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John Ford was an American director whose lengthy career was one of the most honored in Hollywood history. Four Oscars for Best Director. Filmed some of the most iconic Wild West and 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 IRA which cemented his reputation as a great director. Then in 1939 he directed 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.

Partial Filmography

  • Arrowsmith (1931)
  • Air Mail (1932)
  • The Lost Patrol (1934)
  • The World Moves On (1934)
  • Judge Priest (1934)
  • The Whole Town’s Talking (1935)
  • The Informer (1935)
  • Steamboat Round the Bend (1935)
  • The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)
  • Mary of Scotland (1936)
  • The Plough and the Stars (1936)
  • Wee Willie Winkie (1937)
  • The Hurricane (1937)
  • Four Men and a Prayer (1938)
  • Submarine Patrol (1938)
  • Stagecoach (1939)
  • Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
  • Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  • The Long Voyage Home (1940)
  • Tobacco Road (1941)
  • How Green Was My Valley(1941)
  • They Were Expendable (1945)
  • My Darling Clementine (1946)
  • The Fugitive (1947)
  • Fort Apache (1948)
  • 3 Godfathers (1948)
  • She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)
  • When Willie Comes Marching Home (1950)
  • Wagon Master (1950)
  • Rio Grande(1950)
  • The Quiet Man (1952)
  • What Price Glory? (1952)
  • Mogambo (1953)
  • Mister Roberts (1955)
  • The Searchers (1956)
  • The Last Hurrah (1958)
  • The Horse Soldiers (1959)
  • Two Rode Together (1961)
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
  • How the West Was Won (“The Civil War”) (1962)
  • Donovan’s Reef (1963)
  • Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
  • 7 Women (1966)


Tropes that describe John Ford:

  • Boisterous Bruiser: Ford enjoyed getting his heroes mixing up in at least one boxing match to prove how manly they are. Even when there's no reason for them to fight.
  • The Bully: Ford was notorious for harassing, insulting, and victimizing his crew and actors. He was worse with his big star, John Wayne, than anyone else. After the war, Ford would humiliate Wayne by pointing out Wayne never served in the military while the director had filmed documentaries in the Pacific theater in hazardous situations.
    • During the filming of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance Ford continually ragged on both this and on Wayne's competence as a high-school athlete, comparing him unfavorably in both respects to co-star Woody Strode. Strode later said that this had the effect of totally poisoning the relationship between him and John Wayne, who he thought would otherwise have become his friend.
    • And despite all that, Wayne seemed to think of Ford fondly, and called him "Coach" (harking back to Wayne's football days).
    • While a lot of actors chafed under his rule while filming with him, they would still go work for him on other projects because they respected his skill as a director.
    • During the filming of Mister Roberts, Ford sucker punched Henry Fonda. Fonda got Ford kicked off the film.
      • Ford tried to intimidate James Cagney during the beginning of making Mister Roberts, but Cagney refused to cower and even threatened full-out fisticuffs. Cagney, mind you, was Real Life Memetic Badass. Ford didn't attempt to intimidate Cagney for the remainder of his time on the production.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome: Ford worked with documentary crews in the Pacific theater during World War II. He won an Oscar for the documentary The Battle Of Midway parts of which he actually filmed during the battle (he was on the island waiting for transit elsewhere when the attack came). Combat scenes he filmed would be edited into the big epic Midway.
    • Orson Welles watched Stagecoach repeatedly for inspiration before coming to Hollywood to direct his first feature film: Citizen Kane. You might have heard of it. (Ironically, it would be a Ford film that would deny Kane a best picture Oscar.)
    • Perhaps Ford's greatest moment came during the Red Scare. During a meeting at the Directors Guild of America, Cecil B. DeMille was attacking other directors whom he considered to be Communist sympathizers. Ford held his tongue til DeMille started calling William Wyler "Villiam Vyler" and attacked Joseph Mankiewicz. He stood up, and declared, "My name is John Ford. I make Westerns. I don't think there is anyone who knows more about what the American public wants than Cecil B. DeMille - and he certainly knows how to give it to them. In that respect I admire him. 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. Joe has been vilified and I think he needs an apology." When DeMille remained silent for thirty seconds, Ford added, "Then I believe there is only one alternative, and I hereby so move: that Mr. DeMille and the entire board of directors resign, and that we give Joe a vote of confidence - and then let's all go home and get some sleep. We've got some pictures to make in the morning." And that's exactly what happened: DeMille and the board of directors resigned, Mankiewicz received a vote of confidence, and everyone got some sleep so they could make pictures in the morning.
  • Irony: John Ford won four Oscars for Best Director, more than any other. None of them were for what he is best known for making: Westerns. Stagecoach was his only Western nomination. That Ford wasn't even nominated for She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and The Searchers remain glaring omissions to this day.
  • Oireland: Ford loved his Irish-American heritage, and it showed in nearly every film he made.
    • Capped by his love letter to Ireland itself, The Quiet Man. He had to make a deal with a small-sized studio (Republic) to get that film made when no major studio would back him. He won his fourth directing Oscar for that.
    • A lot of his Westerns would underscore the cultural hostility directed at Irish-Americans during the 19th century... and also the early part of the 20th. Later generations may not get how the Irish were treated before World War II.
      • While in quite a few of his Westerns German-Americans were treated as acceptable targets. On the other hand, Ford did help to perpetuate and popularize certain stereotypes about the Irish and Irish-Americans, such as the ones about their predilection for drinking and brawling. This is probably because John Ford himself happened to have a predilection for drinking and brawling.
  • Production Posse: 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.
  • Rated "M" for Manly: 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.
  • Scenery Porn: If the film is based outdoors, be it the West in Monument Valley Utah or Ireland in Mayo County, 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.
  • The Western: what Ford is best known for. His classics - Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Fort Apache, Rio Grande, even the The Searchers - practically defined the black-and-white morality tales of the West that dominated cinema from The Thirties to The Sixties.
  • World War II: He not only filmed movies about the great war, he filmed the war itself in the Pacific Theater. He won two Best Documentary awards (The Battle Of Midway and December Seventh), and was wounded at Midway Island during the attacks.
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