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« Visual Index ~ The Quiet Man's Best Shots | Main | Curio: Kim Novak, Painter »
Tuesday
Mar172015

"Is this a courtship or a donnybrook?"

Top o' the morning...er... evening to you and a Happy St. Patrick's Day. To prepare for tonight's Hit Me With Your Best Shot we started the morning off right  by screening the John Ford classic The Quiet Man (1952). For those who haven't seen the film, it's about a rich American (John Wayne) who moves back to his ancestral homeland determined to settle down and immediately falls passionately in love with a fiery stranger (Maureen O'Hara) before he's even learned her name or bought that home which which to settle down into; O'Hara has that affect on people. One of the reasons I love watching old movies that I only have vague familiarity with (usually as a child) is that they're altogether different when you watch them as an adult. I've loved O'Hara since I was a child but I tended to avoid John Wayne movies (Red River is the only one of his films I've seen more than once, entirely due to Montgomery Clift). Which is why I was quite surprised to be drawn to John Wayne's stoic but expressive performance here and nearly chose this image as my best shot

I'm limiting myself to three images after the jump. It's so difficult because this movie is gorgeous. It won the Cinematography Oscar and its not hard to see why...

Bronze Medal - Best Shot

Or perhaps I should say that John Ford expressively frames and uses John Wayne's perpetual blank faced reserve in remarkable ways that other directors really could have learned from. This image is from a scene that's far more famous for Maureen O'Hara's ethereal yet earthy introduction. He spots her tending sheep, and she both stands out from her environment and is totally absorbed into it (quite memorably you'll see since at least one of the Best Shot participants seems likely to choose it).  When we cut back to Wayne, we're not in close-up as you'd expect but in long shot and he's suddenly consumed himself by nature. This beautiful verdant image is also neat predestination and confirmation of the protagonist's own agenda, a return to his roots. So it's a beautiful image but check and admire how manly it is, too. These firm, upright, sturdy wooden fellows (the trees) framing this firm, upright, sturdy sometimes wooden fellow.

Silver Medal - only because it's so ridiculously sexy and this is a love story. Also they're framed with graves which is kind of perfect given all the obsession with ancestral everything

One of the most insightful things about The Quiet Man, given that Ireland is the third lover in this throuple is how uncomfortable it makes its spouses indoors or with their fellow townspeople. They're only relaxed with each other in the elements and alone. Outside and alone the lovers are nearly always (wildly in Maureen's case) themselves, chasing each other through grass and streams, giddily riding bikes, or kissing passionately in wind or rain storms (yowza is the kissing ever hot in this film. In 1952!)

Wayne and O'Hara have such perfect chemistry as  movie stars that they nearly make all those unnatural heteronormative courtship rituals appealing. Teehee. Nope, even they are weirded out by all the society-approved deviance. (I'm kidding but this is a hot movie for straight people, there's no inherent queer interest angle to this one like so many classics that straight people also obsess over). My two favorite scenes might well be their "courting" scenes -- how irritable they get when they're not allowed to use "pattyfingers" (i.e. no groping) and having to sit with their backs to each other and all that business with the dowry which makes Maureen so very Taming of the Shrew crazy. In every scene you can tell that they'd like to chuck the customs to get to the consummation. Except when it's time to get to the consummation at which point .. well, no spoilers but this is my choice for Best Shot, from the movies halfway mark. I chose it both because it's a brilliant summation of how thoroughly thrown they are by each other from their very first sighting and because it's authentic good facial comedy. What the hell just happened? The punchline, with the camera's exploding plume of smoke, both of them jostled by it, is even better. 

'Mazel Tov!' or, uh, whatever they say in Ireland.

Gold Medal - Best Shot.

Come back at midnight to see all the choices for Best Shot from awesome movie-loving blogs round the internet.

 

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Reader Comments (9)

Love this write up!

I have been obsessed with this movie ever since I was 12 years old, even have the clover tattoo to prove it. It is definitely hot, so glad I'm not the only one who thought that!
Love the shots you picked- so unique. I did miss the closeup on Maureen O'Hara's face as she turns to leave after their first kiss, right before she kisses him again- can't wait to see if it was anyone's pick. But then again, any shot of her face qualifies as best. :)

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLeehee

I really liked this movie when I first saw it many years ago. It was a kind of horror movie for me this second viewing, but faith and begorrah, if yer silver medal winner isn't one of my runner-ups, laddie!

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

John Wayne is so good, but only two directors knew how to handle him. Ford (The Searchers, obviously, but also The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Rio Grande, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Fort Apache, Three Godfathers) and Hawks (Rio Bravo, El Dorado, Rio Lobo, Red River). He is sooooo good in these movies and absolutely lovable. Give him a chance, you're gonna love him too. Not only because of him. We're talking about some of the best movies ever made, like Rio Bravo and, specially The Searchers, that was the first movie I really loved and was my best favorite movie ever until I discovered Cassavetes' Love Streams.

(Of course we hate his politics, but his performances are still incredible. And, I'm sorry, I am not gonna hate Tony Curtis genius performance in Some Like it Hot because he didn't want to see Brokeback Mountain and stuff like that)

I am so sorry I didn't have the time to see this movie again! But thank you for article anyway. It reminded why I love this movie so much. Thanks

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I *just* finished watching the film and... hm, I don't know. It's beautiful and it's funny and O'Hara is magnificent, but I don't get Wayne at all which is a bummer since he's the protagonist.

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

that wedding tableau is so great - the surprised look on o'hara's face is priceless. as soon as it popped up on screen i thought, yep, that's definitely a best shot contender.

and that scene in the graveyard is so romantic and lusty - their wet clothes, the way she looks up at him to kiss him again. i had so many screen grabs from it just because it was so hot! (where were the censors on this one?)

wonderful choice for this week's film and great post, nathaniel!

March 17, 2015 | Registered Commenterabstew

That wedding shot is pure comedy gold! I always chortle whenever I see it because O'Hara, so wild and fiery and untamed literally EVERYWHERE ELSE in the film, looks scared shitless. Perfect, perfect facial expressions.

My other favorite comedic moment in the film (and golly, is this film ever funny) is when we find out, ever so subtly, just why the train is always at least three hours late. The stuff of lols, I tell you.

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

This is an all-time favorite. The cinematography is gorgeous and it is A LOVE story, though one truly set in its place and time. I do so love the John Ford Ensemble in this movie………..Ward Bond and Barry Fitzgerald, Victor McLaglen, Mildred Natwick. Outside of the romance, I would have picked one of the fly fishing shots……………or the villagers in town, waving when the Anglican bishop comes to visit.

March 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie19

A great choice of film for this series, and such perfect timing for running this. I love Maureen O'Hara in any film, but this film is a poem to falling in love. John Wayne is one of those hulky blokes, (he isn't my physical type) but he works so well in this movie.
Love your gold shot because it's so unexpected - that comic reaction to the camera always makes me laugh.

March 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Maybe those "unnatural heteronormative courtship rituals" are appealing because they are seen through the eyes of fellow traveller. O'Hara says in her autobiography that after rumors she had dismissed she "caught" Ford kissing an actor. Some reviewers thought she was lying because he mistreated her. What do you think? I think it's time to claim the most honored director as (closeted) gay royalty.

March 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCapita

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