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A Not-So-Quiet Woman

March 17, 2020 (362 words)

What a young Maureen O’Hara conveys with her eyes and facial expressions as Mary Kate Danaher in The Quiet Man (1952) is remarkable.

This has always been a favorite movie of mine, but watching it again tonight I found Ms. O’Hara’s performance registering with me in a completely different way.

How much of her complex portrayal is written into the script? Or can be credited to the guidance and suggestions of the film’s director, the legendary John Ford? No matter the caliber of a script or a director, doesn’t everything ultimately hinge on the actress’s (or actor’s) ability to bring out and deepen our sense of a given character’s humanity?

Compared to Maureen O’Hara, John Wayne in this film is little more than a cardboard cut-out. A very enjoyable-to-watch cardboard cut-out to be sure, but a cardboard cut-out, all the same

I don’t know how I missed this before. Credit John Ford, I suppose, for cramming so much charm, local custom, and so many indelible characters into one film.

What of certain elements of The Quiet Man that may strike contemporary audiences as anachronistic, or even misogynistic?

Far be it from me to try and talk anyone out of their belief the society portrayed in this movie is backward, not least because of the sexism some feminists see it as condoning.

But from where I sit, I can’t imagine any young woman in less need of liberation than Mary Kate Danaher.

I appreciate this character for what she just taught me tonight about the feminine spirit, for the insight she has given me this evening into a certain segment of the population, including immediate family members and acquaintances in my own life.

While there is certainly no denying young Mary Kate is easy on the eyes, watching this movie again has helped me understand that women are people, apart from the male gaze, and apart from the physical attractiveness they hold for men.

This stands as a compliment, I think, both to Maureen O’Hara’s insightful performance, and John Ford’s keen directorial eye.

It may be too late to change the title, but The Quiet Man holds a new meaning for me now.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr.
March 17, 2020

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