The film stars John Wayne as ex-boxer Sean Thorton, who is returning from America to his home in Ireland. His little town is nestled into the quaint countryside where men drink porter like water, everyone goes to church and lovely Mary Kate tends to sheep, among other duties. At first, it’s odd to see Wayne in a tweed suit and cap instead of cowboy garb, but it grows on you after a while. Besides, it’s nice to see him in a lush green setting rather than the dusty old west.
When Sean returns to his little Irish town, he sets his heart on the beautiful redhead Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara). Unfortunately, she’s the younger sister, and only woman in the house at the Danaher home, where local hot-head ‘Red’ Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen) and his brothers live. You get the feeling that a woman is like a good appliance essential to a home, and that’s why Red won’t let Mary Kate go until he starts courting another woman.
As Sean and Mary Kate start courting, Sean becomes annoyed with the ridged customs. The couple dresses up like they’re going to church, aren’t allowed to hold hands in the cart and when they walk, the cart follows right on their heels. “I don’t get this,” Sean explains a little dismayed. “Back in the States, I’d drive up, honk the horn, the gal’d come runnin’.” When they find a moment to break free, it makes it all the more exciting with a heartfelt classical romance.
The real trouble brews just after Sean and Mary Kate are married. At the reception, Red has too much to drink and asks his new girlfriend to marry him. Like I said, he needs to replace the appliance and quick. But he’s embarrassingly shot down, triggering his rage against Sean. Red punches Sean, bringing back better left forgotten memories of the ring. An even bigger blow to Mary Kate is when Sean refuses to hand over her treasures she’s saved to bring to her new home. So here’s that last hurdle the film presents: Red won’t give up the money without a fight, Sean is afraid to fight because of his past and Mary Kate won’t have any peace until she gets her money back.
The last part of the film comes down to your basic Irish stereotypes coming to life. It’s probably best to have a good stout in your hand while watching, otherwise it might be hard to tolerate.
I bet a lot of you have seen part of this film already without realizing it. Remember when E.T. has had a few beers and is watching t.v while Elliot is at school setting the frogs loose? That iconic kissing scene he watches that prompts Elliot to step on a kid to kiss the blond girl is the first kiss between Sean and Mary Kate. Yay trivia!
This is more of an Irish tale than a classic John Wayne film. If you’re really into Wayne only in cowboy mode, this might be odd for you at first, but I think you’ll be rallying with him by the end.
On a final note, I don’t care what decade or country you’re in, you don’t just yank a woman around by the wrist like a spoiled child in for a spanking. “Mister, here’s a good stick to beat the lovely lady.”