John Ford – Dreaming The Quiet Man

John Ford Symposium, Dreaming the Quiet Man, IFTA,
Dan Ford – Sé Merry Doyle – Peter Bogdanovicz

The world premier of ‘John Ford – Dreaming The Quiet Man’ was a Gala screening at the Cork Film Festival. Twelve hundred people turned up and saw the leading lady of ‘The Quiet Man’, Maureen O’Hara, introduce our documentary. During reminisces of the film, O’Hara let the audience know that, John Ford, the director of ‘The Quiet Man’,  “was the meanest son of bitch, but he was the best, he was a master”.  John Ford and his obsession with making this film is at the heart of our film.

‘Dreaming the Quiet Man’ includes interviews with aficionados of Ford like, Martin, Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovicz, Jim Sheridan, William Dowling,  and Joe McBride. There is mesmeric archive and rare photographs of the making of the film. The main location of the documentary is Ford’s ancestral homeland of Connemara, on the west coat of Ireland, where his parents were born. We meet Ford’s cousins, the Feeney’s who  tell the story of Ford’s parent’s departure from Ireland after the Great Famine and the young Ford’s return to Ireland in 1922 to visit his cousins the Thornton’s and saw their house being burned down by the infamous Black and Tans. Ford,  under the pretense of scouting locations for a movie,  gave money to the IRA.   We travel to Portland Maine where Ford grew up and went on to become a director in the first bloom of Hollywood. The boy made it good but Ireland was always on his mind.

‘The Quiet Man’ is one of those rare cinematic milestones that have left a marked impression on the landscapes they were filmed in. Ford’s homage to his idealized vision of his parent’s homeland is still as popular as ever. On its release in 1952 ‘The Quiet Man’ met with worldwide success and struck a particular chord with the millions of Irish who were forced to emigrate. It’s appeal was brought about by Ford’s use of universal themes like, emigration, displacement, loss of land, and male patriarchy, all woven into one of the great love stories of all time. ‘The Quiet Man’ documentary is an exploration of identity viewed through the misty lens of a triple winning Oscar Hollywood film Director.Its hard to believe that the director of films like ‘The Searchers’, ‘Stagecoach’, ‘How Green Was my Valley’, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ would endure twenty years of rejection from the Hollywood studios who, in the words of Maureen O’Hara deemed the idea “a silly little Irish story”.  His great acting friends, O’Hara, John Wayne, Barry Fitzgerald, and Victor McLaglen stood by him, and even deferred fees so that his most treasured project reached the screen. The naysayers were proved wrong and the film was a universal hit, winning two Oscars for Best Director and Cinematography.

 

The director of this documentary, Sé Merry Doyle, like a lot of Irish people, remembers well the yearly ritual of watching ‘The Quiet Man’ with his parents at Christmas or Saint Patrick’s Day. Later as a filmmaker he became aware of some hostility to the film by certain film critics who brushed it off as a ‘Stage Oirish’ representation of Ireland. Sé questioned  why Ford, an American born director of Irish parents, who loved Irish literature, made several Irish themed movies, most notably ‘The Informer’, would want to make his ‘own people’ look silly to the rest of the world! The first priority of the documentary would be to set the record straight.  What Sé discovered was that Ford knew exactly what he was up to when he began filming ‘The Quiet Man’ in Cong County Mayo, in 1951. The John Ford, that landed in Ireland was sick to the gills of the Hollywood studio system. His film, in many ways,  is a direct riposte to what he saw  as the betrayal of the early settlers in America who populated his films, who like him believed in the American Dream. The little story by Maurice Walsh set in the Irish War of Independence, would guide Ford into creating a fantasy village called ‘Innisfree’ where the community played out the ancient traditions of, Dowry, Marriage, and fertility. Ford would  make a statement about the values he felt were drifting from the world.

‘John Ford Dreaming The Quiet Man’ has had many memorable screening including MoMa NewYork introduced by Gabriel Byrne and winner of the Silver Springs Documenetary Award by the American Film Institute.

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