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John Ford

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John Ford (February 1, 1894 - August 31, 1973) was one of the most accomplished American film directors of the 1930s to 1960s, known particularly as a director of the Westerns, although his tributes to the veterans of World War II and Americana are also equally effective.

He was born John Martin Feeney in Cape Elizabeth, Maine to Irish parents from Galway and many of his films contain direct and indirect references to his ancestral heritage.

He won four Academy Awards as best director for The Informer, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley, and The Quiet Man - none of them Westerns. He was also nominated as Best Director for Stagecoach. As producer he received nominations for Best Picture for The Quiet Man and The Long Voyage Home.

With the making of the 1939 classic Stagecoach Ford would take a "B" star, John Wayne, and mentor Wayne to become an "American icon". He would use Wayne to make a statement of the American frontier spirit, and Wayne would become one of the biggest box office stars of the 20th century in the process. Ford's friendship with John Wayne led them to work together on films that featured some of Wayne's most iconic roles. Over the next 35 years Wayne would appear in over twenty of Ford's films, including Stagecoach (1939), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Quiet Man (1952), The Searchers (1956), The Wings of Eagles (1957), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). John Wayne would call Ford "Coach" and "Pappy".

Probably the setting that Ford most loved to work with would be Utah's Monument Valley. He made numerous films there (including some that are out of character/setting). Ford would define images of the American West with some of the most beautiful and powerful cinematography ever shot, including those in Stagecoach, The Searchers, Fort Apache, and She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.

During World War II Commander John Ford, USNR, served in the United States Navy and made documentaries for the Defense Department. He would win two more Academy Awards during this time, one for The Battle of Midway (1942), and a second for acclaimed documentary June 7th (1943). For more information on his military contributions check the Naval Historical Center link below.

In 1955, Ford was tapped to direct the classic Navy comedy Mister Roberts, starring Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, William Powell, and James Cagney. But, Ford was replaced by Mervyn LeRoy during fliming when he suffered a ruptured gallbladder.

Ford cast Ward Bond as himself, under the character of John Dodge, in the 1957 movie The Wings of Eagles.

Some other actors and actresses which John Ford repeatedly used throughout his directorial career include: Ward Bond, Ken Curtis, Jane Darwell, Francis Ford (brother), Ben Johnson, Victor McLaglen, Harry Carey, Jr., among many others. They would be called the "John Ford Stock Company".

He was the first recipient of the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award in 1973.

Ford passed away from stomach cancer, at age 79, in Palm Desert, California. He was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Partial Filmography

External links

  • John Ford at the Internet Movie Database
  • Yahoo! Movies entry
  • Senses of Cinema entry
  • Movie Maker entry
  • Reel Classics entry
  • Naval Historical Center entry

Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55