March 11, 2013

Movie Monday: The Quiet Man

I was a little thrilled when I saw that I hadn’t reviewed this week’s feature yet, because it’s one of my Top 5 favorite movies (I still need to do a blog post about that) and I love talking about it!

Sean Thornton (John Wayne) arrives in small Innisfree, Ireland fresh from America and looking for his family homestead. Innisfree is a quaint country village, where everybody knows everything about everyone. The arrival of this tall, handsome American is soon the talk of the town, as well as his goal of reclaiming the family home he’s never seen. This is compounded by the fact that no one can get a straight answer out of him about why he returned. It also doesn’t take long before he discovers town beauty Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara) and aspires to get to know her. However, Innisfree is a village lost in time, and many old fashioned traditions still hold fast, one being courting.

Sean, a modern American, goes along with the formalities of having matchmaker Michaleen Oge Flynn (Barry Fitzgerald) make an official offer of courtship to “the spinster” (so named because she’s in her late 20s and still unmarried) and even having chaperoned outings. But he wears Mary Kate down and gets her to agree to marry him as quickly as possible, in spite of her desire for a traditional courtship. Now the only obstacle left is to get her older brother’s blessing, Squire Danaher (Victor McLaglan). Unfortunately, the Squire hates Sean because they got into an argument on Sean’s first day in town. However, through an elaborate conspiracy involving Sean, Michaleen, Father Lonergan (Ward Bond) and the local protestant minister and his wife, they manipulate the Squire into agreeing.

At the wedding, the Squire learns he’s been duped and refuses to give Mary Kate her dowry as a bride, including her own household furniture and 350 pounds money. Mary Kate is devastated, but Sean doesn’t care. In his mind they’re just things. But to Mary Kate, they are a symbol of her womanhood, and she’s not a proper married woman without them. Not having a career, they are her tangible contribution to the marriage. To be denied the chance to give them to her husband is devastating, especially the money. Clueless, Sean brings Mary Kate to their new home, but Mary Kate insists that without her dowry she’s not a married woman, and she won’t live as one without it. Sean, disgusted with her materialism, agrees to live as roommates until she gets over her old-fashioned ways.

Even though they are madly in love, the clash of Old World and New World is so strong it threatens to destroy their relationship. Neither is willing to compromise. Sean won’t go begging to the Squire for Mary Kate’s money, and Mary Kate won’t release her heart until she has it. Meanwhile, the mystery surrounding Sean’s return to Innisfree grows. It comes to light that Sean has some demons following him back to Ireland, and he needs to deal with those before he can truly start a new life with Mary Kate.

I love this movie for so many reasons. One is the sweet, simple story. There’s a dark undercurrent to it, to be sure, but at the same time it’s also the timeless tale: Can boy and girl defy the odds and be together? It’s a pure romantic comedy, starring John Wayne, no cowboys or soldiers in sight. Just the beautiful backdrop of rural Ireland, shot on location. And Maureen O’Hara, a genuine Irish lass, is in all her redheaded glory in this movie. They really are one of the greatest on-screen couples in history, and “The Quiet Man” is a perfect example of why. They have incredible chemistry and both are strong enough to tear down mountains. There’s so much energy between them and from both of them. You know they saying of the immovable object and the unstoppable force? That’s John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Simply incredible

They are led by the legendary director John Ford, who directed both of them to other great successes. “The Quiet Man” was a personal project for all of them. The studio thought the concept sounded like a dud, especially once you factored in the cost of shooting in Ireland. The only way Ford, Wayne and O’Hara were allowed to make the movie was to agree to make another for the studio, “Rio Grande,” which was (luckily) also a fine film. Rounded out by a stellar cast of Ford favorites, like McLaglan, Bond and Mildred Natwick, every moment is a delight. Not least because of the beautiful, rich technicolor they used to shoot the film. It’s one of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen.

I really love this movie and I am begging you not to miss it. “The Quiet Man” will be on TCM on Sunday, March 17 at 8:30 pm CST.

(btw, I’m sure there are a billion typos in this post but it was kind of a rush job. I know, I know, but it’s been one of those weekends. I’ll blog about it later.)

Honorable Mentions:
The Canterville Ghost (1944) – Monday, March 11, 8:15 am CST
Mrs. Miniver (1942) – Monday, March 11, 7:00 pm CST
Random Harvest (1942) – Monday, March 11, 9:30 pm CST
Jezebel (1938) – Friday, March 15, 10:30 am CSR
Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) – Saturday, March 16, 2:00 pm CST
The Mark of Zorro (1940) – Saturday, March 16, 3:30 pm CST
The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady (1950) – Sunday, March 17, 1:00 pm CST

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