Why Quiet Man director John Ford was obsessed with Maureen O’Hara and sent her a Valentine Card

Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne in The Quiet Man

The Quiet Man, telling the fiery relationship between a beautiful Irish woman played by Maureen O’Hara and a handsome Irish American played by John Wayne, is arguably the most popular and enduring film ever made by legendary director John Ford.

To Ford, however, it was more than just another popular movie. O’Hara revealed that Ford was obsessed with her and regarded her as his ideal woman.

She believed that Ford secretly was living out his own fantasy love affair with her in the film, seeing himself in the role played by Wayne, who O’Hara always referred to as the Duke.

O’Hara made the revelation when she spoke to the New York Times in 2004 and said: “We look like a real couple, Duke and I, don’t we? John Ford gave both of us the confidence to do our best. But he was living out his fantasy of life through Duke and me. He was Sean (John Wayne’s character) and I was his ideal woman.”

Ford was much older than O’Hara and realised that a relationship between them was not possible. She didn’t view him romantically at all. Nevertheless, he would still declare his love for from time to time and sent her a Valentine Card he drew himself in 1955 when they were making their last film together, The Long Gray Line.

It showed a caricature of Ford with his eye-patch and pipe, looking stereotypically Irish as he gazed at O’Hara who has her back turned to him, perhaps an acknowledgement from Ford that he knew she did not want him.

The card is dotted with shamrocks and signed, Seán. Ford always used the Irish version of his name when writing to O’Hara in recognition of his Irish heritage.

The card was sold in November 2016 by New York auctioneers Bonhams for $1,125. A spokesman for Bonhams at the time of the sale said: “Ford was Irish-American, and had a romantic attachment to his family’s homeland. Maureen O’Hara personified his ideal Irish woman.”

In spite of his love for O’Hara, or maybe even because of it, Ford often treated her badly. She occasionally spoke about how he would verbally abuse her during filming. On one occasion, after he had been drinking heavily, he broke into her house and went through some of her possessions.

She later said: “I respected him as a director and wanted to please him. But he could be impossible sometimes, especially after he’d been drinking.”

O’Hara said that Ford was even abusive and bitter towards her during the filming of the Quiet Man. Speaking of this abusive streak in Ford, she once said: “That was real dung in The Quiet Man. He was the biggest devil, John Ford. He put as much of that dung in the field as he could, and then made sure that I was covered in it by the end of the day. Oh, I can still smell that awful stuff.”

In spite of this, however, O’Hara described Ford as the best director she had met and said she was glad that she had worked “with the old bastard”.

You can see and others speaking about Ford and the Quiet Man in this video.

Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling

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