It appears that the film's magnetic draw has always included the village of Cong, County Mayo, whose enchanting, deep rural southern Irish locale persuaded even director, John Ford's technical crew to return there on holiday after production, so their families could absorb the magic for themselves.
But I digress!
Here I am discussing the original story and its author, Maurice Walsh, who became such an important figure in mid-20th century Irish letters that Éamon de Valera-then President of Ireland - attended his funeral mass when he died in 1964.
The son of a farmer from whom he inherited a love of books, legends, folktales and the theory of 'place', Walsh began working life as a civil servant, turning to write full-time in the early 1930s as his fame and popularity grew.
Maurice Walsh was also a romantic nationalist and part of a group that included figures like Nobel laureate, W B Yeats, who followed the ideas of 18th century German Enlightenment philosopher, Gottfried von Herder.
The Quiet Man was first published in the US weekly, The Saturday Evening Post in February 1933, later becoming part of his collection, Green Rushes.
From the opening words onward, Walsh fairly sets in aspic an image of a southern Irish rural life that was fading even as he wrote.
The reader gains an instant image of a wide landscaped, slow-paced idyll measured by the rhythm of the seasons and the strictures of the Church calendar.
Superficially, Walsh's story is another 'David and Goliath' in which an average-sized but skilled boxer shows he is the physical and moral superior of the towering, menacing neighbourhood bully.
On another level, it reveals an entrenched patriarchal society in which women are still used and abused as men's property and where they wield any authority via canny, sly manipulation.
Third, we are shown with consummate grace how the early resentments of an arranged marriage - here, more one of convenience - may be turned first to appreciation and at last to genuine affection.
Walsh's story and Ford's movie are prime examples of the challenges faced by the creators of one piece of art from another.
Is it plagiarism by another name? But is it artistic theft - even betrayal when the original artist has sold the 'rights' to a new owner?
I do not care one jot for the movie. I suggest that it has indeed traduced the original story and is saved only by its cinematography and a couple of individual scenes. As Walsh avoided Hollywood after a second of his works failed as a movie, I wonder if he felt he had sold his writerly soul to the devil of clapperboard tinsel town. A sin he would never commit again.
I conclude here with links to both a Youtube screening of the movie and a pdf copy of the story as it first appeared in print.
© Natalie Wood (20 May 2020)