John Wayne: This Classic Film of His Is Said to Be Director’s ‘Love Letter to Ireland’

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day the John Wayne way. Many consider this film by The Duke to be a love letter to Ireland and all of its people. Wayne was once again a star for director John Ford in the 1952 film “The Quiet Man.”

The film is a departure from the rough and tumble prairie of Wayne’s westerns and the gung-ho patriotism of his war flicks. Instead, “The Quiet Man” was a romantic comedy at heart. And it saw Wayne packing his bags and going overseas to the Emerald Isle. What better way to celebrate the Irish than a cinematic trip abroad to Ireland’s rolling hills?

On Instagram, the official John Wayne page wrote, “The Quiet Man was said to be John Ford’s love letter to Ireland & is one of the few Hollywood films where the native Irish language is spoken.”

John Wayne Stars in ‘The Quiet Man’

In the film, Wayne played Sean “Trooper Thorn” Thornton. Thornton was born in Ireland but spent much of his life in Pennsylvania as a boxer. He later decides to travel back home to Innisfree, Ireland to purchase his family’s farm. Wayne’s character reunites with locals and a culture that he hadn’t seen in years. The film in many ways is about Wayne’s character rediscovering his Irish roots.

Thankfully, Wayne didn’t try to adopt an Irish accent for the role. Instead, Wayne’s character shows his Irish roots in other ways. He has a shared history with Ireland and like many who leave home for an extended period of time, he wants to reconnect with his birth land.

Wayne’s character soon falls in love with Mary Kate Danaher, played by Maureen O’Hara. But their courtship is complicated by her brother Will. Wayne’s character and Will become adversaries in the film because Will wants to buy the farm himself. Their bad blood eventually culminates in an extended fight sequence between the two in the Irish countryside.

The film features lovely cinematography of Ireland and its natural beauty. Cinematographer Winton Hoche invites viewers to marvel at the country’s scenery with his camera shots. In fact, “The Quiet Man” ultimately took home the Academy Award for both Best Director and Best Cinematography. For fans of Wayne, you can’t go wrong with “The Quiet Man” as both a classic of the on-screen cowboy and as a way to celebrate Ireland.