For six decades, fans have trooped to Ireland in search of a place that existed only in director John Ford’s head: a sparkling Technicolor land where Protestants and Catholics live in merry mutual regard, leprechaun-like old-timers murmur Gaelic witticisms in a lilting brogue, and few arguments can’t be settled with a dozen pints and a few rounds of “The Wild Colonial Boy.” In short: I understand why a lot of people consider Ford’s 1952 film an insufferable load of blarney — but it makes me happy almost beyond reason. It’s a movie you could blissfully live inside — especially if, like John Wayne’s American ex-boxer retired to his ancestral town, you were coming home to Maureen O’Hara’s fiery colleen.
Their marriage isn’t just one of the movies’ most complicated and interesting unions, it’s one of the sexiest. Their clinch in a windswept cabin (the scene used in a classic E.T. sight gag) remains erotic in ways no X-rated film I’ve ever seen could match. (Oh, to know what O’Hara whispered in Wayne’s ear — at Ford’s offscreen instigation — to produce his priceless reaction in the last shot.) Tonight at the theater, the screening will be preceded by Valentine goodies from Whole Foods, wine tastings from Village Wines, and a jewelry show from All Strung Out Designs in advance of The Belcourt’s Oscar Night America party at month’s end.