Set in the 1920s, "The Quiet Man" stars John Wayne as Sean Thornton, an Irish-born American who has travelled to his birthplace of Inisfree to lay claim to his family farm. Although warmly embraced by the denizens of the village, Thornton's outsider status is thrown into relief when the abrasive landowner Squire Will Danahan (Victor McLaglen) objects both to the turnover of the land, and to the handing over of his sister Mary Kate's (Maureen O'Hara) dowry to the man whose community stature now threatens to show up his own. What follows is a confrontation with custom and with the personal past, all before an unforgettable extended brawl sprawing the entire countryside whereupon nothing less hinges than the peace of Inisfree itself.
A John Ford masterpiece
- The Quiet Man review by NP
It's not been helpful for John Ford's legacy that many of his major films - like The Quiet Man - conceal their profound and ambivalent ruminations on tradition and culture and tolerance beneath such seemingly whimsical surfaces: it means that many inattentive modern viewers will come to his films unprepared for their manifold complexities and likely to dismiss them out of hand as little more than quaint and antiquated trifles.
Just one thing that leapt out at me on a first viewing is that the romance between Wayne and O'Hara must be one of the richest and strangest ever put onscreen: they're equal parts lovers, dupes, fighters and tormentors - both strong-willed and myopic yet sympathetic fools who goad and misunderstand and love each other, and can't see past their own cherished ideas to conceive of their partner's full subjectivity, until, blissfully, they finally do, in the movie's magnificent extended climax.