If you aren’t somebody who is interested in film history and the significant players in its development, you may be wondering who exactly John Ford is, and what makes him so worthy of an entire month-long feature. You may often hear him described as being a difficult, if unpretentious, and old-fashioned director. Ford was an incredibly intense and idiosyncratic man who even managed to occasionally alienate even those closest to him. John Ford smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish when he was permitted to, but was an extremely humble and sensitive man. John Ford was and remains to this very day a mystery to many people, but the one thing that critics and historians alike are sure of it’s that he’s a legendary figure in the business, and one of the greatest filmmakers to ever live.
Ford most famously made his name known through the direction of dozens of western and dramatic films, spanning from the early silent era to the mid-1960’s. The great director is the only filmmaker in history to win four Academy Awards for Best Director (The Informer in 1935, The Grapes of Wrath in 1940, How Green Was My Valley in 1941, and The Quiet Man in 1952). His frequent collaborators included famous western stars John Wayne and both Harry Carey Sr. and Harry Carey Jr., Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, and Maureen O’Hara.
The films of John Ford often had themes that romanticized the old west, and were incredibly patriotic and passionate about America. As far as direction, he greatly preferred the use of long, static shots as opposed to complex camera movements, which he felt were too laborious and time consuming. Ford was never afraid to sacrifice parts of his work for the greater good, and was known to make last-minute changes to many of his scripts, proving he was never “married” to any one idea. He preferred his actors known the ins and outs of their characters, and was not particularly fond of rehearsals. Though Ford favoured a more deliberate pacing and classic approach to direction, his films are far from boring or standard in any way. The man absolutely knew his way around a camera, and had both the critical praise and financial success to prove it.
John Ford’s most famous films include the incredible and highly influential Stagecoach, the Oscar-winning adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, the beautiful and controversial The Searchers, and my personal favorite film of his, the “film that beat Citizen Kane” How Green Was My Valley. His influence has been felt for years, and his films continue to amaze and inspire generations. Some of the directors who admired the man and were influenced by his films and style include my favorite director Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard, Alfred Hitchcock, Akira Kurosawa, Steven Spielberg, and Orson Welles.
The schedule for my John Ford retrospective month looks as follows:
#1 – The Informer (1935) – December 1
#2 – The Long Voyage Home (1940) – December 4
#3 – They Were Expendable (1945) – December 7
#4 – My Darling Clementine (1946) – December 10
#5 – Fort Apache (1948) – December 13
#6 – She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) – December 16
#7 – Rio Grande (1950) – December 19
#8 – The Quiet Man (1952) – December 22
#9 – The Searchers (1956) – December 25
#10 – The Wings of Eagles (1957) – December 28
*The schedule is subject to change, with Christmas break looming. If I have to eliminate any films from the marathon, I’ll be sure to post about it.