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Director John Ford discovered the story for The Quiet Man, written by Maurice Walsh, in the Saturday Evening Post. He purchased the rights on February 25, 1936 for ten dollars (though the studio would pay the author more later on).
However, Ford’s passion project (which he wanted to make in Technicolor and on location in Ireland) wasn’t easy by any stretch as he had to convince the studio and raise the funds.
“Each year, we would hold the summer open, and each year there was no money, and we couldn’t make the movie. The script was taken to Fox, RKO, and Warner Brothers, and all the studios called it a silly, stupid little Irish story,” Maureen O’Hara remembered.
Enter Republic Studio. The studio, led by Herbert Yates, was known for making movies quickly in order to make the most money. The Quiet Man didn’t fit their bill at all, but they agreed to move forward with the project if Ford and John Wayne did a Western first. This film turned out to be Rio Grande, which also featured Maureen O’Hara in her first team-up with Wayne.
With everything lining up, they eventually began filming in Ireland.
“It all became very competitive on the set, which I think was encouraged by Pappy [Ford] because he really wanted the sparks to fly between Duke and myself,” O’Hara said.
Wayne and O’Hara got along well nevertheless and even tricked the director by rehearsing a big scene without him knowing. Ford wanted the memorable scene where John Wayne’s character drags O’Hara’s character back home to be spontaneous, but the two worked out the details beforehand. The director never knew.
“You know, The Quiet Man was a simple enough story, but that was a hard script for me. For the first nine reels, I was playing straight man to all those wonderful characters,” John Wayne remembered.
Overall, the experience, though a challenge, was a success. What began in 1936 was finally released in 1952. The film won two Academy Awards – including one for Best Director.
“John Ford understood the hearts and souls of men better than anyone else I had ever known. He knew our motivations, our desires, and, most of all, our fears,” O’Hara said.