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| With: John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond, Victor McLaglen, Mildred Natwick, Francis Ford, Eileen Crowe, May Craig, Arthur Shields, Charles B. Fitzsimons, James O'Hara, Sean McClory, Jack MacGowran, Joseph O'Dea, Eric Gorman, Kevin Lawless, Paddy O'Donnell |
| Written by: Frank S. Nugent, based on a story by Maurice Walsh |
| Directed by: John Ford |
| MPAA Rating: Unrated |
| Running Time: 129 |
| Date: 06/06/1952 |
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By Jeffrey M. Anderson No major studio would touch John Ford's dream project, and so "B" studio Republic Pictures agreed to bankroll it if Ford would make them a bread-and-butter Western first. Ford delivered Rio Grande (1950), and Republic made good on its promise.
Ford shot on location in Ireland in dazzling Technicolor (with bold, sparkling greens), and came up with one of his most enjoyable, full-bodied films. John Wayne stars as Sean Thornton, an ex-boxer who escapes a dark secret and returns to his ancestral stomping grounds. He immediately falls for spunky redhead Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O'Hara) but must fight for her honor.
Ford clearly has such a good time that the potentially intense drama comes across as good-natured and bawdy, with doses of physical humor and dizzying romance. Today's audiences may balk at the rough treatment O'Hara gets, but she's no victim; she obviously gives as good as she gets. Ford includes one great boxing ring flashback that apparently inspired Martin Scorsese during the making of Raging Bull (1980).
Overall, I struggle with how much I dearly love this movie and how hokey it is. I usually end up ranking it as more of a guilty pleasure than as one of Ford's great works. But any true, open-hearted lover of cinema should see it.
Olive Films has released a glorious 60th anniversary Blu-ray edition (along with a new DVD), showcasing the film's unique colors in high-def. Unlike their usual bare-bones editions, this one comes with a liner notes booklet with an essay by Joseph McBride (adapted from his great book on John Ford), and a short documentary by Leonard Maltin on the making of the film. (The documentary has not been remastered for HD).