Documentary makers spoke to Maureen O’Hara, John Wayne’s son, and John Ford’s son about the making of The Quiet Man.
Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne may have produced several other movies together as the leading stars but it is The Quiet Man that will always stand out as the iconic duo’s crowning glory. In fact, it was the film’s director John Ford who first introduced the pair at one of his parties, in 1941.
Of course, you can’t make a movie like The Quiet Man with such strong characters as Ford, O’Hara, and Wayne involved without creating tons of interesting stories from the set and from the production. In the documentary below, we hear from Maureen O’Hara herself, as well as The Duke’s son Patrick Wayne and Ford’s son (also named Patrick) about the ins and outs of filming The Quiet Man, how things were on set, and what it was like working with each other, especially with the temperamental Ford.
The documentary was created by June Parker Beck, a close personal friend of O'Hara's and editor of the Maureen O'Hara Magazine who has worked for the past 25 years in collecting audio and recordings of the Dublin-born actress.
Among the stories is that of how The Quiet Man struggled to find a studio to make it. As O’Hara tells it, Ford appeared on the set of a film she was filming in 1944, and with a handshake, she had her role as Mary-Kate.
As the years went on, however, O’Hara and Wayne joked that they’d be too old to play the roles if it didn’t happen soon but Ford continued to struggle to make up funding. According to the studios, the movie was a silly little Irish story, claims O’Hara, and they felt it wouldn't make a penny.
It was only when Wayne convinced Ford to let him take the film concept to Republic Studios that they stood any chance and the opportunity would only be given them if they struck a deal. The studio would not back The Quiet Man until the same cast of O’Hara and Wayne and director Ford would agree to make a black and white western beforehand to make up for the money the studio was sure they were about to lose on Ford’s passion project.
How "The Quiet Man" came to be
And so “Rio Grande” was made by Ford, O’Hara, and Wayne, all just so they could work together on the Irish movie that would earn them all, the studio included, a pretty penny with its success.
The set itself was a family affair, O’Hara, Patrick Ford, and Patrick Wayne claim, both the latter spending much time on the set with their fathers. This is the way Ford liked to run his films, the documentary explains, as the director knew that it took a lot to put up with the way he treated actors, at times, and that only family would understand this.
Ford liked people around who he was accustomed to, states O’Hara, which also meant that you were accustomed to him. Referring to it as who was “in the barrel” with Ford, on any given day you could fall victim to his abuse, something which the former “Queen of Technicolor” states you put up with because of the brilliance of his direction and because of the comradery it built on set in helping the person who was suffering from his wrath that day.
Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne were great friends as well as co-stars
On the other hand, John Wayne was more than a pleasure for O’Hara to work with yet again, with Patrick Ford believing The Quiet Man to be the movie where The Duke truly showed off his acting chops.
“They [Wayne and O’Hara] had the perfect professional relationship,” Ford states. “They understood each other as actors and they had tremendous respect for one another but never in any personal romantic way.”
“He loved me as a human being,” O’Hara says of her friend Wayne, recalling how he used to say, “She [O’Hara] makes me act because she makes me react.”
To hear more great stories about The Quiet Man from those who worked on the movie, you can watch the whole documentary here:
You can find more from the Maureen O'Hara magazine here.
* Originally published in 2016. Updated in 2021.