The Quiet Man is a 1952 American Technicolor romantic comedy-drama film. It was directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Victor McLaglen and Barry Fitzgerald. It was based on a 1933 Saturday Evening Post short story by Maurice Walsh. The film is notable for its lush photography of the Irish countryside and the long, climactic, semi-comic fist fight between Wayne and McLaglen. It was an official selection of the 1952 Venice Film Festival. In the 1920s, Sean Thornton (John Wayne), an Irish-born American from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, travels to Ireland to reclaim his family's farm in Innisfree. He meets and falls in love with the fiery Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O'Hara), the spinster sister of the bullying, loud-mouthed landowner Squire "Red" Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen). Danaher, angry that Sean outbid him for the Thornton land adjacent to his property, initially refuses to sanction the marriage until several town locals, including the parish priest, conspire to trick him into believing that the wealthy Widow Tillane (Mildred Natwick) wants to marry him, but only if Mary Kate is no longer living in the house.
John Ford and John Wayne conspired to make what is widely regarded as one of their finest films… and it’s not a western.
The Quiet Man is as simple as its title. A man with a dark past (Wayne) returns to his homeland in Ireland to reclaim his birthright, falling in love (with local lass Maureen O’Hara) and encountering ornery locals (namely her brother) along the way.
What’s the big deal? Wayne gets in a minor scuffle (billed on the DVD box as ‘the longest brawl ever filmed’ — it sure doesn’t look like it). Wayne smooches O’Hara in the rain, getting his shirt all wet. The film is shot in some atrocious color format that makes it look colorized, even though it isn’t.
I suspect most fans are drawn to the love story, with Wayne in a rare lovey-dovey role. Sure, he’s in that ‘longest brawl ever,’ but that consists of a couple of sucker punches followed by some time at the bar. The bulk of the story is endless mush in thatched huts and, well, more bars. And as for that dark past? He’s a retired boxer who killed a guy in the ring. Well boo hoo.
To be sure, The Quiet Man has aged poorly, and not even Ford’s Best Director Oscar can salvage a tepid romance that takes over two hours to get to its point. That point is a screed against violence (pretty much invalidating both of the Johns’ careers), with Wayne’s character refusing to fight the brother, no matter what. But love conquers all, in a cliche-ridden denouement.
Maybe it’s just my jaded generation, but I was expecting a whole lot more from an Oscar winner. Non-violence has been preached much more effectively than in this flick. In the end, this is just another insanely overrated ‘classic’ which no one can remember why was once given such praise. Try watching it again and see for yourself.
DVD includes commentary from O’Hara, a documentary about Ireland, and remastered audio and video.