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 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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

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

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

sometimes known as "heart."

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Friday, 14 April 2006 14:43 (eighteen years ago) link

more correctly known as "treacle"

timmy tannin (pompous), Friday, 14 April 2006 14:49 (eighteen years ago) link

have a drink and be Irish!

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Friday, 14 April 2006 14:58 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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

mts (theoreticalgirl), Friday, 14 April 2006 15:57 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

bob goen is a huge ford fan, yes

gear (gear), Friday, 14 April 2006 16:16 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (seventeen years ago) link

Couldn't resist that Munich analogy, eh?

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

"That'll be the day!"

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 15 June 2006 18:41 (seventeen years ago) link

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 (seventeen years ago) link


Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 15 June 2006 20:42 (seventeen years ago) link

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 (seventeen years ago) link

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 (seventeen years ago) link

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 (seventeen years ago) link

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

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 17 June 2006 14:26 (seventeen years ago) link

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 (seventeen years ago) link

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 (seventeen years ago) link

Some closet doors are better left closed.

Eric H. (Eric H.), Thursday, 26 October 2006 20:58 (seventeen years ago) link

Portrait of author:

Move over, Bogdanovich!

Eric H. (Eric H.), Thursday, 26 October 2006 21:00 (seventeen years ago) link

The Queer Man

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

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 (seventeen years ago) link

Hung Mr. Lincoln
What Price Glory Hole

timmy tannin (pompous), Friday, 27 October 2006 15:16 (seventeen years ago) link

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

milo z (mlp), Friday, 27 October 2006 15:17 (seventeen years ago) link

Wee Willie Winkie takes on a disturbing new meaning

timmy tannin (pompous), Friday, 27 October 2006 15:21 (seventeen years ago) link

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 (seventeen years ago) link

one year passes...

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

Dr Morbius, Friday, 25 January 2008 18:31 (sixteen years ago) link

four months pass...

so Drums Along The Mohawk. Yes?

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 29 May 2008 18:14 (fifteen years ago) link

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

Dr Morbius, Thursday, 29 May 2008 18:18 (fifteen years ago) link

two months pass...

They Were Expendable. Yes?

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Wednesday, 27 August 2008 15:15 (fifteen years ago) link

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

Dr Morbius, Wednesday, 27 August 2008 15:22 (fifteen years ago) link

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 (fifteen years ago) link

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 (fifteen years ago) link

I'm looking fwd to West, never saw

Dr Morbius, Thursday, 28 August 2008 13:15 (fifteen years ago) link

I did rent TWE.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 28 August 2008 13:18 (fifteen years ago) link

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 (fifteen years ago) link

one year passes...

Cheyenne Autumn – yes?

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

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 (fourteen years ago) link

oh, you

On Twitter a couple days ago I saw a quote by some international arthouse auteur that The Long Gray Line is a "great experimental film," but now I can't find it.


flappy bird, Sunday, 15 March 2020 15:21 (four years ago) link


brooklyn suicide cult (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 15 March 2020 15:34 (four years ago) link

Been digging into my Ford At Fox box... recommend both the silent Four Sons and 1933's Pilgrimage as very different motherhood tales centered on World War I.

brooklyn suicide cult (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 22 March 2020 06:45 (four years ago) link

haven't seen "how the west was won" yet, but dave kehr raves about ford's sequence:

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Sunday, 22 March 2020 07:00 (four years ago) link

It's the best segment in the film, for sure.

The lead actress in Pilgrimage, Henrietta Crosman, gives a very strong and detailed performance as a Bad Mother who gets her son drafted and killed rather than see him marry. The film's about her redemption, of course, but to ultimately touching effect.

brooklyn suicide cult (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 22 March 2020 13:07 (four years ago) link

how's The Horse Soldiers? got the blu ray for $6 at a pharmacy

flappy bird, Thursday, 2 April 2020 02:59 (four years ago) link

Watched his What Price Glory recently, a weaker one with a handful of really beautiful moments (the girl singing to the soldier). the opening is particularly striking and nightmarish, a garish set of the aftermath of a horrible battle with a haunted, minor key military crew singing in the deep distance. again, it doesn't really come together as a movie, but even in these whiffs there is often a bit of the sublime.

flappy bird, Thursday, 2 April 2020 03:02 (four years ago) link

two weeks pass...

yay/nay on The Horse Soldiers (1959) ?

flappy bird, Monday, 20 April 2020 18:29 (four years ago) link

two weeks pass...

uploaded less than 2 months ago, I think recorded this year? PB looking OK

flappy bird, Wednesday, 6 May 2020 06:20 (three years ago) link

Bird: THE HORSE SOLDIERS is wonderful. I've seen it about 4 times on TV. Probably one of my favourite Westerns and one of the Ford films I most admire. Curiously serious about war, and curiously packed with distinct scenes and set-pieces.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 6 May 2020 08:45 (three years ago) link

three months pass...

Yes it is! I didn't know it came right before Sergeant Rutledge. You can see it coming, sort of.

THE LAST HURRAH: yay / nay?

flappy bird, Friday, 7 August 2020 06:52 (three years ago) link

ah, yay!

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, September 24, 2014 2:50 PM (five years ago) bookmarkflaglink


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, September 24, 2014 3:12 PM (five years ago) bookmarkflaglink

flappy bird, Friday, 7 August 2020 07:02 (three years ago) link

I find it REALLY weird that he only made ONE movie about/set during the Civil War (the horse soldiers)

flappy bird, Friday, 7 August 2020 07:28 (three years ago) link

A tremendous film!

the pinefox, Friday, 7 August 2020 09:00 (three years ago) link

plus his segment in How the West Was Won

brooklyn suicide cult (Dr Morbius), Friday, 7 August 2020 11:52 (three years ago) link

two weeks pass...

TOBACCO ROAD! such a great B-side to Grapes. Amusing Gene Tierney performance as a very dirty, near feral young woman with only one line at the very end--"Yes, ma'am!"

flappy bird, Sunday, 23 August 2020 04:58 (three years ago) link

one month passes...

Reader in the "Hey Bill" section of Bill James' website:

After the recent discussion here on "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," I wrote a letter to Vera Miles, who played Hallie, asking her about the points raised about her feelings for Tom Doniphon. She wrote back: "Never occurred to me to wonder if Hallie was going to hitch up with Tom in the absence of Ransom. In retrospect, I believe Tom (Duke) was the man of choice. (He didn’t care if she could read or not.)"

So if you have any questions on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, you can write Vera Miles directly. Actual letter, please--no e-mail.

clemenza, Wednesday, 23 September 2020 14:10 (three years ago) link

Holy shit

flappy bird, Wednesday, 23 September 2020 16:34 (three years ago) link

Started Scott Nyman's massive PRINT THE LEGEND bio recently, trying to pace myself because it's so good (his SPEED OF SOUND is one of the best film books I've ever read).

I've been leafing thru the Ford bio for months now tho. I didn't know about April Morning, or the extent of his alcoholism, or the bucket he started having with him on set in his last years...

flappy bird, Sunday, 27 September 2020 06:54 (three years ago) link

three weeks pass...

Thank you, Bill.

flappy bird, Thursday, 22 October 2020 01:35 (three years ago) link

was coming here to post that

Patriotic Goiter (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 22 October 2020 01:48 (three years ago) link

Young Mr. Lincoln - 7/10
Clouds of Sils Maria - 9/10
Leningrad Cowboys Go America - 10/10
Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses - 10/10

i'm not sure you get John Ford, flapp

― the ignatius rock of ignorance (Dr Morbius), Sunday, June 10, 2018 12:53 AM (two years ago) bookmarkflaglink

He was right. I'm glad I listened.

flappy bird, Thursday, 22 October 2020 04:46 (three years ago) link


terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Thursday, 22 October 2020 04:55 (three years ago) link

Love ya 4ever, Morbs aka Pappy <3

SQUIRREL MEAT!! (Capitaine Jay Vee), Thursday, 22 October 2020 10:33 (three years ago) link

Just watched Riley the Cop (1928). A slight farce heavily dependent on Irish-American stereotypes, but the slight farce of a master. RIP Morbz.

Infanta Terrible (, Thursday, 22 October 2020 23:48 (three years ago) link

the best moment in Mister Roberts is the dolly in on Jack Lemmon as he's reading the letter that says that Fonda is dead--going in and out of focus--was directed by Mervyn Le Roy (a retake, requested by Lemmon. Ford upbraided him some months later: "Thought you could do it better, EHHHH??")

flappy bird, Friday, 23 October 2020 04:11 (three years ago) link

Only one of two movies he made in CinemaScope / 2:35:1. It doesn't look like a Ford film, unlike The Long Gray Line, although so much of it is stuck in that fucking ship, there isn't a lot to do, particularly with such a wide frame. Despite his dislike of the format, The Long Gray Line is a visually interesting and dynamic movie.

flappy bird, Friday, 23 October 2020 04:13 (three years ago) link

For a while, this was on MOVIES! everytime I had lunch. Still haven't seen all of it, but the liberty sequence is amazing, and above that, the stand off between Cagney and Fonda is two legends being legendary at each other in the best way.

"what are you DOING to fleetwood mac??" (C. Grisso/McCain), Friday, 23 October 2020 04:59 (three years ago) link

A slight farce heavily dependent on Irish-American stereotype

One thing about Ford is that his embrace of all sorts of offensive ethnic caricatures for comic relief very much included his own ethnic background, which is weird considering how big of an issue it was for him.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 23 October 2020 10:29 (three years ago) link

two weeks pass...

my darling clementine great as ever but i can't stop scolding all the characters for standing too close to doc

difficult listening hour, Tuesday, 10 November 2020 12:41 (three years ago) link

ha! They'll be alright...

Got a nice poster of that in the mail the other day

flappy bird, Tuesday, 10 November 2020 17:01 (three years ago) link

Was shocked to realize, while reading Scott Eyman's Ford bio, that Walter Brennan only ever worked with Ford once, on My Darling Clementine. They did not get along...

flappy bird, Tuesday, 10 November 2020 17:01 (three years ago) link

Because Brennan keep asking Ford "you ever been bit by a dead bee?"

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Tuesday, 10 November 2020 18:12 (three years ago) link

it’s a career performance too! his leaning thoughtfully over the reins in the first scene, framed so it’s just his head and the curve of a whip. his holding Walter Brennan Voice in quiet reserve until it’s time to say “marshal? in tombstone?!”

difficult listening hour, Tuesday, 10 November 2020 18:23 (three years ago) link

Lol, Aimless.

An Andalusian Do-rag (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 10 November 2020 18:24 (three years ago) link

Walter Brennan plays the deputy BUGS in Fritz Lang's first US film, FURY (1936).

He's not a wicked character but his actions, arresting Spencer Tracy's protagonist, do lead to disaster.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 11 November 2020 12:07 (three years ago) link

got hold of that eyman bio on flappy's authority and lol @ this telegram from will rogers:


watched doctor bull the other day actually; ~resonance~ for sure

difficult listening hour, Friday, 20 November 2020 20:21 (three years ago) link

framed so it’s just his head and the curve of a whip

(subtle elegance of this moment in clementine compares v well to the late-career brechtian spectacle of lee marvin ripping jimmy stewart's law book literally in two and then dramatically hoisting a knout into its vacated position in the frame, not that both these modes don't have their pleasures)

difficult listening hour, Friday, 20 November 2020 20:29 (three years ago) link

six months pass...

So just read that Cheyenne Autumn was supposed to be a tribute to Native Americans and their abuse by the US govt and presumably also in Ford's earlier films. I was looking the film up since i heard teh book its partially based on and lifts its name from is actually an early book to be told from the indian perspective. I had thought on first seeing it come up in Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's AN Indigienous People's History of the United States that it might be about to get criticised for being Eurocentirc. But looks like it is sympathetic . Not sure how well it stands up now but may give it a read.
Also hearing taht teh Navajos that replace the Cheyenne in the film were using their own native language and being very crude in what they were saying since it wouldn't be understood. There's apparently a treaty signing scene where the Indians are talking about the colonel having a very small penis throughout. & being able to get away with things like that in the film caused Native American scholars to talk further about misrepresentation in film, Ideas of not actually being remotely understood, probably teh extent to which they were played by European and Latin (or whatever the contemporary term would have been) actors portraying them to the exclusion of actual Indians. I think also that one tribe being used as another is extremely questionable.

Haven't seen the film i years. Did think it wasa bit questionable in who stood in for who in terms of ethnicity and think that had turned up in films or documehtaries on teh subject I'd seen. Possibly better to see it as a big budget came laden film of teh period possibly if it stands up at all.

Stevolende, Thursday, 17 June 2021 09:56 (two years ago) link

one year passes...

The Quiet Man had been on my "haven't seen" list for so long that Morbs once gave me shit about it person. I had the same valid knee-jerk reasons the other Destroyers on this thread do: sentimentality, etc. that I'd just be echo chambering. A long ambling slog that felt way longer than two hours and mostly an adult Disney movie of stereotypes. Nevertheless, the flashback to Thornton in the ring and the aftermath might be one of the best scenes in American cinema. I've never seen Wayne become so haunted - he barely has any words and just acts with his face. Goddamn.

Anyway, I checked it off. My fave Ford is still Mister Roberts which IIRC Morbs said was a typical choice for someone like me.

Elvis Telecom, Sunday, 25 September 2022 07:35 (one year ago) link

one year passes...

Just watched Mister Roberts for the first time and enjoyed it. The Fonda/Powell/Lemmon axis was a thing of comedic beauty.

completely suited to the horny decadence (Capitaine Jay Vee), Saturday, 30 March 2024 16:07 (three weeks ago) link

i love that one

werewolves of laudanum (VegemiteGrrl), Saturday, 30 March 2024 16:20 (three weeks ago) link


now whats all this crud about no movie tonight

werewolves of laudanum (VegemiteGrrl), Saturday, 30 March 2024 16:24 (three weeks ago) link

The late, great David Bordwell writes some wonderful analysis on the physical acting during the scene where they concoct the booze (scroll down):

birdistheword, Saturday, 30 March 2024 16:50 (three weeks ago) link

That was one of my grandpa’s favorite movies, very very fond memories. Jack Lemmon just on fire.

brimstead, Saturday, 30 March 2024 16:52 (three weeks ago) link

My Dad was a big fan of Mister Roberts and the sequel Ensign Pulver.

The sequel had Robert Walker Jr in Lemmon's role as Pulver and had a good cast with Berl Ives, Walter Matthau and early appearances by Larry Hagman and Jack Nicholson.

earlnash, Saturday, 30 March 2024 21:42 (three weeks ago) link

birdistheword thanks for that link. I also love your posts in general.

completely suited to the horny decadence (Capitaine Jay Vee), Sunday, 31 March 2024 02:35 (three weeks ago) link

Aw, thanks for the kind words!

birdistheword, Sunday, 31 March 2024 19:57 (three weeks ago) link

Yeah, I am a fan of yours as well.

Make Me Smile (Come Around and See Me) (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 31 March 2024 20:10 (three weeks ago) link

Aw, thanks James!

birdistheword, Sunday, 31 March 2024 20:40 (three weeks ago) link

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