The story centers on Sean Thornton (John Wayne), an American boxer who leaves the ring forever to move back to the Irish village of his birth. No sooner has he arrived than he sees a vision of Technicolor loveliness (red-headed Maureen O’Hara chasing her sheep up a vivid green hillside) and he’s in love. The remainder of the picture follows his courtship of the spinster Danaher (O’Hara), whose brother, played effectively by Victor McLaglen, becomes Thornton’s sworn enemy.
Unfortunately, my viewing of this film suffered from years of build up and it ultimately fell short. Never a fan of the Maureen O’Hara / John Wayne duo (alone or together), I found O’Hara’s portrayal of the feisty Mary Catherine to be annoying. Her tinder box temper (a stock trait of all red-headed Irish lassies) came off more as a multiple personality disorder, changing temperaments in the blink of an eye and at the slightest provocation. In addition, the cultural norms depicted in the film (Go ahead, beat your spouse! Drag your wife by her hair across the sheep field if the spirit moves you!), didn’t date the film so much as made it difficult for me to buy into it.
The film was well worth watching for Barry Fitzgerald’s winning performance as John Wayne’s oldest friend, truest ally and matchmaker. He has the best lines in the film and is the most memorable character. [*** out of 5]