The Movie Dude: The other side of John Wayne ... the Hollywood icon had more than just a home on the range

John Wayne shows his range portraying a washed-up boxer who falls in love in Ireland.

John Wayne shows his range portraying a washed-up boxer who falls in love in Ireland.

John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara tangle in a scene from “The Quiet Man.”

John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara tangle in a scene from “The Quiet Man.”

When you hear the name John Wayne, I’m sure that a few things come to mind: The Duke. Cowboy. Legend. Cliché.

I hate that last part, but it’s true. To most people, John Wayne was just a guy who wore a cowboy hat all the time. But there is more to John Wayne than six shooters and posses. If you want to see the actor at his finest, look not to “The Sons of Katie Elder” or even his Oscar-winning role in “True Grit.” See John Ford’s classic, “The Quiet Man.”

Wayne doesn’t play a cowboy, and he doesn’t call anyone “pilgrim.” In this light-hearted film, Wayne plays Sean Thornton, a disgraced boxer who moves to Ireland from America to reclaim his family’s land. It’s a far cry from the western landscape you’re used to seeing him in. To say he’s a stranger in a strange land is an understatement.

Hearing his classic drawl amidst the Irish brogues adds to the comedic tone, and it’s very reminiscent of the “fish out of water” comedies we see throughout film history — Bill Murray in “Stripes,” Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” and even Pierce Brosnan in “Mamma Mia!” It’s a formula that works now, and certainly worked then.

Maureen O’Hara plays Mary Kate Danaher, a fierce, local Irishwoman whom Sean falls in love with. The character of Mary Kate was tailor-made for the redheaded legend. Her boundless energy and sharp attitude mirror who she was, and still is, in real life. She plays the role tough-as-nails, but at the end of the day, she’s still a lady, and expects to be treated as such. You’ll notice this through the way she interacts with Sean.

Sean and Mary Kate get together fairly early on in the film. Their cultural opposites seem to attract them, and a whirlwind romance ensues. It’s an Irish custom involving a dowry, however, which threatens to keep them apart. Sean wants nothing to do with what’s involved, and Mary Kate won’t stay unless Sean steps up, so to speak. If he wants to continue being happy, he’ll have to get over the guilt that forced him to leave America. No one said it’d be easy, though, and it results in the longest cinematic brawl ever shot.

It’s a lot of fun to watch. There are no hidden agendas and no weighty plotlines you have to over think.

The colors are soft, the score is calming and best of all you get to enjoy Wayne doing his thing.

Wayne had what any actor has that makes them worth watching time and again — range. “The Quiet Man” proves that he doesn’t have to be home on the range to be a force to be reckoned with.

Those of you from the era this film was released in will be taken back to the time when filmmaking was considered an art. Not because everyone told you it was, as it seems to be the case these days, but because you felt that it was.

Those of you from a more modern era will hopefully be treated to a breath of fresh air. “The Quiet Man” was a passion project for Ford, and he directs it in a way that makes you feel it. It’s no easy task, and in today’s film market is something you rarely find outside of the independent film circle.

Either way, it will be a step back in time that you will enjoy.


The Quiet Man

* Starring: John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, and Ward Bond

* Rated: Not rated

* Running time: 129 minutes

* Released: 1952


* “The Proposal”

* “Drag Me to Hell”

* “Land of the Lost”

* “Every Little Step”

* “American Violet”

* “Adoration”

* “The Objective”

The Movie Dude, Joe Altomere of Fort Myers, grew up in his parents’ video store in Plantersville, Texas. He owns close to 2,000 DVDs and Blu-ray discs and considers that only the start of his collection. E-mail him at

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.