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Re-Examining John Wayne and ‘The Quiet Man’

nullWhen I was growing up, St. Patrick’s Day was heralded by an
annual airing of The Quiet Man on New
York television. This year, Irish-Americans and film buffs alike have a new way
to celebrate with Olive Films’ release of an excellent feature-length
documentary called Dreaming the Quiet Man.
Bearing a 2012 copyright, produced by the Irish Film Board and directed by Sé
Merry Doyle, this entertaining film, narrated by Gabriel Byrne, follows three
streams: the tourist industry that has grown up around the village of Cong,
where the movie was shot in 1951, the making of the film (including rare color
home footage and the memories of some locals who participated), and a look at
the life and career of John Ford, for whom this marked a return to his ancestral
homeland. We even meet members of his Irish family; one of his cousins recalls
being recruited to translate some of the movie’s dialogue into Gaelic.

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Among the interviewees are leading lady Maureen O’Hara,
whose memories are sharp and candid, the always-eloquent Martin Scorsese, John
Wayne’s daughter Aissa, contemporary Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan, and Ford
scholars Peter Bogdanovich and Joseph McBride, who draw on their lifelong
interest in the director. Rutgers University professor William Dowling offers a
perceptive and passionate interpretation of the film.

I will admit
that I approached this documentary with some skepticism, having produced a half-hour
video piece about the movie some twenty years ago. To my pleasant surprise, I
not only enjoyed it but learned things I didn’t know before. In particular, the
film deepened my understanding of the Irish traditions embodied in the story,
written by Maurice Walsh and adapted for the screen by Frank S. Nugent. (Stephen
Walsh is credited with writing this documentary, and I can’t help wonder if
he’s any relation to Maurice.) The production team left no stone unturned, not
only showing us the beauty of the Irish countryside where the movie was shot
but traveling to Monument Valley and Ford’s home town of Portland, Maine.

The footage of
fans visiting Cong and its Quiet Man-related
tourist attractions is quite amusing; one especially funny shopkeeper says she
feels like movie fans come there to have the locals tell them lies they want to
hear.

It’s also
worth watching the bonus material on the disc, which includes vignettes and
sidebars that didn’t make it into the documentary itself: you’ll learn how a
local seamstress created authentic clothing for the stars and meet a horseman
who helped in the filming of the race scene by the ocean.

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On a personal
note, I find it ironic that when my partner Mark Lamberti, my wife Alice and I
produced our documentary for Republic Pictures Home Video in 1992 we were able
to interview John Wayne’s son Michael and daughter Toni, who were on location
with their father in Ireland, and Andrew McLaglen, who served as second
assistant director with Ford. The one person we couldn’t get was Maureen
O’Hara. All of our interviewees have passed away, and with them their
first-hand experiences of making The
Quiet Man;
the one key survivor who’s here to tell the tale is Miss O’Hara.

Do yourself a
favor and check out Dreaming The Quiet
Man
from Olive Films.

11 comments

  1. DAVID JOHNSON says:

    The unknown player in the photograph looks like Martin Thornton, who I think was a stand in for Victor McLaglen. I don’t think it’s either Joe Mellotte or Sean (Bill?) Maguire, who were stand ins for John Wayne. Not surprisingly, they all shared similar physical attributes! Cong does make for a wonderful visit.Shame about Maltin’s Film Guide no longer printing – I’ve been buying copies for nearly 40 years. This almost certainly means that the best print guide is the Radio Times annual edition here in England.

  2. CC says:

    youtu.be/8-n_J0JxgLA

  3. CC says:

    From Maureen O’Hara’s Memoirs:
    "There is only one fitting way to end our discussion of The Quiet Man, and that’s with a whisper. No matter what part of the world I’m in, the question I am always asked is: "What did you whisper into John Wayne’s ear at the end of The Quiet Man? It was John Ford’s idea; it was the ending he wanted. I was told by Mr. Ford exactly what I was to say. At first I refused. I said, "No, I can’t. I can’t say that to Duke." But Mr. Ford wanted a very shocked reaction from Duke, and he said, "I’m telling you, you are to say it." I had no choice, and so I agreed, but with a catch: "I’ll say it on one condition — that it is never ever repeated or revealed to anyone." So we made a deal. After the scene was over, we told Duke about our agreement and the three of us made a pact. There are those who claim that they were told and know what I said. They don’t and are lying. John Ford took it to his grave –so did Duke– and the answer will die with me. Curiosity about the whisper has become a great part of the Quiet Man legend. I have no doubt that as long as the film endures, so will the speculation. The Quiet Man meant so much to John Ford, John Wayne, and myself. I know it was their favorite picture too. It bonded us as artists and friends in a way that happens only but once in a career. That little piece of The Quiet Man belongs to just us, and so I hope you’ll understand as I answer:

    I’ll never tell"

  4. Brian Doherty says:

    Does anyone know what Maureen O’Hara whispered to John Wayne at end of the Quiet Man

  5. Ruckweiler says:

    And now Herself is gone.

  6. Sé Merry Doyle says:

    Dear Leonard, when I set about making ‘Dreaming the Quiet Man’ I was very aware of your film and it inspired me to keep going. It took five years but finally it landed. It took another few years before Olive Film took up distribution in America but it was worth the wait. The reviews have been excellent but I have to say that getting a positive review from you meant an awful lot. I hope all is well in your world and that somewhere along the road we may meet for a Quiet moment. Thanks Sé Merry Doyle

  7. Douglas Poole says:

    There’s no better than John Wayne! Maureen O’Hara is perfect! What a simple joy to watch this film!

  8. June Parker Beck says:

    Just wanted to thank you for your wonderful review of "Dreaming the Quiet Man." Sé Merry Doyle and his Dublin Loopline Films did a very nice job of revisiting this historic production and sharing their findings from an Irish viewpoint. I met Sé and his crew in Los Angeles when I went there for an interview. Great people! As you say in your review I think we continue to keep learning new and interesting things about the making of this film and the advent of the Internet and Social Network has a lot to do with that.

    I also want to thank you for your kindness to me over the years as I built a website paying tribute to Maureen O’Hara . Your knowledge of the movie industry has benefited so many people. I remember in the 1990s when I bought your documentary on the making of The Quiet Man that accompanied the 40th Anniversary VHS Collector’s Edition of TQM. It was so helpful in all I wrote on Maureen’s official site about "The Quiet Man."

    I am also thrilled to finally meet you and your lovely wife last Nov. 8th when I attended the Governors Awards of the Academy, as part of Maureen O’Hara’s entourage when she received her Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. It was quite an exciting night.

    So glad I have found your blog on this site. I’ll encourage Maureen’s Facebook fans to visit often.

  9. Nat Segaloff says:

    When I read your hed I, too, wondered how this compared with your splendid documentary (which I bought on the "Quiet Man" laserdisc) so I’m happy this has your blessing. My first viewing of "The Quiet Man" was a privately held IB Tech print and, to say the least, the experience was breathtaking. I watch this film every time I have to set up a new monitor or video player. Impetuous — Homeric — indeed!

  10. Jim Beaver says:

    Hey, Leonard! I spent a week in Cong last fall, examining every single Quiet Man site I could find (even the ruins of White o’ Morn, a couple dozen miles from Cong), and I found the village a magnificently peaceful and beautiful place, a joy far in excess of its merits as a mecca for movie fans. If you haven’t been there, you so very much owe yourself a trip. All the best.

  11. Harrison Engle says:

    I’ve always loved The Quiet Man and greatly enjoyed your documentary about the making of the film in the 90s, with scenes of you by a warm – probably peat burning – fireplace. I will look for this film, but also hope that your doc is still around.
    Best, Harrison

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