Patty-fingers in the Holy Water

Of all the classic films set in Ireland or about Ireland and it’s people, there’s only one I consider absolutely perfect for lighthearted St. Patrick’s Day viewing. It boasts all the elements essential to movie perfection: stunning technicolor, a matchless cast of the best character actors of the time, a musical score guaranteed to get your toes tapping and an endearing love story. Yes, that’s right – The Quiet Man.

Trivia and stories abound when it comes to The Quiet Man. There’s the day John Wayne accidentally sprained Maureen O’Hara’s wrist in the famous kiss scene by unexpectedly blocking her slap. Or the dirty trick the Duke and John Ford played on Maureen for the scenes where she gets dragged across the sheep fields (operative word there being sheep). But by far the best story is the explanation about the last scene, where Maureen whispers something to the Duke and he stares at her in disbelief. Maureen speaks of it often, but there’s always one detail she leaves out:

There is only one fitting way to end our discussion of The Quiet Man, and that’s with a whisper. No matter what part of the world I’m in, the question I am always asked is: “What did you whisper into John Wayne’s ear at the end of The Quiet Man? It was John Ford’s idea; it was the ending he wanted. I was told by Mr. Ford exactly what I was to say. At first I refused. I said, “No, I can’t. I can’t say that to Duke.” But Mr. Ford wanted a very shocked reaction from Duke, and he said, “I’m telling you, you are to say it.”

I had no choice, and so I agreed, but with a catch: “I’ll say it on one condition; that it is never ever repeated or revealed to anyone.” So we made a deal. After the scene was over, we told Duke about our agreement and the three of us made a pact. There are those who claim that they were told and know what I said. They don’t and are lying. John Ford took it to his grave, so did Duke and the answer will die with me.

Curiosity about the whisper has become a great part of the Quiet Man legend. I have no doubt that as long as the film endures, so will the speculation. The Quiet Man meant so much to John Ford, John Wayne, and myself. I know it was their favorite picture too. It bonded us as artists and friends in a way that happens only but once in a career. That little piece of The Quiet Man belongs to just us, and so I hope you’ll understand as I answer:

I’ll never tell – Maureen O’Hara


Though the movie fan in me is saddened at the thought this piece of history will never be revealed, I love Maureen for preserving this memory and keeping the secret. Her devotion to her friends and the times they shared making the film touches my heart. And if I were one of the people who knew magic phrase to make John Wayne’s head snap, I wouldn’t tell either.

The Quiet Man is one of my favorite films, not just to watch for St. Patrick’s Day, but for all time. The teaming of Maureen and John Wayne is one of the few on screen castings that actually deserves the title of “electric.” Since TCM decided to give The Quiet Man a miss for the lineup today, head over to YouTube, where a very kind soul has uploaded the film in its entirety.


Filed under Classic Movies

8 responses to “Patty-fingers in the Holy Water

  1. Corey

    I thought Irish actress Sinéad Cusack (V for Vendetta, Eastern Promises) would be neat as Branson’s mother in Series 3 of “Downton Abbey.”

  2. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Casey! I’ve been a fan of THE QUIET MAN since I was a youngster! I’m delighted that you not only posted the entire movie here for the folks who aren’t lucky enough to have their own copy, but that you also agree that it’s more mysterious and fun NOT to know exactly what Maureen O’Hara whispered in John Wayne’s ear in that final shot! :-)

    On the off-chance you’re interested, here’s a link to our blog post about THE QUIET MAN and our happy memories of celebrating the film and the holiday when our family still lived in NYC:

    Your post made me smile! Great job, Casey! Erin Go Bragh! :-)

  3. BRILLIANTLY LOVELY POST! There’s nothing like The Quiet Man on St. Patrick’s Day! My family watches it every year.

  4. Love this movie. She was a class act. Lovely post.

  5. Laura Bynum

    Casey, we’re trying to get The Quiet Man listed – this year- to the National Film Registry at the so-named Facebook page – The Quiet Man for the National Film Registry. I’d like to link to this story, but also was curious about that photograph of the famous kiss. I found it online and it led me to your site…just curious if you have access. Also, if you could spread the word and help us get at least 500 Likes, I think it will give us more than a fighting chance some voting time . thanks

  6. Hi Laura,

    What an admirable cause! Of course I’d like to help! I don’t have a Facebook page myself but will be happy to tweet the link to my followers and help get the word out. The photograph I linked to is one of Doctor Macro’s scans (link to source page here). You can email them (here) and ask if they would mind you using it.

    Let me know if I can help in any other way!


  7. Laura Bynum

    Thank you Casey! That is just hugely helpful!

    take care,

  8. You always share the best classic films with us. Thank you for that.

Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s