Starring: John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Victor McLaglen
This bucolic tale has always been a popular favourite among John Ford’s movies, although less kindly regarded by the critics. John Wayne plays a “Yankee from Pittsburgh” who has come back to buy the cottage where he was born and set down roots. He quickly falls in love with and wants to marry a local girl (Maureen O’Hara), but her hulking, quarrelsome brother (Victor McLaglen) is a serious impediment to the nuptials.
Not for the first or last time in his career, Ford balances lyricism and sentimentality with rough knockabout comedy and generates a warm family feeling with his cast of regular supporting actors – burly Ward Bond as the fish-fancying parish priest, Barry Fitzgerald as the village’s drunken match-maker. Voices get raised and fists get clenched, but a singalong is never far away. The special added ingredient is Winton C. Hoch’s glorious Technicolor location cinematography, thanks to which the Emerald Isle has never looked more gem-like.
Granted, if you’re not in the mood, Ford’s mixture of humour and misty-eyed idealism can seem ponderous and cloying, but even so there’s an infectious charm and innocence to the film’s major set-pieces, such as the race meet on the sea shore, which can’t help but tug on the heartstrings. 7/10
The occasional process shots and a few of the interiors retain some graininess, but the scenes filmed on location are extremely sharp and lush. During that first sight of Maureen O’Hara, the scarlet of her skirt really pops, and the subsequent waist-up shot of the actress looks very real and present. Throughout, that particularly Irish palette of plump greens and soft, slatey greys is delicious to behold. 8/10
Interesting 17-min piece discussing Ford’s attitude to the Irish, his simplified, fairy tale imagery and his depiction of real life as a form of theatre. ~ An old and slightly schalmtzy but very thorough 27-min “making of”, with contributions from Wayne’s family and a clip of the director and the Duke reminiscing in a ’50s TV show. 7/10