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