John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara Only Made ‘Rio Grande’ Under the Promise That They Could Make ‘The Quiet Man’

John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, and director John Ford all wanted to make The Quiet Man a reality. However, the same can’t be said for external decision-makers. It took a lot of time and deal-making to ultimately get the enchanting drama made. Wayne and O’Hara agreed to sign onto making Rio Grande just so they could secure funding for The Quiet Man.

Hollywood studios didn’t want to make ‘The Quiet Man’

'The Quiet Man' Maureen O'Hara as Mary Kate Danaher and John Wayne as Sean Thornton. O'Hara is wearing a wedding dress looking to her right. Wayne is wearing a suit facing directly toward O'Hara.
L-R: Maureen O’Hara as Mary Kate Danaher and John Wayne as Sean Thornton | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

According to O’Hara’s ‘Tis Herself: A Memoir, every major studio turned down making The Quiet Man more than once. They called it a “silly, stupid little Irish story that will never make a penny,” but O’Hara, Wayne, and director John Ford saw the potential in it. Wayne ultimately convinced Ford to bring it to “Old Man Yates” at Republic, who shared the studios’ negative opinion. However, he made a deal that the filmmaker couldn’t refuse.

“I’ll finance the picture if you make a Western first, with the same director, same producer, same cast and crew, same everybody, to make up for the money I’m going to lose on The Quiet Man,” Yates said. “I’m going to lose on The Quiet Man.”

John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara made ‘Rio Grande’ so they could make ‘The Quiet Man’

As a result, Ford and company decided to make Rio Grande, which acted as the final installment of the cavalry trilogy. It followed Fort Apache and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. O’Hara, Wayne, and Ford didn’t want to make Rio Grande from the start. However, it was a path to getting The Quiet Man funded.

All those involved took less money than usual to stay within the $1.2 million budget for Rio Grande.

“I, quite frankly, was happy to be working with Mr. Ford again, and to be working with John Wayne,” O’Hara wrote. “They paid me $75,000 for the picture, but I’d have done it for less if it would have helped us make The Quiet Man.”

Nevertheless, Wayne and O’Hara discovered something while filming Rio Grande. They had impeccable chemistry that audiences couldn’t get enough of. She called working with him “the most special part” of filming the Western. However, they didn’t know just how good their chemistry was in the picture until they saw themselves on the screen for the first time.

Ford treated O’Hara with cruelty, which she didn’t experience working with him on How Green Was My Valley. As a result, she reevaluated him and considered not working with him again.

The movie became an awards darling

O’Hara and Wayne both experienced negative moments working with Ford on The Quiet Man. However, all three of them would see the film they worked hard to make become a success. It earned $3.8 million in rentals against a $1.75 million budget, but that wasn’t the end of its story.

The Quiet Man went on to become a classic and considered one of Ford’s greatest achievements. The film would go on to win in two of its seven Oscar-nominated categories. It earned the Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Director. However, it was also rightfully nominated in major categories, such as Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay.

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