The Golden Age of Hollywood provided movie lovers with countless iconic scenes and characters, many of which John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara helped to create. One of the most iconic of all, however, is the final scene in the 1952 romantic comedy The Quiet Man.
In the scene, Mary Kate Danaher (O’Hara) leans in to whisper something in the ear of her husband Sean Thornton (Wayne). The moment the words leave her lips, Wayne’s face snaps to the side and he gives her an incredulous look. The pair then turn to walk toward their home and the screen fades to black.
Though Wayne is an undeniably talented actor, this moment actually involved no acting at all. The film’s director, John Ford, did instruct O’Hara to whisper something untoward to Wayne, but The Duke had no idea it was coming. His shocked reaction was absolutely genuine.
Whatever John Ford insisted Maureen whisper was so inappropriate, in fact, that she made both him and Wayne swear that they would never breathe a word of it again. And, like the true gentlemen they were, they didn’t. All three film legends took the improvised line to the grave. The world will never know what O’Hara said to her friend and costar, but fans of the classic film will never grow tired of guessing.
Maureen O’Hara Broke Her Wrist Slapping John Wayne on ‘The Quiet Man’ Set
The bond between John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara was the stuff of legend. In their five-film run together, O’Hara and Wayne were what couples across the country aspired to be. Their chemistry was palpable, thanks to the close friendship they held in real life.
While this unbreakable bond is what created movie magic, it also made Wayne comfortable enough to pull pranks on his costar. These pranks were a frequent occurrence, according to O’Hara. One, however, was so vile that it made the actress want to physically injure Wayne.
On the set of The Quiet Man, Wayne and director John Ford spread sheep dung on the ground where Wayne’s character would later drag O’Hara. The scene was filmed, and when Maureen realized what the two had done (and that she was covered in sheep dung), she saw red.
So, later, when they were filming a scene where O’Hara’s character viciously slaps Wayne’s, Maureen intended to do it for real. Unfortunately, Wayne realized what was happening at the last moment, and threw his hand up to protect his face. When Maureen’s hand collided with John’s, her wrist snapped back and broke.
“They loved tormenting me,” O’Hara shared of Wayne and Ford in an interview with Diane Sawyer. “Probably because I reacted. If I had had the sense to not even react, they probably would have quit tormenting me.”