I am shocked to see that, for the second year running, Turner Classic Movies is not showing "The Quiet Man" on St. Patrick's Day. In fact, I searched a couple of online TV listings and can't find it showing anywhere this week. What's wrong?
"The Quiet Man" is one of my all-time favorites. John Ford, one of America's most legendary movie directors, was of Irish descent, and when he first read a short story about an American moving back to the Irish home town he'd last seen as a child Ford knew he had to turn it into a movie. The Hollywood studio heads, however, were not so enthusiastic, and turned Ford down for a number of years. Finally, Ford came to Republic Pictures -- the cheapest little lot in town, mainly known for black-and-white serials and B pictures -- with a proposal to make this big, Technicolor romance, including location shooting in Ireland.
Herbert Yates, the head of Republic, agreed to make the movie, on one condition. Ford wanted the movie to star John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. Yates liked that idea, and told Ford he would only agree to a two-picture deal, with Ford, Wayne and O'Hara also making a Western. Yates, too, was a little skeptical about Ford's Irish movie, but figured that whatever he lost on "The Quiet Man" he'd make up on "Rio Grande." (Wayne had done some of his early westerns at Republic, and so the studio knew him well.) As it happened, both movies were successful, and "The Quiet Man" was the only Republic product ever nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
It's a wonderful film. Sean Thornton (Wayne) is an American boxer who quits, while at the top of his profession, for reasons that don't become clear until later. As we meet him in the movie, he's trying to find his way to Innisfree, the Irish town where he was born but which he barely remembers. Once there, he immediately falls in love with the fiery, red-headed Mary Kate Danaher (O'Hara). But he has to work his way through unfamiliar Irish customs and mores. After he and Mary Kate are married, she expects him to stand up to her blustery, resentful brother (Victor McLaglen) and demand payment of the dowry. Thornton, a successful man for whom the money means little, doesn't want to get into a fistfight with a mismatched amateur, and doesn't realize the cultural significance of the dowry to Mary Kate and the neighbors. That leads to trouble in the young marriage.
It's a great, great movie. Maureen O'Hara is one of the few leading ladies with the strength of personality to make a memorable screen couple with The Duke, and she's well-used here. The movie's climactic fight scene is a donnybrook of epic proportions, punctuated with occasional comic relief.
If you can find "The Quiet Man" on Netflix or at the video store, it's certainly a fun way to spend St. Paddy's Day. I won't be home Saturday night, but I'll probably watch my DVD either Friday or Sunday.