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Film / The Quiet Man

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"Well, then. Now. I'll begin at the beginning. A fine soft day in the spring, it was, when the train pulled into Castletown, three hours late as usual, and Himself got off. He didn't have the look of an American tourist at all about him. Not a camera on him; what was worse, not even a fishin' rod!"
Father Peter Lonergan, opening narration

The Quiet Man is a 1952 American romantic comedy film from Republic Pictures, directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Victor McLaglen, Ward Bond, Mildred Natwick, Francis Ford, and Arthur Shields. It was adapted from a short story of the same title by the Irish author Maurice Walsh, first published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1933.

Sometime in the 1920s, a polite, soft-spoken American named Sean Thornton (Wayne) — the "quiet man" of the title — makes his way to the small, quaint Irish village of Innisfree. Thornton has returned to his ancestral home to purchase his father's house, "White o' Mornin'", but in doing so inadvertently rouses the ire of the boorish, hot-tempered local squire "Red" Will Danaher (McLaglen), who has long coveted the property for himself. Further complicating matters is that while journeying into town, Sean catches a glimpse of beautiful, feisty, red-headed Mary Kate Danaher (O'Hara) — Will's sister — and the pair more or less instantly fall in love. Unfortunately, before Sean can even say to Mary Kate, "Hi, how are you? Wanna marry me and live happily ever after?" he first has to get Will's permission (and Mary Kate's dowry, which her brother holds). And Will would much sooner join the Church of Ireland than allow THAT to ever happen.

Hilarity Ensues. No, seriously, it does.

The Quiet Man was well received on its release and has remained one of the more popular romantic comedies in Hollywood history (and a perennial favorite for St. Patrick's Day viewing). The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won two (Best Director and Best Color Cinematography).

Not to be confused with the 2018 videogame of the same name.

This film is associated with the following tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Michaeleen Óge Flynn, who is either drunk or asking for a drink in pretty much every scene.
  • Altar Diplomacy: Ebullient Squire Will Danaher has been itching to woo the widow Sarah Tillane, not for love, but because their land holdings combined would make theirs the largest arable tract in the county.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: On the wedding night, when Mary Kate and Sean Thorton argue over her dowry, it gets to looking like Sean will force himself on Mary Kate. He throws her harshly onto the bed, breaking it, but then storms from the room and leaves her. She breaks down into tears, both over the argument and the lack of ravishing she apparently expected.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The town the movie takes place in is the fictional 'Inisfree'. 'Inis' is an Irish word that means 'isle', which would be the name given to an island settlement. Indeed there is a place called Inisfree in Ireland — which is a lake island.
  • Author Appeal: Director John Ford was a rock-solid American-Irishman, and it showed in almost every movie he made. This movie is practically his love letter to Ireland.
  • Badass Preacher: The Reverend Mr. Playfair is a former lightweight boxer and still follows the sport avidly.
  • Best Her to Bed Her: Mary Kate refuses to consummate her marriage to Sean until he literally drags her off a train and makes her walk five miles home.
  • Big Damn Kiss: When Sean catches Mary Kate cleaning up his newly repurchased home, he grabs her before she can run out, and with the wind and storm blowing outside and into the house, he plants a big kiss on her. It's one of the most-remembered scenes from the movie. Right before she slaps him for the impertinence. And when she does leave, she leans in for a small kiss of her own to show she really didn't mind the big one.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Red Will Danaher; with a jaw of granite and a wicked right punch, and loudly proclaiming himself the "Best Man in Innisfree." Subverted with Thornton, who is a Bruiser but prefers to be a quiet man.
  • Butt-Monkey: Will Danaher is not a popular figure in Innisfree, and comes in for a lot of derogatory commentary throughout the film.
  • Casualty in the Ring: Thornton killed a fellow boxer in a match, hence the reason he refuses to fight Danaher until the final reel.
  • Caught in the Rain: Sean and Mary Kate are caught in Irish ruins by a storm, and have their first close hug.
  • Chromatic Arrangement: For the start of the bonnet auction, Mary Kate is in the middle wearing a blue dress. Either side of her are girls in red and green.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Will kicks Sean in the face right after agreeing to fight by Marquess of Queensbury rules.
  • Confessional: Played with in the movie. Mary Kate goes to see Father Lonergan not in the confessional booth but in a nearby river where the priest enjoys his fishing. Sean at the same time pays a visit on the Protestant minister Playfair who happens to be the only one in town who knows Thornton's troubled past, to confess to him about the troubles in his marriage and what he should do.
  • Cool Old Guy: Dan Tobin, the white-bearded village elder.
  • Crushing Handshake: After Father Lonergan orders Will to shake hands with Sean in the pub, he gives him one of these... and Sean returns it in kind.
    Sean: (through clenched teeth) That's a good grip you have, Danaher. I always hated a flabby handshake myself.
  • Culture Clash: A lot of the conflict stems from Sean not understanding that Ireland's social norms are a lot different from America's. Michaeleen spells it out for him when Sean is confused as to why Mary Kate won't marry him due to her brother's disapproval:
    Michaeleen: This is Ireland, Sean, not America. Without her brother's consent, she couldn't and wouldn't.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: This is how the final fight plays out in the short story, as opposed to the long, drawn-out affair in the movie. The drama is in Sean making up his mind to fight Will. Once he does, Will doesn't stand a chance against a professional boxer. (Although it's worth noting that while the movie fight is long, it's still rather one sided, being downplayed to a Curb Stomp Cushion at best. While perhaps we can assume that Danaher lands some punches off-screen, if only due to how long the whole thing goes on in-universe, on screen the only blows Danaher is shown landing are a couple of sucker punches, usually when Thornton is distracted, not expecting an attack, or in one case, when Thornton is in the middle of helping Danaher out of a river. Aside from that Thornton thoroughly cleans his clock. The drama mostly comes from Danaher having enough of a size advantage and being tough enough to keep getting up despite everything Sean can hit him with, and that he's willing to fight much dirtier than Thornton will.)
  • Curse Cut Short: When Mrs. Playfair gives Sean a plant as a housewarming gift, Sean thanks her but has to visibly interrupt himself several times as he's clearly used to casual profanity.
    Sean: Thank you for the plant, Mrs. Playfair. This is dam– ... dar– ... awfully nice of you.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: The reason Thornton has returned to his family's cottage in Innisfree is because he accidentally killed a fighter in a boxing match. His guilt over that death is what stops him from fighting Danaher throughout most of the movie, and his revulsion that he had killed for prize money is why he refuses to win Mary Kate's dowry from her mean-spirited brother. He gets over it.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Sean Thornton wins over his brother-in-law, Will Danaher, by means of their fight. (Thornton definitely wins, as the Bishop loses his bet.) The fight also made the Widow Tillane admit her feelings for Will; now that he's been humbled, he is able to properly court her.
  • Deliberately Jumping the Gun: The rivalry between Sean Thornton and Will Danaher comes to a head, and the two combatants prepare for a slugfest. Danaher makes a show of raising his arms and announcing to the crowd, "Marquis of Queensbury! Marquis of Queensbury!" meaning that he intends to fight in accordance with the rules of boxing, as set forth by the Marquess of Queensbury. Sean Thornton, wanting to signify the same intention, mimics Danaher's performance. Thornton barely gets his hands down when Danaher wallops him with a boot to the face that sends Thornton reeling.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Will Danaher loathes Sean Thornton just because Widow Tillane sold one of her properties that he coveted to Sean because it's Sean's family's ancestral home.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: A lot of people smoke pipes in this movie, but the leaders of the town — Michaleen Flynn, Father Lonergan, and Rev. Playfair — stand out.
  • Double Entendre: During the wedding party, Will Danaher makes a winding speech leading up to a proposal of the widow, but loses his way and looks for help. His man suggests "without further eloquence", by which is meant "without further ado" — but Danaher proceeds to propose as bluntly as possible, anyway.
  • Dowry Dilemma: Inverted. An argument over a dowry provides the conflict. The husband cares nothing about the dowry that his brother-in-law refuses to pay, but his wife is very upset about her husband not receiving her dowry and is mad at her husband for not demanding it (not for the sake of the money itself, but what it represents). Indeed, the resolution of the movie involves Thornton finally calling out Danaher and demanding the dowry, and him finally paying it - whereupon Sean moves to throw the cash into a stove. Kate opens the door for him, to demonstrate to Sean that it was only ever the principle of the thing.
  • Dragged by the Collar: What Sean does to Mary Kate (for five miles!) when he brings her along for the climactic showdown with her brother.
  • Ear Trumpet: One of the old men of the town uses one.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: "Snuffy", for the Rev. Mr. Playfair.
  • Enemies List: Will Danaher maintains a book of these for anyone who crosses him.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: When asked if she'll put her bonnet in the auction, Mary Kate emphatically declares she will not and clamps it defiantly on her head. The breeze immediately blows it off.
  • Fiery Redhead: Mentioned in-movie about the Trope Codifier herself: "Oh, that red hair of hers is no lie!"
  • Fighting Irish: Thornton and Danaher's fight is both inevitable and highly anticipated by the rest of the town, who all want to join in once it starts.
  • Flirtatious Smack on the Ass: Sean winds his arm back for one, tripping Mary Kate up in the process.
  • From New York to Nowhere
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: The climax of the film has this.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: Happens when Thornton is leaving the Danaher home after Will decides to be an ass and not consent to the wedding.
  • Hollywood Costuming: Subverted. John Ford went to great effort to make sure the costumes were accurate for the time period. Even Mary Kate wearing her hair long is very plausible, because of course not every woman (particularly in a tradition-minded rural Irish Catholic community) would have been sporting a '20s Bob Haircut.
  • Irish Priest: Father Lonergan, and his assistant Father Paul. The trope is downplayed because they are actually in Ireland, and every character save Sean Thornton is Irish.
  • Ironic Echo: "It's only five miles. Just a good stretch of the legs."
  • Leprechaun: Michaleen Óge Flynn. Not really, it's just part of the fun.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: When Danaher and Thornton start their epic donnybrook, a slew of others join in, prompting Og Flynn to fire off warning shots and lay down the ground rules to the fight. They quickly settle on fighting by the Marquess of Queensbury rules, and then Danaher promptly kicks Thornton in the face.
  • Logic Bomb: "He'll regret that to his dying day, if ever he lives that long!"
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Invoked. During the post-wedding celebration, Fr. Paul and some of the other men are playing and singing a jaunty, upbeat little tune on the piano. Even Fr. Lonergan joins in! Only they're playing "The Humor is on me Now", a song about a young girl lamenting her marriage. It makes sense when Mary Kate regrets marrying a "coward". Then it's subverted when they finally and happily move past their troubles together.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": When Sean quietly replies, "That's a lie," to Will's accusation of mal intent toward Mary Kate.
  • The Matchmaker: Michaeleen Óge Flynn, who does it for all the courting couples in the town—apparently he's called a "shaughraun". "No patty fingers. if you please."
  • Meaningful Echo: "Sit down, sit down. That's what chairs are for."
  • Mid-Battle Tea Break: During the fight, Thornton and Danaher end up in a bar where they stop to have a glass of porter and each politely offers to pick up the tab. This soon turns into an argument and they end up fighting again.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Sean's expression during his flashback to the boxing match when he accidentally killed his opponent. The anguished expression he shows — countered by his cornermen, who just stand and stare — is heartbreaking. They may have seen death in the ring before, but "Trooper Thorn" hadn't.
  • My Local: Pat Cohan's Bar.
  • Narrator: Father Lonergan.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Sean planting a kiss on Mary Kate when they first meet gets justified by the narrative informing us she enjoyed it, and she becomes his love interest.
  • Oireland:
    • Every Irish stereotype you could think of is in this film. The love of drinking. The love of fighting. Members of the IRA sitting in the pub plotting their next mischief (relax, they're planning their next pub visit, not any bombing). Belief in both the Church (in Catholic and Protestant varieties) and tales of druids and the Fair Folk. Matchmaking and marriage customs that Americans can't make heads or tails of. Yup, every stereotype an American could think of is in this film— and it is awesome.
    • If not the first Hollywood film to be shot on location in Ireland, it's certainly the first to take advantage of color cinematography to capture on film incredibly vivid landscapes of the Irish countryside. See Scenery Porn, below.
    • The confessional scene between Mary Kate and Father Lonergan was partially spoken in Irish, one of the few Hollywood movies to use the Irish language.
  • Old Maid: Mary Kate is on the verge of becoming one of these if she hasn't already.
  • Pair the Spares: Red Will thinks this will happen, as Reverend Playfair and his wife (and several others) lead him to believe that Willow Tillane will marry him once Sean and Mary Kate are wed. It doesn't.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Sean in the book. Danaher mocks him by calling him Shawneen, which is Irish Gaelic for "Little Sean," and is also a pun on the Irish word "Shoneen," which means "upstart". In the movie he's... well, John Wayne.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The IRA lads. They talk a good deal, but mostly they seem to hang out at the pub and other social gatherings.
  • Police Are Useless: During the final brawl, somebody calls the police station... and the officers place a bet on one of the combatants.
  • Redhead In Green: Mary Kate wears a green dress that splendidly contrasts with her red hair for the beginning of her and Sean's courtship.
  • Romantic Rain: When Sean Thornton and Mary Kate Danaher finally make a mutual decision to accelerate the socially prescribed and glacially slow courtship routine of early-twentieth-century Ireland, they seize their chance to be alone together and escape from their matchmaker-cum-chaperon Michaeleen Og Flynn on a tandem bicycle. They are overtaken by a torrential downpour and take refuge in the ruins of an old stone church, where both of them get soaked and have their first dramatic kiss (whereupon it immediately thunders, a metaphorical indication of "you shouldn't be doing that").
  • Romantic Ride Sharing: While on a chaperoned courting date, Shaun and Mary Kate decide to ditch the chaperone by grabbing a bicycle built for two and riding off.
  • A Round of Drinks for the House: during the big fight scene, the bartender, Thornton and Danaher verbally fight over who's buying the drinks.
  • Scenery Porn: Cinematographers Winton Hoch and Archie Stout deservedly won the Best Color Cinematography Academy Award for this film. The on-location shots were so beautifully done that when one views certain scenes which were clearly filmed on soundstages, the switch is jarring.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Much of the problems between Mary Kate and Sean stem from him not wanting to fight her brother to get her rightful dowry. Due to their trans-Atlantic Culture Clash, he doesn't understand why she's obsessing about the money, and she doesn't understand why he won't fight for her legacy. In the end, Sean does demand the money, and when Danaher finally hands it over, he and Mary Kate promptly toss it into a furnace, starting the fight. Ultimately, it was more about Mary Kate's husband standing up for her and her honor than having the money.
  • Secret-Keeper: Rev. Playfair, with regard to Sean's past as a boxer.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: The less common male example happens when Sean is wearing a silk shirt in the rain.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Possibly the Trope Codifier and it resulted in the stereotype that every Irish person is one.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: More like Kiss Slap Kiss. When Thornton spends his first night in his family cottage he discovers Mary Kate there trying to tidy up the place. He grabs her while she tries to flee and kisses her passionately. She resists a bit, but warms to the embrace, but when they part, she ups and tries to slap him across the face, chewing him out for being too bold. After a brief discussion about what each other might want in a relationship, Mary Kate slips halfway out the door before turning back and giving Thornton a kiss to show she didn't mind their first one.
  • Snarking Thanks: When Thornton and his loutish bully of a brother-in-law finally have the fight the entire county has been anticipating ever since the two first crossed paths, everyone around wants to witness it and/or keep it going. So every time one of the fighters gets knocked down or looks to be unable to continue, a bucket of water is tossed on them to revive them and keep the fight going. It's a Running Gag that Thornton is fine and about to get up on his own every time the overly enthusiastic crowd douses him, causing him to take a second to get over the shock of the cold water and mutter a sarcastic "Thanks" before he gets back to fighting.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: The village men welcome Sean by singing "Wild Colonial Boy." Just as they get to the verse where the song's protagonist robs the local squireen, who should walk in but squire "Red" Will Danaher, who was "robbed" of White o' Mornin' by Sean. It's lampshaded when Fahy, the accordionist, mockingly addresses Will as "squireen".
  • Teeth Flying: Will Danaher does this.
  • Tsundere: Mary Kate through and through. She's extremely hot tempered, but shows her sweet side whenever Sean romances her.
  • Unwanted Assistance: During the big fight between Sean and Danaher, whenever one of them was knocked down a guy would throw a bucket of water in his face, then the crowd would pick him up and throw him back into the fight.
  • The Vicar: The Rev. Mr. Cyril Playfair, who pastors Innisfree's small (Protestant) Church of Ireland congregation.
  • Water Wake Up: Sean and Will keep getting these during the big fight, whether they need them or not.
  • While Rome Burns: One blatantly Englishman older gent sits serenely inside Cohan's Bar reading a newspaper while everyone else in Innisfree is out watching the climactic fight.