Kiss Me (Mary) Kate: The Quiet Man

A Sex-Ed Movie for the Whole Family

God may have made a lovelier creature than Maureen O’Hara but, if so, His handiwork is hard to find. Hers was a face to launch ten thousand ships, or more. Many a fair lass from Erin has graced the silver screen, but even in black and white, O’Hara shimmered like a rainbow. To see her in Technicolor was to have a glimpse of heaven as it might have been imagined by St. Patrick.

“…But ’twas not her beauty alone that won me.” As a mere lass of 26, O’Hara was sufficiently accomplished to land the female lead in Miracle on Thirty-Fourth Street, where she established her signature screen persona: the beautiful, wholesome, strong-willed, independent, competitive, stubborn woman who understands that nothing will magnify her beauty and strength like a good man. The feminist heroines, real and imagined, of the late twentieth century are but debased grotesques of O’Hara’s characters, who neither feared men nor despised their own femininity but knew that the natural lure and spiritual complement for a good man was an even better woman.

It was John Ford’s genius to marry the power of O’Hara’s virtuous strength to the complementary virtues of the box-office male idol of the ’50s, John Wayne. Wayne’s primary cinematic persona was that of the

courageous man of honor, ever prepared to lay down his life for God, country, wife, and children. Here was a match all right, and the result was The Quiet Man, which ought to be on everyone’s short-list of great films. If you want a sex-ed movie you can take the whole family to, including Gram and Gramps and the priest who married you, this is it.

The plot is spare enough: Wayne, a retired American prizefighter returns to the village of his ancestors to muse and re-do life. Not five minutes into the first reel, he and O’Hara are playing exquisite male to exquisite female. They marry, but O’Hara’s villainous older brother (Victor McLaughlin) intends to keep her dowry for himself. Big John has won Maureen’s hand, but until he retrieves her dowry, she makes clear, he’ll never have her heart. On the 1950s screen, love was never displaced by sex, nor was duty excused by romance. And so John retrieves Maureen’s honor (and her dowry) the old-fashioned way: by beating McLaughlin in a fair fight. The marriage can now be established on the basis of true equality: each is tamed and instructed by the other’s love, as romantic love is tamed and instructed by love of virtue.

Oh, by the way, they lived happily ever after and had dozens of beautiful children.

Michael M. Uhlmann


Michael Martin Uhlmann (1939-2019) served as professor of government in the department of politics and policy at Claremont Graduate University and Claremont McKenna College. Prior to teaching at Claremont, Dr. Uhlmann was a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Vice President for Public Policy Research at the Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and taught at the George Mason University Law School.

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