Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 17, No. 5. April 15, 1953
I am a sentimental cuss. I have, therefore, a prejudice towards a Chaplin film, a Capra film, a John Ford film or any Dim that displays sincere sentiment. "The Quiet Man" is Ford's latest work. I welcomed it and went along expecting great things.
I was not disappointed. If "The River" was Renoir's Song of Love for the Indian people, "The Quiet Man" is Ford's Song of Love for the Irish people. Ford, himself an Irishman, has at last come among his own people (he has been planning this film for years) and observes them in a manner that is satirical and slightly detached, but nevertheless sympathetic. The Irish at Home with their pubs, lazy green countryside, fiery tempers and while, emerald green cottages.
As a vehicle for this "artist's portrait" of the Irish. Ford uses and alters to suit his own temperament, a Maurice Walsh story of an embittered ring fighter, who travels from America to the land of his birth in order to forget his killing of an opponent. But to quit fighting is not an easy thing because he soon finds another opponent. He wants as his wife an Irish shepherd girl who is just as stubborn and set in her ideas as he is. We have the clash of personalities in the smokeless, quiet atmosphere of the Irish scene.
The clash of Individuals is Ford's main theme. I say this deliberately and with every hope of being contra-dieted. Others will say no it is the clash of one man against a tradition. Ford. I think, would deny this. He has taken pains to show that it is always the individual that is concerned. Ideals and creeds are pushed to the background. The scene is set in a part of Ireland that is free from dirty factories, capitalists and underdogs. There is no talk of the British Empire, no remarks about international wars, racial discrimination, atomic bombs it is true that the Protestant and Roman Catholic creeds are represented, but the village vicar and priest are seen, by Ford, to work and live together in friendly co-operation. As for the business of the courting and marriage of Irish couples, it is clear that it is only the individual Mary Kate who takes it seriously. Micheleen Flynn. the village marraige compere, docs not hesitate to relax some of the courting rules: Danaher, after being tricked into giving Mary Kate away to Sean Thorton, doesn't allow tradition to force him to part with his sisters rightful dowry. And Mary' Kate's tactical use of the "dowry tradition" is prompted only by her strong personal pride. She is no woman to be treated lightly. She plays 'at being hard to catch, and desires to sec the pursuer almost faint with exhaustion. How else can we explain her ultimate delight at being dragged over five miles of countryside by a desperate and determined husband?
Ford sets about illuminating this theme in a lyrical, leisurely fashion. (An echo of "The River"? These films are very similar.) Gone is the predominance techiniques such as sudden cutting and dramatic close-ups. The presentation is quiet: the story and theme is one steady flow over and above the individual shots and scenes. For Ford, poetry must come first, and if the film goer sometimes finds the film too drawn-nut and alow then he has obviously missed this poetry it is difficult to define this elusive quality on the screen, except to say that, like verse it uses the devices of suggestion and symbolism. The drama played against a backdrop of blue sea, green fields, yellow, sun-light trees, grey rivers and ruined abbeys. A shot of the strolling, courting couple with a cluster of bright white flowers in the foreground: the symbolic game of chasing between Mary Kate Scan and the forbidden kiss in the rain-drenched rums of some past age. To top all, the battle at the end: "Homeric, Homeric!" says Mr. Flynn.
Ford has achieved atmosphere, and if it was atmosphere he wanted, I hardly think it fair to go into a detailed analysis of how he got it. But let me say that his use of colour and grouping is exciting, his scriptwriter's dialogue is spirited and fully in character (or perhaps I should say that it rarely strikes a false note), his background music is quite rightly sentimental (there are times when it is overdone) and always in mood. And of course, there are his characters who are, from the gang at the station to the vicar's wife, some of the most lovable and delightful of my film-going experience in dealing with a film that is so much concerned with individuals, I should have left more space for the discussion of these people Sufficient to say that John Wayne is admirable as the fiery man with the quiet exterior and that Maureen O'Hara fits the bill perfectly as the champion of all women who think that they should not be the slaves in the family household, but perhaps even the masters. Of the smaller parts there are some-weak performances but generally a high standard is kept. Barry Fitzgerald, as the village bookie and match-maker is the star. Let my next-door neighbour describe him: "He's a scream." I thought he was rather cute as well.
Having now degenerated to the light-heated, it la obvious I am getting tired. If I had more time and space for more energy, I could have filled a page. No, you would get more bored. I shall give way to Mr. Dronke and Shakespeare. But talking of Shakespeare and becoming serious once again, I shall ask one more question: la it such a step from Ford's "The Quiet Man" to Shakespeare's "As You Like It"?
[unclear: Grading] *****