Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Oscar Movie Review: "The Quiet Man" (1952)

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Movie"The Quiet Man"
Year Nominated: 1953
Director: John Ford
Rating: NR
Running Time: 2 hours, 9 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

Born in Ireland but raised in America, Sean Thornton (John Wayne) has returned to the town of his birth to buy the house and land he was born on. However, a local man named 'Red' Danaher (Victor McLaglen) has been trying to buy that land for years. When Sean is able to buy it out from under him, Red is not very happy about it. Then, when Sean falls for Red's sister Mary Kate (Maureen O'Hara), it makes their courting almost impossible with such a grudge on Red's shoulders.

1952's "The Quiet Man" is a romantic comedy starring the all-American man's man John Wayne as Irish born/American raised former pro-boxer Sean Thornton, who has a secret he is desperately trying to escape. When you look at John Wayne as a person and hear John Wayne speak, your first natural association is probably not "born in Ireland." Sean has returned to his birth land to buy the childhood home where he was born. This action upsets a local man by the name of 'Red' Danaher, played by Victor McLaglen, who has been trying for years to buy the land Sean wants so sentimentally and desperately. The interactions between Red and Sean are usually kept short since they detest each other, but their chemistry is somehow believable for people who can't stand the site of one another. As soon as Sean gets to his hometown, "The Quiet Man" is content to play on multiple Irish stereotypes for the rest of the film. Sean's love interest, the fiery, often ill tempered redhead named Mary Kate Danaher, played by Maureen O'Hara, is the walking, talking epitome of a stereotypical Irish woman. Initially off-put by Sean, Mary Kate eventually acquiesces to his flirtations and come-ons, but that doesn't mean their relationship begin easily, especially since 'Red,' Mary Kate's brother, refuses to let them be together. In addition to Mary Kate's stereotypical character, the townspeople are all either drinking, drunk, gambling, talking to priests, or fighting. C'mon. The Irish countryside also plays its own character in a way as vast, beautiful, lush green hills are showcased in nearly every scene to make for a beautiful looking film.

As with lots of movies from several decades ago, the misogyny runs deep in "The Quiet Man" as women, specifically Mary Kate in this case, are not free to chose who they date or marry. Mary Kate is beholden to the approval of her brother, who must offer up a dowry to her husband-to-be regardless of love or any other circumstances. How silly, a woman picking her own mate, whodathunk?! The most eyebrow-raising scene of misogyny involves a surprising display of spousal abuse as Sean drags his betrothed 5 miles against her will, all so he can punch her brother. We were literally watching this scene with our jaws dropped. Apparently, this is the only thing Sean can do to make his wife respect him, which is really a horrible message no matter the era in which a film is made. Despite all this (and surprisingly so?), there are some really funny moments throughout the film despite it being absolutely dated. It is also odd that Sean can't take more than two drags off his cigarette before disposing of it on the beautiful Irish country side...we're not kidding about this; it's two drags, then flick! We don't know if this was a subtle running gag or if Wayne was just fond of littering. This movie pulled in a total of seven Academy Award nominations, including best picture, and took home two Oscars, including one for director John Ford. In the end, it's still an enjoyable film and is a reflection of the time in which it took place, even if it offends our modern sensibility. It's always fun to watch John Wayne pretend to be Irish.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 89%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "Hugo"

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