Barry Fitzgerald, who plays the character of the Roman Catholic Michaleen Oge Flynn, and Arthur Shields, who played the Protestant vicar Cyril ‘Snuffy’ Playfair, were brothers in real life. They also appeared together in director John Ford’s The Long Voyage Home (1940). They were both Protestants born in Dublin, Ireland. Shields was the family name. The Oscar-winner Fitzgerald, who was nearly eight years older than his brother, was born William Joseph Shields.
A replica of the famous thatched cottage in the movie is located at Maam Cross, County Galway, in the west of Ireland.
When the film was first screened in Boston, Mass., Michaleen Flynn’s line on seeing the broken bed, “Impetuous! Homeric!”, was censored.
The famous fight scene was shot in the grounds of Ashford Castle, Cong, County Mayo. The stunt in which John Wayne punches Victor McLaglen into the river was performed by director John Ford’s son, Patrick Ford (doubling for McLaglen).
The horse racing sequence was shot at Lettergesh beach, Connemara, on the west coast of Ireland.
At the film’s conclusion, after the credits, we see Kate and Sean standing in their garden waving good-bye. Maureen O’Hara turns to John Wayne and whispers something in his ear, evoking a priceless reaction from Wayne. What was said was known only to O’Hara, Wayne and director John Ford. In exchange for saying this unscripted bit of text, O’Hara insisted that the exact line never be disclosed by any involved parties. In her memoirs she says that she refused to say the line at first as she “couldn’t possibly say that to Duke”, but Ford insisted, claiming he needed a genuine shock reaction from Wayne. The line remains a mystery to this day.
When Sean and Mary Kate take their wagon into town a store called “Emily O’Connor” can be seen in the background. This is actually a crafts store and is still in business to this day.
This was a significant departure for Republic Pictures, which specialized in low-budget westerns, comedies and war pictures. It was the company’s first and only film to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.
According to the production notes on the DVD. John Ford first acquired the rights to Maurice Walsh’s short story, The Quiet Man, in 1936, but it would be another sixteen years before his dream of adapting the story to film would become a reality.
This is one of the few Hollywood films in which you can hear Gaelic, the national language of Ireland.
The last line of the wedding toast was censored by Republic Pictures. It should have said, “May their days be long and full of happiness. May their children be many and full of health. And may they live in peace and national freedom”. After the film was completed, Republic Pictures decided “national freedom” in Ireland was too controversial a concept.
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Green, the national color of Ireland, can be seen somewhere in every shot in this film, but not on any of the actors’ costumes except for Maureen O’Hara green floral dress in the cemetery scene.
Whenever John Wayne lights up a cigarette, he takes exactly two puffs before pitching it away.
Film editor Jack Murray wept when he began editing the film. He said that John Ford was such a master of his craft that the film required nothing from him as an editor other than sticking the bits of film together. He said Ford had cut the film in the camera – not a frame was wasted or needed to be removed.
On the DVD commentary Maureen O’Hara dispels many myths about the film including one about a lack of accommodations for the crew in Ireland. According to O’Hara, the production spent six weeks shooting the exteriors in Ireland and filmed the interiors on sound stages in L.A.
According to an interview in the Los Angeles Times on October 28, 2000, Maureen O’Hara recounted that she, John Ford and John Wayne made a handshake agreement in 1944 to do the film. When Ford pitched the idea to Hollywood producers, he was told that it was a “silly Irish story that won’t make a penny.” Wayne had a contract with Republic Pictures and approached studio chief Herbert J. Yates (“…a step down for John Ford”, he said). He was told by Yates that the script was a silly Irish tale that would make no money. However, Yates would relent if Wayne, Ford and O’Hara together would make a western for Republic, a sure money-maker that would pay for the losses Republic expected to incur on this film. The picture made as a result of the agreement was Rio Grande (1950).
During the scene where John Wayne first kisses Maureen O’Hara, she slaps his face. When he blocked the blow, she broke a bone in her hand. Since the movie was being filmed in sequential order, she couldn’t wear a cast to fix the broken bone.
The station used in the opening sequence and during the scene where John Wayne slams the train doors looking for Maureen O’Hara later in the film is Ballyglunin Station, south of the town of Tuam, County Galway. It looks the same today as it did in 1951, when the film was shot with the only major difference being the bridge which crosses the railway tracks is now gone. This bridge was moved to Ballinasloe station, East Galway where it still stands today, after Ballyglunin closed down as a main line.
John Wayne and John Ford decided to play a trick on Maureen O’Hara during filming. They chose the sequence where Wayne drags O’Hara across the town and through the fields. Before shooting the scene, Wayne and Ford kicked all of the sheep dung they could find onto the hill where O’Hara was to be dragged, face-down, on her stomach. O’Hara saw them doing it; with the help of several friends, she kicked it off, only to have Wayne and Ford kick it back on. O’Hara and her friends kicked it off again, and Wayne and Ford kicked it back. This went on and on until right before the scene was shot, when Wayne and Ford got in the last kick. According to O’Hara, “Duke had the time of his life dragging me through it. It was bloody awful. After the scene was over, Mr. Ford had given instructions that I was not to be brought a bucket of water or a towel. He made me keep it on for the rest of the day. I was mad as hell, but I had to laugh too. Isn’t showbiz.