"But Daniel," I hear you say. "How on God's green Earth does any of that relate to John Ford's The Quiet Man, which Nathaniel chose for the St. Patrick's Day edition of Hit Me With Your Best Shot?"
Well, I'll tell you. For nearly all of the past month, I have been aching to watch a romantic movie, but haven't quite been able to bring myself to do so. I didn't want to cry and feel resentful and end up ruining one of my favorite films by watching it under poor circumstances. When I queued up The Quiet Man, I remembered the (ridiculously entertaining) climactic fight between John Wayne and Victor McLaglen, and the fiery, untamed Maureen O'Hara, and the adorable little Irish imp Barry Fitzgerald. I remembered the impossibly lush green scenery of Ireland. I remembered how the film somehow manages to just barely avoid feeling like one giant Irish cliche, despite by all rights belonging in that realm.
What I had somehow forgotten is that the film also contains two of the hottest kisses ever captured on film.
And this windswept quiet storm of a film turned out to be just what I needed to warm me up and set me right again.
When John Wayne's Sean Thornton first sees Maureen O'Hara's Mary Kate Danaher, she is nothing short of a Technicolor vision of beauty - her bright red hair and underskirt slashing through the film's greens and blues like a fire.
|BEST SHOT RUNNER-UP|
YES, the film's gender politics are quite wobbly, but as Mary Kate soon learns, sometimes you just have to go with the regressive gender roles, because there's nothing hotter than a big strong man seeing what he wants and just taking it.
...and I swoon as my insides turn to mush. They may have layers and layers of clothing on, but that is downright erotic. For 1952, it's practically porn. This is a romance novel cover-worthy kiss of the highest order. And the best part - why this one is my best shot as opposed to the later kiss - is that there's no score. The only sound we hear is that of the raging wind. Which makes it even hotter - something really special. Mary Kate can feel it, too - when she finally pushes Sean away, it's with a sigh. He's taken all her strength, quenched her fire. It only takes her a second to get it back, though, and she goes to wallop him. If she hadn't taken quite such a large backswing to prepare, she might have landed it, too (apparently Wayne broke O'Hara's hand while blocking that slap, and since the film was shot in sequence, she had to do the entire rest of the film without a bandage - and considering what she has to go through, that's a pretty mean feat).
And all this is to say nothing of the film's other big kiss, a rain-soaked as opposed to windswept beauty.
Give me a moment to catch my breath.
Okay, I'm good.
The Quiet Man is mostly a quiet movie, the kind of film that doesn't call too much attention to itself. It's not exactly understated, but it doesn't make any big gestures - and given the gorgeous locations they shot in, director John Ford and cinematographer Winton C. Hoch (both of whom won Oscars for this) easily could have. Instead, they get on the wavelength of their star leads, letting the natural elements of Ireland amplify the heat that exists between them (the later scene in which Sean finally gets Mary Kate's dowry money from her lout of a brother and then burns it, is practically bursting with erotic heat from Wayne and O'Hara, and they don't even touch). The rain, and especially the wind, are just the perfect touches to make these stolen embraces impossible to resist... and too hot to ignore.