Epic romantic comedy, but so thick on the blarney, that it helps to be Irish, at least to a degree. Otherwise, it may be hard to get a grasp on the turbulent traditions, fiesty sentimentality and burning coldness that exists in the Irish soul. That understood, cook a corned beef and invite
the neighbors over.
THE QUIET MAN is Ford's sentimental journey into the past of his ancestral Ireland, a journey enacted by Ford's onscreen alter ego, John Wayne. The story begins in the 1920s, when American Sean Thornton (Wayne), a quiet fellow but a former boxer with a brutal past, arrives in Innisfree. He is met
by the elfin, capricious Michaeleen Flynn (Fitzgerald), the village cabman. Sean is off to a little cottage--his birthplace, White O'Mornin'--which he has bought from a local widow (Natwick). En route, he sees in the distance a beautiful, red-haired woman framed by trees, a soft wind rippling her
skirts and hair. She seems a vision of a lost world, and Wayne asks Flynn, "Is that real?" (Quips the cabbie, "Only a mirage brought on by your terrible thirst!") Wayne is really asking about the scene itself, rather than than the lovely woman gracing it, and recalls his dead mother as she
described Innisfree to him as a child. Arriving at his cottage, he tells Flynn, "I'm Sean Thornton and I was born in that little cottage. I'm home and home I'm going to stay." It's almost a declaration of war against the perils of the present in favor of the safety of the past.
In buying his land, Sean has alienated the richest, toughest man in the area, Red Will Danaher (McLaglen), who is doubly peeved over his being a "dirty Yank". Though his land looks fertile, Sean turns up nothing but rocks when he tries to plow it for planting. He battles the present for the
illusion of the past at every turn, and is even upbraided for his romanticism when he proudly shows off his cottage to a neighbor, who inspects its thatched roof and immaculately painted walls, remarking that "It looks the way all Irish cottages should, and seldom do. And only an American would
think of painting it emerald green." One day, Sean enters his cottage to find his neighbor Mary Kate (O'Hara) cleaning up for him, a gesture suggesting more than communal fellowship. Just as she is about to flee, Sean attempts to kiss her. She gives him a stiff-armed slap, but, before running off,
encourages him with a kiss of her own. Later, Sean meets Red Will, Mary Kate's brutish brother, in the local pub. When Sean extends his hand, the powerful Irishman squeezes it with all his might and the ex-boxer responds with his own pressure, until both are wincing in pain.
Witnessing this first confrontation between the two giants is a group of locals--most of whom hate Red Will and side with Sean. Sean has already befriended Father Lonergan (Bond), though he goes out of his way to say nothing of his past. But the local Protestant clergyman (Shields) knows Sean's
dark secret and tells him so privately. The minister, a onetime amateur boxer, has kept a scrapbook about boxers the world over and knows that "Trooper Thorn" retired after accidentally killing a man in the ring. Discredited, Sean moved with his prize money to Ireland to find the peace, happiness,
and beauty of his boyhood. A memorable fight with Red Will, though, awaits the "quiet man".
A love story that packs a fearsome punch, THE QUIET MAN is a passionate, full-blooded film. Ford constructs the picture carefully, and lavishes the tale with some of the most visually extraordinary scenes ever filmed. Some of these, such as the idealistic vision of O'Hara in the glen herding her
sheep, are presented in muted, diffused tones that suggest an ethereal world--into which Wayne has barged. THE QUIET MAN is Ford's symbolic homecoming, in which he shapes his own longing and memories in the form of living, full-blooded characters, who are at the same time representative types.
Wayne is Ford's youth; O'Hara his great love, as well as all the women of Ireland; McLaglen, the sentimental bully; Bond, the priest who would rather fish than pray, though fishing is also a form of prayer; Shields, the patient outsider; Natwick, the typical Irish widow; Fitzgerald, the local
conscience and historian (he also delivers the film's best line after seeing the broken wedding bed: "Impetuous! Homeric!"). The wonderful performances by Ford's stock company in these roles help make THE QUIET MAN an utterly moving and fascinating portrait of rural life in Ireland.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Epic romantic comedy, but so thick on the blarney, that it helps to be Irish, at least to a degree. Otherwise, it may be hard to get a grasp on the turbulent traditions, fiesty sentimentality and burning coldness that exists in the Irish soul. That underst… (more)