I was barely home this weekend, so I did not have a chance to commemorate the passing of the extraordinarily beautiful, talented, and sexy-feisty Maureen O’Hara. Coincidentally, I was hired a couple of weeks ago to write an essay about John Wayne in The Quiet Man (a movie I have seen probably 50 times. It’s a requirement for Irish-Americans. We’d be deported if we didn’t like it. I know the Irish dislike the movie. I can see why. But I also can understand why it is a classic amongst Irish-Americans, as well as, in general, John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara fans.)
Along with The Quiet Man, I also grew up watching The Parent Trap. At a party on Saturday, thinking of Maureen O’Hara’s impressive bullet-bras in The Parent Trap, I mused, casually, standing among a group of men, “She has some nice tits in that movie,” and the men erupted into laughter. One guy said, “Yeah, that’s exactly how I’d describe Parent Trap. The great-tits movie.”
I wasn’t even drinking.
I also wasn’t lying. Exhibit A:
My good friend Dan Callahan penned the tribute to Maureen O’Hara over at Rogerebert.com, and as usual he does not disappoint. While it is The Quiet Man for which she will be forever known, there was a lot more going on there, and Dan gets into it.
I love the mention of the famous whisper at the end of The Quiet Man. Let’s take a look so we can analyze.
In her memoir, O’Hara describes the filming of that whisper. John Ford came up to Maureen O’Hara and told her what he would like her to whisper. The whisper would not be heard on camera, he assured her. But the moment would close out the movie. We do not know what Ford told her to say, and in the memoir, O’Hara describes how she protested. We can only imagine that whatever John Ford told her to say must have been filthy. X-rated. And immediately after the whisper, the two run – yes, RUN – back to the thatched cottage together.
I mean, look at John Wayne’s reaction to the whisper. (He had not been told what O’Hara would whisper.) To be graphic (I’m sorry), once he’s heard what she said, he looks like a hard-on personified.
We were talking about that moment at the same party, and about 5 minutes after the “great tits in Parent Trap” comment, Dan said, “What do you think Ford told her to say?” and I guessed, “Oh, something like, ‘I want your cock …'” (SHEILA.) More eruptions of laughter. There were people there who did not know me so I can only guess what I seemed like, rattling off: “O’Hara had great tits and she wanted Wayne’s cock.” But Dan said, “Yeah, it must have been something along those lines.” O’Hara, who was NOT shy, and NOT a prude, balked at that whisper, and made Wayne and Ford promise that they would never reveal what she said. (They didn’t.) She wrote in her memoir, “I’ll never tell.”
Dan writes in his beautiful piece:
O’Hara never did reveal what Mary Kate Danaher whispers to Sean Thornton at the end of “The Quiet Man,” taking that secret with her to her grave. But that secret is maybe the password to forever halt or ameliorate the battle of the sexes, and O’Hara’s Mary Kate still holds that up to us as a beacon and a goal.
“But that secret is maybe the password to forever halt or ameliorate the battle of the sexes” …I love that.
And finally, on The Quiet Man train, I am so grateful for the nerds out there who create gifs of the exact moment I want.
In the famous kiss-scene in the cemetery during the rainstorm, O’Hara’s character is at first shocked (and pretending to be insulted) when Wayne’s Sean Thornton announces that he is about to kiss her. (Of course, their very first up-close-and-personal interaction, before they exchanged a “Hello, nice to meet you”, was a passionate kiss in a windstorm. Again with the right gif!!)
But in the cemetery, they are now in the proper approved courtship stage, and they’ve talked a bit, fought a bit, and they know each other better. Mary Kate Danaher tries to put him off. Courtship needs to go in the proper phases. Walking out together, etc. No kissing until much later. But Sean Thornton tells her, “Nope. We’re not gonna do it that way.” He knows she wants it. (This is Wayne’s most carnal performance. He was always fully engaged with his sexuality in his roles, in a fresh and natural way, even if there wasn’t a love story. But The Quiet Man, with its frustrations, its lack of sex, its unconsummated wedding night, puts Wayne into the realm of ONLY operating from his sexuality. And … it’s something to see, right?)
Then comes a wild thunderstorm and Mary Kate gets freaked out. It is the damnation of God coming down upon her for impure thoughts. The rain pours down and the two hide under a nearby arch, dating from 1354, or whatever. Eventually, they start to kiss passionately. And, sexiest of all, John Wayne’s white shirt becomes completely see-through, clinging to his impressive body, as he holds her in his arms. Macho gruff John Ford knew exactly what he was doing, knew he was objectifying John Wayne – for himself, and for the audience – and that the camera was reveling in John Wayne’s sexual persona.
There it is.
One of my favorite quotes from the Scott Eyman biography of John Wayne comes from Maureen O’Hara (who remained mentally sharp up until the end). John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara were friends for most of their lives. Everybody thought they were having sex, but Maureen says No, and close friends of Wayne say No, and Eyman also says No. So I think the evidence is pretty stacked up on the No side. Wayne was fully capable of being platonic friends with women (not a lot of men manage it). O’Hara worked with John Ford and John Wayne a number of times. Ford was tough. He could be impatient, gruff, cruel. O’Hara (and any story she tells needs to be taken with a grain of salt, especially her memoir) tells of one of her first days on Quiet Man and Ford screamed at her about something. Berating her in front of the whole crew. O’Hara fought back, loudly, shouting in his face that he was an asshole. Everyone watched this confrontation cowering in fear. But Ford backed off, and they were best friends until the end. So there’s that. Eyman also wrote about Wayne’s final illness, as he wasted away into nothing. Wayne, a proud strong man, was embarrassed about what he looked like, and also pretty devastated that the cancer had finally gotten him. He didn’t want his friends to see him like that, and he limited his friends’ access. Only a couple of people were allowed to visit in those final months, of the hundreds of colleagues and admirers who wanted to see him. O’Hara was one of the few allowed in. They spent time together, reminiscing, laughing, saying goodbye.
When Eyman asked O’Hara about her lifelong relationship with these two macho tough guys, and how it worked, O’Hara replied (and I can just hear her), “Well, I was really the only female man left in their lives.”
Once again: Read Dan’s tribute to Maureen O’Hara.
Rest in peace, icon.