Blu-Ray Review: The Quiet Man

Director: John Ford
Screenplay: Frank S. Nugent
Based on a Story by: Maurice Walsh
Starring: John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Victor McLaglen
Country: USA
Running Time: 129 min
Year: 1952
BBFC Certificate: U


John Ford is best known as a director of westerns, but none of the films that picked him up his impressive four best director Oscars are from the genre. Stagecoach got him a nomination, but it was The Informer, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley and The Quiet Man that snagged him those golden statuettes. I haven’t seen nearly enough Ford films as it is (he’s directed an awful lot of well respected titles), but I’ve been working my way through the classics in my quest to watch more westerns and now find myself venturing into his non-westerns with this Masters of Cinema Blu-Ray release of 1952’s The Quiet Man.

The plot has a little bit of The Taming of the Shrew to it. Sean Thornton (John Wayne) travels from American to rural Ireland, where he was originally born. He’s an ex-boxer (a fact only hinted at in the first half of the film) and is looking to reclaim his family home and settle down. He quickly sets his eye on Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara) as a wife to settle down with, only she won’t fall into his arms so easily (which is where The Taming of the Shrew comes into it). She’s strong-willed and stubborn which doesn’t help, but the biggest thing that stands in Sean’s way is her brother and guardian Squire ‘Red’ Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen). According to strict Irish tradition, any man wanting to marry or even court Mary Kate must have Red’s permission and unfortunately Sean ruined his chances by buying up land (his aforementioned home) that Red desperately wanted. Thus begins a series of challenges faced by Sean, who refuses to resort to violence to resolve the problem, due to a tragedy in the ring during his old life back in America. This seeming unwillingness to ‘man up’ brings shame on Sean’s name, which further threatens his relationship with Mary Kate.

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2014 TCM Film Festival: How Green Was My Valley

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[Spoiler content: I describe a couple of comical vignettes in relative detail, and I mention vaguely the trajectory of Angharad’s plot thread.]

This timeslot was easily the toughest choice of the festival for me, with John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley in the El Capitan with Maureen O’Hara in attendance vying with a specially curated program of John and Faith Hubley animated shorts introduced by Leonard Maltin (among other tempting things, but those were the most tempting for me). Neither one is likely to be repeatable. I’m not usually a star-watcher and I rarely choose TCM Fest screenings based on the guests, but I finally decided that I’d regret missing the chance to see a 94-year-old Maureen O’Hara more and headed over to the El Capitan line super-early, because the buzz going around was that this was going to be a HOT ticket. And that was certainly true – I got there an hour early, and I was somewhere around number 260 in the passholder’s line. Every seat was full in the 1000-seat theatre.

tff-Maureen

The love for O’Hara as soon as she came on the stage was just about overwhelming. I was up in the balcony, far from the stage, but looking at the press photos later, she looks pretty great at 94, eh? Robert Osborne started off asking her about John Ford; her response: “I thought I was here to talk about me.” Fabulous, and with a gorgeous Irish lilt. After that, Robert’s planned list of questions fell by the wayside as Maureen clearly had her thoughts on the end of life, the comfort of her faith, and the importance of joy, especially in later life. It wasn’t necessarily what you’d expect of a guest appearance, but the audience didn’t care. I felt privileged to have seen her at all, and heard what she wanted to talk about, and in a way it was refreshing to have that instead of yet another response to “what was it like to work with [insert director and actor].” It also set the mood well for the pleasures of How Green Was My Valley, which deals with the nostalgia, joy, simple pleasures, and hope of a Welsh coal mining community in the face of everyday danger and death.

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