Here's what inevitably happens. I share a movie with a friend or a loved one. Something I think they'll really like but probably have not seen. They love it, and I tell them "That was one of my Dad's favorite movies."

So here are some of those movies, my memories and thoughts, and what made them my Dad's favorites.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Despite relatively recent trends in brutal violence, abrasive editing, martial arts, wire work, special makeup effects, and CGI, and with all due respect to Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, to James Bond and Jason Bourne, to Scorsese and Tarantino, for my money the best fight scene ever is still in “The Quiet Man.” I know my Dad would agree.

Why is it the best? It’s exciting. It’s funny. But mostly because it’s the emotional and dramatic payoff everything else in this charming, warm, romantic, amusing film has built toward. Aristotle would call it inevitable.

Suffering from the guilt of a terrible, tragic secret, former boxer Sean Thornton (John Wayne) has retired to Ireland, the land of his ancestors, where he meets and woos and weds Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara). Sean’s chief protagonist is Squire 'Red' Will Danaher (Victor McLaglan), brother to Mary Kate, who spends the entire movie harassing and insulting Thornton, spoiling for a fight, refusing his sister her dowry, and generally being a prideful, vindictive pain. The dowry becomes a bone of contention for the newly married couple. For Sean, the money is unimportant, not worth begging for, and not worth fighting for. For Mary Kate, it’s her birth right and a symbol of her independence. Eventually, Mary Kate leaves Sean. He tracks her down and literally drags her cross-country to witness his confrontation with her brother, gathering a crowd of expectant spectators along the way. So anticipated has this epic altercation been that people come from far and wide to witness the proceedings. It’s such a prolonged battle that it even has its own intermission.

“The Quiet Man” was quite a departure for its director, John Ford, its star, John Wayne, and its studio, Republic Pictures. Since the war Ford had specialized nearly exclusively in Westerns. Wayne had fully developed his heroic persona playing cowboys and military men. Republic specialized in low budget B-Westerns, and gambled on what other studios dismissed as “an Irish story,” but not until Ford and Wayne and O’Hara had to agree to produce a western for the studio. The result was “Rio Grande.” Republic would receive their first and only Academy Award nomination for Best Picture for ‘The Quiet Man.”

“The Quiet Man” was Wayne’s favorite film. Winton C. Hoch, a frequent Ford collaborator, won the Academy Award for his beautifully photography of the lush Irish countryside. The script by Frank Nugent provided Ford with whimsical, finely drawn characters, emotional and romantic depth, and warm humor. The cast of Hollywood veterans and indigenous stage actors from Ireland’s Abbey Theatre are a joy. And the sexual politics of the film are surprisingly complex for a film of this era, especially when compared to a similar situational treatment in “McLintock” eleven years later.

© 2009 Edward Bowen

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© 2009 Edward Bowen