John Wayne is one of the most famous and beloved actors of all time. He had an acting style that was uniquely his own. While he is best known for his westerns and war films, my favorite John Wayne film, The Quiet Man, falls in neither category. John Wayne plays boxer Sean Thornton returning to his Irish boyhood home from America after retiring from the ring and from fighting altogether after one of his opponents dies from the blows he suffered in their fight. His desire is to return to the simple life he knew as a boy and the town he grew up in. It doesn’t take long before he finds love with Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’hara), but it is this love that is going to make his life far from simple.
The Quiet Man was called a “silly Irish story,” and was turned down by the heads of several different studios. Republic finally agreed to make the film only if the two stars, John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara and director John Ford, would agree to make a power house western for them afterwards. They agreed and that film, Rio Grande, became one of the most famous classic westerns. The Quiet Man ,however, remains the only Republic Film to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award.
If The Quiet Man were a book I think it would be called a romantic gentle read. It is a true romance with almost no action scenes unless you count the famous fight between Sean Thornton (John Wayne) and Mary Kate’s bother Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen), which is not as much an action scene as it is a typical “good-ol’-boys” brawl. The scenery is lush and colorful. It is a feast for the eyes. There is an element of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew in the film as well. While Mary Kate Danaher is obviously taken with former boxer Sean Thornton, she is not going to just fall into his arms either. He is going to have to earn her respect. I think The Quiet Man would have been “The date movie of the year” to see when it came out. It remains one of my favorites and one of my wife’s as well. If you are someone who is only familiar with John Wayne and director John Ford for their westerns then this film will be an interesting and enjoyable change. If you have avoided John Wayne’s films because you don’t like westerns or war films, this will be a good film to discover his power as an actor at the height of his success and to enjoy a good romantic story.