For fans of John Wayne, Winterset, Iowa, is the place to be this weekend.
Among a long list of activities, Wayne's birthplace is featuring “The Quiet Man” at its annual John Wayne Birthday Celebration, which opens Friday night with a 7 p.m. screening.
It's one of my favorite John Wayne films, and he made a lot of great ones.
In “The Quiet Man,” Wayne plays boxer Sean Thornton, who has a dark secret in his past. He returns to the Irish village of his childhood, where he takes a liking to a ravishing, spirited redhead, Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O'Hara).
But Mary Kate's brother, Squire Red Danaher, opposes a marriage. The entire movie is taken up with courtship, a wedding and then settling the feud between the two burly men. The climactic scene is a lengthy, knock-down, drag-out fistfight between Thornton and Danaher witnessed by the entire village.
The movie is romantic, it has a great sense of humor, it's quintessentially Irish and it's an epic clash between two manly men.
“The Quiet Man” earned seven Oscar nominations, including best picture.
The movie also won John Ford one of his four Academy Awards for best director.
My opinion: the Duke was at his best when he acted opposite Maureen O'Hara, with whom he made five pictures, or was directed by John Ford.
Ford and Wayne's credits together include “Stagecoach” (1939, the movie that made Wayne a star); “Fort Apache” (1948); “Rio Grande” (1950, a movie that Ford, Wayne and O'Hara agreed to make for Republic Pictures so that the studio would fund “The Quiet Man”); “The Searchers” (1956, now regarded by many to be Wayne's best performance); and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (1962).
My favorite Wayne-O'Hara pairing, other than “The Quiet Man,” is the rollicking western “McLintock” (1963), another film in which the two feud memorably before making up after a public brawl.
John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907, to pharmacist Clyde Morrison and his wife, Mary. Clyde had a lung condition that caused him to move his family from Iowa to the warmer climate of Southern California.
Marion, a football player at the University of Southern California, got into the movie business when cowboy star Tom Mix got him a summer job as a props man in exchange for football tickets. He went from props to being an extra and stuntman.
Once he began getting speaking roles, Wayne's screen name was suggested by director Raoul Walsh, who was reading a biography about Gen. Anthony Wayne. The studio liked the Wayne part but decided John was a better first name.
His nickname, Duke, came from a favorite childhood dog.
Wayne was a five-pack-a-day smoker of unfiltered Camels, and in 1964 he had a lung removed because of cancer. Cancer came back to claim him in June 1979, when he was only 72. He was one of the most popular movie stars ever.
This year the annual birthday celebration will include appearances by Wayne's daughter, Aissa, and granddaughter, Jennifer.
The schedule of events, which can be found online at www.johnwaynebirthplace.org, includes a Saturday pancake breakfast, 5K run-walk, two more screenings of “The Quiet Man” plus a documentary about it, a commemoration for Irish soldiers who served in the Civil War, a corned beef and cabbage dinner at the Pheasant Run Tavern, and an evening dinner and auction to raise funds for the John Wayne Birthplace.
Screenings of the documentary and “The Quiet Man” wrap things up Sunday afternoon.