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The Quiet Man

The Quiet Man (John Ford, 1952)

I used to watch this film every St. Patrick's Day, and yes, I understand that several people believe it to be a cliched, insulting concept of Ireland and Irish people. Me? Yes, almost every student I ever have asks me if I'm Irish, but no matter what the truth is, I love this film. It's a wonderful St. Paddy's Day flick but it's also an equally-awesome Valentine's Day film. My bottom line is that this is John Wayne's greatest romance, greatest comedy, greatest performance and greatest movie all rolled into one. There are scenes in this film where Wayne seems to be living a spiritual life which is so strong that we cannot see beyond the heartfelt ache in his eyes to yell out to him to try to help him in his seemingly-simple quest to realize his best in the form of the most-perfect future imaginable for him and his woman of choice, Mary Kate (Maureen O'Hara).

I know people who do not realize that this is a comedy, let alone one of the the most-outrageous, laugh-out-loud comedies ever made. The cast is beyond perfection. The way in which Mary Kate's brother (Victor McLaglen) mangles the English language is uproarious. ("He'll regret it to his dying day, if ever he lives that long." "He crept up behind my back to steal her from in front of my nose.") He and Mary Kate have an obvious history and it doesn't take long for that "Quiet, peace-loving" John Wayne to develop one with Squire Red Will Danaher too. The mystery of who the John Wayne character is really works in the context of the film too and shows why he's afraid to fight anybody anymore, at least at full force.

The other supporting characters contribute mightily to the spirit of the film as well as its specifics. Barry Fitzgerald is incredible as the thirsty old man who picks up Sean Thornton from the train station and spends most of the flick by his side. Arthur Shields (Barry Fitzgerald's brother) plays the Protestant vicar who alone knows Sean's secret before the film's climax, and Ward Bond is excellent as the Priest who takes a liking to Sean and helps him get all that he wants. Mildred Natwick is wonderful as the "best man in Innisfree" who cannot wait to see how the titanic battle between Dannaher and Thornton plays out. Victor Young composed one of his most-beautiful musical scores and the luxurious color photography won an Oscar. If you haven't seen this wonderful movie before, you need to set aside some time long before next St. Paddy's Day to just relax and enjoy yourself.

The Quiet Man contains one of my favorite endings of all time. I often wonder though if it was ever actually written down into script form or if John Ford just came up with the idea to film the ending on location at the spur of the moment utilizing the enormous cast. Whatever the truth is, the ending always brings tears and an enormous smile to my face as the bagpipes swell. What does anybody else think about the ending; at least if you understand what I'm talking about? This ending seems almost theatrical in nature in the way it allows the cast something resembling a curtain call at the end.