A female writing a letter in THE IRISH TIMES today (July 21) doesn’t like THE QUIET MAN.
No surprise there then. Most writers in that paper, male, female, straight or LGBT love what I hate and hate what I love.
What does surprise me is that an English friend of mine with a love and encyclopaedic knowledge of Shakespeare’s works,
which he has passed on to his pupils over many years, dismisses THE QUIET MAN as “Stage Irish.”
It is as if both he and the lady in the Irish Times think that the entertainment was masquerading as socialist realism –
a didactic form of art supposedly favoured by Stalin. It seems to me that Stalin had a wicked sense of humour. Asked
by the insufferably silly Lady Astor why he killed people, he replied that he couldn’t trust them to kill themselves. When
H.G. Wells lectured him at length on the virtues of Fabianism and world history, Uncle Joe patiently listened, puffed on
his pipe, and briefly responded, displaying a broader and deeper knowledge of history, including that of England, than
the fool patronising him.
John Ford, while not a disciple of Joe Stalin, had a distinguished writer, well used to life in the West of Ireland, as an adviser. Ernie O’Malley was born there, and fought there as an IRA Commander a little over 30 years earlier. And the
role of the Protestant Rev Cyril Playfair was played by a Dublin Protestant, Arthur Shields, an actor with the Abbey
Theatre in 1916,who, on Easter Monday took his rifle, hidden under the stage, for a serious role as a Republican Insurgent.
His brother played another starring role in THE QUIET MAN, under his stage-name, Barry Fitzgerald.
But Republicans generally are not, culturally, dismissive of everything English. For Mary-Kate Dannaher is based on
Katherina-Minola in Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” The setting is transferred from Italy to the West of Ireland.
It is conceived as a comedy and Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne do a more memorable job than Richard Burton and
Elizabeth Taylor did with the original script.
Dowries were internationally associated with nuptial arrangements, and the denial of the bride’s dowry made her beholden to her husband, a kept female pauper. Intelligent feminists have recognised Mary Kate Danaher as a woman determined not to be merely the property of her husband.
Laws originating in England that deny women’s rights were left unchanged in Ireland until a reforming Minister for Justice,
in his first Cabinet role, piloted a Succession Bill through Dail Eireann. The man who did State’s female citizens that
service was Charles Haughey.
The photography, acting, dialogue and music make THE QUIET MAN an outstanding achievement of Western art.
Another Western achievement reflecting on Ireland drew the following remark from Dr Samuel Johson –
“That man is little to be envied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plains of Marathon or whose piety
would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona”.
Anyone who could watch the scene of Mary Kate interrupting Father Lonergan’s struggle with a salmon without
shedding tears of laughter is little to be envied.
Mary Kate is too embarrassed to explain, in English, her refusing her Bridegroom his conjugal rights, but explains
how the poor man must sleep in a Mala Codlata rather than a marital bed.
On 14 January of 1922 the only quorate meeting of “the Parliament of Southern Ireland” bequeathed by Westminster
met in Dublin and purported to ratify Articles of Agreement, signed by Irishmen in London the previous month and
appointed a Provisional Government, as required by London. Ireland had for three years a democratically elected
Parliament, Dail Eireann, still existing, but unrecognised by London, and consequently could not ratify the agreement.
Like the bridegroom in The Quiet Man, Ireland was deprived of her rights. Which embarrassed most of the assembly
of January 14.
The poet Padraic Colum, biographer of Arthur Griffith, tells us that on that at one meeting of “the Parliament of Southern
Ireland, more Irish was spoken than on any one day of Dail Eireann.
A fishy business, with echoes of the fishing scene in The Quiet Man.