Pop Culture Blind Spots: The Quiet Man

Just last week I wrote this post about things Irish-Americans will understand, but the truth is I’ve been missing a big part of the typical experience. Friends, I’ve never seen The Quiet Man. Pop Culture Blind Spots are all about getting acquainted with the classics and cult favorites that we’ve somehow missed out on, and it doesn’t get much more classic than John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. It’s still Irish-American Heritage Month, and this pop culture blind spot is FULL of Ireland, America (John Wayne, hello!) and a healthy heaping of heritage.

  • What I know about The Quiet Man: John Wayne is an American (I hope, because he’s not great with accents) who goes to Ireland and falls in love with Maureen O’Hara before dragging her across a meadow on Christmas. Maybe he’s trying to be a cowboy in Ireland? Maybe Ireland doesn’t need cowboys. But maybe Maureen O’Hara needs a cowboy.

Based on this poster: a lot’s going on.

  • Also, I’ve been present when The Quiet Man was on – my dad has it on TV at some point every Christmas – but I’ve never actually watched it.
  • Huge props to whomever first put credits AFTER the movie instead of before. Like most old movies, this one begins with a solid few minutes of people’s names.
  • They segregate Irish cast members under a heading The Irish Players and for some reason that cracks me up.
  • John Wayne meets a priest whose whole purpose is to give exposition about him and his parents.
  • Okay, so Sean (John Wayne) was born in Ireland, and now is returning, but he was in America long enough to sound like John Wayne, the voice that comes out of the eagle on a $1 bill.
  • Wow, Ireland has a normal amount of trees. Background: I have relatives who maintain that “the English” cut all the trees down in Ireland and that’s why there … aren’t trees there? First of all, sounds fake. Second of all, if Ireland had a climate where trees grow, wouldn’t trees eventually come back? According to the cinematography of The Quiet Man, yes.
  • No lie, this is filmed in BEAUTIFUL technicolor.
  • This lush countryside with the sheep, collie, and Maureen O’Hara in it is 100% how Americans stereotype Ireland. Just need a thatched cottage (forthcoming, I’m assuming) and a leprechaun (probably not) or family with many children (maybe).

  • Thatched roofs appear by the 10-minute mark, don’t worry.
  • Maureen O’Hara has my natural hair type, and I’d really like those poofy 40s hairdos to come back.

Lit’rally my stupid hair.

  • Speaking of 1940s hairdos, when is this set? Is it mid-century, or is it, like, 1880? So far the modes of transportation are bicycle, horse, and train, so that doesn’t help. I got up to let my dog in during the first minute of the movie so this may have been addressed already. Widow Tillane is showing kind of a lot of ankle if it’s set in olden days, no offense.
  • Wow, everyone sure is wrapped in a lot of tweed in this movie.
  • Mr. Danaher (Victor McLaglen) tries to have an Irish accent some of the time (not all of the time).
  • Mary Kate (Maureen O’Hara) and the other Danahers live in a spacious cottage with a hutch full of fancy china, so at least they aren’t going for the thing where everyone in Ireland is poor.
  • Is this a drinking game? Cool, drink for family with many kids (Mary Kate has an indeterminate number of brothers, unless they’re just house guests).
  • Unrelated: a teen walking a pit bull just let it poop in my front lawn then walked away. SO RUDE, wow. I was going to go bang on my window but I was afraid of spite poop from now til eternity.
  • Drink for people singing folk songs in a pub.
  • I like how there’s a stock character of Old Ethnic White Man With Long Beard who looks completely the same for every ethnicity. Whether you’re Russian, Irish, German or French, eventually you’ll look like this guy:

Far left.

  • Drink again for people singing folk songs in a pub.
  • I don’t know when the title is going to make sense, but as of a half hour in, John Wayne talks a normal amount at a regular volume.
  • OK, I’ll bite. I’ve heard in/een added to girl names before to make it a nickname, but never guy names. Michaeleen, Seanin… I guess it’s a thing! That’s fun.

Sean: So you can talk.

Mary Kate: Yes I can, I will, and I do.

…Maybe he’s only quiet compared to her then.

  • Now Sean and Mary Kate are in love because they looked at each other at mass, which reminds me, I’ve been meaning to go to mass more.
  • A (Protestant) Reverend and his wife visit Sean. They’re mostly made of tweed.
  • Over 60 years later, The Quiet Man still looks like a product of Ireland’s travel bureau.
  • My favorite thing about Mary Kate is she’s always wearing a blanket cape like me in the winter watching Netflix.
  • Mary Kate will only get married if her property goes with her. Married women could own property in the UK after the 1880s (assuming this is pre-independence?).I’m not sure yet when TQM is set. The costuming and set design are vague and woolen.
  • I had to look it up, because it was driving me crazy. Released in 1952, set in the 1920s. Some of the folksy dresses are probably fine because it’s a rural area, but I think Mary Kate’s hair is a bit anachronistic. Probably because it’s my hair, scalped off of my head and placed on Maureen O’Hara’s.
  • They’re at the races, and nobody started singing “ev’ry duke and earl and peer is here,” so I did.
  • No offense but this isn’t going to be a great jockey:

    I can’t find a photo of him in his racing silks, but trust me, hilarious.

  • “Two women in the house, and one of them a redhead.” File under: should be offended, but that’s actually fair.
  • Man. Everyone is very pissed that Mary Kate (MK, I call her) isn’t putting her bonnet on a pole, which is culturally relevant somehow.
  • Call me crazy, but I’m starting to really like the name Mary Kate. Too Olsen Twins? Maybe it could be short for Mary Katherine. Too Molly Shannon? Just putting it out there.
  • IF there were such a thing as drag racing horses, that’s what happens.
  • Well, I’ve thought Mary Kate’s brother was her dad for the past hour. Let it be known that MK has a giant brother who is approximately 40 years older than her.
  • MK has a “fearful temper” which in the 1920s just meant opinions, sometimes.
  • Sean and MK steal a bicycle built for two after they get engaged, but as far as I’m concerned the only crime they’re committing is being too darn adorable (plus petty theft I suppose).
  • Everyone folk-sings “I’m sorry I never got married” at Sean and MK’s wedding. Fun party.
  • BRB overdubbing this whole wedding scene with Helpless/Satisfied from Hamilton.
  • MK’s Old Brother announces that he’s marrying Widow Whatever-aher at Sean and MK’s reception. Talk about thunder-stealing. Also he didn’t clear it with Widow first, which isn’t great. All of these people are like 2 generations apart and it’s very confusing.
  • Sean flashes back to boxing, punching a guy out, and accidentally killing him. WOAH PLOT TWIST. Genuinely did not say that coming.
  • Saddest moment in the movie: MK says “ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of having my own things about me.” Her lifelong dream was to be allowed to own stuff. What does her old brother care anyway? He’s probably almost dead or about to marry into all that sweet Widow Talooley money or whatever.
  • OH OK. MK is going to go Lysistrata until she gets her dowry.
  • MK gets her furniture, and it looks GREAT. But no money because her brother’s a dick.
  • MK talks Irish to the priest, who is fishing and wearing some tweed, but not like a Protestant amount.
  • How about from now on I just tell you if there’s a pub scene that doesn’t end in singing?
  • Meanwhile in the protestant minister’s house, you can tell that he’s a protestant minister by the wife and the giant globs of silver on the mantle. He and Sean have a tete-a-tete about the deadly boxing max and the Danaher dowry.
  • Not to make too much of the cinematography, but I feel like I should be paying more than my monthly Netflix membership to watch this, it’s so pretty.
  • Basically all of the male minor characters are Alfred P. Doolittle from My Fair Lady.
  • Know whose butts looked good in those saggy woolen pants they used to wear? Nobody’s butts. Not a single butt.
  • OK, help me with this. Sean pulls MK off a train and drags her by the arm through the town. A flock of Irish Players trail behind them. A guy at the pub announces that he’s “walking her back, the whole way.” The crowd grows, and Sean grows increasingly yank-y and rough. MK looses a shoe. She falls, he drags her anyway, then yanks her up and pushes her down a hill. Sean then drags MK by her coat collar. A woman hands Sean “a good stick to beat the lovely lady.”
  • You know how sometimes with old movies, it’s hard to understand how the original audiences found them at all surprising or riveting? I am every bit as befuddled as the 1952 audiences were. WHAT IS GOING ON. WHY CAN’T SHE WALK REGULAR. SINCE WHEN IS SEAN A WIFE-BEATER. WAS THIS COMEDY IN THE ’50s. IS THIS A SCHEME? IS THE WHOLE TOWN IN ON IT, BECAUSE IF NOT THEY ARE VERY VERY CHILL ABOUT ALL OF THIS WIFE-DRAGGING.
  • Here, just watch it actually:

  • Danaher won’t fork over the dowry money. Sean throws MK back at her bro, because no dowry/no wife. Old Brother Danaher throws the money at Sean. He and MK burn it. She was in on this, right? I still think he was unnecessarily rough. MK says she’ll have dinner ready for him, then leaves Sean to beat up her brother.
  • What follows is a ten-minute long fight sequence involving:
    • indiscriminate punches thrown by all of the villagers
    • … in a pile of hay
    • a shot fired by Michaeleen to call attention for the rules of the fight
    • Widow Tooraloora watching through an opera glass
    • Old Brother Danaher landing in a river
    • Bookies
    • A deathbed scene for the Bearded Ethnic White Man, interrupted when he pops up to watch the fight
    • Buckets of water thrown on Danaher
    • A priest rubbing his hands with glee
    • Other buckets of water thrown on everyone else
    • A BREAK FOR A PINT TOGETHER AT THE PUB
    • A sub-fight about who is buying the drinks
    • A door breaking into smithereens, a word I don’t use nearly enough
    • A singalong
    • Sean and Old Brother Danaher showing up, drunk and woozy, for dinner at MK’s on her great furniture she owns.
  • Time passes. A crowd is told to cheer like Protestants, which apparently is the word “hooray!” Old Man Danaher and Widow Talooraeay get married! Sean and MK scamper back to their cottage, married and adorable.
  • Well, it’s official. This movie has nothing to do with Christmas. Or, now that I think about it, a man who’s particularly quiet.

 

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4 thoughts on “Pop Culture Blind Spots: The Quiet Man

  1. Pingback: Palme d’Or Fashion at Cannes 2016 | Cookies + Sangria

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  3. Pingback: Pop Culture Blind Spot: Darby O’Gill And The Little People | Cookies + Sangria

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