Maureen O'Hara, John Wayne, Ward Bond, and Barry Fitzgerald in The Quiet Man (1952)


(director: John Ford; screenwriters: Frank S. Nugent/based on a story Green Rushes by Maurice Walsh; cinematographer: Winton C. Hoch; editor: Jack Murray; music: Victor Young; cast: John Wayne (Sean Thornton), Maureen O’Hara (Mary Kate Danaher), Barry Fitzgerald (Michaleen Oge Flynn), Ward Bond (Father Peter Lonergan), Victor McLaglen ( Squire ‘Red’ Will Danaher), Mildred Natwick (The Widow Sarah Tillane), Francis Ford (Dan Tobin), Eileen Crowe (Mrs. Elizabeth Playfair), Arthur Shields (Rev. Cyril ‘Snuffy’ Playfair); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: John Ford/Merian C. Cooper; Republic Pictures; 1952)

“Epic romantic comedy that I believe every Irishman must have seen at least once.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s the epic romantic comedy that I believe every Irishman must have seen at least once. It has become in recent times part of the St. Patrick’s day celebration, as it gets a regular American television airing on that date. The legendary John Ford does the directing honors; it’s based on the Saturday Evening Post 1933 short story Green Rushes by Maurice Walsh and penned by Frank S. Nugent. It’s filled with nostalgia and plenty of blarney, which after many viewings has soured my taste for this ethnic treat–a film I bought into as a kid but has now become too familiar. It was lushly filmed on location in Ireland.

The film is set in the 1920s. American exile Sean Thornton (John Wayne), the quiet man, a former boxer with a dark secret, arrives in his birthplace of Innisfree to buy the cottage he was born in from the widow Tillane (Mildred Natwick). This upsets wealthy farmer Squire ‘Red’ Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen), who had his eye on the property and resents that the Yank bought it. To make matters worse between the rivals, Sean falls for Will’s fiery red-headed sister Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara). Local custom says the brother must give consent to the marriage.

The heart of the story has Sean tame his love interest and get into a classic marathon brawl with the brutish Will, where the entire village turns out and divides up sides in their betting. Some of local Irish types depicted are the pragmatic priest (Ward Bond) who would prefer to fish than pray and the elfish cabbie (Barry Fitzgerald), he’s the colorful matchmaker who conspires to trick Will into accepting the marriage.

It’s a lively broad comedy and the actors, all from Ford’s stock company he used in his Westerns, are fun to watch. It’s interesting to note that Ford was unable to get the major Hollywood studios to financially back his labor of love, an Irish “Taming of the Shrew” tale, so he was forced to turn to Republic Pictures, known for their B-films and low-budget westerns. The bargain called for him to make in 1950 the Rio Grande and fulfill a three-picture deal with Republic before he could get them to back the modestly budgeted film he always wanted to make. Ford’s The Quiet Man won an Oscar for Best Director.