Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’m not Irish, but I’m happy to be celebrating with along with Nathaniel and all the participants of Hit Me With Your Best Shot. In the spirit of the occasion, this week’s movie is John Ford’s ‘The Quiet Man’, in which a noble ex-boxer, John Wayne, goes to find his ancestral home in Ireland and falls in love with Maureen O’Hara in the process.
I was a little surprised to find that this movie has a huge following online. It might be just me, but isn’t it unusual when you find out than an older movie -that is not an “obvious” canon entry like The Wizard of Oz or Casablanca– turns out to have an army of fans. I wonder when and how the movie got so popular, although judging by what the fans write, Irish heritage probably has something to do. Like I said, I’m not Irish, and thus I hate to be the party-pooper that ruins St. Patrick’s Day for everyone else but… *whispers* I wasn’t a big fan of the movie.
I mean, it’s a very nice and gentle movie, but for some reason, it didn’t connect with me on a personal level. That being said, there is no denying the beauty of Winton C. Hoch’s cinematography. Hoch is undoubtedly the man you want if you’re going to photograph landscapes. He seems to be relishing in the greens of the Irish countryside not unlike how he did with browns and oranges of Monument Valley in The Searchers. The Quiet Man is a beautiful-looking movie through and through, but there is one specific shot that has stayed with me like no other since I saw it a couple days ago.
It comes pretty early in the film. John Wayne just arrived in Ireland, and he is on the way to the town of Inisfree, when he first meets Maureen O’Hara. At this point, she is not really much of a character, but more of a legendary apparition. Here she is, this beautiful red-headed woman standing in the middle of the beautiful countryside. Wayne is understandably smitten, but O’Hara leaves, and Wayne is left wondering if he’ll ever see this woman again.
It’s pretty standard attraction at first sight, but my love for this moment is all about the way in which O’Hara exists the screen. Basically, she just walks away from the frame, but this being a low-angle shot, she exits through the bottom. It’s not the type of movement that we see in film, and as O’Hara becomes smaller and smaller, we see how the moment is slipping away from Wayne’s life. It’s thematically and technically effective, but it’s also a gorgeous and unusual shot. Color (the red of O’Hara’s hair, her blue dress, and the green of the trees) become life, popping in contrast to the white Irish sky. The Irish land, and the love of this wonderful woman are what Wayne needs.
The shot in question: