The Quiet Man (1952)
September 6, 2022 8:44 AM - Subscribe

After accidentally killing an opponent in the ring, boxer Sean Thornton (John Wayne) leaves America and returns to his native Ireland, hoping to buy his family's homestead and live in peace. In doing so, he runs afoul of Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen), who long coveted the property. Spitefully, Will objects when his fiery sister, Mary Kate (Maureen O'Hara), begins a romance with Sean, and refuses to hand over her dowry. Mary Kate refuses to consummate the marriage until Sean retrieves the money.

Also starring Barry Fitzgerald, Mildred Natwick, and Arthur Shields.

Directed by John Ford, from a screenplay by Frank S. Nugent, based on a story by Maurice Walsh.

91% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on Epix, Paramount Plus, and FilmBox. Also available for digital rental on multiple outlets.
posted by DirtyOldTown (13 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I'll comment and hope this one is closer to the mark. :(

The Quiet Man is a movie I know very well. It's one of my mother's favorites, so I've seen it often enough. And I think it's pretty darned good too. As I've gotten older, I've found it more and more difficult to believe this movie got past the censors of the day. I can't think of another movie made before... 1970 that dealt with, not just sex, but sexuality, as directly as The Quiet Man did.

Also, if you want to talk about racism in John Ford movies, this is the movie to talk about. I know, the Irish are Ford's people (my people too, to a degree). But still, if The Quiet Man is nothing else, it is a celebration of the Irish as lovable fools who like to drink their stouts, argue about nothing, and fight over less.
posted by Stuka at 1:47 PM on September 6, 2022 [4 favorites]

Except Maureen O'Hara's argument was very real and the way John Wayne's character treated her about it, even after the "resolution" of the plot always bothered me. i suppose just because that would have been me, fighting for the only damn scraps of autonomy and adulthood that I'm entitled to, while being laughed at like a cat knocking things down. It's hard not to take it personally even though it's just a story.
posted by bleep at 3:05 PM on September 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

In my head, this movie and They Live are always swapping places for best cinematic fistfight.

Also, it's hard to think about this movie after hearing the Behind the Bastards episodes about John Wayne, which featured a lot of John Ford. What a pair of colossal bastards, the both of them.
posted by RakDaddy at 3:36 PM on September 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

This used to be part of the broadcast television year, when they'd play It's a Wonderful Life every Xmas, a Charlton Heston bible epic at Easter / Passover, and The Quiet Man every Saint Patrick's day.
Not even because they were popular; just to fill the annual calendar slot.

When / if ever I come across this in passing and hear the dum-ta dum-ta dittle-ittle of The Walk [or The Drag] scene; I stick around for Maureen O'Hara slamming shut the furnace door and walking home proudly. Power Move.
posted by bartleby at 4:15 PM on September 6, 2022 [5 favorites]

...Years ago, the first time I visited Ireland - to visit a longtime pen pal - her younger brother took me aside at one point when we were somewhere some cheesy music was playing and earnestly said "I just want you to know, this is the sort of music that embarrasses us." I braced myself for a similar kind of romanticized auld sod look at Ireland, and I did indeed get some of that.

However - I also was very surprised to find a scene where Maureen O'Hara spoke Irish Gaelic - a language which was nearly died out in Ireland itself, both at the time in which the story was set and at the time in which the film was made. So it may have had the corny American immigrant perspective, but it did some homework still.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:15 PM on September 6, 2022 [4 favorites]

wow, Stuka's comment above... this was one of *my* mom's favorites, too, and while I haven't seen it in decades, I remember it being both very John Wayne (that legendary endless rolling fistfight across the countryside) and very... not John Wayne, somehow, at least not the cowboy I knew.

I picked up on the caricature of the drunken Irish, but was way too young to pick up on any of the sexuality and autonomy issues; will have to rewatch. Alas, my mom is gone 10 years now, but I'll think of her when I watch it.
posted by martin q blank at 6:48 AM on September 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

I, too, grew up in a family where watching this was a seasonal ritual. It's the foundational source for many family in-jokes (e.g. "She'll be running you down with that Juggernaut!" or "Marquess of Queensbury rules!"). And I still watch it every so often and recall the times spent watching it with my parents. I could probably recite much of the dialogue by heart.

Viewed in the year 2022, its problematic elements are really apparent. Wayne's character, Sean Thornton, is meant to be the one with whom we identify but, despite being well-intentioned for the most part, he's an oaf (compared to everyone but Victor McLaglen), out of his element, and oblivious to the intricacies of a culture to which he feels entitled by right of birth but of which he has little or no knowledge. I have to think that, at least, must strike a familiar chord with actual Irish viewers, even if the film's twee caricature of Irish village life otherwise strikes a sour note.

Despite its problematic plot and characterizations it's still an amazing piece of filmmaking and references to it turn up more often than you might think and in some pretty unexpected places - for example E.T. catching a glimpse of a scene while channel surfing, or the homage to the fight scene that Japanese filmmaker Juzo Itami included in his own classic Tampopo (well worth checking out in its own right, but also as catalog of film references.)
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:56 AM on September 7, 2022

Incidentally, for those who want to see McLaglen in a very different John Ford film about Ireland, look for The Informer (or read the Liam O'Flaherty novel on which it was based.)

Far, far bleaker, but an amazing contrast to The Quiet Man and featuring an Oscar-winning performance from McLaglen.
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:58 AM on September 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

In the film the dowry includes Mary Kate's lifetime earnings and inheritance from her father:

When I wed, whatevers my own, goes with me.

Get up, little man.

And all this furniture is mine.

And I have that china, and linen,

and 50 pounds in gold my father left me,

and my mothers rings, brooches,

my grandmothers veil, her silver comb...

Thirty pounds odd in notes and silver

Ive earned these past 15 years, thats all.

It made me furious when she destroyed it.

In the story she is called Ellen and has no money of her own.
posted by brujita at 12:17 PM on September 10, 2022

It made me furious when she destroyed it.
If I remember it correctly, she did get all the physical items of her inheritance. A cart load of furniture, etc was brought to the house?

It's the cash that was the sticking point.
The brother withholding it, Sean saying 'why all the fuss about 100 pounds? I am rich, you know, we don't need it, let it go', and her demanding it.

Three people being stubborn about It's The Principle Of The Thing! is the romantic plot complication/obstacle.

Her holding the door open for him to throw it in the fire was the final demonstration of it's not the money, it's you not collecting it; that's why I can't respect you / be truly married until you do.
posted by bartleby at 2:49 PM on September 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Will is persuaded by the villagers to release the household goods.

His being finacially abusive about Mary Kate's OWN money, Sean being dismissive about her not having access to it and MK's ultimate destruction of the gains of her own hard labor is completely reprehensible to me.
posted by brujita at 5:56 PM on September 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

Her allowing it to be destroyed.
posted by brujita at 6:30 PM on September 10, 2022

James Cameron is this generation's John Ford and I don't mean this as a compliment.
posted by brujita at 6:32 PM on September 10, 2022

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