bill bodkin looks at a lost John Wayne classic in time for St. Patty’s…
Release Date: 1952
First Saw It: My Dad turned it on one Saint Patrick’s Day as TBS (before the station became ‘Very Funny’) used to air the film every March 17th. I’d say the first time we watched it was 1992.
What Drew Me To See It: At the time, John Wayne movies were a regular thing in my house. AMC, TNT and TBS aired films of The Duke every week and with my Dad being a big Western fan, and in charge of the remote, whenever JW was on, we watched.
Starring: John Wayne, Mauren O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond, Victor McLaglen
Director: John Ford
Why is This ‘Lost?’: Despite it being a commercial success in 1952 and it’s frequent St. Patty’s airings on TV, The Quiet Man isn’t exactly the first film that comes to mind when you think back on the careers of John Wayne or John Ford. It’s not even the first film that comes to mind when you think of the numerous films the two worked on together either. And for the Wayne and Ford, despite the film’s critical and commercial success, this was and still is a huge departure for them cinematically. A romantic comedy set in Ireland is a long ways away from the dusty boots and six-shooters they were used too filming.
The Best Performance: Well Pilgrim, how could it not be The Duke? John Wayne was terrific in this movie and showed he was more than a punch-you-in-the-mouth, hard nosed cowboy or soldier. He shows his comedic side as well as a great deal of tough guy aw shucks tenderness. But he’ll still punch you in the mouth, which any guy can respect. And any lady for that matter too.
The Supporting Scene-Stealer: As good as the boisterous Irish and American supporting cast was, no one was better than the resplendent Maureen O’Hara. The firey redhead was Wayne’s perfect foil here (and in many other films). Her tenacious spirit, her undeniable beauty and her comedic timing work perfectly. And for The Quiet Man to work, you needed a tough and tenacious woman who wasn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with someone considered the epitome of masculine toughness but still maintain an air of femininity and class. And outside of Katherine Hepburn, no one but O’Hara, during this time period could’ve done it.
The Moment to Remember: One of the great brawls in cinema history (still pales in comparison to They Live! but I digress) occurs between Wayne and Victor McLaglen. McLaglen, a regular in many Wayne films, was just as physically imposing as Wayne, so watching these two ‘duke’ it out was awesome to behold. And this fight is epic…I mean it’s long.
The Memorable Quote:
Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara): Could you use a little water in your whiskey?
Michaleen Flynn (Barry Fitzgerald): When I drink whiskey, I drink whiskey; and when I drink water, I drink water.
Why I Can’t Stop Watching It: Ask anyone of Irish descent, who’s family still has strong feelings towards their Emerald Isle heritage, and they’ll tell you this film as vital to their Saint Patrick’s Day celebration as corned beef and beer. It’s in my DNA to love this film because of my own Irish heritage and my love of it. It’s also the film that inspired me to don the classic Irish scully cap, which you can see me wearing at anytime of the year. The Quiet Man is also one of the many films I loved and shared with my late, great father. It was a tradition for us and it’s one I’ll gladly share with my wee ones when they come around.