I've been going back to some of his films lately, tho, because I just got a copy of This Is Orson Welles, a book-length interview with my favorite director, and I thought this passage (pg. 28-29) was interesting:
Peter Bogdanovich: Did Ford know you'd been studying Stagecoach?
Orson Welles: Why should he? It wasn't what you'd call a big public event - I'd just been running it a lot.
PB: Why Stagecoach specifically?
OW: Why not? I wanted to learn how to make movies, and that's such a classically perfect one - don't you think so? Not by any means my favorite Ford, but what a textbook!
PB: I think the influence shows in Kane.
PB: Well, for example, there are a couple of low ceilings in Stagecoach...
OW: Sure there are. I hope you don't think I ever pretended to be the inventor of the ceiling.
PB: A lot of people say you were.
OW: A lot of people ought to study Stagecoach.
PB: You said it's not your favorite-
OW: Oh, I love most of his pictures - The Informer and The Quiet Man least of all. Oh, and that thing with Duke Wayne in the South Pacific-
PB: Donovan's Reef.
OW: And Grapes of Wrath - he made that into a story about mother love. Sentiment is Jack's vice. When he escapes it, you get a perfect kind of innocence. Young Mr. Lincoln, for example. How truly great that is! And what a sense he always has for texture - for the physical existence of things. The Iron Horse - I'll never forget what an effect that had on me as a child.
PB: Orson, you claim you weren't interested in movies as a child.
OW: I loved movies. It just didn't occur to me to want to make 'em. Peter, there are maybe dozens of people scattered all over the world who care passionately about films and don't want to direct. I was one of them. Hey! What about his comedies? What about Judge Priest? He's such a fine comedy director - people tend to forget that.
― Justyn Dillingham (Justyn Dillingham), Monday, 9 June 2003 05:40 (nineteen years ago) link
Some days he's my favorite director, although he's not exactly easy to reckon with. Aside from the huge number of films he directed across a 50-year career, there are the "issues" ("Comanches" chanting in Navajo and a Shylockian Jewish character who gets his comeuppance, as well as that awful seen where Marty kicks--and I do mean kicks--"Look" out of his sleeping bag, all in The Searchers alone), the sentimentality (which even as its terribly affecting, as in How Green Was My Valley or umpteen other films, can be somewhat risible), the occasional disregard for realism without a corresponding high stylization (as in, say, Hitchcock, who seems more modern for that).
Stagecoach really is a textbook film in a lot of ways, though I think its tightness owes as much to Dudley Nichols's script as to Ford. (And it's worth nothing that certain stylistic features--the staging of action sequences for one--in this and other Ford films depart from the classical norm.) Actually I'm not sure one of the main virtues of Ford's cinema is this textbook tightness--much more than most Hollywood directors (because he could), his films are often episodic, taking time out for extended digressions and long pauses. The things I typically remember best from the best Ford films are the ensemble scenes. Like the Morgans pausing in melancholy contemplation on their doorstep, just before a celebration, or pretty much everyting in the first 20 minutes or so of The Searchers, where we are introduced to the Edwards family and their relationships to Uncle Ethan. In scenes like this he makes as much use of deep staging as anything in Citizen Kane. If Kane hadn't already been decided upon as "The Greatest Movie of All Time" it might be possible to debate the use of deep focus in that film with its use in another film of 1941, How Green Was My Valley. The latter film was of course more treasured in its day, winning Academy Awards and so on. But it's been eclipsed by Kane in the long run, and for a number of reasons the idea that Kane pioneered the use of deep focus has become film studies cant. (A quick survey of the rebuttal: deep focus had been an option since very early in the cinema. Feuillade uses it in Fantomas and other films. It's just that it had fallen into disuse in 30s Hollywood--and by extension other national cinemas. A number of cinematographers, Toland first among them, helped to reintroduce deep focus to the American cinema in the late 30s/early 40s. Raoul Walsh and his cameraman James Wong Howe, as well as Ford and Miller and Welles and Toland, played a big role in this. A Ford film from 1940, The Long Voyage Home, is almost as radical and distinctive an experiment in deep focus as Kane.) It's silly to make this an either/or dillema, since they are both great films, but there is something to be said for the fact that Ford's use of deep focus is tightly tied to the necessities of putting across a story, whereas Welles's use of it has an extravagant quality. It takes such extravagance, often, to render an innovation salient, but I still get more pleasure out of the images in How Green than those in Kane--partly because they are inextricable from the emotional flow of that great film.
I've probably seen more films by Ford than anyone else save (maybe) Mizoguchi but that doesn't mean I have something to say about them all, sadly. A few months ago I saw a very unusual Ford film, from his "prestige" days in the 1930s, called Pilgrimage--about a woman who travels to Europe to see the grave of her son who died in WWI. There are some clunky bits toward the middle but the first act--which takes place in (IIRC) a small Kentucky town--and the finale are typically beautiful, lyrical Ford.
― amateurist (amateurist), Monday, 9 June 2003 14:24 (nineteen years ago) link
― amateurist (amateurist), Monday, 9 June 2003 14:26 (nineteen years ago) link
― amateurist (amateurist), Monday, 9 June 2003 14:43 (nineteen years ago) link
― Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Monday, 9 June 2003 19:55 (nineteen years ago) link
― Lee G (Lee G), Friday, 13 June 2003 17:55 (nineteen years ago) link
I don't think anyone's ever questioned Ford's ability as a storyteller or a landscape artist; where the doubts of people like me have always been are with his reputation as a thinker. What I've been thinking lately is that because so many have overpraised his treatment of Big Issues like poverty and racism, I've been looking for substance in these place and missing the point. But a few characters, notably Charley Grapewin's Grandpa Joad, have stuck in my mind. All these characters are male, which tells you what I think Ford's real strength is.
― b.R.A.d. (Brad), Monday, 16 June 2003 11:45 (nineteen years ago) link
― Justyn Dillingham (Justyn Dillingham), Sunday, 3 August 2003 04:25 (nineteen years ago) link
Yes! Isn't that amazing?
There is a lot of stuff in The Searchers that verges on kitsch...the Mexicans, the Indians in a few cases, the hayseed going to marry Marty's sweetheart, etc. A lot of people have found a way of appreciating this as part of the movie's essence as American popular entertainment: look, deep themes and low comedy can coexist! But like you say I think those tones aren't modulated quite as well in that film as in some other Ford pictures.... It does a slight (very slight) disservice to Ford to try to rationalize some of the choppiness in this film, when he was capable of better.
― amateurist (amateurist), Tuesday, 5 August 2003 03:55 (nineteen years ago) link
(interesting symposium on classics hitherto unseen by the writers)
― Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 16 November 2005 16:26 (seventeen years ago) link
― Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Friday, 18 November 2005 21:51 (seventeen years ago) link
21-disc Ford box coming:
― Dr Morbius, Monday, 18 June 2007 14:40 (fifteen years ago) link
the only john ford movies i have seen are men without women, arrowsmith, the lost patrol, the informer, mary of scotland, stagecoach, young mr.lincoln, drums along the mohawk, the grapes of wrath, the long voyage home, tobacco road, how green was my valley, the battle of midway, they were expendable, my darling clementine, the fugitive, fort apache, she wore a yellow ribbon, rio grande, the quiet man, mogambo, mister roberts(if that counts), the searchers, the last hurrah, the horse soldiers, two rode together, the man who shot liberty valance, cheyenne autumn, donovan's reef, and how the west was won(which he directed part of), and i like them all, but i don't think i have EVER seen ANY of his movies from the 20's. which is sad, i guess. but then again it just means that i have a lot to look forward to!
i could watch a john ford movie every day of the week.
― scott seward, Monday, 18 June 2007 15:34 (fifteen years ago) link
I've seen The Iron Horse and the silent 3 Godfathers.
― Dr Morbius, Monday, 18 June 2007 17:39 (fifteen years ago) link
crikey, look at these box details:
― Dr Morbius, Monday, 10 September 2007 18:05 (fifteen years ago) link
Can't read it- print is too small.
― James Redd and the Blecchs, Monday, 10 September 2007 19:56 (fifteen years ago) link
pre-release cut of Muy Darling Clementine!
― Dr Morbius, Monday, 10 September 2007 20:06 (fifteen years ago) link
Muy Darling? Do they go South of the Border?
― James Redd and the Blecchs, Monday, 10 September 2007 20:07 (fifteen years ago) link
Something I never knew till today: Woody Strode played football alongside Jackie Robinson at UCLA.
― clemenza, Sunday, 5 February 2012 16:17 (ten years ago) link
I knew he was a collegiate star, forgot where
― Literal Facepalms (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 5 February 2012 16:20 (ten years ago) link
had never seen my darling clementine before, had no idea it was gonna have walter brennan as a bad guy. he should have always been a bad guy! gives him dignity. (i've never seen the westerner either.)
movie was great. loved: earp/holliday's first confrontation at the bar; earp tipping back chair; all barber jokes; cloud of dust kicked up by horses making holliday cough/getting him shot; "you ever been in love, mac?" "no, i've been a bartender all my life"; "there's probably a lot of nice people around here, we just ain't met em"; ten-minute shakespeare interlude designed to deliver both Local Color and holliday-related Intimations Of Death; surprisingly melancholy ending; various john ford skies. also paced just terrifically for a movie with so much plot-irrelevant business in it.
― difficult listening hour, Tuesday, 27 November 2012 21:35 (ten years ago) link
was p upset when "chihuahua" died.
― difficult listening hour, Tuesday, 27 November 2012 21:36 (ten years ago) link
That's Linda Darnell isn't it? Her real life death was pretty upsetting too.
― Roadside Prisunic (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 28 November 2012 20:01 (ten years ago) link
this is one of the few Fords whose mythopoetic qualities don't annoy me.
― the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 28 November 2012 21:10 (ten years ago) link
i'll admit the messianism around henry can be annoying but you don't even like harrison?
― difficult listening hour, Wednesday, 28 November 2012 21:26 (ten years ago) link
Gerald's mythopoetic qualities shown in his casual wear.
― the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 28 November 2012 21:28 (ten years ago) link
Fonda isn't very messianic as Earp, certainly not compared to Tom Joad or even young Mr Lincoln.
― saltwater incursion (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 28 November 2012 21:29 (ten years ago) link
nah he was really grounded. we were being dumb. (also i think i may have confused brave new world with real life.)
― difficult listening hour, Wednesday, 28 November 2012 21:32 (ten years ago) link
I watched quiet man tonight for the third time this year idk am I getting more cod irish or is there really something there, leaning toward the latter atm
― thoughts you made second posts about (darraghmac), Sunday, 31 May 2015 01:03 (seven years ago) link
I could barely finish it once.
― The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 31 May 2015 01:06 (seven years ago) link
You are stronger than me. His Technicolor Irish films are...too brawny for me.
thing is my memories of the eighties west of Ireland are p much that technicolor depending on the humour I'm in
― thoughts you made second posts about (darraghmac), Sunday, 31 May 2015 01:10 (seven years ago) link
I've read some stuff on the movie concerning the opening scenes where Sean looks down on the village and there's a kind of hazy unreality to it all like he's creating an idealised version of the homeland. I dunno about that myself, it's due a rewatch I think. I love this film unreservedly myself. I just watched My Darling Clementine for the first time last week, that's a wonderful film too.
― tayto fan (Michael B), Tuesday, 2 June 2015 21:15 (seven years ago) link
Pardon the delay 💐 Our JUNE 2022 titles will be announced on Thursday (3/17)... pic.twitter.com/0gcRwPsMoV— Criterion Collection (@Criterion) March 15, 2022
The Criterion announcements for June 2022 have been postponed to March 17. So there's speculation that a big John Ford title (The Informer? The Quiet Man?) will be among them. Any thoughts?
Also, I dragged out the Ford at Fox set; any suggestions for what to watch? (I'm thinking What Price Glory, but talk me out of it. Or don't!)
― Infanta Terrible (j.lu), Wednesday, 16 March 2022 17:33 (eight months ago) link
So I did watch WPG last night. When I saw The Black Watch back on New Year's Eve, I wondered what a John Ford musical would be like. Did he ever get any closer than this?
― Infanta Terrible (j.lu), Friday, 18 March 2022 13:38 (eight months ago) link
Half an hour into this excruciatingly bad Spanish giallo/sexploitation flick, the protagonist has just told his lover, post-coitus:
"Do you know what John Ford used to say? Love is the contact of two epidermis."
Love it when a hack filmmaker tries to class their film up by dropping a name, but dodgy subtitles aside....is there some actual Ford quote that's anything near this?
― Daniel_Rf, Saturday, 19 March 2022 13:05 (eight months ago) link
Love as it exists in society is merely the mingling of two fantasies and the contact of two skins.Nicolas Chamfort
Possibly the translator misheard "Chamfort" as "John Ford".
― Halfway there but for you, Saturday, 19 March 2022 15:54 (eight months ago) link
lmao yeah I checked and that's def what happened, French philosophy much more of a reference point for this kind of film than horse operas
would've been funnier if it had actually been John Ford tho
― Daniel_Rf, Saturday, 19 March 2022 16:22 (eight months ago) link
The sentiment perhaps closer to England Dan and John Ford Coley of "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight" fame.
― Halfway there but for you, Saturday, 19 March 2022 16:30 (eight months ago) link
If you have access to the Criterion Channel, they've just posted a number of early John Ford films (not all of which are in the Ford at Fox boxset).
― Infanta Terrible (j.lu), Monday, 4 April 2022 23:21 (seven months ago) link
recently watched two silents, Just Pals (1920) and Iron Horse (1924) and both were memorable.
― Dan S, Monday, 16 May 2022 00:41 (six months ago) link
Iron Horse featured George O’Brien, who was “The Man” in F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise (1927), one of the great films of all time
― Dan S, Monday, 16 May 2022 00:47 (six months ago) link
I see the title was "The Iron Horse". It was very long (2 1/2 hours) and was too episodic, but George O'Brien was hot and it was quite watchable
― Dan S, Monday, 16 May 2022 01:13 (six months ago) link