Blarney and bliss, mixed in equal proportions. John Wayne plays an American boxer who returns to the Emerald Isle, his native land. What he finds there is a fiery prospective spouse (Maureen O'Hara) and a country greener than any Ireland seen before or since--it's no surprise The Quiet Man
won an Oscar for cinematography. It also won an Oscar for John Ford's direction, his fourth such award. The film was a deeply personal project for Ford (whose birth name was Sean Aloysius O'Fearna), and he lavished all of his affection for the Irish landscape and Irish people on this film. He also stages perhaps the greatest donnybrook in the history of movies, an epic fistfight between Wayne and the truculent Victor McLaglen--that's Ford's brother, Francis, as the elderly man on his deathbed who miraculously revives when he hears word of the dustup. Barry Fitzgerald, the original Irish elf, gets the movie's biggest laugh when he walks into the newlyweds' bedroom the morning after their wedding and spots a broken bed. The look on his face says everything. The Quiet Man
isn't the real Ireland but as a delicious never-never land of Ford's imagination, it will do very nicely. --Robert Horton
One of John Ford's most cherished projects, The Quiet Man
took years to finance but became one of his greatest box-office successes and an enduringly beloved classic. John Wayne stars as Sean Thornton, a retired American boxing champion trying to put tragedy behind him by returning to Innisfree, the bucolic Irish village of his birth. He purchases his birthplace from its current owner, enraging the wealthy and bellicose Red Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen), who had designs on the property. On arriving at his cottage, Thornton finds it being swept out by Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O'Hara), a redheaded vision from whom he steals a not completely unwelcome kiss. After engaging in a subterfuge involving a horse race, some of the locals manage to get the disgruntled Red Will to allow his sister to be courted by the American. But the courtship ritual of the village is only the first of many local practices that the bewildered Thornton must endure if he is to have Mary Kate. Wayne gives a surprisingly nuanced performance as the fish out of water, and he is perfectly matched with the radiantly rambunctious O'Hara. The rest of the cast is splendid as well, and the lush color photography garnered an Academy Award for Winston Hoch. John Ford also won an Oscar for his directing, and it's impossible not to be charmed by the artistry with which he weaves his rollicking, robust tale.