The Quiet Man (1952) Dir: John Ford
I was recently over the moon, when reading a top 100 films list that my all-time favourite was included. I could reel on for hours over the brilliant cinematography that won an Academy Award, or the script that was an adaptation don’t you know, from a little story by Maurice Walsh, way back in 1933. But here I have to focus on characters and in 200 words no less! What joy! The protagonist Sean Thornton is magnificently played by John Wayne, a departure from his and Ford’s usual westerns, and his antagonist Mary Kate Danaher, equally well played by the talented redhead, Maureen O’Hara.
Thornton arrives from America to buy the family home he was born in. A quiet statuesque man, determined to avoid conflict, the limelight and fishing, identified early on in his mannerisms, stance and dialogue with comments like “ah I’m not here to fight you”. Unfortunately, the townspeople think differently, he causes contentions between a rival farmer, Danaher, Mary Kate’s brother, for his family home, catches the eye of the ‘on the shelf’ Mary Kate, who is a formidable woman, in my eyes one of the original feminists, and the local vicar recognises him as a retired professional boxer. Despite the domesticity of her character, she stands her ground, and refuses to give in to any of the male characters. Strong-willed, determination is displayed with every action but more so in her dialogue, for all the romance and a-chasing from Thornton and trouble from her brother, everything she does is in her terms.
The realism of these two strong characters is not an issue, they are still able to compliment each other, without either over-shadowing. The balance between the two is perfect.