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-> ''John Ford, John Ford and John Ford.''
-->-- '''Creator/OrsonWelles''' when asked who the three greatest American directors of all time were.

-> ''"People are incorrect to compare a director to an author. If he's a creator, he's more like an architect. And an architect conceives his plans according to precise circumstances.''
-->-- '''John Ford'''

'''John Ford''' is an American director whose lengthy career was one of the most honored in Hollywood history. Four Oscars for Best Director, which is still the record. Filmed some of the most iconic [[TheWestern Wild West]] and [[UsefulNotes/WorldWarII war movies]] of the age.

Born John Feeney in 1894 (or 1895) in Maine to a large Irish family, he traveled with his older brother Francis to Hollywood during the early years of film-making. Changing their last names to Ford, Francis went to work as an actor while John found himself finding work behind the camera. By the 1920s and 1930s, John Ford was working on small-time, quickly made Westerners but was moving on to bigger and better projects. He won his first Best Director Oscar for ''The Informer'', a political thriller about the [[UsefulNotes/TheTroubles IRA]] which cemented his reputation as a great director. Then in 1939 he directed ''Film/{{Stagecoach}}'', considered for decades to be the greatest Western ever made. He went on to win three more Best Director Oscars, more than any other film-maker. (Although, ironically, none of them were for the westerns he was so well-known for. This is understandable since it would take till the 90s for Westerns to get OutOfTheGhetto and be taken seriously as dramatic works.)

In his lifetime, Ford was regarded almost unanimously as America's greatest film-maker, with all his contemporaries having nothing but respect and admiration for him. He also had an international following such respectable film-makers as Creator/AkiraKurosawa, Creator/IngmarBergman, Creator/JeanRenoir and even outsider film-makers like Creator/JeanLucGodard admitting to his importance and influence. As one of the founders of the DGA, Ford also encouraged young film-makers, serving as TheMentor to the likes of Creator/OrsonWelles, Creator/EliaKazan, Creator/SamuelFuller and many others. Years later, Creator/StevenSpielberg would recall a meeting with the older Ford who gave him a brief lesson on the values of good composition.

In TheSixties and TheSeventies, Ford's films fell under scrutiny on issues of representation of Native Americans and African Americans in his Westerns and dramas. The fact that many of them featured Creator/JohnWayne, a prominent supporter of the VietnamWar and other conservative causes didn't help. In matter of fact, for most of his life, Ford was a liberal. A supporter of Franklin Roosevelt and Kennedy, who personally opposed the RedScare, publicly denounced pro-blacklist filmmaker Creator/CecilBDeMille at a meeting of the Director's Guild and helped blacklisted actors and writers find work. Later in life however, Ford identified himself as a "Maine Republican" and supported both Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. He was also highly intelligent, speaking several languages including the Navajo language.

Ford's Westerns were largely set in Monument Valley Utah and he used the Navajo tribe in the region as extras which he cast in all his westerns. Ford's films aided the economy for the Navajos and he paid them fair wages on union scale in a time of segregation. For this the Navajos gave him the honorific ''Natani Nez''. Ford's films like ''Film/FortApache'' and ''Film/TheSearchers'' highlighted the injustice and violence of the landscape, with the latter film even subverting Creator/JohnWayne's image as TheHero, even addressing the hypocrisy of MissingWhiteWomanSyndrome years before his time. His final western, ''Cheyenne Autumn'' also subverted the genre and addressed the OldShame of Native American oppression in a way few Westerns did.

No relation to the acclaimed writer Creator/JohnMFord.

There are several excellent biographies of Ford available, including grandson Dan Ford's ''Pappy: The Life of John Ford''; Joseph [=McBride=]'s ''Searching for John Ford''; Scott Eyman's ''Print the Legend''; and Peter Bogdanovich's ''John Ford'' and ''John Ford: The Man and His Films'' by Tag Gallagher. Bogdanovich also produced a feature-length documentary, ''Directed by John Ford'', featuring interviews with Ford and many of his collaborators.
!! Notable films include:
* ''Straight Shooting'' (1917)
* ''Film/TheIronHorse'' (1924)
* ''Literature/{{Arrowsmith}}'' (1931)
* ''The Lost Patrol'' (1934)
* ''Judge Priest'' (1934)
* ''The Whole Town's Talking'' (1935)
* ''The Informer'' (1935) - Won him a Best Director Oscar
* ''The Prisoner of Shark Island'' (1936)
* ''Film/MaryOfScotland'' (1936)
* ''Film/WeeWillieWinkie'' (1937)
* ''The Hurricane'' (1937)
* ''Film/{{Stagecoach}}'' (1939)
* ''Film/YoungMrLincoln'' (1939)
* ''Film/DrumsAlongTheMohawk'' (1939)
* ''Literature/TheGrapesOfWrath'' (1940) - Won him a Best Director Oscar
* ''Film/TheLongVoyageHome'' (1940)
* ''Tobacco Road'' (1941)
* ''Film/HowGreenWasMyValley'' (1941) - Won him a Best Director Oscar and also won Best Picture[[note]][[NeverLiveItDown Infamously]] won over ''Film/CitizenKane'', still a great movie in its own right.[[/note]]
* ''They Were Expendable'' (1945)
* ''Film/MyDarlingClementine'' (1946)
* ''The Fugitive'' (1947)
* ''Film/FortApache'' (1948)
* ''3 Godfathers'' (1948)
* ''Film/SheWoreAYellowRibbon'' (1949)
* ''Wagon Master'' (1950)
* ''Rio Grande'' (1950)
* ''Film/TheQuietMan'' (1952) - Won him a Best Director Oscar
* ''The Sun Shines Bright'' (1953)
* ''{{Film/Mogambo}}'' (1953)
* ''Literature/MisterRoberts'' (1955) - Replaced by Mervyn [=LeRoy=] for punching Henry Fonda
* ''Film/TheSearchers'' (1956)
* ''The Wings of Eagles'' (1957)
* ''Literature/TheLastHurrah'' (1958)
* ''The Horse Soldiers'' (1959)
* ''Sergeant Rutledge'' (1960)
* ''Film/TwoRodeTogether'' (1961)
* ''Film/TheManWhoShotLibertyValance'' (1962)
* ''Film/HowTheWestWasWon'' (1962) - One of three directors
* ''Film/DonovansReef'' (1963)
* ''Cheyenne Autumn'' (1964)
* ''7 Women'' (1966)

!! Provides examples of:
* ArtistDisillusionment: Ford often claimed that he considered movies strictly "a job of work" and dismissed critics who considered them art. If his films themselves didn't belie this, Ford's own writings (namely his correspondence with critic/director Lindsay Anderson), detailing the thought and effort he put into his work, show this attitude to be a pose. Biographer Joseph [=McBride=] suggests that Ford [[MenAreUncultured somehow felt ashamed of being labeled an artist]] and refused to consider himself one.
** Tag Gallagher notes that this was entirely an act. Ford was in fact extremely intelligent, capable of speaking six languages. A significant portion of his daily life was allotted to reading books in private. Years later, at a party he held forth on how Creator/JamesJoyce and Creator/JonathanSwift are the greatest writers of the English language. In Hollywood, when cultural AntiIntellectualism was at its height, it was common for directors with such interests (unless they were European or from New York, then it became a credit) to hide their pursuits.
* ArtisticLicenseGeography: From ''Stagecoach'' onwards, Ford shot all his westerns in Monument Valley, Utah, a location that became a SignatureStyle but was unique because he tended to shoot all his exteriors in the region, which is actually smaller than it looks. This becomes absurd in ''TheSearchers'' where all of Texas and parts of Mexico take place in a single valley that the actors keep circling around. For Ford, Monument Valley was a mythical landscape, not a realistic one. The only Western which actually takes place in Utah and the region is ''Wagon Master'' which Ford cited as one of his personal favorites.
* AuteurLicense: Like most "journeymen" directors who were not producers of their films in the [[UsefulNotes/TheGoldenAgeOfHollywood Golden Age]], Ford did not have contractual AuteurLicense on the vast majority of the films he directed. However research has shown that Ford evolved a strategy to exert autonomy and control while working in the system. He was economical to the point of mathematical precision, refusing to shoot extra shots and "cutting on camera" to prevent extra footage available to editors(who worked with producers), which forced the editors to arrange the film as [[BatmanGambit a jigsaw puzzle]] with the pieces scattered to form Ford's pre-determined vision.
* CreatorBreakdown: Two examples from the '50s:
** ''Film/MisterRoberts'': he fell out with Creator/HenryFonda early in production, culminating in Ford punching Fonda in the face. Then he took to drinking, had emergency gallbladder surgery in the midst of filming and was ultimately forced off the project.
** While filming ''Film/TheHorseSoldiers'', stuntman Fred Kennedy died while performing a horse fall. Ford was devastated by Kennedy's death that he all but refused to film the scripted finale, leading to the movie's rushed conclusion.
* HeAlsoDid: Ford made a number of documentaries for the United States Navy, including the acclaimed ''December 7th: The Movie'' and ''The Battle of Midway'', and the infamous ''[[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Sex Hygiene]]''. He also did uncredited second unit work on a variety of films, including ''The Adventures of Marco Polo'' and John Wayne's ''Film/TheAlamo'' (exactly how much of that movie he shot remains controversial).
* HistoricalHeroUpgrade [=/=] HistoricalVillainUpgrade: Ford's movies were based on existing historical research and information so there's a lot of fluctuation and ebb and flow, but there are also aversions:
** Wyatt Earp in ''Film/MyDarlingClementine'' is portrayed as a noble lawman bringing civilization to the West, which a casual reading of an Earp biography would consider generous. What's not well known is that years later, in ''Cheyenne Autumn'', Ford cast Creator/JamesStewart as Earp in a cameo and portrayed him far more accurately as a corrupt sleazebag AntiHero.
** Samuel Mudd in ''The Prisoner of Shark Island'' is portrayed as wrongfully accused and innocent of involvement in the conspiracy to kill Lincoln. Later biographers have found convincing evidence that Mudd was in fact a collaborator of Booth and Co, and not entirely spotless as the film paints him to be.
** Ford's films also deconstruct the process of heroic myths. In ''Fort Apache'', Owen Thursday (a transparent Custer {{Expy}}[[note]]Years before anti-Custer historiography became all the rage[[/note]]) is shown as a mean martinet and JerkAss who gets his soldiers killed but [[spoiler:in the end he's remembered as a hero similar to how Custer was remembered as a hero for decades]]. ''The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance'' likewise shows what this process means in a very ironic, misremembered quote:
--> ''"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."''
* LongRunners: John Ford first started making films in the 1910s with his earliest surviving film being ''Straight Shooting'', also a Western. His last film comes from the year 1966, a span of more than 50 years, covering the first half of the 20th Century. This leads to ArchivePanic since he made a lot of films and was highly consistent moreover.
* MagnumOpusDissonance:
** His famous films in his lifetime was ''The Quiet Man'', ''How Green Was My Valley'', ''The Grapes of Wrath'', ''The Informer'', ''Stagecoach''. Critics would cite ''[[Film/YoungMrLincoln Young Mr. Lincoln]]''. Later generations of film-makers and audiences cited ''The Searchers'' and ''The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance''. What were Ford's favorites?
** ''Wagon Master'' which he described as "the purest, simplest Western I ever made." A rare title that Lindsay Anderson called "the first avant-garde Western" citing its unconventional use of music, gorgeous composition and minimalist storyline and its plot of multiple characters with no real central figure.
** ''The Sun Shines Bright'' which despite its ExecutiveMeddling, he felt was a film he achieved what he wanted to. Another obscure title.
** Even more extreme is ''The Fugitive'', his 1947 adaptation of Graham Greene's novel ''Literature/ThePowerAndTheGlory''. Ford once called it the most perfect movie he'd ever made. Critics (and Graham Greene himself) hated it, and still do.
* OldShame: Ford hated ''The Plough and the Stars'' (1936), which started as a passion project (Ford received the blessing of playwright Sean O'Casey and even cast several of the stage version's stars) but soon fell victim to studio politics and ExecutiveMeddling. Things got so bad that Ford walked off the project, leaving assistant directors to finish filming. Not surprisingly, critics generally rank ''Plough'' among Ford's worst movies.
** Ford also strongly disliked ''Film/TwoRodeTogether'' (1961), a [[MoneyDearBoy paycheck film]] he called "the worst piece of crap I've made in 20 years" (presumably referring either to ''Plough'' or ''Tobacco Road''). That film has a more positive, though still mixed critical reputation.
* PrimaDonnaDirector: He was ''not'' an easy man to work for, viciously insulting his cast and crew to motivate them. John Wayne was the usual butt of Ford's abuse; Ford enjoyed forcing Wayne to take a three-point stance and kicking his backside. While shooting ''They Were Expendable'' he was so cruel to Wayne that costar Robert Montgomery refused to continue filming until Ford apologized. He also needled Woody Strode with racial epithets while shooting ''Sergeant Rutledge'', though Strode treated it as a motivational technique. On ''Film/MisterRoberts'' he punched Henry Fonda in the face during a heated argument. Fonda forgave Ford, but refused to work for him again.
** Of course, some of Ford's collaborators (including actors Anna Lee, Creator/ShirleyTemple and Hank Worden) claim Ford's outbursts were exaggerated in the telling. Worden explained that Ford only picked on actors he felt could handle his ribbing; if an actor was non-responsive, Ford would use gentler techniques.
* ProductionPosse: Ford used the same actors across all his films - what became known as the "John Ford Stock Company" - because he could count on them to perform as he needed. They included Creator/JohnWayne, Creator/JimmyStewart, Creator/HenryFonda, Creator/MaureenOHara, and Ward Bond, as well as Harry Carey, Victor [=McLaglen=], Barry Fitzgerald, and his brother Francis Ford. Towards the end in TheSixties there were Woody Strode, Patrick Wayne (John's son), and Jeffrey Hunter. The most frequent is Jack Pennick, who appeared in a staggering ''forty-one'' Ford movies.
* RatedMForManly: In John Ford's World, Real Men ride horses, drink whiskey, start fights, love their women, and save the planet. Usually by Thursday, Friday at the latest. At least that's how he was seen for the majority of his life. But this is a {{Flanderization}}, his films on careful viewing with attention to context and his great technique show that he developed a MythArc in his Westerns and Non-Westerns about older communities being replaced by modern, soulless ones, and minorities playing a major role. His Westerns moreover constantly highlight the violence and hypocrisy that went into the building of America.
* SceneryPorn: If the film is based outdoors, be it the West in Monument Valley Utah or [[Film/TheQuietMan Ireland in County Mayo]], you are looking at some of the most ''gorgeous shots'' in film history. Cinematographers who worked with him - and would argue about what they were doing - tended to get Oscars for how beautiful the films turned out. As a young man, Ford initially considered being a painter and was influenced by Western painters Charles Schreyvogel and Remington, and also fellow Maine artist, Winslow Homer. His movies are studied by all film-makers for its eye for composition and framing, the painterly values he brought to the movies but in a subtle manner that pays attention to character movement, lighting and narrative, how to suggest characterization by placement of camera and positioning of actors. ''Film/{{Mogambo}}'' was set in Africa, but Ford still got in Scenery Porn of the African savanna.'
** As retold in the documentary, ''Directed by John Ford'', the young Creator/StevenSpielberg got a rare chance to meet John Ford in an office with a lot of Western paintings. Ford noted that the young Spielberg wanted to be a director and in a bit of SecretTestOfCharacter asked him to look at the paintings and tell him where the horizon was in each picture, at the top or the bottom of the frame. Spielberg noted that the horizon was never in the middle, at which Ford said,
---> '''John Ford''': If you come to the conclusion, that it's more interesting to put the horizon at the top or the bottom of the frame, and ''never in the middle'' you might become a good picture maker.
* SettlingTheFrontier: A theme of his Westerns and part of a wider MythArc in all his films. Mrs. Jorgensen (Olive Carey) famously sums it up in ''The Searchers'':
--> "It just so happens we be Texicans. Texican is nothin' but a human man way out on a limb, this year and next. Maybe for a hundred more. But I don't think it'll be forever. Some day, this country's gonna be a fine good place to be. Maybe it needs our bones in the ground before that time can come."
* ShoutOutToShakespeare: Surprisingly common in Ford's work, notably the drunken actor reciting ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}'' in ''Film/MyDarlingClementine'' and Peabody declaiming the [[Theatre/HenryV St. Crispin's Day speech]] in ''Film/TheManWhoShotLibertyValance''.
* TheWestern: What Ford is best known for. His classics - ''Film/TheIronHorse'', ''Film/{{Stagecoach}}'', ''Film/SheWoreAYellowRibbon'', ''Film/FortApache'', ''Rio Grande'', even ''Film/TheSearchers'' - was the TropeCodifier for the "Classic Western", defining Creator/JohnWayne's screen persona. They also featured UnbuiltTrope that would later typify the revisionist westerns, with even ''Film/{{Stagecoach}}'' subverting the black-and-white morality of many Westerns and ''Film/FortApache'', ''Film/TheManWhoShotLibertyValance'', and ''Film/TheSearchers'' already blurring the BlackAndWhiteMorality to [[GreyAndGrayMorality grey]] areas.
** Ford's Westerns were also highly unusual, in in that there's not a lot of action, there's an equal, and at times greater, focus on community building, ritual, emphasis on dance sequences and SettlingTheFrontier in literal terms, that is depicting the values and institutions that build civilization in the west. He also tends to focus a lot on common, everyday people as much as cowboy heroes.
** He generally stays away from mythical heroes of the kind that later westerns traffic in. The one exception was ''{{Film/My Darling Clementine}}'' which was a highly inaccurate look at Wyatt Earp but also a TropeCodifier for later depictions. Years later, in ''Cheyenne Autumn'', he offers a DeconstructiveParody of Wyatt Earp years ahead of the time, showing the famous lawman as an amoral sleazebag and pimp (and casting Jimmy Stewart no less).