Netflix has become an excellent medium for watching TV shows these days, though I don’t avail myself of it as often as I’d like. I do find myself increasingly keeping an eye on the older films they’ve got on tap, however. Every now and then they’ll pick up a classic gem or an underrated flick that may have flown under your radar, as it can be a bit difficult to watch older movies these days.
The other day I finally got around to watching the Quiet Man, which had been stagnating on My List for a span, and I was impressed. Mild spoilers follow.
For a John Wayne movie, this one is a little subdued. Our hero plays a tough guy, as always, but this time he hasn’t rolled into town to knock some heads, nor is he packing heat and defending the defenseless. Instead he plays a well-to-do American of Irish descent, who’s come home to reclaim his ancestral property and put down roots in the quiet Emerald countryside.
Shortly after arriving, Sean Thornton (Wayne) begins charming the locals with his Yankee wit and quick smile. One man, Will Danaher, is not impressed; he’s been trying to buy the Thornton land for quite some time and resents this American moving in on it. He puts Thornton down in his grudge book.
As luck would have it, at Church Thornton runs into Mary Kate Danaher, the antagonist’s sister, and is immediately smitten by her. He starts putting the moves on her in typical baller fashion. She and some members of the community are somewhat taken aback by his brazen ways, but warm to his Americanism. Some drama ensues between Thorton and MK’s brother, but eventually some of Thorton’s friends conspire to trick Danaher into giving the newcomer permission to court his sister.
They court, and we continue to see the differences between the traditional Irish ways and the comparatively fast-paced American dating customs. Thornton pushes the envelope here and there when he can, of course. Eventually the two are married, but their wedding reception ends on a bitter note as MK’s brother finds out that he was tricked into giving away his sister’s hand. He makes a scene and refuses to give up hi sister’s dowry, including all the furniture passed on from their mother.
An angry Thornton tells Mary Kate that they don’t need her brother’s stinkin’ money or things, but she is inconsolable, telling him that it’s not just about the money. They’re her things; they’re due to her and they’re part of her. She has a fit and tells her new husband that they’re not truly married until her dowry is in hand. She retreats to the bedroom, leaving him alone.
He suffers mostly in silence throughout this, but snaps when he hears Mary Kate bolting the bedroom door. In probably the most tense scene of the film, he kicks the portal in appears as if he’s about to forcibly consummate their marriage. He grabs her and exclaims:
“There’ll be no locks or bolts between us, Mary Kate… except those in your own mercenary little heart!”
He then throws her down onto the bed, pauses, and exits. He spends the night and those following it in his sleeping bag. As I was watching this scene (and others that followed), I could just image the SJWs watching this and the froth they’d work themselves into.
As the days progress, the two struggle with their relationship. Thornton tries to be kind to his wife, and they do find moments of joy, but the matter of her dowry is always just below the surface, ready to bubble up. And sometimes it does.
Mary Kate, overcome with guilt at the way she’s treating her husband but also unable to let go of her anger and shame, turns to her priest for counsel. Enraged at what he hears, he berates her for failing to consummate the marriage and making her husband sleep in a bag.
Meanwhile, Thornton goes to talk to his friend Rev. Playfair, of the Church of Ireland. They talk about the American’s secret past as a boxer and his oath never to fight again, and whether he can stand up and fight once more for the love of his wife. Thornton wonders whether his wife loves him enough, if she’d force him to fight for her money. Playfair tries to reconcile the two cultures, telling Thornton that it means more to her than her husband understands.
Eventually things come to a head. After a pleasant night together, Thornton wakes up to find Mary Kate gone. His friend is waiting outside for him, and informs him that he’s just given Mrs. Thornton a ride to the train station, where she’s to depart for Dublin. She says she cannot live there with the shame of loving a coward.
Thornton races to the station, where the train is super late because the conductors have been brawling (oh those Irish). In the climax of the film, he grabs her off the train car and drags her back home, 5 miles on foot. The villagers follow along, delighted by the spectacle. An old woman offers Thornton a stick “to beat the lovely lady.” Clearly everyone knows Mary Kate has crossed a line.
Thornton confronts Danaher and throws Mary Kate as his feet, saying that if he doesn’t get the dowry, the deal’s off and he can have his sister back. Everyone is shocked.
This shames her brother enough that he takes out his wallet and spitefully pays up to save face. Mary Kate, in tears, opens up a nearby stove and Thornton tosses the money inside.
Her honor having been satisfied, she declares that she’s returning home to prepare dinner. She knows where she belongs!!
While Thornton is watching her go in amazed disbelief, Mary Kate’s brother sucker punches him. It’s on. The two fight through the town, stop for a beer, continue their fight, and finally stagger home together for supper, having buried the hatchet.
The Quiet Man is a drama, but it’s a drama for men. You’ve got feelz, but you’ve also got violence, gratuitous drinking, and sexy 1950’s red-headed Maureen O’Hara. Oh yore, when women were women and men were men. John Wayne and John Ford knew how to straddle that line between being a badass and a domestic abuser, I’ll tell you.
I also quite enjoyed the religion on display. There was no shying away from the important roles the Christian ministers played in the community and how central they were to the townfolk.
If you’ve not seen this one, I definitely recommend you check it out. If you have seen it, well…go watch it again before it’s gone!