BY SHANE CRABTREE
If you recall, prior to last week’s time-leaping detour involving extraterrestrials and prophesies of doom, we spent the day with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly in a Wild West town. There, we experienced fantastic plot sequences, splendid imagery and even a little old-fashioned cowboy shootout. However, we are moving on from the Wild West, but traveling back a little bit in time — back to approximately 1920.
Up to this point, we have journeyed through films shot soley in the United States. This week, however, we will look at an all-American film that was shot in two different countries — one being here in the United States, and the other being good ol’ Ireland.
So, without further ado, I present “The Quiet Man.” Directed by our very own John Ford (Grapes of Wrath ) and starring John Wayne, AKA “The Duke,” the 1952 film was Ford’s pet project — something he had been dreaming of constructing for much of his career. You see, Ford was madly in love with everything Irish. In fact, though born in Maine, Ford was originally christened Sean Aloysius O’Feeney — he was Irish by blood.
Anyway, all fun facts aside, Ford was provided the chance of a lifetime after gathering his longtime acting squad together. Consisting of popular actors and actresses such as Maureen O’Hara, Arthur Shields and Ward Bond, Ford successfully turned a fictional magazine story into an award-winning blockbuster.
“The Quiet Man” tells the tale of Sean Thornton, a bad-tempered prizefighter whose life changes dramatically after accidentally killing his opponent in the boxing ring. Though not charged with murder, Thornton packs his belongings and travels to his parent’s homeland of Ireland, where he outbids a smug Will Danaher, portrayed by Victor McLaglen, for the possession of Thornton’s family estate. In a twist of comic fate, however, Thornton soon falls in love with Danaher’s fiery-tempered sister, Mary Kate. Of course, big brother Danaher dislikes Thornton and proceeds to deny the two lovers a wedding.
Now, this is where the fun begins. Ford spent a large quantity of time studying Irish culture, but he spent just as much time studying popular myths of the culture. That being said, Ford took both realities and myths of the Irish people and blended them to create a film full of fist fighting, temper flaring and pub visiting — characteristics of what we all now consider the Hollywood Irish folk.
Now, to continue the film’s synopsis, Ford used his knowledge of 1920 Ireland (and a little bit of good fun) to recreate the interesting matters that Thornton faces. For example, Thornton mistakes big brother Danaher’s intervention for a brother’s protective instinct, when Danaher was in reality challenging Thornton to a one-on-one boxing match to prove who the biggest, manliest man was. When Thornton does eventually catch on, he intentionally backs away, recalling the unfortunate accident that caused his original relocation. The result is comical, as everyone (including Thornton’s fiancé) assumes Thornton does not consider Mary Kate worthy of a fight.
Aside from the incessant comedy and brawling, “The Quiet Man” is lined with shots of beautiful rural scenery, many of which were taken from Ireland during one Ford’s numerous research runs. The film’s audio does not disappoint either. Victor Young’s soundtrack carries as much fire as the film itself, ebbing and flowing with the traditional Irish flare, all the while interweaving darker, Industrial Age-style tracks, representative of the 1920s.
Needless to say, “The Quiet Man” is a film that is well worth each of its 129 minutes. If you are a fan of old-fashioned, romantic, fisticuff-filled Irish-American comedy, then this is the film for you!