[Time out now from our Lenten movie festival for a St. Patrick’s Day Distraction.] In our decidedly un-Irish family we do make one concession to the Emerald Isle. St. Patrick’s Day is nothing if not a fine excuse for watching one of the greatest movies ever: The Quiet Man (1952).
It is firmly imbedded as one of our family favorites and is on my personal top-ten list of best movies. As with all our favorites, we know the dialogue by heart and many of the lines have become part of our family lexicon:
“Sir!… Sir!… Here’s a good stick, to beat the lovely lady.”
“Now I want you all to cheer like Protestants!”
And, of course, whenever we refer to our own antique furniture, pewter, plates and dishes, we like to call them our “Tings”, pronounced as Maureen O’Hara does, without the benefit of an “h”.
Last year when daughter #1 and I visited daughter #2 in Ireland where she was studying at Trinity College in Dublin, we took a day tour up through County Mayo and Connemara, stopping in the tiny village of Cong. Why, you ask? Because Cong is where The Quiet Man was filmed! It is a lovely little place and still a wee bit of a tourist attraction.
Anyway, this is a movie not to be missed. It stars, of course, Ford’s “repertory company” which included John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Victor McLaglen, Barry Fitzgerald and his brother Arthur Shields, Ward Bond, Mildred Natwick, and a host of Irish character actors. John Ford won his fourth Directing Oscar and Winton C. Hoch won his third Oscar for color cinematography. What a team they were! The film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Writing, and several other Oscars.
As usual, John Wayne was overlooked. But just try to imagine this movie without him if you will! He is terrific as always, throwing his hat hither and yon, dragging Maureen over hill and dale, riding both a stallion and a tandem bicycle (at different times but in the same hell-bent-for-leather fashion), fighting the squire through the town and into the river. He was the most graceful and amazingly physical actor ever, and he could still manage to convey deep feelings without uttering a word.
Recently I saw another Irish-themed movie with a similar plot. The Field (1990), written and directed by Jim Sheridan, and starring Richard Harris, John Hurt, Sean Bean, and Tom Berenger, tells a similar story of another “rich” Irish-American who comes to a small village in the old country and attempts to buy a field. However, The Field is the nightmare flip-side of The Quiet Man. Ignorance, fear, suspicion and chronic abuse take center stage. Ultimately the rich foreigner is beaten to death for his trouble. The newer movie does somehow ring truer than Ford’s fairy tale, but I’ll take the fairy tale any day.