The Quiet Man

John Teresa and I pay a visit to the Emerald Isle.


  1. Anonymous says

    very nice guys. i actually love talking movies with matt because he does appreciate it for the art form it is and he sees and gets what most people miss entirely. you guys are absolutely right, imagine a painting…every single brush stroke is intentional and has a purpose.
    i usually miss these subtle nuances, hence, i love getting matt’s take. i don’t always agree with him, but i do get that directors take every single nuance seriously. it was also fun to read the cultural bit. especially italian vs. irish. fun fun. mcm

  2. notrelatedtoted says

    Very interesting – I’ve seen it three times and missed that subtext completely.

    My question is even more basic – why is it called “The Quiet Man?” John Wayne doesn’t seem all that quiet….

  3. Cubeland Mystic says


    I think this is the original short story upon which the screen play is based. It’s all I could find without digging deeper. The first couple of paragraphs give insight.


    Yes it was fun. I wish we could have explored the Godfather a bit more, but GFIII sucked so bad that I wasn’t sure if he was serious or being playful. One could find a similarity between Coppola and Ford in that they liked to have family and trusted associates on their projects. I know from the Italian side about the importance of family, and likewise from my Irish friends. You kind of define relationships based on who is most likely to rat you out. You can kind of see these tribal themes shaping up in both films. It was just so apparent to me that this is what Ford was getting at. Perhaps I was reading more into it. Are there any Irish on the blog, and what do they think?

  4. Love that flick.

    I love the “morning after the wedding” scene.

    But, I also love the scene where Mary Kate is cooking and serving her brother and his workers. She is so unappreciated. I just die when she yells, “Clean it up or there will be a fine wake in this house tonight.”

    Thinking of her acting (and to think she was like 4 weeks post partem during shooting,) O’ Hara was just perfect.

  5. Anonymous says

    Maurice Walsh’s “The Quiet Man first appeared in the February 11, 1933, issue of The Saturday Evening Post. It tells the story of Shawn Kelvin, the ex-boxer who returns to his native Kerry at the age of 35, falls in love with and marries Ellen O’Grady, and ends up fighting her harsh blohard brother. I believe the IRA played a very small sub-plot part. It was more about how Ellen O’Grady could not love a man who won’t stand up for himself. Also for Ford, it was a tale of his own irish heritage and neoptisim in choice of cast. Ford cast his two brothers and two sisters; Maureen O’Hara’s two brothers; John Wayne’s four children; Barry Fitzgerald’s brother; and Wayne’s makeup man played the stationmaster.

    Ford would get crushes on his actresses. Maureen was one. That rain-drenched scene with Wayne was more about a Ford/O’Hara fixation.

    Ford was a complicated man.

  6. Matthew Lickona says

    I have no doubt that Ford was a complicated man, but it was Wayne who got the better of that rain-kiss from a “camera loves it” perspective – the shirt he was wearing looked like so much cellophane.

    And while you no doubt no more about the source material than I, the film makes it much more a case of Wayne not being willing to stand up for his wife’s sense of tradition and inheritance, rather than himself. It’s not his honor that’s insulted; it’s hers. He’s downright puzzled, because he doesn’t get why she seems so fixated about money and things. Which leads me to believe John Teresa’s account – that it was about Irish longing for what belonged to them – the sense of “having their own things about them.” Directors are famous for making source material their own – just look at what Kubrick did with The Shining…

  7. Anonymous says

    Ah, film history…

    Ford demanded an unusual high number of takes for that rain soaked scene, as he told his actors to make their kisses more passionate, their embrace tighter. Wayne was quoted to say that “Ford just had me do all the things he wanted to do himself”.
    Remember, Wayne is an actor, Ford was the director. If Ford did not say it, you did not act it. Ford was not only Director, but also General. No, it was Ford who got the better of that rain-kiss!

    Ford had been working on the film adaptation for many years before principal photography began. Ford and Richard Llewellyn, along with Frank Nugent, added a rich back story to supplement the original story.

    During filming in Cong, Ireland, Ford had his room next to O’Hara’s. Ford’s feelings for O’Hara were an open secret among the cast and crew.

    So, take it as you will, but your “take” on it, is your own.

  8. Matthew Lickona says

    I’m happy to grant that you know more about it than I do about it. Ford may well have had the best of it; I’m just responding to what I saw onscreen.

  9. Matthew Lickona says

    Oh, and thanks, all. Glad you enjoyed it!

  10. Cubeland Mystic says

    Nepotism is all part of the game. That I understand from the proclivities and remnants of “Italian” culture. (Technically one cannot say Italian in this context. Since Italians get all regional at this point, and the political designation becomes meaningless.)

    We are Americans with infused recollections of cultures we’ve not experienced first hand. Even so, I cannot deny that I have some of these cultural proclivities. It sticks. It depends how you were raised, and how prominent it was in your home. In my case it was probably a 6 out of 10.

    I understand Ford’s need for nepotism. I guess in the United States it has such a seedy connotation, but in my upbringing trusted friends and family are far more valuable than, exceptional potential traitors.

    This is one of the reasons I took the direction I did with the discussion. I recognize tribalism from my side of the Catholic Ghetto. You don’t talk about serious things in front of outsiders. A hidden Gun is a damn serious thing.

    The Godfather I & II were serious films, but the little things have meaning like when Vito brought his wife a pear, and she called it a pearl. I haven’t seen that movie in over a decade yet I remember because it is culturally significant. You have to understand, you can spend all day at table just discussing the very essence of pearness, and which regions have the best pears down to the rows and the very tree that has the platonicly perfect pear. Certain things are germane to Italy, and carry over the whole country. Once everyone got here, regional differences begin to blur. I don’t want to split hairs, but I am not Sicilian. So I don’t really see the films as part of my experience, yet I can get a great deal of subtlety from them. Life influencing art at that point. I see the same thing in this film regardless of Ford’s character, and his feelings for O’Hara.

    I just finished reading Walsh’s story at the link above, and there is no IRA in there. The link above was the only printing I can find, so I am hopeful it is the correct version. And if it is the actual story the screenplay is only a lose adaptation.

    A person creates art. It takes on a life of its own. Ford’s parents were from Ireland. Ford was the general and he chose what went in the film. He may have got the better of the rain kiss, but it was done in a graveyard of a ruined Catholic church. The wind blew as they were about to kiss, she crossed herself, and said a prayer. The rain started, he covered her, and then she finally kissed him very passionately and lovingly. His reaction was troubled, and almost confused a bit. It was a very moving scene regardless of the lust that may have been bouncing around in Ford’s mind. Ford’s lust is actually irrelevant to the film. I only saw Mary Kate’s self donation at that point, not porno.

    What is relevant are the emotions that the film evokes in the viewer. True, my interpretation is my own, but there are layers of meaning in each scene that draw the viewer more deeply into the experience, so they can recollect their own similar experiences or at least empathize with the characters. Since it was art, I interpreted the visuals according to the feelings and thoughts that came to mind.

    Graves and Crosses are not erotic.

  11. All,

    I believe nepotism is either an overrated vice or underrated virtue.

    My father used to work for Lehigh Valley Railroad. It was a family railroad, and therefore hired its own. My father’s father (my namesake) had a job with LVRR and so did, therefore, my father. He rued the day they were subsumed into the conglom known as “Conrail” – that was the day nepotism – actually it was a nice blend of that and meritocracy – gave up the ghost to an industry which no longer looked at men as a family but as mere anonymous cogs and sprockets. It was also the day he knew his sons would have to fend for themselves as those very same cogs and sprockets in the newly created thing called “the job market”…

    At any rate, my own addition to the Quiet Man is just this: I am always amazed at how it managed to maintain the deeper sense of what it means to be Irish the whole time it could also play up (and even poke fun at) what my father would call the “Professional Irishism” which everyone dons, say, around St. Patrick’s Day – the faux culture which has nothing to do with the Saint (at any rate, a Romanized Brit.) or with the original land. For a good flavor of what Irish culture really IS, if anyone’s interested, J. M. Synge (“The Playboy of the Western World,” etc.) wrote a little book called “The Aran Islands.” It is a hoot and a joy (a warning, though, to those without patience – you will find it completely boring, but, oh well, say la la…)- and with all kinds of fun, Synge shows in clear, stark impressions what we love (the selfless charm) and hate (the selfish charm) about the Irish and he shows it at its stripped down best (and worst) among the primitive roots that cling to that bald outcrop of rock in the western sea near the mouth of the Galway known as the Aran Islands.


  12. Anonymous says

    if we were sitting around having this discussion over a glass of wine, i would be curious, anon, to understand what ford’s having a thing for maureen changed about
    his intent in his art. i am sure many directors have
    “things” for their leading ladies. i am not sure how this necessitate their movie being about that. because he could project himself into the kiss, what does that mean? to my mind, it just makes it all the more real. he is able to make it believable, because he feels it. maybe this is what you are saying. but, that wouldn’t have to mean it’s “about” him. we (i use that term loosely because i am not an artist), put our feelings, our realities, into our art. doesn’t that make it all the more compelling? mcm

  13. Anonymous says

    One could argue whether Ford was making art, or what he always referred to as “I make movies”. He was rude often to “fans” and “critics” who kept asking him about what his inspirations were for scenes, or if he was an artist. Ford wanted to add more subplots, some more political, but this would have drifted heavely from the romantic idyll that finally emerged.

    Ford was thrilled to make this film and on location in Ireland. The Quiet Man’s plot is mostly about the way in which the town exerts social control of sex, how the community shares in Thornton’s problems, and his joy in his recociliation with his wife. The film is very wise about the shifting nature of power in a sexual relationship, which makes it something more than an airy fairy tale. It’s a fable about two people who cannot live together until they have learned humility and how to submit to each other.

  14. Anonymous says

    I guess I’m a dislocated native; I hate this movie.

  15. Cubeland Mystic says

    Too many anons. Is this the same anon or two different anons?

    Irish Anon, I totally get it, and understand. I even empathize a bit since I have very close family from Italy. I also have very close friends from Ireland. I am sure they would hate the movie.

    Forget that it is not realistic and idealized. Just think about the story. Does the story have a message in the greater Catholic context?

  16. Cubeland Mystic says

    Previous Anon,

    I am not sure that I agree with the last sentence. I don’t think that it is about learning to live together. I don’t think it is about the dowry because in the short story and the film he with her help tosses the money into the furnace.

    I think that the film is saying that there is something more to being Irish than just being born with an Irish surname. There is something that survived wars, famines, oppression, and hopefully materialism. That something is faith, family, and tradition. Those things are worth fighting and dying for.

    As far as Ford’s evasiveness about how to describe his craft, that’s not really too unusual.

  17. Anonymous says

    too anon-of-movie-history-knowledge, i think your summation of the movie concise and absolutely correct. i still give matt and john T. kudos for pointing out the craft. i think it’s there to develop feelings in the audience as subtly as possible-like, as John pointed out, the scene being in the graveyard. i think that’s the craft of movie making. every detail comes together. maybe that is reading too much in? maybe we are giving ford too much credit in your mind? but somehow it gelled in the end, whether everything was intentional or not. i guess that’s the magic of the craft-how it all gels in the end and you get a great movie, or not. mcm (i am not an anonymous, i am just not techno-sauvy enough to figure out how to sign in as mcm help me out here John T.)

  18. Anonymous says

    Yes, the film was not well received in Ireland when it was released.

    Many books have been written about Ford, maybe more than any other director. So there are many first and second hand stories available.

    Ford was a craftsman. He was certain as to what he wanted. He often kept his cast and crew on edge. He could ask for a cast call at 8:45am and begin shooting at 9:00am, if you weren’t ready, you heard about it!

    It’s great that all of you take something different way from this film. Films are for the masses. It moves you, or not. It informs, or not, It influences, or not. It entertains, or not. But, it is.

  19. Matthew Lickona says

    “The Quiet Man’s plot is mostly about the way in which the town exerts social control of sex, how the community shares in Thornton’s problems, and his joy in his recociliation with his wife… It’s a fable about two people who cannot live together until they have learned humility and how to submit to each other.”

    That’s a lot of things for a film to be about. If the film was really about that many things, I doubt it would have become a classic. Granted, it involves those things, but I’d say what it’s about is captured right at the outset: a man returning. To his homeland, to his tradition, and eventually, to himself.

  20. Cubeland Mystic says


    What does the story say to the modern Catholic living in the United States in 2008?

    Is it about theology of the body? Is it about the culture of death imposing a false reality on our Catholicness?

    Am I clear? up to my eyeballs in work right now.

  21. Anonymous says

    cube, give me awhile to mull that one over….mcm

  22. Anonymous says

    Ok. Matthew and Ernie, it’s ok to disagree with my “opinions’. As I said earlier, we can all take something away from a film, book, etc. But you can’t rewrite history. Did you know Wayne directed some of the scenes? Did you know that Ford had a very low opinion of the Irish priests?

    My opinion is but my own, but I do have many years of film history under my belt.

    Anon FilmHistoryBuff

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