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Monday, May 12, 2014

Clearing Up A Classic On Blu-Ray

Scratching Below Sod Of The Quiet Man (1952)

The prayed-for Blu-Ray here at last, and yes, it's leagues improved over mud we swam previous, but interiors lack contrast at times, and darks could be darker. Still, this is a Quiet Man at last livable, suggestive of IB Tech prints TV stations used to run in syndication. Query: did John Wayne reach his widest ever audience with The Quiet Man? --- I mean mass of folk that didn't normally go for John Wayne movies? It certainly has a romantic element others lack, and I'll bet not being a western helped. The word was out through '52 that here was something special, The Quiet Man doing for Wayne what The African Queen did for Humphrey Bogart. Neither had thrown nets so far as these game and possibly image changers. Wayne, in fact, was softened onscreen as likely result of The Quiet Man, his Big Jim McLain to follow a genteel depart from tougher customers he'd previously been. Trouble Along The Way continued in a same vein, JW aware that a public liked his modern-dress heroes best when tempers were corked, image refine courtesy The Quiet Man. Ads for Trouble Along The Way positioned Wayne and placid Donna Reed as "scrapper" sweethearts after pattern of JW with Maureen O'Hara, but it was false advertising. Still, Wayne had his slow burn to last a decade before patriarch parts began dominating, as The Quiet Man made clear his ongoing suitability for romantic leads.

I came away from this view (a first in at least ten years) with mixed emotion. These Irishers Wayne must cope with are an extreme lot: loud, quick to temper, then violence, none more so than at times scary O'Hara, who I've read could be pretty aggressive offscreen toward getting her way. I frankly began to wonder if Sean Thornton made the right choice in Mary Kate Danaher. Would her anger subside just for resolving dowry question? She seems generally ill-disposed to me, as if a slight remark would set her off and renew donnybrook-ing. The Quiet Man takes these people seriously after all, despite the comedy, so I must too. Would Sean have been better off with a calmer Donna Reed type back in Pittsburgh? There was his own post-trauma from the ring experience to work out, though passage to far-off Ireland at least put distance between him and that issue.

Oh, and one more issue. Turns out, according to Scott Eyman's terrific new Wayne bio, that Duke waived his customary profit % to do Rio Grande and The Quiet Man for a flat $100K each, this an accommodation to "Coach" John Ford, who couldn't direct the films under Republic auspices lest JW take the cut (noteworthy is Wayne having earned $375K for previous Red River). That means John Wayne gave up at least a quarter million dollars (probably a good deal more) for the sake of a director who regularly took bows for making him a star. Shouldn't Ford have been a lot nicer to Wayne after such forfeit? --- as in washing his car, cutting his lawn, or at the least thanking JW every day for acting on discount so the Old Man could get his projects financed? Check too under names of Merian C. Cooper and C.V. Whitney. Half of Ford talkies wouldn't have been made without Cooper's assist with bank and family connections that raised $, and there would have been no Searchers short of Whitney opening his purse (Whitney being Cooper's friend and not Ford's). Read Ford bios of how he dismissed or disdained these men who gathered cash, shook investor hands, and maintained valuable social contacts that made possible many of JF films. Cooper, Whitney, and Wayne were economic facts behind the legend that is Ford, laying down sacrifice so he could rule roost on locations they made accessible. I'm for naming a few peaks at Monument Valley after these three godfathers.


Blogger radiotelefonia said...

That Lux ad, from J. Walter Thompson, is exactly t5he same as those from the 20s and up to the end of the 80s. I have been seeing online (from Argentine newspapers( a big number of them featuring Hollywood and local stars. Despite the years, they are almost always exactly the same.

12:09 PM  
Blogger James Abbott said...

I know this is heresy, but, Lord, I hate The Quiet Man. We had took look at it every year on St. Patrick's Day, and I've always found it shrill and twee. I know I'm spitting on an icon, but there it is.

1:45 PM  
Blogger aldi said...

You're not alone, James. I love many of Ford's movies but I never warmed to this one. There is no subtlety to the movie. Shrill is a good description. In the last few months I've caught a few early Fords for the first time: The Lost Patrol, Up The River, Born Reckless, Air Mail, and The Informer, all hugely enjoyable and masterfully directed. The Informer is Ford's real Irish masterpiece. I'm afraid The Quiet Man isn't in the same league at all. Definitely lesser Ford. (In my opinion, of course!)

3:08 PM  
Blogger rnigma said...

The Lux brand linked itself with Hollywood through its long running "Lux Radio Theatre," which adapted popular movies, often with their original stars.
(The Lux brand is gone, at least in the U.S., though Unilever might be using it in other countries.)

I like "The Quiet Man" myself, despite its depiction of what Leslie Halliwell called "a never-never Ireland."

8:05 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

I love THE QUIET MAN and always have, since "discovering" it, totally unaware, on a late night TV showing. Even a 19 inch, black and white video image couldn't dim the beauty of the landscapes or the lovability of the characters. Yes, even the "shrill" Irishmen. I think it's one of the most entertaining movies ever.

I rather suspect, from my readings on Ford, that his disdain of those who helped him so, was a result of his own insecurities. As if acknowledging such generous help from others could only diminish his own achievements.

Or not.

8:36 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

Lux was manufactured by the Lever brothers and the company evolved into Unilever and J. Walter Thompson has been handling their ads since always.

There was a "Lux Radio Theater" equivalent in Argentina, but their ads are the most repetitive of all time.

Actress Graciela Borges made a lot of those repetitive commercials for television.

10:34 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

For a minute there after seeing that first image, I had to think if Alistair Sim's Scrooge was in The Quiet Man.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Jenny Lerew said...

The fact that, as you point out, Ford owed so much to those three godfathers, is likely precisely why he treated them so poorly at times. That brilliant and mercurial old bastard Pappy!

9:39 PM  

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