John Ford

John Ford

Infobox Actor
bgcolour = silver
name = John Ford

imagesize = 200px
caption =
birthdate = birth date|1894|2|1|mf=y
location = Cape Elizabeth, Maine, U.S.
deathdate = death date and age |1973|8|31|1894|2|1Eyman, Scott. [ "Print the
] . New York: Simon & Schuster. 1999. ISBN 0684811618 (excerpt c/o "New York Times")]
deathplace = Palm Desert, California, U.S.
birthname = John Martin Feeney
academyawards = Best Director 1935 "The Informer" 1940 "The Grapes of Wrath" 1941 "How Green Was My Valley" 1952 "The Quiet Man"
spouse = Mary Ford (1920-1973)
awards = AFI Life Achievement Award 1973 Lifetime Achievement
John Ford (February 1 1894August 31 1973) was an Academy Award-winning American film director of Irish heritage famous for both his westerns such as "Stagecoach" and "The Searchers" and adaptations of such classic 20th-century American novels as "The Grapes of Wrath". His four Best Director Academy Awards (1935, 1940, 1941, 1952) is a record still unmatched, although only one of those films, "How Green Was My Valley", won Best Picture.

His style of film-making has been tremendously influential, leading colleagues such as Ingmar Bergman and Orson Welles to name him as one of the greatest directors of all time. In particular, Ford is a pioneer of location shooting and the long shot which frames his characters against a vast, harsh and rugged natural terrain. Ford has further influenced directors as diverse as Akira Kurosawa, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Sam Peckinpah, Peter Bogdanovich, Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood, Wim Wenders, Pedro Costa, Judd Apatow, David Lean, Orson Welles, Ingmar Bergman, Quentin Tarantino, François Truffaut, and Jean-Luc Godard.

From Feeney to Ford

He was born John Martin "Jack" Feeney (though he later often gave his given names as Sean Aloysius, sometimes with surname O'Feeny or O'Fearna; a Gaelic equivalent of Feeney) in Cape Elizabeth, Maine to John Augustine Feeney and Barbara "Abbey" Curran, on February 1, 1894 (though he occasionally said 1895 and that date is erroneously on his tombstone). His father, John Augustine, was born in Spiddal, [Probably better known at the time by its Gaelic name "An Spidéal".] County Galway, Ireland in 1854. Barbara Curran had been born in the Aran Islands, in the town of Kilronan on the island of Inishmore (Inis Mór).

John A. Feeney's grandmother, Barbara Morris, was said to be a member of a local (impoverished) gentry family, the Morrises of Spiddal, headed at present by Lord Killanin.

John Augustine and Barbara Curran arrived in Boston and Portland respectively within a few days of each other in May and June 1872. They were married in 1875, and became American citizens five years later on September 11, 1880. They had eleven children: Mamie (Mary Agnes), born 1876; Delia (Edith), 1878-1881; Patrick; Francis Ford, 1881-1953; Bridget, 1883-1884; Barbara, born and died 1888; Edward, born 1889; Josephine, born 1891; Hannah (Joanna), born and died 1892; John Martin, 1894-1973; and Daniel, born and died 1896 (or 1898). John Augustine lived in the Munjoy Hill neighborhood of Portland, Maine with his family, and would try farming, fishing, work for the gas company, run a saloon, and be an alderman.

Feeney attended Portland High School in Portland, where the auditorium is named after him.

Many of his films contain direct and indirect references to his Irish and Gaelic heritage. His family referred to him as Seán and Jack.

Feeney began acting in 1914, taking "Jack Ford" as a stage name. In addition to credited roles, he appeared uncredited as a Klansman in D.W. Griffith's 1915 classic, "The Birth of a Nation", as the man who lifts up one side of his hood so he can see clearly.

He married Mary McBryde Smith, on July 3, 1920 (two children). Ford never divorced his wife, but had a five-year affair with Katharine Hepburn after they met during the filming of "Mary of Scotland" (1936). The longer revised version of "Directed by John Ford" shown on Turner Classic Movies in November, 2006 features directors Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, and Martin Scorsese, who suggest that the string of classic films Ford directed 1936-1941 was due in part to his affair with Hepburn.

In her 2004 autobiography "'Tis Herself", Maureen O'Hara recalled seeing Ford kissing a famous actor, whom she did not name, on the set of "The Long Gray Line".


In 1921, Ford turned to directing, beginning as an assistant to Lois Weber. During the 1920s, he served as president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, a forerunner to today's Directors Guild of America.

Over 35 years John Wayne appeared in 24 of Ford's films (and 3 TV episodes), including "Stagecoach" (1939), "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" (1949), "The Quiet Man" (1952), "The Searchers" (1956), "The Wings of Eagles" (1957), and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962).

Ford's favorite location for his films was in southern Utah's Monument Valley. Ford defined images of the American West with some of the most beautiful and powerful cinematography ever shot, in such films as "Stagecoach", "The Searchers", "Fort Apache", and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon", while the influence on the films of classic Western artists such as Frederic Remington and others has been examined. [Peter Cowie, see below] Ford's evocative use of the territory for his Westerns has defined the images of the American West so powerfully that Orson Welles once said that other film-makers refused to shoot in the region out of fears of plagiarism. [ Welles' narration for the film "Directed by John Ford"] He tended only to shoot the footage he needed and in the right sequence, minimizing the job of his film editors. [BBC Radio 4 programme 10:30am 29 September 2007] In the opinion of Joseph McBride [McBride, Joseph, "Searching For John Ford: A Life", see below] , his technique of cutting on camera also enabled him to assert creative control in a period where directors had little say on the editing of their films, because, as Ford noted: :"I don’t give ‘em a lot of film to play with. In fact, Eastman used to complain that I exposed so little film. I do cut in the camera. Otherwise, if you give them a lot of film ‘the committee’ takes over. They start juggling scenes around and taking out this and putting in that. They can’t do it with my pictures. I cut in the camera and that's it. There's not a lot of film left on the floor when I’m finished." [Gallagher, Tag, "John Ford: The Man and His Films", see below]

His good friend Merian C. Cooper, the director of "King Kong" (1933), produced several of Ford's most admired films.

Ford was also infamous for being extremely difficult with his actors on set, frequently mocking, yelling, and bullying them. He referred to John Wayne as a "big idiot" and even punched an unsuspecting Henry Fonda. Henry Brandon (probably best known as Chief Scar from "The Searchers") once referred to Ford as: "The only man who could make John Wayne cry." Fact|date=February 2008

However many actors who worked with Ford acknowledged that Ford's often difficult and demanding personality brought out the best in them. John Wayne remarked that "Nobody could handle actors and crew like Jack." [Eyman, Scott, "Print The
] And Harry "Dobe" Carey Jr. stated that ""He had a quality that made everyone almost kill themselves to please him. Upon arriving on the set, you would feel right away that something special was going to happen. You would feel spiritually awakened all of a sudden." [Carey, Harry Jr. "Company of Heroes: My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company"]

Navy career and subsequent work

During World War II Commander John Ford, USNR, served in the United States Navy and made documentaries for the Navy Department. He won two more Academy Awards during this time, one for the semi-documentary "The Battle of Midway" (1942), and a second for the propaganda film "December 7" (1943). [ [ John Ford] - at IMDb] [ [ Biography of Rear Admiral John Ford; U.S. Naval Reserve] - at Naval Historical Center] [ [ "Oral History - Battle of Midway:Recollections of Commander John Ford"] - at Naval Historical Center]

Ford was present on Omaha Beach on D-Day. As head of the photographic unit for the Office of Strategic Services, he crossed the English Channel on the USS|Plunkett|DD-431, anchored off Omaha Beach at 0600. He observed the first wave land on the beach from the ship, landing on the beach himself later with a team of US Coast Guard cameramen who filmed the battle from behind the beach obstacles, with Ford directing operations. The film was edited in London, but very little was released to the public. Ford explained in a 1964 interview that the US Government was "afraid to show so many American casualties on the screen", adding that all of the D-Day film "still exists in color in storage in Anacostia near Washington, D.C." [ [ Martin, Pete, "We Shot D-Day on Omaha Beach (An Interview With John Ford)", "The American Legion Magazine", June 1964] from, retrieved 14 February 2007] . Thirty years later, historian Stephen E. Ambrose reported that the Eisenhower Center had been unable to find the film. [Ambrose, Stephen E. "D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II". New York: Simon & Schuster. 1994. pp 395-397. ISBN 0-671-67334-3] Ford eventually rose to become a top adviser to OSS head William Joseph Donovan. According to records released in 2008, Ford was cited by his superiors for bravery, taking a position to film one mission that was "an obvious and clear target." He survived "continuous attack and was wounded" while he continued filming, one commendation in his file states. [ [ "Spy Tales: a TV Chef, Oscar Winner, JFK Adviser," BRETT J. BLACKLEDGE and RANDY HERSCHAFT, The Associated Press] ]

After the war, Ford became a Rear Admiral in the United States Navy Reserve.

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

Ford cast Ward Bond as John Dodge, a character based on Ford himself, in the 1957 movie "The Wings of Eagles", again starring his good friends John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.

Ford used many of the same actors repeatedly in his films, far more so than many directors. John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Ben Johnson, Chill Wills, Ward Bond, Grant Withers, Harry Carey, Jr., Ken Curtis, Victor McLaglen, Dolores del Rio, Pedro Armendariz, Woody Strode, Francis Ford (Ford's older brother), Hank Worden, John Qualen, Barry Fitzgerald, Arthur Shields, John Carradine, and Carleton Young were among this group, informally known as the John Ford Stock Company.

Ford died in Palm Desert, California, aged 79 from stomach cancer. He was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. A statue of Ford in Portland, Maine depicts him sitting in a director's chair.


Ford won four Academy Awards as Best Director for "The Informer" (1935), "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940), "How Green Was My Valley" (1941), and "The Quiet Man" (1952) - none of them Westerns (also starring in the last two was Maureen O'Hara, "his favorite actress"). He was also nominated as Best Director for "Stagecoach" (1939). Ford is the only director to have won four Best Director Academy Awards: both William Wyler and Frank Capra won the award three times.

As a producer he received nominations for Best Picture for "The Quiet Man" and "The Long Voyage Home".

He was the first recipient of the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award in 1973. Also in that year, Ford was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon.

In 2007, Twentieth Century Fox released "Ford at Fox", a DVD boxed set of 24 of Ford's films. "Time" magazine's Richard Corliss named it one of the "Top 10 DVDs of 2007", ranking it at #1. [ [,30583,1686204_1686244_1692075,00.html Corliss, Richard, "Top 10 DVDs", "Time" magazine] , retrieved from, 14 February 2008]


Ford's politics were conventionally progressive as his favorite presidents were Democrats Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy and Republican Abraham Lincoln [Peter Bogdanovich, "John Ford", See below, pp 18-19.] But despite these leanings, many thought [ [ Interview with Sam Pollard about Ford and Wayne from] ] [ [ Roger Ebert, "The Grapes of Wrath", 30 March 2002, from] ] he was a Republican because of his long association with actors John Wayne, James Stewart, Maureen O'Hara and Ward Bond. "Time" magazine editor Whittaker Chambers wrote a harsh review of "The Grapes of Wrath" as left-wing propaganda, assuming Steinbeck, the author, and Ford to be of that political stripe.

Ford's attitude to McCarthyism in Hollywood is expressed by a story told by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. A faction of the Directors Guild of America led by Cecil B. DeMille had tried to make it mandatory for every member to sign a loyalty oath. A whispering campaign was being conducted against Mankiewicz, then President of the Guild, alleging he had communist sympathies. At a crucial meeting of the Guild, DeMille's faction spoke for four hours until Ford spoke against DeMille and proposed a vote of confidence in Mankiewicz, which was passed. His words were recorded by a court stenographer:

:"My name's John Ford. I make Westerns. I don't think there's anyone in this room who knows more about what the American public wants than Cecil B. DeMille — and he certainly knows how to give it to them.... [looking at DeMille] But I don't like you, C.B. I don't like what you stand for and I don't like what you've been saying here tonight."cite book|accessdate=2008-08-15
page=p. 418
chapter=John Ford to the Rescue
title=Growing up in Hollywood
author=Parrish, Robert
publisher= in Silvester, Christopher (2002), "The Grove Book of Hollywood", Grove Press


ee also

*List of film collaborations



*Bogdanovich, Peter. "John Ford". Berkeley, California: University of California Press. 1967. Revised 1978. ISBN 0520034988
*Cowie, Peter. "John Ford and the American West". New York: Harry Abrams Inc. 2004. ISBN 0810949768
*Eyman, Scott. "Print the
Simon & Schuster. 1999. ISBN 0684811618
*Ford, Dan. "The Unquiet Man: The Life of John Ford". London: Kimber. 1982 (1979). OCLC 9501332
*Gallagher, Tag. "John Ford: The Man and His Films". Berkeley, California: University of California Press. 1986. ISBN 0520050975
*Mitry, Jean. "John Ford". 1954.
*McBride, Joseph. "Searching for John Ford: A Life". New York: St. Martin's Press. 2001. ISBN 0312242328
*Rollet, Patrice and Saad , Nicolas. "John Ford". Paris: Editions de l'Etoile/Cahiers du cinéma : Diffusion, Seuil. 1990. ISBN 2866420934
*Sinclair, Andrew. "John Ford". New York: Dial Press/J. Wade. 1979. ISBN 0803748264

External links

*imdb name|id=0000406|name=John Ford
* [ Ford biography] - at Yahoo! Movies
* [ "Ford Till '47"] - by Tag Gallagher - at
* [ "John Ford"] - by Richard Franklin - at
* [ Ford biography] (with film poster illustration) - at
* [ Biography of Rear Admiral John Ford; U.S. Naval Reserve] - at Naval Historical Center
* [ "Oral History - Battle of Midway:Recollections of Commander John Ford"] - at Naval Historical Center
* [ John Ford Bibliography] - at
* [ "John Ford"] - at
* [ John Ford document collection] - at the Edmonton Public Library
* [ Talk on Ford] in Portland, Maine, by Michael C. Connolly and Kevin Stoehr, editors of "John Ford in Focus"

succession box
title=Academy Award for Best Director
years=1935 for "The Informer"
before=Frank Capra for "It Happened One Night"
after=Frank Capra for "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town"
succession box
title=Academy Award for Best Director
years=1940 for "The Grapes of Wrath" 1941 for "How Green Was My Valley"
before=Victor Fleming for "Gone with the Wind"
after=William Wyler for "Mrs. Miniver"
succession box
title=Academy Award for Best Director
years=1952 for "The Quiet Man"
before=George Stevens for "A Place in the Sun"
after=Fred Zinnemann for "From Here to Eternity"
succession box
title=AFI Life Achievement Award
after=James Cagney

NAME= Ford, John
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Feeney, John Martin
DATE OF BIRTH= 1894-2-1
PLACE OF BIRTH= Cape Elizabeth, Maine, U.S.
DATE OF DEATH= death date and age |1973|8|31|1894|2|1
PLACE OF DEATH= Palm Desert, California, U.S.

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