Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Quiet Man (1952)

A man arrives in an Irish village. He's come from America, returned to find peace in the old sod, the land of his ancestors. He's a big man, solid and strong, but he carries in his soul a haunting secret.

Sean Thornton, played by John Wayne, soon sets his eye on the red-haired beauty, Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O'Hara) but her brother Will "Red" Danaher (Victor McLaglen) will have none of it. If Mary Kate weds Thornton, the penny-pinching Danaher will lose a free housekeeper. The village matchmaker, Michaleen Flynn (Barry Fitzgerald), comes to the rescue. Using a heavy dose of mischievous guile, he arranges and supervises the courtship between the couple.

The Quiet Man centers around the fiery relationship between the steady Sean and the tempestuous Mary Kate. John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara will star together in four movies, but none are quite so filled with passion as The Quiet Man. The chemistry between the couple is magnetic, and powerful.

The film sparkles with the delightful townsfolk of Innisfree. Their wit and wisdom may be stereotypically Irish, but what a wonderful stereotype they are. Background music flows with the melodies of many old Irish songs. The award-winning cinematography is vivid. Filmed in the village of Cong in County Mayo, the scenery is as lush and green as all Ireland.

The Quiet Man is a drama, a romance, and a delicious romp. It grabs hold, painting smiles. While it may portray a fantasy of an early 20th century Irish village, it's one you'll want to relive each and every St. Patrick's Day.

The Quiet Man earned seven Academy Award nominations and won two Oscars in 1952 - John Ford for Director (his fourth Oscar), and Winston Hoch and Archie Stout for Cinematography, Color.

The Quiet Man (1952)
Directed by John Ford
Story by Maurice Walsh (short story "Green Rushes")
Screenplay by Frank S. Nugent

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

The Streamliner train whips across the California desert carrying a lone passenger, John J. Macreedy. It stops at a shell of a town and he steps down, the first man to get off at Black Rock station in four years.

In this remarkable film, Spencer Tracy slips into the role of John Macreedy as he does all of his roles, like a man slipping into a comfortably worn shoe. He has come to Black Rock on a mission. He tells the conductor he'll be leaving in 24 hours. The conductor replies "In a place like this a day can be a lifetime."

It is 1945. World War II is just over but the citizens of Black Rock are held captive by their prejudice, their desolation, and something more. From his first moments in the hot, dusty town, Macreedy is met with suspicion and hostility. The locals do not know who this tight-lipped man is but they are convinced he will reveal their closely guarded secret.

Tension builds. The easy-going Macreedy appears to give in to the taunts and threats that grow ever more intimidating, yet the viewer senses his inner strength. Macreedy is a powerful man, something even the evil rancher Reno Smith (played by Robert Ryan) feels in his gut.

The movie addresses mankind's prejudice and the mob mentality present in the old west, in the post-war years of McCarthyism, and yet today. It is a tightly crafted classic, a timeless film. It is well worth viewing, or viewing again.

Director John Sturges, Actor Spencer Tracy, and Screenwriter Millard Kaufmann were all nominated for Oscars for this amazing film. Other actors include Anne Francis, Walter Brennan, Lee Marvin, Dean Jagger, and Ernest Borgnine.

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Directed by John Sturges
Story by Howard Breslin ("A Bad Day at Hondo")
Adaptation by Don McGuire
Screenplay by Millard Kaufmann