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The Quiet Man (1952)

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Sean arrives at White O'Morn to discover a fire in the fireplace and Mary Kate Danaher tidying the cottage for his arrival.  Startled at being discovered, she attempts to escape into the windy Irish night, but Sean catches her, pulls her back, and kisses her, whereupon she tries to slap him.  (O'Hara cracked a bone in her wrist shooting this scene, when the force of her blow was blocked by Wayne's hand, raised in self-defense.)

Sean settles in and soon calls upon Micheleen to put on his official black coat and inquire of his neighbor Mary Kate whether a match between the two of them would be desirable to her.  Concerned he thinks her a pauper, she inventories the contents of her "fortune" to Micheleen who is much more impressed with her bottle of whiskey.  Nevertheless, Mary Kate renders her verdict on Sean's proposal: "You can tell him from me... that I go for it."

Enchanted with the prospect of ending her spinsterhood, Mary Kate sits down at her spinet where she sings a chorus of "The Young May Moon".  O'Hara did her own singing for her two brief solos in the film ("The Young May Moon" and "The Isle of Inisfree"), and though her untrained voice slides a bit while locating the proper notes, it is more than adequate and fits the unpolished, provincial nature of her character.  For his part, Barry Fitzgerald plays these scenes with O'Hara in an advanced state of intoxication, since Micheleen spent most of the previous night at the pub talking "treason" with a few of his comrades in the IRA (the Irish Republican Army, a paramilitary organization which sought the end of British rule in Ireland).  Receiving co-star billing alongside Wayne and O'Hara, Fitzgerald comes as close as anyone to stealing the picture from the rest of its marvelous cast, and these scenes in which, slurred and staggering, he performs his duties as matchmaker are the highlight of his performance in the film.

Unfortunately for Mary Kate, Will Danaher will hear nothing of Sean Thornton's proposal to his sister, and in keeping with local custom, "without her brother's permission, she couldn't and wouldn't" marry Sean.  Denied, they both suffer privately.  In the scene at left, Mary Kate watches Sean from an upstairs window as he leaves her house in disgust after a failed attempt to secure her hand in marriage.

O'Hara gives the finest performance of her career as Mary Kate Danaher, displaying a wide range of emotions which are alternately restrained or not, depending on the situation.  Although one of Hollywood's most popular leading ladies of the 1940s and early 1950s, she never received an Oscar nomination for any of her performances, and the Academy's failure to recognize her work in THE QUIET MAN was the most glaring omission of her film career.  Beyond her own work in THE QUIET MAN, O'Hara also contributes significantly to Wayne's performance in their scenes together.  Though Winton C. Hoch's Technicolor cinematography naturally favors O'Hara and her red hair, she doesn't upstage Wayne with her reactions or otherwise distract the audience from the subtleties of his performance which is at once, tormented, temperate, and effectual.  O'Hara even turns her face away from the camera during a few pivotal scenes with him.  Unfortunately, while her selflessness strengthened the film as a whole, it also probably cost her an Oscar nomination.

Luckily for Sean and Mary Kate, Will Danaher is not a popular character around Inisfree, and the locals are sympathetic to the lovers' plight.  With the help of Rev. and Mrs. Playfair, Fr. Lonergan and Micheleen organize a small conspiracy and work to convince Will that his own amorous troubles with Mrs. Tillane would be solved if he married off Mary Kate.  "What woman would come into a house with another woman in it?"

The conspirators further connive to convince Will that, denied Mary Kate, Sean has now turned his attentions to Mrs. Tillane.  On the day of the Inisfree Races, Mary Kate and Mrs. Tillane both hang their bonnets at the finish line, where Sean, winning the race, chooses Mrs. Tillane's bonnet, giving her the honor of presenting him with the Inisfree Cup.  Mary Kate (at left, flanked by Wayne's four children at the race) feels more than a little slighted.

Supporting Players: Father Paul (played by O'Hara's younger brother James Lilburn) prepares for the big race while his mother worries but wishes him luck.  Mae Marsh, who plays Fr. Paul's mother, was a former silent screen star who gave memorable performances in such classics as D.W. Griffith's THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915) and INTOLERANCE (1916).  Later, she became a favored member of Ford's fabled "stock company" of character actors who frequently appeared in his films.

Memorable Quotations:

  • "I've come home and home I'm gonna stay." --Sean Thornton.
  • "If you passed the pub as fast as you pass the chapel, you'd be better off, you little squint." --Mary Kate Danaher.
  • "He's a nice, quiet, peace-lovin' man come home to Ireland to forget his troubles." --Micheleen Flynn.
  • "Sean Thornton, the men of Inisfree bid you welcome home." --Dan Tobin.
  • "He'll regret it 'til his dying day, if ever he lives that long." --Will Danaher.
  • "When I drink whiskey, I drink whiskey, and when I drink water, I drink water." --Micheleen Flynn.
  • "If you say three, mister, you'll never hear the man count ten." --Sean Thornton.
  • "Two women in the house, and one of them a red head..." --Micheleen Flynn.
  • Click here "Is this a courtin' or a donnybrook?  Have the good manners not to hit the man until he's your husband and entitled to hit you back." --Micheleen Flynn (a .WAV file).
  • "Come a-runnin'!  I'm no woman to be honked at and come a-runnin'!" --Mary Kate Danaher.

After his bad day at the races, Will Danaher has a change of heart and decides to permit Sean to court Mary Kate -- "but under the usual conditions."  Micheleen accepts the full responsibility for assuring the proprieties are adhered to at all times.  They set off down the road on opposite sides of Micheleen's jaunting car, but manage to steal a bicycle and escape from him, securing a few hours alone.

After spending the afternoon together romping about the countryside, Sean and Mary Kate find themselves caught in a downpour in a local graveyard -- one of the few exterior scenes in the film which was not shot on location in Ireland, but rather on a soundstage at Republic Pictures in Hollywood.  They establish their mutual affections and resolve to expedite the courting.  (Note O'Hara turning away from the camera in the shot at left.)

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Last updated: March 10, 2011.
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