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PopcornSushi’s Director of the Week: John Ford

John Ford

John Ford

 PopcornSushi’s Director of the Week

THE INFORMER - With Victor McLaglen Margot Grahame - Movie Poster - Directed by John Ford - RKO 1935
THE INFORMER – With Victor McLaglen Margot Grahame – Movie Poster – Directed by John Ford – RKO 1935

Whereas Alfred Hitchcock never won a Best Director Oscar for any of his films, John Ford holds the record with four wins. Wrongly stigmatized as a director of just Westerns, Ford’s best director wins didn’t include a single western( The Informer, How Green Was My Valley, The Grapes of Wrath, The Quiet Man). Not a John Ford film went  that wasn’t nominated for something. Despite being difficult and demanding on the set, there was never any question of an actor wanting to work with Ford. Ten times he directed an actor who would receive an Academy award nomination.

John Ford Artist?

Most people hear the name John Ford and think Western. Or John Wayne. Like his good friend Howard Hawks, Ford suffers from lack of understanding. The artistic nuisances Ford laced his films with are lost when John Wayne steps on-screen. Furthermore,  few realize that it was Ford who shaped the character of the Duke. According to the Wikipedia entry on Ford

“In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Ford directed more than 140 films (although most of his silent films are now lost) and he is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential film-makers of his generation.Ford’s work was held in high regard by his colleagues, with Orson Welles and Ingmar Bergman among those who have named him one of the greatest directors of all time.”

As well, Ford never used storyboards. He knew what he wanted to shoot and how he wanted to film it. During shoots, he would use very little film. Basically, Ford did the editor of the picture’s job for him. There were no extra footage, very few extraneous footage. Picture making was his life and Ford was the master.

Says author Ephraim Katz 

“Of all American directors, Ford probably had the clearest personal vision and the most consistent visual style. His ideas and his characters are, like many things branded “American”, deceptively simple. His heroes …. may appear simply to be loners, outsiders to established society, who generally speak through action rather than words. But their conflict with society embodies larger themes in the American experience.”

The Biography of John Ford

John Ford was born John Martin Feeney in Maine February 1, 1894. Ford’s brother, 12 years his senior, would be the first to get his start in the motion picture industry. John would follow Francis to Hollywood and work in his brother’s films as an assistant, stuntman and sometimes even doing a little acting. He would find his way into directing and begin to develop a stock company of actors, who would appear in many of his films. It would be in 1939 on the film Stagecoach that Ford would begin his iconic collaboration with John Wayne.

While John Wayne cultivated a tough image, when Ford was around, he deferred to him. Ford wasn’t to be trifled with and Wayne was  smart enough not to try. In conclusion, Ford would direct more than 140 pictures all  told.