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Quotes / John Ford

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By Ford

Peter Bogdanovich: The Indians are always given great dignity in your films?
John Ford: It's probably an unconscious impulse—but they are a very dignied people—even when they were being defeated. Of course, it's not very popular in the United States. The audience likes to see Indians get killed. They don't consider them as human beings.

I've killed more Indians than Custer, Beecher and Chivington put together...Let's face it, we've treated them very badly—it's a blot on our shield. We've cheated and robbed, killed, murdered, massacred and everything else, but they kill one white man and, God, out come the troops.
John Ford, book of interviews by Peter Bogdanovich, 2nd Edition.

Philip Jenkinson: Do you see the systemic destruction of the Red Indian as something inevitable or a blot on American history?
John Ford: That's a political question, I don't think that has anything to do with pictures. All I could say was 'no comment'. I wasn't alive then. I had nothing to do with it. My sympathy is all with the Indians. Do you consider the invasion of the Black and Tans into Ireland a blot on English history? Being Irish, it's my prerogative to answer a question with a question. Do you consider that a blot on English history?
Philip Jenkinson: Some historians would, but some historians would regard the systematic destruction of the Indian as something terrible.
John Ford: I'm not talking about the Indians, I'm talking about the Black and Tans.
Philip Jenkinson: I don't know enough about it.
John Ford: It’s the same thing, all countries do the same thing. There’s British doing it. Hitler doing it, there’s Stalin. Genocide seems to be a commonplace in our lives. But it was not a systematic destruction of the Indians. All I know is the cavalry got the hell kicked out of them, and the Indians practically destroyed themselves. It was the loss of the buffalo that wiped them out.
An unaired BBC documentary on John Ford by English historian Philip Jenkinson.

D'ya know, McLaglen, that Fox are paying you $1200 a week to do things that I could get any child off the street to do better?
— A typical example of Ford's directorial style, a report of Ford director the star of The Informer via a megaphone.

This is an associate producer. Take a good look at him because you will not see him again till the picture’s finished.
John Ford: The Man and His Films, another anecdote describing Ford's directorial style.

Leo McCarey — I love Make Way for TomorrowFrank Capra, and then people like Raoul Walsh, who’s a bit like me, but more seductive and pleasing to women, Tay Garnett, Henry King. I also like Sammy Fuller a lot, a fine fellow with great integrity. I don’t like John Huston, who’s a faker.
— Ford on his favorite films and film-makers.

About Ford:

Suppose some truant good fairy were to ask me, “As I’m not employed just now, perhaps there’s some small magic job I could do for you, Sergei Mikhailovich? Is there some American film that you’d like me to make you the author of – with a wave of my wand?
I would not hesitate to accept the offer, and I would at once name the film that I wish I had made. It would be Young Mr. Lincoln directed by John Ford. There are films that are richer and more effective. There are films that are presented with more entertainment and charm. Ford himself has made more extraordinary films than this one. Connoisseurs might well prefer The Informer (1935). Audiences would probably vote for Stagecoach (1939) and sociologists for The Grapes of Wrath (1940). Young Mr. Lincoln didn’t even get one of those bronze Oscars. Nevertheless, of all American films made up to now, this is the film that I would wish, most of all, to have made. What is there in it that makes me love it so? It has a quality, a quality that every work of art must have – an astonishing harmony of all its component parts, a really amazing harmony as a whole. [...]
l saw this film on the eve of the world war. It immediately enthralled me with the perfection of its harmony and the rare skill with which it employed all the expressive means at its disposal. And most of all for the solution of Lincoln’s image. My love for this film has neither cooled nor been forgotten. It grows stronger and the film itself grows more and more dear to me.

I was eager to have a long talk with Ford. I finally managed this and asked him how he got his ideas about how to stage a scene. “From the set,” he said. I didn’t understand what he meant. He was pretty grumpy that day, but I persisted. “Get out on the location early in the morning,” Ford said, “before anyone else is there. Walk around and see what you’ve got.” “Oh,” I said, “then look at the script and fit the scene into the location?” “No,” he growled, “don’t look at the fucking script. That will confuse you. You know the story. Tell it with pictures. Forget the words.” “What else?” I asked. “The actors,” he said. “Don’t let them act. Direct it like you were making a silent.”
Elia Kazan, A Life.

"We used to call him the meanest S.O.B. that ever was. But he was our S.O.B. We adored him. A difficult old devil, but the greatest director that the picture business has ever known."

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