Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Quiet Man

In our current play, Stones In His Pockets, one of the characters, Mickey, is proud of the fact that his claim to fame is that he's one of the only living extras from the John Wayne film, The Quiet Man. My mom is a huge fan of the Duke, but I never was growing up, so I decided to do a little digging into this film.

The Quiet Man stars John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, and was directed by John Ford. It's based on a Saturday Evening Post short story, and the story is pretty simple. Sean Thornton (Wayne) is an American boxer who returns to the land of his family, Ireland, to reclaim his family's farm. He meets Kate (O'Hara) who's spirited and beautiful, and the sparks fly. They fall in love. Kate's older brother, Will (played by Victor McLaglen), is pugnacious and unhappy about his little sister wants to marry this foreigner who outbid him for some land. Wacky hijinks ensue and they all live happily ever after. The film was released to rave reviews in 1951-1952 (so we're actually celebrating the 60th anniversary of the film) and was nominated and won a bunch of Oscars.

The trailer actually gives a ton of plot away so check it out if you're not familiar with this classic film.

Fun Facts About The Quiet Man:

1. This was the second of five films that Wayne and O'Hara did together.

2. At the film's conclusion, after the credits, we see Kate and Sean standing in their garden waving good-bye. Maureen O'Hara turns to John Wayne and whispers something in his ear, provoking a priceless reaction from Wayne. What was said was known only to O'Hara, Wayne and director John Ford. In exchange for saying this unscripted bit of text, O'Hara insisted that the exact line never be disclosed by any involved parties. In her memoirs she says that she refused to say the line at first as she "couldn't possibly say that to Duke", but Ford insisted, claiming he needed a genuine shock reaction from Wayne. The line remains a mystery to this day.

3. During the scene where Wayne first kisses O'Hara, she slaps his face. When they blocked the blow in rehearsal, she broke a bone in her hand. Since the movie was being filmed in sequential order, she couldn't wear a cast to fix the broken bone. Yow!

4. John Wayne and John Ford decided to play a prank on Maureen O'Hara during filming. They chose the sequence where Wayne drags O'Hara across the town and through the fields. Before shooting the scene, Wayne and Ford kicked all of the sheep dung they could find onto the hill where O'Hara was to be dragged, face-down, on her stomach. O'Hara saw them doing it; with the help of several friends, she kicked the dung off the path, only to have Wayne and Ford kick it back on. O'Hara and her friends kicked it off again, and Wayne and Ford kicked it back. This went on and on until right before the scene was shot, when Wayne and Ford got in the last kick. According to O'Hara, "Duke had the time of his life dragging me through it. It was bloody awful. After the scene was over, Mr. Ford had given instructions that I was not to be brought a bucket of water or a towel. He made me keep it on for the rest of the day. I was mad as hell, but I had to laugh too. Isn't showbiz glamorous?" And she worked with Wayne on 3 more pictures?! Brave lady!

5. Charles Fitzsimons and James Fitzsimons were Maureen O'Hara's real life younger brothers. In this film, James was billed as James Lilburn, though he was later better known as James O'Hara. Barry Fitzgerald and Arthur Shields were also brothers in real life, and Francis Ford was John Ford's elder brother. Ken Curtis, later of Gunsmoke fame and newly married to John Ford's daughter Barbara, has a small role as the accordion player.

6. Wayne brought his four children along on location, and Ford gave them parts in the film's race scene.

7. The famous kissing scene between Wayne and O'Hara is shown in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, when E.T. watches television. E.T. is interested and moved by the scene, his telepathic contact with Elliot causes the boy to re-enact it while he is at school.

8. John Ford's real birth name? It's Sean Aloysius O'Fearna.

There's also apparently a ton of Quiet Man fans, Quiet Man tours, and even a fan club.

(Facts culled from IMdB, WIkipedia, and Amazon)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Irish (American) Soda Bread

At Dragon, we take our opening night galas seriously. Lots of yummy treats, lots of drinks, much laughter. Opening night of Stones In His Pockets was no exception. Since we could have an obvious theme, we opted to trot out some yummy Irish inspired treats. Our stage manager, Elizabeth, made some awesome Irish car bomb cupcakes that were to die for. Our Executive Artistic Director, Meredith, made what I'm now calling hot cheesy Guinness dip. With bread? So good. And I made some good old fashioned Irish soda bread. Though I chose not to go authentic and instead made the Americanized version that most people are familiar with. Turns out that real soda bread doesn't have raisins. It MIGHT have caraway seeds, but even that would be considered fancy. Since a few people asked, and it wasn't exactly an old family recipe, here's the recipe I used for the bread on Friday night. It's incredibly easy to make (trust me, I rarely cook.) It's definitely best to serve it soon after baking - it's meant to eat same day and doesn't keep very well.

yield: Makes 1 loaf

active time: 20 minutes

total time: 1 hour 10 minutes

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons butter, chilled, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 8-inch-diameter cake pan with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in large bowl to blend. Add butter. Using fingertips, rub in until coarse meal forms. Make well in center of flour mixture. Add buttermilk. Gradually stir dry ingredients into milk to blend. Mix in raisins.

Using floured hands, shape dough into ball. Transfer to prepared pan and flatten slightly (dough will not come to edges of pan). Sprinkle dough with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake bread until brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool bread in pan 10 minutes. Transfer to rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Facts About County Kerry, Ireland

Our last play of 2011 opens this week at the Dragon Theatre and it's Marie Jones' smash hit, Stones In His Pockets. The story takes place in County Kerry, Ireland, and follows two local Irishmen who are cast as extras in a big Hollywood movie filming in the area. Because Ireland plays such a key role in this story, I thought it would fun to look up the location, County Kerry, to see what it's like. Here's some interesting facts about the region:
  • County Kerry is located in southwest Ireland

    • The population of the county is 145,048 according to the 2011 census.
    • Kerry is the 5th largest of the 32 counties of Ireland by area and the 13th largest by population.
    • Uniquely, it is bordered by only two other counties: County Limerick to the east and County Cork to the south-east.
    • The capital of Kerry is Tralee. The diocesan see is Killarney, which is one of Ireland's most famous tourist destinations.
    • The Lakes of Killarney, an area of outstanding natural beauty, are located in Killarney National Park.
    • The tip of the Dingle Peninsula is the most westerly point of Ireland.
    • Because of the mountainous area and the prevailing south-westerly winds, Kerry is among the regions with the highest rainfall in Ireland.
    • Kerry means the "people of Ciar" which was the name of the pre-Gaelic tribe who lived in part of the present county. The legendary founder of the tribe was Ciar, son of Fergus mac RĂ³ich. In Old Irish "Ciar" meant black or dark brown, and the word continues in use in modern Irish as an adjective describing a dark complexion.The suffix -raighe, meaning people/tribe, is found in various -ry place names in Ireland. The county's nickname is the Kingdom.
    • In the 17th and 18th centuries, Kerry became increasingly populated by poor tenant farmers, who came to rely on the potato as their main food source. As a result, when the potato crop failed in 1845, Kerry was very hard hit by the Great Irish Famine of 1845–49. In the wake of the famine, many thousands of poor farmers emigrated to seek a better life in America and elsewhere. Kerry was to remain a source of emigration until recent times. Another long term consequence of the famine was the Land War of the 1870s and 1880s, in which tenant farmers agitated, sometimes violently for better terms from their landlords.
    • In the 20th century, Kerry was one of the counties most affected by the Irish War of Independence (1919–21) and Irish Civil War (1922–23). In the war of Independence, the Irish Republican Army fought a guerrilla war against the Royal Irish Constabulary, and British military. Violence between the IRA and the British was ended in July 1921, but nine men, four British soldiers and five IRA men, were killed in a shootout in Castleisland on the day of the truce itself, indicating the bitterness of the conflict in Kerry.
    • Famous sightseeing stops in Kerry: Killarney National Park, Ardfert Cathedral, Muckross House and Gardens, St. Mary's Cathedral, the Skellig Islands, the Dingle Peninsula, and the Blasket Centre.