John Ford

"Pre-eminent Hollywood director and the chief architect of the pioneer (specifically, Western) tradition in American films. Although tethered to the Hollywood studio system for the greater part of his career, he has achieved a thematic consistency which informs even the unlikeliest of his films and distinguishes his greatest." - Margaret Hinxman (The International Encyclopedia of Film, 1972)

John Ford

Director / Producer
(1894-1973) Born February 1, Cape Elizabeth, Maine, USA
Top 250 Directors

Key Production Country: USA
Key Genres: Drama, Western, Traditional Western, Adventure, Biography, Cavalry Film, Adventure Drama, Americana, Rural Drama, Revisionist Western, Romance, War
Key Collaborators: Ward Bond (Character Actor), Jack Murray (Editor), John Wayne (Leading Actor), Frank S. Nugent (Screenwriter), Dudley Nichols (Screenwriter), John Carradine (Character Actor), Bert Glennon (Cinematographer), Alfred Newman (Composer), James Basevi (Production Designer), Harry Carey Jr. (Character Actor), Merian C. Cooper (Producer), Victor McLaglen (Leading Character Actor)

"Orson Welles called John Ford the greatest "poet" the cinema has given us. He is at the very least the US's greatest historian (his films having examined virtually every era from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam) and his landscape surpasses that of say a Remington. His images of the individual dwarfed by this landscape, of family and community huddled against the brutality (and primal beauty) of Monument Valley in The Searchers is unsurpassable. It is not necessarily a true history, but as Ford says in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, "when the legend becomes truth, print the legend." John Ford was more than a filmmaker. He was a legend." - Richard Franklin (Senses of Cinema, 2002)
"Although even his greatest films are marred by broad slapstick humour and sentimental interludes, Ford nevertheless elevated the popular idiom to express his own complex, ambivalent, sometimes tragic sense of the tensions between tradition and progress, personal liberty and social justice, duty and desire. Ford was a stylist who moved the camera unobtrusively, and came to prefer simple, eye-level set-ups. Yet his unerring eye for composition and light - as well as the graceful, patient tempo he insisted upon - could infuse a seemingly straightforward scene with great delicacy and feeling." - Tom Charity (The Rough Guide to Film, 2007)
"In portraying, throughout a long and prolific career, the history of the United States from the Revolutionary War to World War II, Ford continually resorted to a deeply, personal, nostalgic form of legend. If there is no doubt of his importance to the development of the Western, his uniquely sentimental, poetic glorification of the white American's conquest of the wilderness is both picturesque and reactionary." - Geoff Andrew (The Film Handbook, 1989)
"Ford developed his craft in the twenties, achieved dramatic force in the thirties, epic seep in the forties, and symbolic evocation in the fifties. His style has evolved almost miraculously into a double vision of an event in all its vital immediacy and yet also in its ultimate memory image on the horizon of history… A storyteller and poet of images, he made his movies both move and be moving." - Andrew Sarris (The American Cinema, 1968)
"Belligerent, grandiose, deceitful and arrogant in real life, Ford seldom let these traits spill over into his films. They express at their best a guarded serenity, a sceptical satisfaction in the beauty of the American landscape, muted always by an understanding of the dangers implicit in the land, and a sense of the responsibility of all men to protect the common heritage." - John Baxter (International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, 1991)
"Throughout his long and prolific career, he was an affectionate, patriotic chronicler of US history and the mythology of how the West was won." - Chambers Film Factfinder, 2006
"Emotionalism is a strong factor in many of Ford's films which, in his later days, showed a nostalgic longing for things past and old values. These may only have existed in Ford's eyes or hazy recollection, but nonetheless they make for skilfully appealing entertainment." - David Quinlan (Quinlan's Illustrated Guide to Film Directors, 1983)
"John Ford was a consummate professional, largely indifferent to the critical acclaim he began to receive late in his career… Working within a system where he sometimes had little choice about projects, Ford was usually able to make something interesting out of bad scripts and poorly chosen casts." - R. Barton Palmer (501 Movie Directors: A Comprehensive Guide to the Greatest Filmmakers, 2007)
"Widely regarded as one of America's greatest directors, it is appropriate that John Ford got his start in that most American of genres, the Western. His career spanned over fifty-years, from the mid-teens through the mid-60s, and encompassed a variety of pictures, although he will always be best known for his Westerns." - Joel W. Finler (The Movie Directors Story, 1985)
"Themes of courage, loyalty, rugged individualism, and the American spirit pervade the films of John Ford. The natural vistas in his Westerns hold a romantic view of history with the earmarks of poetic realism. Ford very well may be the greatest director of Westerns in cinema history." - William R. Meyer (The Film Buff's Catalog, 1978)
"I have never thought about what I was doing in terms of art, or "this is great", or "world-shaking", or anything like that. To me it was always a job of work - which I enjoyed immensely - and that's it." - John Ford
TSPDT Guide
Highly Recommended
The Long Voyage Home (1940), The Grapes of Wrath (1940) , My Darling Clementine (1946) , The Quiet Man (1952) , The Searchers (1956) , The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
Recommended
3 Bad Men (1926), The Informer (1935) , The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936), Stagecoach (1939) , Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) , Drums Along the Mohawk (1939), How Green Was My Valley (1941) , They Were Expendable (1945) , The Fugitive (1947), 3 Godfathers (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) , Wagon Master (1950) , Rio Grande (1950), When Willie Comes Marching Home (1950), The Wings of Eagles (1957) , The Last Hurrah (1958)
Worth a Look
The Iron Horse (1924), Pilgrimage (1933), The Lost Patrol (1934), Judge Priest (1934), Steamboat 'Round the Bend (1935), The Hurricane (1937), Tobacco Road (1941), Fort Apache (1948) , The Sun Shines Bright (1953) , Mogambo (1953), The Long Gray Line (1955), Mister Roberts (1955) [co-directed by Mervyn LeRoy], The Horse Soldiers (1959), Sergeant Rutledge (1960), Two Rode Together (1961), How the West Was Won (1962) [co-directed by Henry Hathaway & George Marshall], Donovan's Reef (1963), Cheyenne Autumn (1964), Seven Women (1966)
Approach with Caution
Airmail (1932), Mary of Scotland (1936), Wee Willie Winkie (1937), Four Men and a Prayer (1938)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
1,000 Greatest Films
John Ford / Favourite Films
The Alamo (1960) John Wayne, The Birth of a Nation (1915) D.W. Griffith, Going My Way (1944) Leo McCarey, The High and the Mighty (1954) William Wellman, The Honor System (1917) Raoul Walsh, Lady for a Day (1933) Frank Capra, Ninotchka (1939) Ernst Lubitsch, The Song of Bernadette (1943) Henry King, Tol'able David (1921) Henry King, 3 Godfathers (1948) John Ford.
Source: Cinema (1964)
Amazon Products
Films / Books
    The Quiet Man
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