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USA 1952
Directed by
John Ford
129 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars

The Quiet Man

After the success of his US 7th Cavalry trilogy that ended with Rio Grande in 1950, John Ford packed up his stars from that picture, John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, along with the rest of his repertory company, and his regular writer Frank S. Nugent, and headed to Ireland for this god-awful tosh about an American ex-boxer, Sean Thornton (Wayne), who, fleeing a troubled past, returns to his native Ireland and falls for barefoot Irish colleen  Mary Kate Danaher (O’Hara) much to the chagrin of her brawny older brother (Victor McLaglen).

Amazingly, Ford won the Best Director Oscar for a film that starts with a laborious introduction of Wayne’s Thornton to a gaggle of quaint Irish types and proceeds to milk picturesque Irish village life for all it is worth  (Winton C. Hoch's richly saturated cinematography also won an Oscar) in what is supposedly a romantic comedy but that is neither romantic nor comedic.

As if the open ranges of the Wild West had diluted Ford’s propensity for pious sentimentalities and the joys of patriachalism the smaller scale of his canvas here exaggerates them to jaw-droppingly ill effect, the near-Disneyish faux naiveté of the love story being undercut with a bizarre current of machismo as Sean conquers Mary Kate,  progressing from an earth-moving first pash to kicking down the door of the nuptial chamber on their wedding night to dragging her across the fields (welcome to the wife-beating Fifties!) where he and her brother indulge in a boozy bout of fisticuffs before becoming best pals. Yes, The Duke sure knows what men and women wanted, at least in 1952.

The performances are awful with Wayne seeming not to realize that he is not in Fort Apache anymore and Sullivan at 32 embarrassingly trying to play18 whilst Ford regulars such as Ward Bond, Mildred Natwick and McLaglen simply do and in McLaglen's case, overdo, their familiar schtick. Only Barry Fitzgerald (who with O'Hara had been in Ford's 1941 Welsh family saga How Green Was My Valley) as Michaleen Oge Flynn lends a note of genuine charm to what is otherwise an egregiously contrived and badly dated affair.




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