Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
The Quiet Man (1952)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

With only his sleeping bag and one piece of luggage, Sean leaves Michaeleen as he wanders off to the pub during a wild, breezy windstorm, muttering: "Well, it's a fine soft night, so I think I'll go and join me comrades and talk a little treason." Sean arrives at his newly-purchased thatched cottage - the fierce weather (and especially the wind) is a barometer of the intense, natural emotions that will soon sweep over Sean and Mary Kate, the shepherd girl from the green dell. To his surprise, smoke curls up from the chimney.

Inside, in front of the hearth where a fire burns, a broom and a neat, swept-up pile of leaves and other debris suggest someone has been cleaning. Mary Kate is flushed out from hiding in the bedroom when Sean hurls a rock through one of the windows. She rushes for the front door, but he reaches for her right arm, pulls her back, twirls her like a ballet dancer into the cottage, twists her arm behind her back as she resists, and then bends the stranger over backwards with an embrace and passionate kiss. The storm continues to blow through the cottage, sending Mary Kate's red hair whipping around behind her - the wind is an external manifestation of her passion.

When she realizes what has happened, she stands back, reflects about his bold advances, and then cocks her fist back for an explosive, powerful swing at his face. He flinches, bends backward, and blocks the stiff-armed blow with his hand as she misses. [Maureen O'Hara fractured her wrist in the filming of this scene.] In the sensual love scene, Sean tells the fiery red-head of his passionate, uninhibited interest after he first saw her in the meadow, and then in the spiritual setting of the church. Although she explains that she was cleaning the cottage out of Christian duty, her gesture conveys her own personal interest:

Mary Kate: It's a bold one you are. And who gave you leave to be kissin' me?
Sean: So you can talk!
Mary Kate: Yes I can. I will, and I do. And it's more than talk you'll be gettin' if you step a step closer to me.
Sean: Don't worry. You've got a wallop!
Mary Kate: You'll get over it, I'm thinkin'.
Sean: Well, some things a man doesn't get over so easy.
Mary Kate: (slowly delivered) Like what supposin'?
Sean: Like the sight of a girl comin' through the fields with the sun on her hair. Kneeling in church with a face like a saint.
Mary Kate: Saint indeed!
Sean: And now comin' to a man's house to clean it for him.
Mary Kate: But that was just my way of bein' a good Christian act.
Sean: I know it was, Mary Kate Danaher. And it was nice of you.
Mary Kate: Not at all.

At the end of the poetic, romantic scene, Mary Kate gazes at him for a few seconds, opens the door to leave (unleashing the wind again), turns toward him, boldly and daringly plants a kiss on his lips, and flees into the wild night. The wind buffets her and pushes her around as she crosses a stream and stumbles on the grass toward the road.

Before long, Sean has fixed up his thatched-roofed cottage with new emerald-green paint. His neighbors, Reverend Cyril Playfair (Arthur Shields) and his wife Elizabeth (Eileen Crowe) compliment (and gently chide him) for his romanticized handiwork:

Elizabeth: Well, Mr. Thornton, you are a wonder. It looks the way all Irish cottages should and so seldom do. And only an American would have thought of emerald green.
Cyril: Red is more durable.
Elizabeth: And the roses! How nice. You'll need lots and lots of horse manure. Fertilizer, I mean. Horse is the best.

The Protestant Reverend Playfair appears to know Sean's past life: "Thornton. It has a familiar ring to it. Ring to it. Thornton." Sean downplays the association about his mysterious past as a retired boxer: "Common name." A horse-drawn cart delivers a "fine, big bed" from town - the biggest one Sean could find for his huge size.

Matchmaker Michaeleen has been commissioned to set up a strict and formal courtship between Sean Thornton ("bachelor and party of the first part") and Mary Kate Danaher ("spinster and party to the second part"). In her home where she offers libations to the marriage broker, she is excited to learn of the matchmaking effort, although she knows that permission must be granted by her brother and "that won't be easy." (Without her brother Will's permission to marry, Mary Kate cannot provide a dowry.) In her parlor, Sean has "complete indifference" to Mary Kate's "proper fortune" - he would be happy with her if she would "come in the clothes on your back or without them for that matter." She jumps to her feet, approaches the camera with a pleased, expressionistic smile, and then gives her official, more proper reaction as she strides back with her arms on her hips. The "well-propertied woman" flamboyantly wags her finger at the slightly-inebriated Michaeleen, drags him into her parlor, sits at a spinnet, and plays an Irish tune. After she recites how much property she has (all extensions of her identity and personality), he gleefully admits: "I wouldn't mind marrying you myself." She then accepts Sean's proposal if it includes her furniture and her independent savings - she will not marry without her dowry:

Well, a fine opinion he must have of me if he thinks I'd go to any man without a proper fortune. And this you may tell your Mr. party of the first part. That when I wed, whatever's my own goes with me...And all this furniture's mine. And I have got china, and linen, and fifty pounds in gold my father left me and my mother's rings and brooches, and my grandmother's wedding veil and her silver combs and buckles. And thirty pounds odd in notes and silver I've earned this past fifteen years. That's all...And I'd have you tell him that I'm no pauper to be goin' to him in my shift....Well you can tell him from me that, that I go for it.

Formally-dressed Sean (carrying a small bouquet of red roses) and Michaeleen call on Red Will Danaher to formally ask his permission for Mary Kate's hand in courtship, but he rejects the offer: "Get out! Why if he was the last man on the face of this earth, and my sister the last woman, I'd still say no." Sean's boxing past in the ring is reflected in his counter-challenge:

Red Danaher: Hey Yank! I'll count three. And if you're not out of the house by then, I'll loose the dogs on ya.
Sean: If you say three, mister, you'll never hear the man count ten.

Mary Kate is heartbroken by her brother's firm refusal to allow Sean to court her. Sean is extremely reluctant to understand and accept local customs and the barriers that he faces:

Mary Kate: I thank you anyway, Sean Thornton, for the asking.
Sean: You don't think this changes anything? It's what you say that counts, not him.
Michaeleen: Now Sean, you've gone too far. That's enough.
Sean: Say, what is this? We're gonna get married. Aren't we? (She turns away, dejected, and runs upstairs to her room.) (To Michaeleen) (confused) I don't get it.
Michaeleen: This is Ireland, Sean, not America. Without a brother's consent, she couldn't and wouldn't. I'm sorry for both of ya.

The rejected suitor leaves the house bewildered and frustrated by the stable but rigid traditions that govern life in Ireland - he tosses aside his bouquet of roses into the road. From the rain-spattered, second-floor window that she is framed by, tears flow down Mary Kate's cheeks as she gives up hope and is forced to abide by tradition - the heavens cry for her as well.

Another voice-over narration by Father Lonergan describes a bitter and depressed Sean who rides recklessly over the countryside on a black horse [a symbol of his opposition to matrimonial traditions]:

Aw, those were the bad days, Sean with the face as dark as the black hunter he rode, a fine, ill-tempered pair they were. It was only a matter of time before one or the other broke his neck. We knew things couldn't go on this way.

Sean's angry, suicidal rides help to spur a conspiracy among the village's religious figures (both Protestant and Catholic) to get Danaher to change his mind and bring matrimonial order to his own life:

So we formed a little conspiracy. The Reverend Mr. and Mrs. Playfair, Michaeleen Oge, and - saints forgive us - myself. And on the day of the Innisfree Races, we sprung the trap on Red Will Danaher.

At the Innisfree Races along the beach, local ladies are told to place their bonnets on the finishing line (for the Innisfree Cup) as the gentlemen riders assemble at the starting line ("Ladies, your bonnets please!"). Mary Kate refuses to provide her bonnet - but the wind blows it off her head anyway (expressing her subconscious wish to give it as a courtly token). Danaher suspects that matchmaker/bookmaker Michaeleen is "matchmaking" between Thornton and the Widow Tillane. Danaher is deceptively misled to believe that the reason why the Widow Tillane steadfastly rejects his romantic/marital interest is because she doesn't want to live in the same house with the continuing presence of his strong-willed, red-headed sister [Mary Kate keeps house for him]: "What woman would come into the house with another woman in it?" His own wedding to the widow would be assured (and his own fear of maturity and domesticity would be conquered) if he would allow Thornton to court and wed his sister first:

Danaher: What sort of a scoundrel is this Yank? One minute, he's at me sister, and the next it's herself.
Michaeleen: Well, blame no one but yourself. If you had saved me as your matchmaker, you and the widow would have been married long since...Mind you, I'm not saying it's too late yet...Why do you suppose the Widow Tillane has stood you off so long, huh?...You're a rich propertied man!...What woman would come into the house with another woman in it? If you got rid of Mary Kate, the widow would have been in like a shot.
Danaher: No!
Michaeleen: Yes. You had your chance and you flubbed it. You refused Seanin Thornton and he reneged on ya. Now I doubt if he'd take your sister if you put a thousand pounds on her....Oh, a lot of talk...Two women in the house and one of them a redhead.

Danaher commands his stubborn sister to "put up" her bonnet on a stake at the finishing line. After noticing that the Widow Tillane puts her hat there, Mary Kate follows suit. The exciting race along the beach ends with Sean Thornton the victor as he snatches the Widow Tillane's bonnet from a stake. To Mary Kate's dismay, the only bonnet left unclaimed is hers. As Reverend Playfair congratulates Sean, he is reminded further of Thornton's boxing name, but he vows to keep it a secret: "You rode like a Trooper. Trooper. 'Trooper Thorn', of course. I knew I'd seen you somewhere before." Danaher is made jealous when he notices Sean is presented with both the winner's cup and a kiss from the Widow. Reluctantly convinced of the matchmaker's wisdom, Danaher permits Mary Kate and Sean to be courted - for a dowry of 350 pounds.

In a communal gathering outside Red Will Danaher's house - according to local customs, Danaher consents to formal courtship "under the usual conditions" with chaperone Michaeleen's supervision and watchful eye. The pair are to be driven through the countryside on a 'date' by the matchmaker while sitting in an open cart and facing in opposite directions. As they depart, Mary Kate tosses her bouquet of flowers in the direction of Widow Tillane.

Disconcerted, uncomfortable and bored with the traditional customs, Yankee Sean resents the forced, slow-paced, awkward courtship (with a chaperone present) as they ride with their backs toward each other:

Sean: (to Michaeleen) I don't get this. Why do we have to have you along? Back in the States, I'd drive up, honk the horn, the gal'd come runnin'...
Mary Kate: (retorting) Come a-runnin'? I'm no woman to be honked at and come a-runnin'.
Michaeleen: America. Ha! Pro-hi-bition! (pointing to an old castle) You see that over there. That's the ancestral home of ancient Flynns'. (joking) It was taken from us the Druids. (He stops the cart.) Quietest couple I ever heard. We'll get nowhere at this rate. Off with ya....She's a fine healthy girl. No patty fingers if you please.

The couple are allowed to walk a short distance in front of the cart. Michaeleen advises that they remain cordial to each other: "Is this a courting or a donnybrook? Have the good manners not to hit the man until he's your husband..." The feisty, spirited redhead admits to her fiery temper:

Mary Kate: I have a fearful temper. You might as well know about it now instead of finding out about it later. We Danahers are a fighting people.
Sean: I can think of a lot of things I'd rather do to one of the Danahers - Miss Danaher.
Mary Kate: (She hushes him.) Shhh, Mr. Thornton. What will Mr. Flynn be thinking?

To escape from their formal, vigilant chaperone and the rigid rules of courtship, they impulsively steal a tandem bicycle and quickly ride off through the town. Flynn's horse ends the pursuit after them by stopping, from habit, in front of Cohan's Pub. Michaeleen remarks: "I think you have more sense than I have me-self." After riding awhile, the couple stop and look out across the landscape. Near an ancient castle, Sean begins to chase Mary Kate and then averts his eyes as she removes her shoes and hosiery to wade across a stream. He playfully charges after her through the water without such propriety, but then discards his formal derby hat and gloves by tossing them over a rock wall.

As they enter an ancient church graveyard surrounded by Gaelic/Celtic symbols, the sky is filled with dark thunderclouds as their romantic freedom in Innisfree breaks more of the customary traditions. Sean still believes he is dreaming about her. She explains how long they will have to wait for kisses:

Sean: If anybody had told me six months ago that today I'd be in a graveyard in Innisfree with a girl like you that I'm just about to kiss, I'd have told 'em...
Mary Kate: Oh, but the kiss is a long way off yet.
Sean: Huh?
Mary Kate: Well, we just started a-courtin', and next month, we, we start the walkin'-out, and the month after that there'll be the threshin' parties, and the month after that...
Sean: Nope.
Mary Kate: Well, maybe we won't have to wait that month.
Sean: Yep.
Mary Kate: Or for the threshin' parties.
Sean: Nope.
Mary Kate: Or for the walkin'-out together.
Sean: No.
Mary Kate: And so much the worse for you, Sean Thornton. For I feel the same way about it myself.

The last part of the romantic scene, now non-verbal, is one of John Ford's most famous, sensual, and celebrated. As they start to kiss each other, foregoing a traditional, long-term courtship, a violent, fierce wind thrusts a giant green branch in front of them. Lightning strikes and loud thunderclaps are heard as nature unleashes its passionate forces in reaction to their brazen defiance of custom, religion, and superstition. In the place of death, they are chastened for blissfully kissing each other.

When the storm scares Mary Kate, they seek refuge from the wind and drenching rain under an archway. Sean removes his coat and protectively covers Mary Kate's shoulders with it. His white shirt becomes more and more clinging and transparent as raindrops dampen it and turn it flesh-colored. The rain soaks him to the skin as they stand in each other's arms. As they embrace and cling to each other, she holds her hosiery in her left hand against his drenched chest. Her upturned face meets his lips for a kiss, and then she rests her right cheek against him. Both look off toward the awesome storm - and their future together, as the soundtrack plays the plaintiff Irish ballad, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree." She initiates a second, more subdued kiss, and then they stare off with solemn expressions in different directions. The scene fades to black.

Their courtship is a short one. The next fade-in presents the couple frozen once more - but this time in a traditional wedding portrait pose at their marriage ceremony, as Father Lonergan narrates (in voice-over): "And so they were married, in the same little chapel I gave them their Baptism. Later, there was a nice quiet little celebration." At the wedding reception, the photographer's flash powder explodes at the left side of the frame. A group at the spinnet piano plays and sings: "The Humor is On Me Now" - but they abruptly quit when Father Lonergan appears. He surprises them by sitting down at the piano to play and sing the same tune - with even lustier lyrics.

Drinks for toasts are passed around the room - Mrs. Rev. Playfair whispers: "To a successful conspiracy." Formal toasts are not allowed, however, until Will Danaher displays the dowry: "the bride's fortune." Michaeleen positions everyone in the room for the presentation: "The proprieties must be observed." The brother Will Danaher spills 350 pounds gold on a table and announces: "Three hundred and fifty pounds gold. A collern of furnishings, linen and pewter goes with the sister of Will Danaher." Squire Danaher signs papers to seal the marriage, and a matrimonial toast is presented to the couple:

May their days be long, and full of happiness.
May their children be many, and full of health.
And may they live in peace, and freedom.

Danaher orders the refilling of the toast glasses, and then proceeds to make a surprise, untimely pronouncement about his own matrimonial intentions toward Widow Tillane:

Now today, I've given my sister in marriage. My only sister. And now she's gone from the house of Danaher. But what's in a house without a woman?...Where would any men of us be without a woman? Why even Father Lonergan had a mother....So, so, uh,...(he is prompted) so without further eloquence, I will give you a toast to myself, who is soon to be wed. (He glances at the stunned Widow Tillane and then shakes Father Lonergan's hand.) All she has to do is to say that little word. When's the happy day, Sarah darling?

The widow curtly rejects his inopportune proposal and turns him down: "Have you lost the little sense you were born with?...Who gave you the right to make such an announcement?" Realizing that he has been betrayed and fooled by the Playfairs, Lonergan, and Flynn, Danaher rebukes his own priest. Then he turns and accuses Sean of being part of the deception:

Danaher: You got her by fraud and falsity. You put them up to this.
Sean: I don't know what you're talkin' about.
Danaher: Aw, don't deny it.

Seething with anger for being tricked, Danaher swipes the table clear of the 350 pounds of gold sovereigns and denies Mary Kate her dowry: "This is something you won't get, now or ever. Now get out of here." In a rage, Danaher angrily refuses to give up Mary Kate's rightful dowry of money and furnishings. Sean is uninterested in retrieving the 'dirty' money, but Mary Kate wants to follow Gaelic custom and frantically gathers the coins from the floor, in her wedding gown.

Sean: Come on, let's go home.
Mary Kate: No, not without my fortune. It's mine, mine and my mother's before me and I'm not...

Sean is knocked cold by Danaher with a single punch. As he lies unconscious on his back, he has an impressionistic flashback to his fighting days in the boxing ring. In the montage, there is a closeup of his anguished face as he stares down in horror at the sight of the corpse of his knocked-out opponent. [In his hallucinatory flashback, the red-trunked figure, lying dead on the floor of the boxing ring, is Will Danaher!].

When he is revived, Sean takes Mary Kate to his cottage for their honeymoon. She describes the importance of her life-long dream to have her own possessions (and a sense of her own identity), lamenting the fact that she doesn't have them for her hearth and home - her domain. Friction develops between them on their wedding night because he fails to understand. He doesn't immediately comply with her demands to publicly fight for her dowry and furniture with his fists (and for her freedom and independence). [She is not aware that Sean has vowed never to fight again for money - because he killed a man in the ring.] She interprets his indifference to her dowry as personal indifference ("until you have my dowry, you haven't got any bit of me - me, myself"). Heartbroken over remaining a servant in a patriarchal society rather than a wife, she threatens sexual blackmail and refuses to consummate their marriage:

Mary Kate: Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of having my own things about me. (She points about the room.) My spinnet over there, and a table here, and my own chairs to rest upon. And a dresser over there in that corner, and my own china and pewter shinin' about me. And now...
Sean: (placatingly) I didn't know you felt that way about it. Seems like a lot of fuss and grief over a little furniture and stuff. (They go outside.)
Mary Kate: It is a pretty cottage, isn't it?
Sean: Yeah, I think so. (He moves to embrace her.)
Mary Kate: (She pulls away.) Don't touch me! You have no right!
Sean: Whaddya mean, no right?
Mary Kate: I'll wear your ring, I'll cook, and I'll wash, and I'll keep the land. But that is all. Until I've got my dowry safe about me, I'm no married woman. I'm the servant I've always been, without anything of my own!
Sean: That's ridiculous. You're my wife and...(She shuts the bottom half of the cottage's front door on him.) What is this?
Mary Kate: Haven't I been tryin' to tell ya? - ...that until you have my dowry, you haven't got any bit of me - me, myself. I'll still be dreamin' amongst the things that are my own as if I had never met you. There's three hundred years of happy dreamin' in those things of mine and I want them. I want my dream. I'll have it and I know it. I'll say no other word to you.
Sean: (bitter but beaten) All right. You'll have your dowry or dot [dowry] or fortune or whatever you call it.
Mary Kate: Well, get it then.

She rebelliously bolts the bedroom door behind her - locking and separating him from any part of her private life. Exasperated and in a fighting mood, Sean raises his foot and kicks open their locked bedroom door, folds down the covers on the bed, roughly grabs her by the hair and turns her around to complain about her "mercenary little heart":

There'll be no locks or bolts between us Mary Kate except those in your own mercenary little heart.

He forcefully kisses and embraces her - she rests her marital bouquet of flowers on his shoulder. For a moment, she submits to him - and he tosses her like a sack of potatoes onto their bed (collapsing it to the floor). To her surprise - rather than raping her - he stomps out of the room. Sean slams the door shut and sleeps on the floor of their parlor in his sleeping bag - they are married in name only. He leaves her unravished - he doesn't force her to sleep with him on their nuptial evening. The scene ends with Mary Kate sobbing with her bouquet of flowers on their disheveled bed.

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