Acting legend John Wayne, often known as the “Duke,” wrote himself into the hearts of the Irish by taking on the role of Sean Thornton in 1952 classic “The Quiet Man.”
Playing the Irish-born American who returns to Inisfree to reclaim his family farm, Wayne made a departure from his normal Western genre to create one of the most loved characters in Irish cinema history.
This wasn’t the only time that the Duke, who once described himself as "just a Scotch-Irish boy," got in touch with his Irish roots, however. He played several other Irish characters or characters with at least some link to Ireland and here we look at some of the best.
Added to “The Quiet Man,” this collection provides the perfect Irish John Wayne marathon. Grab your popcorn, snuggle in and treat yourself to some of these Duke classics.
Read more: Why The Quiet Man endures
1. The Alamo (1960)
Although the Irish connection in 1960 film “The Alamo” may be quite small, Wayne did play Davy Crockett, a man who is believed to have Scots-Irish connections.
This epic historical western about the 1836 Battle of the Alamo not only starred the Duke but he produced and directed it as well. Nominated for Best Picture, the final battle scene in particular won much praise.
2. Big Jim McLain (1952)
The first film in which Wayne played a contemporary law enforcement officer instead of an Old West lawman, Big Jim McLain sees him playing the title role as he hunts down communists in the post-war Hawaii organized labor scene.
Interestingly, Wayne’s character McLain had some striking similarities with the man himself as the Duke was four-term president of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. This group was among those who piled names onto the House Un-American Activities Committee’s blacklist.
3. Donovan’s Reef (1963)
The last lap around the park for Wayne and his “The Quiet Man” director Henry Ford, Donovan’s Reef is more of a knees-up drinking comedy than the other picks on the list. Owning a bar on fictional island Haleakaloha, where he and his buddies were stationed during the war, Wayne’s character Mike Donovan tries to help an old pal out by pretending that his half-Polynesian children are Donovan’s own offspring.
The plan is concocted to fool his friend’s daughter Amelia from his first marriage but everything begins to fall apart when she takes a shine to both the children and to Donovan.
4. McLintock! (1963)
Starring alongside his fellow “The Quiet Man” star Maureen O’Hara, the pair reunited eleven years later to play a similarly fiery couple with O’Hara this time cast as Wayne’s estranged wife.
With some “comedic” behavior that would most definitely warrant complaints of domestic abuse if released today, as long as you keep in mind that this was a completely different time, McLintock! is charming.
5. Brannigan (1975)
Made very late in his career, Brannigan tells the tale of an Irish-American Chicago cop who flies to London to extradite a murderous drug kingpin. A rather uncouth American causing controversy among his British counterparts, Brannigan may not be Wayne’s best but it shows that he could still pack a punch when he needed to.