With the name Marion Michael Morrison the man was probably not going to make it in some of the best action movies made but with the stage name of John Wayne the man, known to his friends and family as “Duke” after a family dog, was memorably good many times over.
The Quiet Man, directed and produced by John Ford in 1952 from a 1933 short story of the same name by Maurice Walsh starred the Duke as American ex-boxer Sean Thornton who tragically kills a man in the ring in the USA and seeks peace by returning to live in his parent’s old cottage in the Irish hamlet of Innisfree. Here, as well as meeting some cringe-worthy Irish caricatures he spies Mary Kate Danaher, a flame-haired beauty played by Maureen O’Hara who first plays love-struck like a frightened fawn around Wayne but a spirited and even bolshie young woman around everyone else. Fortunately they have something in common to hate in the form of Danaher’s bullying brother Squire “Red” Will Danaher, a star turn from the burly Victor McLaglen.
A predictable, but no less enjoyable for that, rocky romance ending in marriage ensues, and a much anticipated fight between Wayne and McGlaglen, fuelled by the fact that the old cottage Sean buys for a generous sum is on a piece of land Squire Danaher had hoped to buy for himself far more cheaply, and accusations made by Danaher about Sean’s intentions towards his feisty sister. The fight sequence, which includes time out for some serious drinking and mutual admiration before commencing again is one of the entertaining highlights of the film, along with the horse-race on the beach, a thieving priest poaching fish from a rich man’s stream and falling in with excitement when he catches one and Mary Kate being pulled off a train by her new husband when she tries to run away and dragged several miles back to the homestead, followed by an excited crowd of locals. Feminists should perhaps cover their eyes for the toe-curling scene where, after all this Neanderthal treatment, interrupted by a long pause for the fight, our heroine tells her hubby that she’ll obediently run on ahead and get his supper on the table, for after he’s finished obligingly beating the bejesus out of her brother.
Of course it all ends good-naturedly, with Sean bringing his new-found brawling buddy home to share his supper. And in the garden of the cottage afterwards our Mary Kate bends and whispers something to Sean which makes him smile, and move briskly back inside. Was it that she’d got a barrel of Guinness, or Smethwicks for him, or both? Or was it something to do with making babies? We’ll never know……….
The Quiet Man was released in Blu-ray last November as part of the Eureka Masters of Cinema series, and includes a video essay by John Ford expert and scholar Tag Gallagher, a documentary on the making of the film and optional English subtitles. Also part of the pack is a 44-page booklet which includes profiles of Wayne and Ford, and the full text of the 1933 short story on which the film was based.