Ireland is peopled by impish, good-hearted folk (even Mary Kate's oafish brother has his clumsy soft spots), living in fairy tale thatched cottages surrounded by the lush green countryside (a natural environment given a tremendous boost by Winton Hoch's Oscar®-winning color photography). It's as mythically artificial as Ford's films of the American West, but he knows it and, for once, admits it by having all his characters acknowledge the audience in the film's final moments, as if to remind us we have seen actors playing a part and not a gritty slice of real life.

No one carps much about the "artificiality" of a musical like On the Town (1949), a glorification of a New York that never really was, or Singin' in the Rain (1952), doing the same for Hollywood. The Quiet Man lacks only musical numbers to be in the same company (although Victor Young's score and the Irish pub tunes make up for the songs, and the famous extended fight scene is as brilliantly choreographed as any dance sequence). But this film gives us even more, suffusing its romantic comedy, silly as it may be, with the hope and longing of difficult, driven career professional John Ford for what he imagined was the simpler, happier life of his ancestors, lost to him forever.

by Rob Nixon

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The Quiet Man (1952)

Pop Culture 101 - THE QUIET MAN

Ireland was a frequent subject of John Ford's films, most notably in The Informer (1935), The Plough and the Stars (1936) and Young Cassidy (1965). The first two were based on plays by Sean O'Casey and the third on O'Casey's autobiography. Ford also made movies about the Irish in America, including The Long Gray Line (1955) and The Last Hurrah (1958).

Before he was given the green light on The Quiet Man, Ford had to make another picture for Republic Studios. He made the Western Rio Grande (1950) with many of the same personnel as his Irish romance: Wayne, O'Hara, McLaglen, editor Jack Murray, art director Frank Hotaling, composer Victor Young.

After this picture, screenwriter Frank S. Nugent adapted another story by Maurice Walsh, who wrote the short story that served as the basis for The Quiet Man. Trouble in the Glen (1953), however, was set in Scotland, not Ireland. But there is a similarity in that Victor McLaglen played another brute whose big fight with the film's star (Forrest Tucker) finally brings peace to the land.

The film has some interesting thematic similarities and contrasts to an earlier John Wayne picture (without Ford), Angel and the Badman (1947). In that Western, the outlaw Wayne must forgo violence for the love of a woman and to be accepted into her pacifist Mormon community. In this, he is a man sworn not to fight who must go through one last "donnybrook" to achieve the peace and balance of the community.

by Rob Nixon

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The Quiet Man (1952)

Trivia and Fun Facts on THE QUIET MAN

Michaleen's line when he sees the Thornton's broken bed the day after their wedding ("Impetuous! Homeric!") was censored when the film was shown in Ohio.

John Wayne was a football star at the University of Southern California in the mid-1920s when Western star Tom Mix gave him a summer job as a prop man in exchange for USC game tickets. On the set he became close friends with director John Ford, who gave him some of his first bit roles in movies. After more than 70 low-budget movies, most of them Westerns, Ford cast him in Stagecoach (1939), the film that made Wayne a star. Theirs was a lifetime friendship and one of the screen's most productive partnerships, lasting more than 30 years and through 23 films, including the justly famous "cavalry trilogy" - Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950) - and the dark Western The Searchers (1956).

Wayne took his nickname "Duke" from his childhood pet, an Airedale dog.

Irish-born Maureen O'Hara began acting at an early age, and by the time she was 14, she was receiving awards in festivals and drama contests. She made her stage debut with the Abbey Players of Dublin and went to the London stage in 1938. Alfred Hitchcock cast her in Jamaica Inn (1939) with Charles Laughton, who was so impressed with the beautiful redhead he brought her to Hollywood to play the gypsy girl Esmeralda in his next picture The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). Her career got an early boost from her performance in John Ford's How Green Was My Valley (1941). She made four more pictures with Ford, three of them with John Wayne.

John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara were one of the most popular, yet critically underrated, romantic screen teams. They made five pictures together: Rio Grande (1950), The Quiet Man (1952) and The Wings of Eagles (1957), all for John Ford; McLintock! (1963), directed by Andrew McLaglen (Victor's son and assistant director on The Quiet Man); and Big Jake (1971), co-directed by Wayne and George Sherman.

Like O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald began his acting career in Dublin's Abbey Players (though years earlier). Also like O'Hara, he got his first big break in a Hitchcock picture, recreating his stage role in Sean O'Caseys Juno and the Paycock (1930). He was brought to Hollywood by Ford for another O'Casey-based film, The Plough and the Stars (1936). He appeared in five Ford pictures, including The Long Voyage Home (1940) with Wayne and How Green Was My Valley (1941) with O'Hara.

Ford stock-company regular Ward Bond was in 25 of the director's movies between 1930 and 1957 (nine of them with Wayne). Like Wayne, he had been a college football player. Ford also directed an episode of Bond's popular Western TV series Wagon Train in 1957.

Victor McLaglen won an Oscar® for his portrayal of Gypo Nolan in Ford's production of The Informer (1935). He and Ford made 12 films together; six of them also featured John Wayne.

British-born McLaglen was a prizefighter in Canada before going into acting. He was once touted as a "great white hope" to stop famed black boxer Jack Johnson but lost the much-promoted fight in the sixth round.

Frank S. Nugent was one of Ford's favorite screenwriters. They worked on 11 films together between 1948 and 1963.

In She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and The Searchers (1956), cinematographer Winton C. Hoch created the Technicolor image of the West we associate so closely with Ford. The two worked on five pictures in all. Hoch won Academy Awards for his work on She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and The Quiet Man, as well as one for Victor Fleming's film Joan of Arc (1948).

Victor Young composed the scores for three Ford pictures. He was one of Hollywood's most productive musical talents, either writing, arranging, conducting or supervising the music for more than 300 films. He also wrote and conducted music for several top radio programs and recorded for Decca Records. No film composer of his period (the mid 1930s through the mid 1950s) made more recordings or had more hit songs drawn from his scores.

Producer Michael Killanin was later head of the International Olympic Committee.

Famous Quotes from THE QUIET MAN

SEAN (John Wayne): I'm Sean Thornton and I was born in that little cottage. I'm home and home I'm going to stay

FATHER LONERGAN (Ward Bond): I knew your people, Sean. Your grandfather, died in Australia, in a penal colony. And your father, he was a good man, too.

SEAN: (seeing Mary Kate for the first time) Hey, is that real? She couldn't be.
MICHALEEN (Barry Fitzgerald): Ah, nonsense, man. It's only a mirage brought on by your terrible thirst.

MARY KATE (Maureen O'Hara): The House may belong to my brother, but what's in the parlor belongs to me.
MICHALEEN: And I hope there's a bottle there, whoever it belongs to.

MICHALEEN: It's a fine soft night, so I think I'll go join me comrades and talk a little treason.

MARY KATE: I'll wear your ring, I'll cook, I'll wash, I'll keep the land. But that is all. Until I've got my dowry safe about me, I'm no married woman. I'm the servant I always have been. Without anything of my own.

SEAN: There'll be no locks or bolts between us, Mary Kate, except those in your own mercenary little heart.

MICHALEEN: (seeing the Thornton's broken bed the day after their wedding) Impetuous! Homeric!

Compiled by Rob Nixon

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The Quiet Man (1952)

The Big Idea Behind THE QUIET MAN

John Ford was captivated by Maurice Walsh's short story from the moment he read it in The Saturday Evening Post. He bought the film rights in 1936 for $10 and set about trying to find backers. But no one was interested in producing a romantic comedy set in an idealized Ireland, especially since Ford insisted on shooting on location.

In 1944 Ford made handshake deals with John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald and Victor McLaglen to appear in the picture if he ever got backing. For several years after, O'Hara spent time in the summer with Ford and his family, taking dictation on the director's boat for story ideas and dialogue.

The script was first developed by Welsh writer Richard Llewellyn, whose book formed the basis for Ford and O'Hara's picture How Green Was My Valley (1941).

Ford later entrusted his and O'Hara's notes to scenarist Frank S. Nugent, who had written four scripts for Ford since 1948, to write the screenplay. Nugent had long been an admirer of Ford since his days as a New York Times film critic. While Nugent was writing a profile piece for the paper about Ford's production of The Fugitive (1947), Ford talked him into becoming a screenwriter and handling the script for his next picture, Fort Apache (1948).

"We had a lot of preparation on the script, laid out the story pretty carefully, but in such a way that if any chance for comedy came up, we would put it in," Ford told Peter Bogdanovich years later.

The title character of Walsh's story was changed from Paddy Bawn Enright to Sean Thornton. Sean is the Gaelic equivalent of Fords first name; Thornton the surname of Ford's cousins. The script also adds a character, Will Danaher's toady, named Feeney, the Anglicized version of Ford's real family surname.

Nugent also made a change to the lead character's motives. In the story, he is simply not interested in fighting for something as insignificant as a dowry. Nugent added a backstory that had Wayne's heavyweight giving up fighting after accidentally killing a man in the boxing ring.In 1946 Ford and producer Merian C. Cooper formed Argosy Pictures to allow Ford more control over the selection and production of his films. His first Argosy project was to have been The Quiet Man. He wrote his old friend in Ireland Michael Killanin, telling him of his plans to film in Ireland and asking Killanin to work with him on the project. At the time, Ford believed British producer Alexander Korda would finance the film, but the deal fell through and the picture languished several years more. "Each year we would hold the summer open and each year there was no money and we couldn't make the movie," O'Hara recalled. "John Wayne and I used to go to the studio and say: "Mr. Ford, if you don't hurry up I'll have to play the widow-woman and Duke will have to play Victor McLaglen's role because we'll be too old!"

In the late 1940s, John Wayne was under contract to Republic Pictures and decided to use his clout there to get the film made. Studio head Herbert Yates, who made mostly B-pictures, jumped at the chance to have someone of Ford's stature working for his studio. But he told Wayne that Ford would have to prove himself with another hit movie before he gave the go-ahead to this project. Ford, Wayne, O'Hara, McLaglen and many of the same crew got together and made the cavalry picture Rio Grande (1950). The movie was a success, and Yates was compelled to back The Quiet Man.

Even though he agreed to the deal, Yates grew nervous as it neared time for Ford and company to pack off to Ireland with their proposed $1.75 million budget. By spring of 1951, he was convinced the film would be a "phony art-house movie" and a financial disaster. He tried to convince Wayne the part of Sean Thornton was all wrong for him and would ruin his career. To appease Yates, Ford agreed to cut his costs and got Wayne and O'Hara to work for well below their standard rates.

by Rob Nixon

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The Quiet Man (1952)

Behind the Camera on THE QUIET MAN

Production of The Quiet Man was a real family affair. Ford's daughter assisted editor Jack Murray and her husband played a small role. His son Patrick was one of the second unit directors, along with John Wayne (his first assignment behind the camera). Ford even brought his local Hollywood priest, Father Stack, to bless the film and serve as technical advisor. Ford also cast his brother, respected stage actor Francis Ford, from whom he had long been estranged. Although this was Francis's 29th appearance in one of his brother's films, the two never socialized. Francis received his assignments by mail, shot his scenes and walked off without a word between him and his director brother beyond a short nod at the end of every day.Wayne brought his four children with him to Ireland and they appear in the Inisfree race scene in the cart with Maureen O'Hara. The two youngest were given a couple of lines in that scene.

O'Hara's brother Charles Fitzsimons played one of the IRA men, and Barry Fitzgerald's brother, Arthur Shields, was cast in the key role of the Rev. Playfair, the town's Protestant vicar. Victor McLaglen's son Andrew served as an assistant director.

Several actors were brought in from Dublin's Abbey Players, where O'Hara and Fitzgerald had started their careers. Some of them had appeared in Ford's The Plough and the Stars (1936).

Wayne said the role, now considered one of his best, was difficult for him. "For nine weeks I was just playing straight man to those wonderful characters, and that's really hard."

One of Ford's budget-cutting measures was to forego using his usual make-up man Web Overlander. He told Wayne he would have to use O'Hara's make-up person. But the actor was sensitive to make-up (which Overlander knew) and his face puffed up like a blowfish after one treatment. Ford immediately sent for Overlander.

Ford sometimes resorted to cruel manipulation of his actors to get what he wanted. Although an ex-boxer, McLaglen was a very mild man, and Ford was not convinced he could pull off the lengthy fight scene with Wayne. The evening before shooting it, he ran McLaglen through the scene where his character throws the sister's dowry on the floor. In front of McLaglen's son, Ford cursed him for a lousy performance and said the next day's filming would be useless. McLaglen fumed all night and came on to the set the next day raging and primed for the big fight.

O'Hara endured her share of hardships on the film. She had no double for the scene where Wayne drags her across the fields back to the village and got bruised by the rough terrain. She broke a bone in her hand in the scene where she swings at Wayne and he blocks it. And in the scene where Wayne discovers her in his cottage, the wind whipped her hair so ferociously around her face she kept squinting. Ford screamed at her in the strongest language to open her eyes. "What would a bald-headed son of a bitch know about hair lashing across his eyeballs," she shot back.

Ford was noted for his ill temper and fierce control, which sometimes bred great tension on the set, but his actors often praised his working methods. "You become so tuned to him, one word of his becomes a volume," O'Hara said. "You become aware that he understands the story and knows how to get it out of you. It's a frame of mind he creates. He puts you at ease and sets you free to think, and you can move easily." Ford sometimes let his actors improvise their lines in run-throughs to get the sense of what they were saying rather than the exact words. "Consequently we can concentrate on playing, not remembering," O'Hara added. "You are able to invent, improvise, and use your body; then he spots things you do without thinking and uses them."

Republic head Herbert Yates wanted Ford to shoot using the studio's own TrueColor process, but Ford insisted on the vastly superior Technicolor.

Cinematographer Winton Hoch was a master of color photography (he never shot in black and white), but he encountered difficulties on location. During the six weeks of shooting in Ireland, there were only six days of intermittent sunshine, the rest were rainy and overcast. "Most of the time the clouds were moving across the sky, and the light was constantly changing," Hoch said. "I had to light each scene three different ways: for sunshine, for clouds, for rain. I worked out a set of signals with the gaffer, and we were ready no matter what the light was." It was difficult, but Hoch's method produced gorgeous results. Nevertheless, Yates did not like the look of the rushes. "It's all green," he commented, adding to Ford's frequent frustration and depression during the shoot.

Locals in the town of Cong, where location shooting took place, were understandably excited and thrilled to have the production there. Many of them got work on the set, including Joe Mellotte, whose job it was to stand by Wayne and provide him cigarettes throughout the day. But their enthusiasm also caused continuity nightmares because they were always hanging around the set, popping in and out of scenes where they shouldn't have been.

The local grocery store was converted into Cohan's pub. After shooting completed, the owner of the store decided to leave the pub sign up in front of his business.

Several scenes were shot that never appeared in the movie: O'Hara speaking in Gaelic to greet Wayne for the first time; a scene where Father Lonergan and Michaleen discuss betting on horses (deemed offensive because he is a priest); Wayne's first scene on the train, where he speaks to a mother and her child gives him an apple (in the existing opening scene, Wayne deboards the train holding the apple and thanks the unseen child).

Ford became unsure of himself and his story during production. Bickering with Yates took its toll on him, and he resented being at a minor studio where everything was generally second-class. At one point, nursing a bad cold, he told Wayne that for the first time he had no idea where the story should go. "I don't know whether I've got a picture here or not," he said. Wayne recalled that in all the years he worked with Ford, he never saw him so down and so willing to admit his fears. While Ford was in bed sick, Wayne took the crew to In spite of his deteriorating mental and physical condition during production, Ford was sad to leave Ireland. "It seemed like the finish of an epoch in my somewhat troubled life," he wrote to an Irish friend. "Galway is in my blood and the only place I have found peace."

With the film in the can, Ford had to contend with one other problem from Yates. The studio boss insisted the film be no longer than 120 minutes. Ford's cut ran to 129 minutes. Yates insisted he cut the extra time off before a screening for Republic's distributors. The screening went very well, and everyone was enjoying the picture. Then, at exactly 120 minutes, just as the climactic fight between Wayne and McLaglen started, the movie stopped. Ford turned to Yates: "I couldn't figure out how to cut nine minutes without ruining it, so I figured, what the hell? Why knock myself out? I just cut out the fight and got it down to 120 minutes." The point was made, and Yates released the movie at 129.

At the end of production, Ford admitted he liked the movie for its "strange humorous quality and the mature romance."

by Rob Nixon

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The Quiet Man (1952)

The Critics' Corner - THE QUIET MAN

"[John Wayne] ably undertakes a role which makes the best of his rugged physical qualities." - Los Angeles Times, 1952

"No surprise is John Wayne's excellence...As always under Ford's tutelage, he's plain great. What is unexpected is the flair for comedy he demonstrates here...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" - Kay Proctor, Los Angeles Examiner, 1952

"As darlin' a picture as we've seen this year." -New York Times, 1952

"An entertainment for an IRA club night." -David Thomson, A Biographical Dictionary of Film (Knopf, 2000) .

"You will be amazed by John Wayne's nuanced performance as The Quiet Man, the Irishman returning home to Inisfree after years in Pittsburgh steel mills. The entire cast is a delight, and the camera caresses the Irish countryside." - David Bleiler, TLA Film & Video Guide.

"Critics often speak of how couples create their own electricity on the screen - well, Sean and Mary Kate literally cause thunder and lightning when they kiss. They are the supreme matchup of Wayne and O'Hara, one of the cinema's most appealing, most underrated, romantic teams. Handsome Wayne and beautiful O'Hara are wonderful together, exhibiting strength and, because their characters are in love, vulnerability and tenderness." - Danny Peary, Cult Movies 3.

"John Ford's first return to Ireland since The Informer was one of his most commercially successful postwar films, though not his best. It is too fll of gay 'blarney' and picturesque characters - among whom is Barry Fitzgerald's stage Irish priest. [There are however some beautifully observed scenes, notably the delightful formal courtship and the village steeplechase. Ford's vision of a fairy-tale Ireland may not be realistic but it is as affectionate as his vision of the West.]" - Georges Sadoul, Dictionary of Films.

Awards & Honors - THE QUIET MAN

The Quiet Man won Academy Awards® for John Ford for Best Director (his fourth and final Oscar®), Winton C. Hoch and Archie Stout for Cinematography. It received Nominations for Best Picture, Screenplay, Art Direction/Set Decoration, Sound, and Supporting Actor (Victor McLaglen).

Other awards include:
Directors Guild of America Award to Ford.

National Board of Review Best Picture.

Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay (Frank S. Nugent).

The Quiet Man finished 12th on Variety's list of the top-grossing pictures for 1952, with rentals of more than $3 million.

Compiled by Rob Nixon & Jeff Stafford

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The Quiet Man (1952)

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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