Directed by John Ford
US, 129 minutes
Starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald
The Quiet Man, the story of an ex-boxer retiring to his birthplace in Ireland, had been a John Ford pet project for nearly fifteen years before he got to make it and the resulting film is one of his best.
The film is a strange mix of comedy, romance and drama, although it is very heavy on the comedic side. How Green Was My Valley (1941) was a tale that hit close to Ford’s personal history, but it leaned heavy on the dramatic, serious side. The Quiet Man, a film that was even closer to Ford, could even just be defined strictly as a comedy. The typical Ford-style humor is all over the place and taken to an extreme. You could even say that it might just be a little much, especially with a running time of 129 minutes. The brawl at the end is hilarious, but how many shots of people placing bets on who wins can the audience take?
Romance is this film’s strong point, though. Ford knew just how long to hold a shot to let all the emotions hit the audience and in a scene like that in the rain-drenched cemetery is pure magic. And it all works thanks to the acting. Wayne might not be at his best here (I’ll always think of The Searchers as his best performance), but Maureen O’Hara sure is. She’s a firecracker in this film and anytime she’s on screen you can feel it. O’Hara is amazing here and I can’t understand why she didn’t get at least a nomination for it.
Ford won the Oscar for best director (his record fourth) and Winton C. Hoch and Archie Stout won Best Color Cinematography for their brilliant photography of Ireland. Their work is truly astounding. If anything, their work really shows off the best of the Irish countryside where the film takes place.
Artisan’s DVD release of the film, from 2002, is actually branded a ‘Collector’s Edition DVD’ and actually says that the film has been ‘Digitally Remastered’. I don’t know what they thought that phrase meant, but obviously they didn’t think it meant that they had to actually do anything. The film looks horrific. The three-strip Technicolor is not in proper alignment, meaning that it actually looks like three separate images piled on top of one another, rather than one smooth image. Add to that constant scratches, hairlines and one large blot that shows up about once every ten to fifteen minutes and you have one of the worst presentations of a film I’ve ever seen. I haven’t sat through all of the features squeezed onto the single disc, but they include three video features (a feature on Ireland with O’Hara, a making-of with Leonard Maltin and a retrospective) and text notes.
The Verdict: John Ford fans would definitely enjoy this and I would assume most have seen this. It’s a great film, if a little uneven thanks to the incredibly over-broad comedy. Still, Ford could film a romantic scene like no one else and those in this film are among his best. It’s one of the most entertaining films I’ve ever seen and that alone is what’s most important. We can only hope with the advent of BluRay we might get a new release that presents the beautiful photography the way it was meant to be seen.