The Quiet Man (1952)
Review by Dindrane

Based on the story by Maurice Welsh
Directed by John Ford
Starring Maureen O'Hara, John Wayne, and Barry Fitzgerald


Rating: NR, suitable for all ages

Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

My Advice: Buy it.

Filmed in Ireland, The Quiet Man tells the story of Sean Thornton (Wayne), an American former boxer. After accidentally killing an opponent, Thornton decides to return to the town in Ireland where he was born. It does not take long for Thornton to fall in love with a local beauty, Mary Kate (O'Hara), but her brother just happens to be the town bully... Will Thornton be able to keep his oath to himself and never fight again? And if not, will Mary Kate's brother be the first victim or will it be the spunky Mary Kate herself?

While the historical value of The Quiet Man might be debatable, the charm of the plot cannot be denied. Scenes of violence and oppression representing the true state of the Irish during the Troubles were cut, in order to support the overall sunny mood of a film that is essentially a romance. The costuming and set design, however, distinctly support the "foreign" flavor of the film, underscoring the cultural issues with which Thornton must come to terms as he repatriates himself.

The Quiet Man won an Oscar for Best Director, and the production values show. The cinematography is amazing, taking full advantage of the scenery provided by the country, as well as of the star quality of both O'Hara and Wayne. The horse race scene alone demonstrates why good movies take advantage of the fact that film is a visual medium. The cinematographer, Winton Hoch, was prepared for the variable lighting conditions and weather issues in Ireland, and it shows. The scenes don't just leap from the screen, they charge full tilt.

The characters are similarly delightful. While the characters are fully-realized and well-rounded at the early stages of the film, they continue to grow and change as the story progresses. Thornton's internal struggles as he attempts to put his violent tendencies behind him lend depth to the film without bogging it down in angst or misery. O'Hara as the town spitfire is just darling, but never too sweet or too shrewish. Her luminous but fresh loveliness is perfect for an Irish beauty, and it isn't hard to see at all why Thornton (and the viewers) are supposed to love her.

The features are decent for a film that's a half a century old, but I must confess--even with that in mind--I found them a bit slim. The making-of documentary is all too brief, not answering many questions a fan of cinema might have, especially given the importance of the two acting leads. The disc's liner notes are almost as useful in understanding the creation of this film. A film as significant to a major actor's body of work deserves a more comprehensive treatment, one would think. For example, what was it like to film the longest brawl scene in film history? Why such a long fight scene at all? How did making a romantic comedy affect the rest of Wayne's career? How was Maureen O'Hara chosen as the female lead and who else was considered for both roles? What about the tensions of making a short story into a novella and then into a film? Of the major players, only O'Hara is still with us, so perhaps they can be forgiven for ah well.

This film is a natural for John Wayne fans, but even those viewers who never warmed to his delivery or Westerns in general will be delighted by this film and its genuine good humour and heart. Cheerful without being sickening and adventurous without requiring done-to-death car chases, The Quiet Man is a refreshing change from Hollywood's current angst-prone family dramas. Take a trip to the Emerald Isle and give it a chance.

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