John Ford - S/D

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This spurred by viewing My Darling Clementine, which stunned me. That dance scene, in the church to-be, with that beautiful backdrop was wonderful. I went on to see How green was my Valley, which I didn't like as much but still found very good. I'll admit to having shed a tear or two during that movie though.

Anyhow, it seems that no thread solely devoted to John Ford exists (that, or I suck at searches), so go ahead and tell me what I should see next.

Jibé (Jibé), Monday, 10 April 2006 11:36 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Search: almost everything, but particularly The Iron Horse, 3 Bad Men (silent), Judge Priest, Stagecoach, Young Mr. Lincoln, The Grapes of Wrath, My Darling Clementine, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Wagon Master, The Quiet Man, The Sun Shines Bright, The Searchers, Sergeant Rutledge and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (as it's a sort of valedictory for his career and his major themes, see it last).

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Monday, 10 April 2006 12:35 (twelve years ago) Permalink

OK, I've seen Grapes of Wrath yesterday, it is indeed great. Then again, I was bound to like it, as I have yet to read a Steinbeck novel I dislike. I'm about to go see Steamboat round the bend. Young Mr. Lincoln will be tomorrow's fare.

Jibé (Jibé), Wednesday, 12 April 2006 09:37 (twelve years ago) Permalink

My only serious John Ford quibble: fist-fights aren't that funny, dude.

Dogfight Giggle (noodle vague), Wednesday, 12 April 2006 09:43 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I own the cavalry triology on DVD (FNAC box set):

"Fort Apache"- Henry Fonda as a cruel and obsessed military man trying to regain his honour by going to war with the Cochise. John Wayne is the cool-headed, warm-hearted officer trying to stop this; Shirley Temple is rowr (and legal, before anyone asks.)

"She Wore A Yellow Ribbon"- John Wayne is about to retire from service when indian attacks prompt much fear and suspicion. Big love interest subplot, in fact you could probably say it's the main plot actually.

Haven't seen "Rio Grande" yet, but those two come highly reccomended.

Anyway, Ford's movies tend to leave me...exhausted. They always feel much longer than any other movies of that time, even tho they aren't.

Question: Is his portrayal of indians ahead or behind the times for Hollywood of that era? From what I've seen, there's a fair bit of noble savage fetischizing in there, but he does at least treat them as human beings, and even when they're villains they're hardly one-dimensional.

My only serious John Ford quibble: fist-fights aren't that funny, dude.

See also: drunk comedy irishmen.

Daniel_Rf (Daniel_Rf), Wednesday, 12 April 2006 11:14 (twelve years ago) Permalink

From what I've seen, there's a fair bit of noble savage fetischizing in there, but he does at least treat them as human beings

The most blatant pro-Indian sentiment of his career is his penultimate film, Cheyenne Autumn (still from the era where Euro-Americans played everyone, so the Cheyenne are played by Sal Mineo, Ricardo Montalban etc). Certainly Wayne in The Searchers seems as unhinged, and more racist, than Chief Scar. Apparently the tribes Ford worked with on location felt warmly toward him and gave him ceremonial honors (how much of this was PR I can't be sure).

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 12 April 2006 12:24 (twelve years ago) Permalink

OK, I have to ask you all a question. Is it like mandatory for a Ford movie to have a dance scene? Did he refuse scripts that didn't include one? Did he find a way to always introduce one in the movie? Why is he such a great fan of those scenes? Not that I dislike those mind you, I usually quite like them, but it baffles me that in all the movies of his I've seen there's one.

Jibé (Jibé), Friday, 14 April 2006 07:45 (twelve years ago) Permalink

young mr lincoln is amazing - one of my favorite films ever. i'm glad it's out on criterion now. liberty valance and clementine and fort apache and of course the searchers are great too.

to be honest, even tho i think ford is great and all, i often find myself not being all that...interested in his subject matter, somehow. it's not always easy to see the sadness and ambiguity behind all the macho bluster and not-very-funny "comic" interludes in some of those films. but it's definitely there.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Friday, 14 April 2006 07:52 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Well, those dances provide the sort of community ritual (esp since so many of his films are set in the 19th-century frontier) that establish where the characters are in the social pecking order, who's courting who, who wants to kill who, etc, while also adding color to the narrative.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Friday, 14 April 2006 12:23 (twelve years ago) Permalink

if you could edit out the EXTREME CORNY SENTIMENTALITY of his movies, he'd be all-time classic

timmy tannin (pompous), Friday, 14 April 2006 14:36 (twelve years ago) Permalink

sometimes known as "heart."

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Friday, 14 April 2006 14:43 (twelve years ago) Permalink

more correctly known as "treacle"

timmy tannin (pompous), Friday, 14 April 2006 14:49 (twelve years ago) Permalink

have a drink and be Irish!

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Friday, 14 April 2006 14:58 (twelve years ago) Permalink

i do and i am, and don't get me wrong, he's obviously great, but it's that one aspect/flaw that prevents me from fully appreciating/enjoying his stuff.

timmy tannin (pompous), Friday, 14 April 2006 15:20 (twelve years ago) Permalink

It gets icky sometimes (as in one of his most overrated by his contemporaries, The Informer), but not as much as people claim, for me. Wayne wandering away from the doorframe at the end of The Searchers, barking "Never apologize, it's a sign of weakness" (in Yellow Ribbon?) -- not at all treacly.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Friday, 14 April 2006 15:24 (twelve years ago) Permalink

John Ford = Genius. Every time I watch The Grapes of Wrath I have a serious breakdown.

mts (theoreticalgirl), Friday, 14 April 2006 15:57 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Ford and I aren't simpatico, but I saw Young Mr Lincoln for the first time a few weeks ago and was taken with its conflicted hero, who's shown exploiting his aw-shucks manner in the same way that Preminger did Jimmy Stewart in Anatomy of a Murder.

The Quiet Man has too much ruddy Irish blarney for my taste, and would be my choice to destroy.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Friday, 14 April 2006 16:01 (twelve years ago) Permalink

oh, if anything that's the film where the blarney work best, and E.T. will back me up on that!

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Friday, 14 April 2006 16:11 (twelve years ago) Permalink

bob goen is a huge ford fan, yes

gear (gear), Friday, 14 April 2006 16:16 (twelve years ago) Permalink

two months pass...
'The Searchers': How the Western Was Begun

In the last shot of "The Searchers," the camera, from deep inside the cozy recesses of a frontier homestead, peers out though an open doorway into the bright sunshine. The contrast between the dim interior and the daylight outside creates a second frame within the wide expanse of the screen. Inside that smaller space, the desert glare highlights the shape and darkens the features of the man who lingers just beyond the threshold. Everyone else has come inside: the other surviving characters, who have endured grief, violence, the loss of kin and the agony of waiting, and also, implicitly, the audience, which has anxiously anticipated this homecoming. But the hero, whose ruthlessness and obstinacy have made it possible, is excluded, and our last glimpse of him emphasizes his solitude, his separateness, his alienation — from his friends and family, and also from us.

Even if you are watching "The Searchers" for the first time — perhaps on the beautiful new DVD that Warner Home Video has just released to mark the film's 50th anniversary — this final shot may look familiar. For one thing, it deliberately replicates the first image you see after the opening titles — a view of a nearly identical vista from a very similar perspective. Indeed, the frame-within-the-frame created by shooting through relative darkness into a sliver of intense natural light is a notable motif in this movie, and elsewhere in the work of its director, John Ford. Especially in his westerns, Ford loved to create bustling, busy interiors full of life and feeling, and he was equally fond of positioning human figures, alone or in small, vulnerable groups, against vast, obliterating landscapes. Shooting from the indoors out is his way of yoking together these two realms of experience — the domestic and the wild, the social and the natural — and also of acknowledging the almost metaphysical gap between them, the threshold that cannot be crossed.

But that image of John Wayne's shadow in the doorway — he plays the solitary hero, Ethan Edwards — does not just pick up on other such moments in "The Searchers." Perhaps because the shot is thematically rich as well as visually arresting — because it so perfectly unites showing and telling — it has become a touchstone, promiscuously quoted, consciously or not, by filmmakers whose debt to Ford might not be otherwise apparent. Ernest Hemingway once said that all of American literature could be traced back to one book, Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn," and something similar might be said of American cinema and "The Searchers." It has become one of those movies that you see, in part, through the movies that came after it and that show traces of its influence. "Apocalypse Now," "Punch-Drunk Love," "Kill Bill," "Brokeback Mountain": those were the titles that flickered in my consciousness in the final seconds of a recent screening in Cannes of Ford's masterwork, all because, at crucial moments, they seem to pay homage to that single, signature shot.

At the end of "Brokeback Mountain," for instance, we are inside Ennis Del Mar's trailer, looking out the window onto the Wyoming rangeland, from a domestic space into the wilderness, as in "The Searchers." But in this case, the interior, rather than a warm, buzzing home, is barren, the scene of Ennis's desolation. The outside, insofar as it recalls the mountain where he and Jack Twist spent their youthful summer of love together, is an unattainable place of freedom and companionship, rather than a zone of danger and loneliness as it was in the earlier film. Ennis is severed from those he loves, and from his own nature, by the strictures of civilization, while Ethan's violent nature renders him an exile from civilized life, condemned to wander on the margins of law, stability and order.

Of course, "Brokeback Mountain" is a western by virtue of its setting rather than its themes, which recall the forbidden-love mid-1950's melodramas of Douglas Sirk more than anything Ford was doing at the time. But just about any movie that ventures into the territory of the western — and a great many that do not — has a way of bumping up against not only Ford's images but also his ideas.

He did not invent the genre, of course, and hardly restricted himself to it in the course of a career that began in the silent era and lasted more than 50 years. There will always be those who find the frontier visions of Budd Boetticher, Anthony Mann, Raoul Walsh and Howard Hawks more complex, more authentic or more varied than Ford's, as well as those who seek out western heroes less obvious than John Wayne. But like it or not, Wayne and Ford, whose long association is sampled in a new eight-movie boxed set and examined in a recent PBS documentary, "John Ford/John Wayne: The Filmmaker and the Legend," directed by Sam Pollard, have long since come to represent the classic, canonical idea of the American West on film.

Which is to say that their movies, however deeply revered and frequently imitated, have also been attacked, mocked, dismissed and misunderstood. If, from the late 1930's to the early 1960's, they defined the classic western — a tableau involving marauding Indians, fearless gunslingers, ruthless outlaws and the occasional high-spirited gal in a calico dress — they also begat the countertendency that came to be known as the revisionist western, with its nihilism, its brutality and its harsh demystification of the threadbare legends of the old West. Thus, after Sam Peckinpah and Sergio Leone, after "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" and "Unforgiven," after "Dead Man" and "Deadwood," the brightly colored black-and-white world of "The Searchers" might look quaint, simplistic and not a little retrograde.

It certainly looked that way at Bennington College in 1982, when the novelist Jonathan Lethem saw the film for the first time. He recalls the laughter of his fellow undergraduates in an essay called "Defending 'The Searchers,' " which also recalls his own earnest intellectual obsession with the film. His first attempt to appreciate it ends in defeat — " 'The Searchers' was only a camp opportunity after all. I was a fool" — but he keeps returning to contend with the sneers and shrugs of academic and bohemian friends and acquaintances, who can't see what he's so excited about. "Come on, Jonathan," one of them says, "it's a Hollywood western."

So it is, which means that it's open to the usual accusations of racism, sentimentality and wishful thinking. David Thomson, in his "Biographical Dictionary of Film," tips his hat to "The Searchers," but only in the midst of a thorough ideological demolition of its director, whose "male chauvinism believes in uniforms, drunken candor, fresh-faced little women (though never sexuality), a gallery of supporting players bristling with tedious eccentricity and the elevation of these random prejudices into a near-political attitude." The idea that Ford is an apologist for violence and a falsifier of history, as Mr. Thomson insists, dovetails with a longstanding liberal suspicion (articulated most fully by Garry Wills in his book "John Wayne's America") of Wayne, one of Hollywood's most outspoken conservatives for most of his career. And of course, the presumed attitudes that make Wayne and Ford anathema at one end of the spectrum turn them into heroes at the other.

But as the PBS documentary makes clear, the two men did not always march in political lockstep. And in any case, the closer you look at the movies themselves, the less comfortably they fit within any neat political scheme. Even the portrayal of Indian and Mexican characters, once you get past the accents and the face paint, cannot quite be reduced to caricature.

And Wayne himself, from his star-making entrance as the Ringo Kid in "Stagecoach" (1939) to his valedictory performance in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962), his last western with Ford, is hardly the simple personification of manly virtue his critics disdain and his admirers long for. Even when he drifts toward playing a John Wayne type rather than a fully formed character, there is enough unacknowledged sorrow in his broad features, and enough uncontrolled anger in that slow, hesitant phrasing, to make him seem dangerous, unpredictable: someone to watch. He is never quite who you think he will be.

And this is never truer than in "The Searchers," where much about Ethan's personality and personal history remains in the shadows. A former soldier in the Confederate Army, he arrives in Texas (though the film was shot in Monument Valley in Utah) three years after the end of the Civil War, with no way of accounting for the time lag apart from the angry insistence that he didn't spend it in California. Wherever he was, he acquired both a virulent hatred of Indians and an intimate understanding of their ways. When his two young nieces are kidnapped by Comanches — their parents and brothers are scalped and the farmstead burned — he sets out on a search that will last for years and that will blur the distinction between rescue and vengeance. It becomes clear toward the end that he wants to find the surviving niece (now played by Natalie Wood) so that he can kill her.

This impulse points to a terrifying, pathological conception of honor, sexual and racial, and for much of "The Searchers" Ethan's heroism is inseparable from his mania. To the horror and bafflement of his companions (one of whom is both a preacher and a Texas Ranger, and thus a perfect embodiment of civilized order), Ethan shoots out the eyes of a dead Comanche, and exults that this posthumous blinding will prevent this enemy from finding his way to paradise. But when you think about it, Ethan's ability to commit such an atrocity rests on a form of respect, since unlike the others he not only knows something about Comanche beliefs but is also willing to accept their reality. And the film, for its part (the script is by Frank S. Nugent, who was once a film critic for The New York Times before he took up screenwriting), acknowledges the reality of Ethan's prejudices and blind spots, which is not the same as sharing or condoning them.

The Indian wars of the post-Civil War era form a tragic backdrop in most of Ford's post-World War II westerns, much as the earlier conflicts between settlers and natives did in the novels of James Fenimore Cooper. That the Indians are defending their land, and enacting their own vengeance for earlier attacks, is widely acknowledged, even insisted upon. The real subject, though, is not how the West was conquered, but how — according to what codes, values and customs — it will be governed. The real battles are internal, and they turn on the character of the society being forged, in violence, by the settlers. Where, in this new society, will the frontier be drawn between vengeance and justice? Between loyalty to one's kind and the more abstract obligations of human decency? Between the rule of law and the law of the jungle? Between virtue and power? Between — to paraphrase one of Ford's best-known and most controversial formulations — truth and legend?

Ford's way of posing these questions seems more urgent — and more subtle — now than it may have at the time, precisely because his films are so overtly concerned with the kind of moral argument that is, or should be, at the center of American political discourse at a time of war and terrorism. He is concerned not as much with the conflict between good and evil as with contradictory notions of right, with the contradictory tensions that bedevil people who are, in the larger scheme, on the same side. When should we fight? How should we conduct ourselves when we must? In "Fort Apache," for example, the elaborate codes of military duty, without which the intricate and closely observed society of the isolated fort would fall apart, are exactly what lead it toward catastrophe. Wayne, as a savvy and moderate-tempered officer, has no choice but to obey his headstrong and vainglorious commander, played by Henry Fonda, who provokes an unnecessary and disastrous confrontation with the Apaches. In the end, Wayne, smiling mysteriously, tells a group of eager journalists that Fonda's character was a brave and brilliant military tactician. It's a lie, but apparently the public does not require — or can't handle — the truth.

In telling it, Wayne is writing himself out of history, which is also his fate in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (not, unfortunately, one of the discs in the Warner box). That film — which contains the famous line "When legend becomes fact, print the legend!" —throws Wayne's man of action and James Stewart's man of principle into a wary, rivalrous alliance. Their common enemy is an almost cartoonish thug played by Lee Marvin, but the real conflict is between Stewart's lawyer and Wayne's mysterious gunman, one of whom will be remembered as the man who shot Liberty Valance.

What we learn, in the course of the film's long flashbacks, is that the triumph of civilization over barbarism is founded on a necessary lie, and that underneath its polished procedures and high-minded institutions is a buried legacy of bloodshed. The idea that virtue can exist without violence is as untenable, as unrealistic, as the belief — central to the revisionist tradition, and advanced with particular fervor in HBO's "Deadwood" — that human society is defined by gradations of brutality, raw power, cynicism and greed.

If only things were that simple. But everywhere you look in Ford's world — certainly in "Fort Apache," in "The Searchers," in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" — you see truth shading into lie, righteousness into brutality, high honor into blind obedience. You also see, in the boisterous emoting of the secondary characters, the society that these confused ideals and complicated heroes exist to preserve: a place where people can dance (frequently), drink (constantly), flirt (occasionally) and act silly.

And everywhere else — after Ford, beyond his movies — you find the same thing. The monomaniacal quest for vengeance, undertaken by a hero at odds with the society he is expected to protect: it's sometimes hard to think of a movie from the past 30 years, from "Taxi Driver" to "Batman Begins," that doesn't take up this theme. And the deeper question of where vengeance should stop, and how it can be distinguished from justice, surfaces in "Unforgiven" and "In the Bedroom," in "Mystic River" and "Munich."

In "Munich" the Mossad assassins spend most of the film in a limbo that Ethan Edwards would recognize, even though it takes place amid the man-made monuments of Europe rather than the wind-hewn rock formations of Monument Valley. The Israeli agents are far from home, exiled from the democratic, law-governed society in whose name they commit their acts of vengeance and pre-emption, and frighteningly close both to their enemies and to a state of pure, violent retaliatory anarchy. With more anguish, perhaps, than characters in a John Ford movie, they often find themselves arguing with one another, trying to overcome, or at least to rationalize, the contradictions of what they are doing. They appeal to various texts and traditions, but they might do better to pay attention to the television that is on in the background at one point in the movie: another frame within the frame, tuned, hardly by accident, to "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 15 June 2006 16:32 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Couldn't resist that Munich analogy, eh?

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Thursday, 15 June 2006 18:29 (twelve years ago) Permalink

"That'll be the day!"

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 15 June 2006 18:41 (twelve years ago) Permalink

honestly i don't think a.o. scott has seen a lot of ford movies

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Thursday, 15 June 2006 20:40 (twelve years ago) Permalink


Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 15 June 2006 20:42 (twelve years ago) Permalink

i agree with the author on most point (although again, they seem like they are being repeated second-hand rather than freshly observed) it's sort of weird how this "is it ok to like john wayne?" meme gets trotted out every few years.

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Thursday, 15 June 2006 20:42 (twelve years ago) Permalink

They keep showing Mogambo on TCM but I'm having a lot of trouble watching it- it's got a tired, 50s quality, taking place in that unconvincing limbo between studio and location with the usually luminous stars and the Technicolor not seen at their best. Maybe I should keep watching for a Merian C. Cooper elephant stampede or something? But he doesn't seem to be involved in this one.

Sons Of The Redd Desert (Ken L), Friday, 16 June 2006 23:46 (twelve years ago) Permalink

i like mogambo a lot, although the stock footage used in the hunting scenes is pretty creaky.

funny you should mention cooper--he and ford were partners in an independent production company, but no, he didn't have a hand in this one.

how hot is grace kelly in this?

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Saturday, 17 June 2006 07:21 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Mogambo is nowhere as good as Red Dust (of which it is a remake)

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 17 June 2006 14:26 (twelve years ago) Permalink

amateurist, have you seen the documentary about Cooper, I'm King Kong? That's why I mentioned him- they discuss the Ford/Cooper team-up. Grace is cute, but is she as cute as in, say, the Hitchcocks?

Sons Of The Redd Desert (Ken L), Saturday, 17 June 2006 17:28 (twelve years ago) Permalink

four months pass...
Ford an active bisexual (Spencer Tracy too), acc to new Kate Hepburn bio? Time to open up the canon for Queer Studies.

(I guess Jon Stewart's jokey Western clips re Brokeback were even more OTM than suspected)

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 26 October 2006 15:48 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Some closet doors are better left closed.

Eric H. (Eric H.), Thursday, 26 October 2006 20:58 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Portrait of author:

Move over, Bogdanovich!

Eric H. (Eric H.), Thursday, 26 October 2006 21:00 (twelve years ago) Permalink

The Queer Man

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Thursday, 26 October 2006 21:20 (twelve years ago) Permalink

hahaha, no wonder that homophobe Richard Schickel hates the book, he probably just looked at the author pic.

Eric, you sleek young ageist, that's mean; I'm sure they both looked tight and cruisy on the Stagecoach set.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Friday, 27 October 2006 12:39 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Hung Mr. Lincoln
What Price Glory Hole

timmy tannin (pompous), Friday, 27 October 2006 15:16 (twelve years ago) Permalink

you don't even have to change "When Willie Comes Marching Home"

milo z (mlp), Friday, 27 October 2006 15:17 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Wee Willie Winkie takes on a disturbing new meaning

timmy tannin (pompous), Friday, 27 October 2006 15:21 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Spielberg says that he first met Ford when he was only about 15, aspiring to be make movies like those he admired by Ford. “So you wanna be a picture maker?” he remembers Ford saying (Ford in his office, dressed like he had just returned from a safari instead of lunch). “What do you know about art?” He sent the boy to a wall in his office where he had hung a series of Western landscape paintings. Asking young Spielberg to identify the location of the horizon line in a couple of them, Ford pronounced, “When you can decide that putting the horizon at the top of the frame or the bottom of the frame is better than putting it in the middle of the frame, you may, someday, make a good picture maker. Now get outta here.” Spielberg smiles.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 8 November 2006 20:42 (twelve years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

This fella with some quality early-Ford-at-Fox bloggery:

Dr Morbius, Friday, 25 January 2008 18:31 (eleven years ago) Permalink

four months pass...

so Drums Along The Mohawk. Yes?

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 29 May 2008 18:14 (ten years ago) Permalink

It's nice but his 3rd-best film of '39.

Dr Morbius, Thursday, 29 May 2008 18:18 (ten years ago) Permalink

two months pass...

They Were Expendable. Yes?

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Wednesday, 27 August 2008 15:15 (ten years ago) Permalink

Been a long time, I remember liking it. Lindsay Anderson loved it.

Dr Morbius, Wednesday, 27 August 2008 15:22 (ten years ago) Permalink

If I had to vote for anything it would be Ford's segment in How The West Was Won if only for that Cinerama shot of the blood being washed off the table right at you.

Elvis Telecom, Wednesday, 27 August 2008 23:23 (ten years ago) Permalink

super deluxo ultraultra restoration blu-ray of how the west was won coming in september

also with a second disc presenting the film in "Smilebox"
(shot is from a different movie)

abanana, Thursday, 28 August 2008 00:48 (ten years ago) Permalink

I'm looking fwd to West, never saw

Dr Morbius, Thursday, 28 August 2008 13:15 (ten years ago) Permalink

I did rent TWE.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 28 August 2008 13:18 (ten years ago) Permalink

If I had to vote for anything it would be Ford's segment in How The West Was Won if only for that Cinerama shot of the blood being washed off the table right at you.

-- Elvis Telecom

this sounds fantastic.

the spielberg story upthread is the source of a song on the new drive-by truckers album. hum.

thomp, Thursday, 28 August 2008 13:32 (ten years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

Cheyenne Autumn – yes?

Roman Polanski now sleeps in prison. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 19 October 2009 19:40 (nine years ago) Permalink

Saw that once a long time ago, liked it but suffers from a lotta stars in redface (see way up above).

have you seen The Sun Shines Bright or Wagonmaster?

Your Favorite Saturday Night Thing (Dr Morbius), Monday, 19 October 2009 20:11 (nine years ago) Permalink

That Kent Jones piece is great and was a long time in coming.

That elusive North American wood-ape (Capitaine Jay Vee), Saturday, 4 May 2013 13:44 (five years ago) Permalink

I've seen a lot of westerns in my day. I grew up in the Golden Age of tv westerns. They were on prime time every night, and the old movie western serials from the 30s and 40s still got a lot of play in off hours. Certainly, native americans were often protrayed as sneaky, untrustworthy and bloodthisty savages, although not always. As the presence of living native americans receded to the far margins of the American scene, 'good indians' started to appear in westerns more often.

Casting my mind back, I'd say that nasty evil white men FAR outnumbered the injuns when it came to who were the prominently featured bad guys, by at least 50:1. This makes perfect sense when you realize just how limited your plot possibilities are when your bad guys live entirely outside the culture of your good guys. It's very hard to bring them together into the same scene.

Aimless, Saturday, 4 May 2013 15:31 (five years ago) Permalink

three months pass...

watching The Prisoner of Shark Island tonight.

first I think it's time I kick a little verse! (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 16 August 2013 22:06 (five years ago) Permalink

two months pass...

Dave Kehr on the 5-film Columbia box:

Two Rode Together is essential, and I like The Last Hurrah and Gideon's Day. Never have caught The Whole Town's Talking.

eclectic husbandry (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 12 November 2013 17:57 (five years ago) Permalink

four months pass...

"when you shoot, kill a man!"

espring (amateurist), Wednesday, 26 March 2014 00:09 (four years ago) Permalink

"If they move...kill 'em!"

We Shield Millions Now Living Who Will Never Die (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 26 March 2014 23:44 (four years ago) Permalink

Sorry, wrong thread

We Shield Millions Now Living Who Will Never Die (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 26 March 2014 23:44 (four years ago) Permalink

Watched They Were Expendable last week after finishing Mark Harris' new book. A flop on release, and I can see why: it lacks grand flourishes, concentrating on men entering and exiting destroyers and battleships and shit.

Bryan Fairy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 27 March 2014 00:03 (four years ago) Permalink

Never watched that one. Eager to know how you liked that book, Alfred.

We Shield Millions Now Living Who Will Never Die (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 27 March 2014 01:08 (four years ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

Harris on Pappy and the war (I reserved it at the liberry):

images of war violence and historical smoking (Dr Morbius), Monday, 14 April 2014 17:08 (four years ago) Permalink

that book was very enjoyable and prompted me to watch the long voyage home which was good and not just because of john wayne's attempted swedish accent

adam, Monday, 14 April 2014 19:22 (four years ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

Ford at Fox megabox for $50 today only (GRAPES code)

images of war violence and historical smoking (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 1 May 2014 17:28 (four years ago) Permalink

"when you shoot, kill a man!"

― espring (amateurist), Tuesday, March 25, 2014 5:09 PM (1 month ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

is this walter brennan horsewhipping his boys in my darling clementine? Evil Walter Brennan is the best fucking idea in the history of movies.

difficult listening hour, Thursday, 1 May 2014 17:34 (four years ago) Permalink


morbius, i have to thank you for that. wow.

espring (amateurist), Thursday, 1 May 2014 21:18 (four years ago) Permalink

just payin it fwd, saddlebritches

images of war violence and historical smoking (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 1 May 2014 21:19 (four years ago) Permalink

When you do, it will be a magnificent obsession.

Bee Traven Thousand (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 1 May 2014 21:39 (four years ago) Permalink

Sorry, wrong thread.

Bee Traven Thousand (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 1 May 2014 21:39 (four years ago) Permalink

two months pass...

I broke into my F@F box last night and started with Up the River, a prison comedy (the "serio" elements are negligible) best known for the debuts of Tracy and Bogart, w/ a few genuine laughs, some knockabout action (Ward Bond surfaces just to take a KO punch from Tracy), and just for Alfred a closeup of inmates at a variety show while "M-O-T-H-E-R" is sung.

Bogart acts nothing like Bogart -- playing a rich New England kid a la his tennis-racket-carrying Broadway roles, apparently -- but Spence is in the wisecracking mode that would carry him through his other early Fox pictures. Also there's the indispensible palooka Warren Hymer as ST's sidekick.

son of a lewd monk (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 15 July 2014 15:12 (four years ago) Permalink

two months pass...

ok, nobody reads my Spencer Tracy thread, but The Last Hurrah is worth it for the lead and its conviction as an old Irish machine-pol wake, in spite of Jeffrey Hunter and any scenes featuring actors born after 1905.

son of a lewd monk (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 24 September 2014 18:50 (four years ago) Permalink


Pat O'Brien recalled that on the set... Ford "would never talk the part you were playing, he'd just tell you what he wanted. 'I hope you can get it,' he'd say, chewing on that handkerchief he always had. When you failed, he'd say, 'That wasn't what I wanted. Try to get what I wanted. We're going to take another whack at it and it better be good.' And after you finally got it he'd come over and put his arms around you. 'Why the hell didn't you get it in the first place?' he'd say. Ford was the genius of them all. He was an artist drawing a portrait in oil."

The only potentially disruptive incident that occurred during the filming was when someone showed up with a case of whiskey in celebration of St. Patrick's Day. Ford, who was a heavy drinker like most of the Irish cast and crew members, exploded in anger, "Jesus Christ, what do you want to do, shut down the picture?" and the booze was carted off.

son of a lewd monk (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 24 September 2014 19:12 (four years ago) Permalink

nine months pass...

suspect i will get to The Long Gray Line (hv never seen) and Sgt Rutledge (once) in 35mm this weekend.

skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Friday, 17 July 2015 14:54 (three years ago) Permalink

Maureen O'Hara gives one of her best performance in The Long Gray Line as Tyrone Power's steadfast wife, and aside from the vaudeville brogue TP is better than usual. It has a much darker view of 50 years at West Point than you might expect from a '55 film made by veterans. Also enough blarney to make Alfred squirm in agony.

Sergeant Rutledge falls well short of masterpiece, thx to courtroom formula bits (esp the Perry Mason-style climax), but Woody Strode is iconically ideal throughout, esp his "I'm a man" outburst on the stand (the scene Ford made sure he was severely hung over for).

skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Monday, 20 July 2015 14:22 (three years ago) Permalink

four weeks pass...

Maureen is 95 today

skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Monday, 17 August 2015 17:31 (three years ago) Permalink

happy birthday beautiful!

difficult-difficult lemon-difficult (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 17 August 2015 17:33 (three years ago) Permalink

of course, G Greene is in the shadows

skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Monday, 17 August 2015 18:22 (three years ago) Permalink

two months pass...
two months pass...

this article isn't very well written but some interesting points here

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Monday, 25 January 2016 19:57 (three years ago) Permalink

For example, in SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON, Wayne ends the film as a disillusioned and disenchanted officer in the Calvary. He tells lies about a famous battle that featured a Custer-like military blowhard played by Henry Fonda but in his eyes you see how sickened he is by the lie.

this is fort apache, not yellow ribbon, but it's complicated: after wearily telling the ghouls what they want to hear wayne turns to the window and delivers an earnest paean to the Men Of The Cavalry. it plays enough like a good-men-bad-leaders thing to keep the movie patriotically untroubling if you want it that way but it's also easy to see wayne, obscurely, as trying to convince himself of something.

iirc both apache and ribbon have scenes where wayne parleys with a native american chief to avert bloodshed; in the former he's betrayed by henry fonda but in the latter he and the (similarly aging) chief just hang out comfortably a while talking, and we are meant i think to see them as parallel. imo there is a dark sense in this scene that both chiefs could lose control of the young men they command if they push too hard against the inertia of war -- that all the work the movie's done setting wayne up as an exemplary, compassionate, cautious commander is actually setting him up to be an abandoned one -- but then everything works out fine. often in ford there are these sort of dark possibilities that don't happen (let's go home, debbie) -- i used to think these were "pulled punches" or even hayes artifacts (hayes used here really as synecdoche for, like, america) but that's not really it.

denies the existence of dark matter (difficult listening hour), Tuesday, 26 January 2016 00:31 (three years ago) Permalink

oh hey there's quite a bit of good talk upthread about the end of apache.

denies the existence of dark matter (difficult listening hour), Tuesday, 26 January 2016 00:36 (three years ago) Permalink

3 GodFathers, which I saw a couple weeks ago, is bizarre, alternating from harrowing disaster drama (Wayne, Almendariz, Carey in the desert) to filmed realization of a children's Bible.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 26 January 2016 00:51 (three years ago) Permalink

who's seen donovan's reef? (i haven't.) late wayne hangs out w lee marvin and jack warden on south pacific island governed by cesar romero and played by kauai. would like to see john ford shoot kauai.

denies the existence of dark matter (difficult listening hour), Tuesday, 26 January 2016 01:19 (three years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

Stagecoach is just as brilliant as iconic as its champions have said for 78 years. Key dialogue:

Thieving Banker: "What this country needs is a businessman for president!"

Drunken Doctor: "What this country needs is more fuddle."

ice cream social justice (Dr Morbius), Friday, 22 September 2017 15:19 (one year ago) Permalink

The action sequence at the end is truly astonishing.

Well bissogled trotters (Michael B), Friday, 22 September 2017 15:35 (one year ago) Permalink

Spielberg swiped two of the Apache-battle stunts for Raiders.

The way he introduces the ten or so main characters (save for Ringo) in the first 13 minutes or so is a model of expressive and economical narrative. No Hollywood 'epic' would do it in less than 40 today.

ice cream social justice (Dr Morbius), Friday, 22 September 2017 15:44 (one year ago) Permalink

one month passes...

intriguing Ford-Wayne book?

"Ford was terrified of his own feminine side, so he foisted a longed-for masculinity on Wayne. A much simpler creature than Ford, Wayne turned this into a cartoon, and then went further and politicized it. There was an awful pathos to their relationship—Wayne patterning himself on Ford, at the same time that Ford was turning Wayne into a paragon no man could live up to. . . . The invention of John Wayne—is there a more primal scene of masculinity being stripped of utility and endowed with dubious political karma?”

ice cream social justice (Dr Morbius), Monday, 13 November 2017 19:39 (one year ago) Permalink


It was left to Maureen O’Hara, one of Ford’s favorite actresses, to be more direct. In her 2004 memoir, she speculates that Ford was gay. (She claims she walked in on the director kissing a leading man.)

ice cream social justice (Dr Morbius), Monday, 13 November 2017 19:43 (one year ago) Permalink

The two of them playing a game of macho chicken. I want John Waters to adapt their story.

Anne of the Thousand Gays (Eric H.), Monday, 13 November 2017 19:44 (one year ago) Permalink

I see now we were already down this road back in '06.

Anne of the Thousand Gays (Eric H.), Monday, 13 November 2017 19:45 (one year ago) Permalink

rowr @ Wayne necking with Thomas Mitchell

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 13 November 2017 19:46 (one year ago) Permalink

We are talking about the director of Men Without Women. I leave it to others to comment on Air Male Mail.

Virulent Is the Word for Julia (, Monday, 13 November 2017 20:04 (one year ago) Permalink

Ford is the one Mo walked in on... most likely with Tyrone Power! UPI, 2004:

Recalling the incident on the set of the 1955 film, "The Long Gray Line," the 83-year-old screen legend writes: "I walked into his office without knocking and could hardly believe my eyes. Ford had his arms around another man and was kissing him. I was shocked and speechless. I quickly dropped the sketches on the floor, then knelt down to pick them up ...

"They were on opposite sides of the room in a flash," she said.

Identifying the man with Ford only as "one of the most famous leading men in the picture business," O'Hara said he later approached her and asked her why she had never mentioned Ford was gay.

"I answered, 'How could I tell you something I knew nothing about?'"

ice cream social justice (Dr Morbius), Monday, 13 November 2017 20:07 (one year ago) Permalink

If there was a bigger male hoo'er in Hollywood in that era than Tyrone Power, I'm not sure who that person would be.

Anne of the Thousand Gays (Eric H.), Monday, 13 November 2017 20:18 (one year ago) Permalink

that Scotty Bowers guy wd know.

ice cream social justice (Dr Morbius), Monday, 13 November 2017 20:28 (one year ago) Permalink

two months pass...

If I had to vote for anything it would be Ford's segment in How The West Was Won if only for that Cinerama shot of the blood being washed off the table right at you.

I finally watched this on Blu last night; while it's borderline trivial aside from its technological significance as one of two Cinerama narrative features -- and JF's Civil War segment is only 20 minutes -- the bloody moments are shocking, including a PTSD-suffering George Peppard dashing through a red creek after a deadly encounter with Russ Tamblyn.

Also, that buffalo stampede in one of the later (Henry Hathaway) reels, wow.

ice cream social justice (Dr Morbius), Monday, 12 February 2018 17:56 (one year ago) Permalink

Rewatched Young Mr. Lincoln yesterday, right after first viewing of The Prisoner of Shark Island (which is fine but no lost classic, though the characterization of the fairly large contingent of black men guarding the prison is fascinating).

YML might've been the first Ford movie I saw as a kid, multiple times. I enjoy the Fonda story about him being dressed down by Ford when he initially rejected the role -- "Do you think you're playing the fucking Great Emancipator? He's a goddamn jackleg lawyer!" The Criterion commentary reveals that one of Ford's fave TV shows was Perry Mason, hilarious given that Ward Bond's climactic breakdown in the courtroom could've been in any PM episode.

Also hadn't known that Alice Brady, who plays the illiterate mother of the two young men on trial, was dying of cancer during production (she looks way older than 46).

ice cream social justice (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 20 February 2018 17:26 (eleven months ago) Permalink

Boy do I love that movie (YML).

Acid Hose (Capitaine Jay Vee), Tuesday, 20 February 2018 17:48 (eleven months ago) Permalink

six months pass...

Tag Gallagher:

At the time of my first book, much conventional opinion (outside California) held that Ford the epitome of everything despicable: racist, sexist, militarist, chauvinist, boring. My effort was to refute such nonsense, not by debating it, but by putting forth an alternate vision of Ford as the profoundly anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-militarist, anti-chauvinist, and the most inventive and imaginative of American moviemakers. At a time when Hollywood movies were rarely taken seriously, I said he was our greatest native-born artist.

Others joined this effort, and I believe that today we have largely succeeded.

Finally, why John Ford? Well, to paraphrase Bertolucci, because we cannot live without Ford.

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Friday, 7 September 2018 15:32 (five months ago) Permalink

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