John Martin Feeney was , said John Ford , is a director American , also producer , bornat Cape Elizabeth near Portland , Maine, and died onin Palm Desert ( California ).
He has been a four-time Oscar winner for best director b , 2 .
John Ford is one of the most important American directors of the classic Hollywood period (from the late 1920s to the late 1960s ). Of all the great American filmmakers he is the one whose influence is the most considerable. His career embraces that of the studios since he arrives in Hollywood at the moment when the big majorsset up and make his latest film as these majors begin to be led by financiers. Ford was admired and respected by the big bosses of Hollywood, of which he was often the friend: he turned quickly and respected the budgets. Despite this, he considered himself an employee overpaid by the studios to make films devoid of style so as not to disrupt the business of his employer 3 .
His work is best known for his westerns , a genre that is only part of his filmography, Ford is primarily the filmmaker of America’s simple people, pioneers, farmers, emigrants, workers, military obscure, Indian, tender, dignified and generous characters animated by a keen sense of justice … The abundance of picturesque characters in the supporting roles allows Ford to embrace with realism and humor the diversity of the human race [not neutral] . Likewise, Ford is considered as the filmmaker of large spaces with grandiose and wild landscapes. Ford’s films are also strongly imbued with his Catholic faith. Patriot (Reserve Officer of the US Navy, during theSecond World War , later Rear-Admiral and finally Admiral honorary), he had great admiration and respect for America, which had welcomed its ancestors, first and foremost his father, an Irish Catholic. Ford has sometimes been considered by some to be a reactionary and racist filmmaker. But his films (he was notably one of the first directors to treat the Indians in his films with respect and humanity, as in The Prisoner of the Desert , The Two Horsemen , The Cheyenne , not to mention the racial segregation with The Sergeant black , his support for the Spanish Republicans, his fight against Nazism and McCarthyismand his reservations during the Korean War and Vietnam show a deeply democratic and freedom-loving[non-neutral] filmmaker .
He was one of the directors making the least shots per shot (ratio of 2.5), this allows him to keep the stranglehold on the editing of movies, the alternative takes just do not exist. “We owe John Ford the right to the director to oversee the editing,” says Fred Zinnemann . Ford put his fame at the service of the Union of American Directors, of which he was one of the most active leaders. His lifelong loyalty to his family of actors, technicians and screenwriters, many of whom were from Ireland as his parents, is remarkable.
The knowledge of this filmography suffers from the disappearance of almost all of his first films, a third.
One of them, Upstream (1927), which was thought to have disappeared, was found in New Zealand in June 2010 4 .
Between Portland and Ireland
John Feeney, future John Ford, was born into an Irish immigrant family . His father is from An Spideal in County Galway and his mother is from Aran Islands . John is the youngest in a family of 11 children – three of whom died at birth, and two young, of diseases. After being a fisherman and farmer, his father emigrated to the United States in 1872 and, naturalized American in 1878 or 1880 , he opened in Portland in 1897 a speakeasy where the Irish community of the city is gathered.
In 1909 , his brother Frank T. Feeney left for California with Gaston Méliès (the brother of Georges Méliès ). He will become Francis Ford , actor and director of serials for Universal Studios .
John, during his schooling, is passionate about history and proves to be an excellent basketball and football player. He earns some pocket money as an opener at the Jefferson Theater in Portland and can see the big names of the moment, such as: Ethel Barrymore or the Wild West Shows .
The beginnings at Universal
In 1914 , John Martin enrolled at the University of Maine but he never entered. Because that summer, his brother Francis comes home and talks about Hollywood. John Martin decides to follow suit. In July, he arrives in Hollywood and becomes his handyman. This is an opportunity for him to discover the film professions on films that his brother performs and realizes for Universal Studios. He adopts the same pseudonym (Francis chose him in homage to Henry Ford, who at that time represents the American ideal of “self-made man”) and appears to the credits under the name of Jack Ford. In 1915 , he also played small roles in his brother’s films and became assistant director. He claims to have played theKu Klux Klan in Birth of a Nation by DW Griffith : “I was the one who wore glasses. I held my hood up with one hand because this fucking thing did not stop sliding in front of my glasses. ” 5 .
From 1916 , he was hired by Universal Studios as assistant director. He assists directors under contract including Allan Dwan and starts directing extras scenes while his brother Francis, he leaves Universal to found his own studio. While he is only an accssoiriste and during a visit of Carl Laemmle in the studios, he is confided by chance his first realization, replacing at short notice an absent director. The film is called The Tornado and is released March 3, 1917 . He signs his first director contract with Universal for $ 125 a week and becomes the director of westerns with the actorHarry Carey . They will shoot 25 films together before blurring in 1919 . On that date, he earns $ 300 a week and acquires the stature of a major Hollywood director.
In 1920 he met Mary McBryde Smith of Irish and Scottish descent with whom he married. She comes from a family of officers, a descendant of the politician Thomas More . She is divorced and, therefore, the couple will be able to marry religiously only in 1941 , on the death of the spouse. They will have two children: Patrick Michael born in 1921 and Barbara born in 1922 . Patrick will become after several small professions, assistant director and producer of films of series Z , and Barbara monteuse [ref. necessary] .
Most of the silent films made for Universal are now lost. There are only three left: The Ranch Diavolo ( Straight Shooting ) directed in 1917 which is his first feature, A Stroll on the Boulevard ( Bucking Broadway ) of 1917 recently found, and Blood in the Meadow ( Hell Bent ) realized in 1919 . In these three films portrayed by Harry Carey , we already find the characteristics of Ford’s great westerns: his way of integrating the characters into sublime natural settings, consistent female characters who are equal to men.[ref. necessary] .
In December 1920 , John Ford is debauched by the Fox of William Fox [ref. necessary] .
The silent cinema at the Fox
The Movie Poster The Iron Horse
The films made by Ford in the early 1920s also, for a large part of them, disappeared. It remains only Just Pals ( 1920 ) which is the first film that the author carries out for the Fox and Cameo Kirby ( 1923 ) with John Gilbert that he signs “John Ford” for the first time, instead of “Jack Ford”, his previous pseudonym.
In 1921 Ford made a long trip to Europe. He meets the family branch left in Ireland including a cousin member of the IRA . He is introduced to Irish separatist Michael Collins .
Ford now earns $ 600 a week and is entrusted in 1924 with the production of the Iron Horse , the Pharaonic production of the Fox . In 1926, still for Fox, he directed Three Sublime Canailles( Three Bad Men ) with George O’Brien, Tom Santschi, Olive Borden, J. Farell McDonald and Louis Tellegen. In 1927 , he went to Germany for the filming of Four Sons ( Four Sons ) and discovered on this occasion expressionist cinema . This film is the biggest public success of Ford’s dumb career. He will reuse a photo with a deliberately expressionistic style in1928 in The House of the Executioner ( Hangman’s House ). In 1927 he was elected to head the Motion Pictures Directors Association .
The beginning of the speaking
Ford ‘s first full-length film is Napoleon’s Barber (now lost). Unpublished at the time since the appearance of the speaking, and despite the reluctance of the studios, the sound is made outdoors. In the first talking films that Ford made for Fox, the direction of the dialogue scenes is entrusted to theater directors and are uninspired. Ford nevertheless unleashes his talent as a director in action scenes.
In 1928 , he signed a lucrative two-year contract with Fox, earning $ 2,500 a week for the first year and $ 2,750 for the second year. Men Without Women ( Men Without Women ) ( 1930 ) is the first collaboration of Ford with screenwriter Dudley Nichols . Ford will say of him: “We were very friends. He loved cinema. He never wrote snoring sentences. He wrote a language of the everyday, and reduced the dialogues to a minimum. He was a wonderful man 6 . Ford found a screenwriter in tune with his cinema. In 1931 , the Fox who lost William Foxterminate his contract. Its commitment is revised downward, but it can now turn for other companies. Ford begins its first alcohol rehab during a trip to Honolulu .
In 1931 , he directed Arrowsmith for producer Samuel Goldwyn , which earned him his first Oscar nomination . For this film, Ford shows a remarkable ability to adapt to the style of Samuel Goldwyn’s productions. His next film, Spitfire ( Air Mail ) of 1932 , is produced by Universal. He then directed his first film for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer : the melodrama A Woman Happened ( Flesh ). He finds Dudley Nichols for The Lost Patrol which he stages in 1934 for the RKO withVictor McLaglen to whom he offers a new big role. Linked by his contract with the Fox, he must take charge of the production of Le Monde en marche , a large family fresco that covers the end of the 19 th century and the first decades of the 20 th century . Although this movie features some very successful war scenes, Ford will hate this movie. He had more success with Judge Priest with Dudley Nichols on the screenplay, and actor Will Rogers, whom he had directed the previous year in Doctor Bull, and which he directed again in 1935 in Steamboat Round the Bendbefore he finds death in a plane crash. Ford admires the work of Rogers and gives him a lot of freedom, besides Judge Priest is one of his favorite movies. He will make a remake in 1952 : The sun shines for everyone .
In 1934 Ford made a great living and was associated with the recipes of his films. He bought a yacht that he called L’Araner in honor of Ireland. He will keep it until 1970 . He will shoot two movies and go there regularly to escape the pressure of Hollywood or to work with his writers. He honors his friendship with John Wayne met during his debut in silent film (he makes some figurations in the early Ford movies), and embarks him to celebrate Christmas while he works the scenario of the Snitch with Dudley Nichols.
John Ford is an admirer of Abraham Lincoln . He dedicated two films to him: I did not kill Lincoln and Toward his destiny .
In 1935 , Ford founded with King Vidor , Lewis Milestone , William A. Wellman , Frank Borzage and Gregory La Cava the Screen Directors Guild to replace the Motion Pictures Directors Association . The Snitch with Victor McLaglen , that he realizes very quickly for the RKO in studio and with a small budget, allows him to approach the Ireland that presents / displays it like a land of suffering and misery that fights the British invader. There is no secret of his sympathies for the IRA. We discover a rather clever Ford with the studio sets that he masks with a thick fog, accentuating the dark and oppressive side of the film. We are far from the Ford of open spaces and the epic breath of the beginnings, marked by the great westerns of the classical era. With this dark film, formally close to expressionist cinema and far removed from his usual universe, the filmmaker paradoxically wins his first Oscar for Best Director in 1936 . However, he will not look for his trophy following the boycott launched by the young Screen Directors Guild . The film is a success. Ford and Nichols will be entrusted, two years later, still for the RKO, the adaptation of Seán O’Casey’s play Revolt in Dublin ( The Plow and the Stars ) which will turn out however a financial failure.
Twentieth Century Pictures bought the Fox in 1935, which became 20th Century Fox and whose boss is Darryl F. Zanuck . Ford realizes in close collaboration with his new boss, great admirer of Abraham Lincoln , I did not kill Lincoln ( The Prisoner of Shark Island ). The partnership between Ford and Zanuck begins with a violent clash over Warner Baxter’s southern accent that Ford wants to keep. Ford is on the verge of slamming the door of 20th Century Foxbut finally accesses Zanuck’s desires. Subsequently a great admiration and mutual esteem will settle between the two men.
He had an affair with Katharine Hepburn, whom he directed on Mary Stuart ( Mary of Scotland ) for the RKO in 1936 . He realizes for an important stamp The Hurricane produced by Samuel Goldwyn .
In 1937 , he joined the Motion Picture Committee to Aid Republican Spain, which supports Spanish Republicans. He personally sends an ambulance to international brigades in Spain . Ford is also very active in the fight against Nazism . He publicly takes a stand for the boycott of Nazi Germany in 1938 , and is an active member of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League. The signing of the German-Soviet pact earned him strong criticism from Communists who accused him of “war propaganda”.
The classical period
From Stagecoach to God is dead
With The Fantastic Ride , Ford returns to the western, a genre he had not approached for thirteen years. The western is no longer in vogue; a hundred westerns was distributed in 1938 , but these are mainly B-series films . Ford, at the origin of the project, however fails to convince David O. Selznick to produce it; he has no confidence in John Wayne who has only shot in minor westerns since the early 1930s . Ford is addressing Walter Wanger and United Artists . For the first time, it turns outdoors in Monument Valleyand justifies it: “I have been everywhere in the world but I consider this place as the most beautiful, the most complete and the most calm on the planet”. For this film that is unanimously criticized, which was still unpublished for a western, Ford receives the New York Film Critic Award but fails the Oscars against Gone with the wind .
After The Fantastic Ride , Ford finds Zanuck and his passion for Abraham Lincoln . He directed the admirable Towards his destiny ( Young Mr. Lincoln ) with Henry Fonda who will also be the main actor of his two following films: On the Mohawks ( Drums Along the Mohawk ), his first color film, and Les Raisins of Wrath (adapted from John Steinbeck ), second collaboration with screenwriter Nunnally Johnson . For this last film, Ford obtains in 1941 , for the second time, the Oscar for best directorwhich escapes Alfred Hitchcock , George Cukor , William Wyler and Sam Wood . The author is at the peak of his glory, his talent is recognized by both critics and film professionals.
It piles up again with John Wayne in The Men of the Sea ( The Long Voyage Home ), now more credible thanks to the success of Stagecoach , while Zanuck trying to ride the wave of success of the Grapes of Wrath with The Tobacco Road ( Tobacco Road ).
Ford’s last film before the war, That it was green my valley is a huge public and critical success. He won five Oscars, including best film and director , in front of Orson Welles ‘ Citizen Kane , then the New York Film Critics Award, to which Ford is now accustomed.
From 1939 , Ford has the intuition that America will not be long in being dragged into the Second World War . He is at the head of a group of filmmakers who ask Franklin Delano Roosevelt for a boycott of Nazi Germany and he establishes the Naval Field Photographic Unit in order to put the talents of Hollywood at the service of the army. In October 1941 , it is officially recognized and at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941 , the team is operational and scattered to the four corners of the world while the armies of land and air organize similar teams. He will also work for theOffice of Strategic Services .
During the war, Ford and his unit will go through theaters of military operations. They were first in the Pacific and in 1942 he directed for the Navy, the December 7th documentaries on the attack on Pearl Harbor , and The Battle of Midway . Both films won the Oscar for Best Documentary. During the Battle of Midway, the director is wounded in the hip while filming the American attack alone. A small film Torpedo Squadron, of which 29 of the thirty members died in Midway, is made for the families of the victims. In 1942 , Ford was in North Africa to cover the landing. During the year 1943It covers multiple external operations including Burma Campaign in Victory in Burma ( ” Burma Victory ” (In) , 1946). In 1944 , he filmed the landing of Normandy , without landing, since it remains on a boat to seize the waves of successive marine attacks. He will disembark with his team at Bellevue-sur-Mer [Where?] . In 1945 , he followed Patton’s army in Germany before participating in the preparation of the Nuremberg Trials by collecting documents filmed for the prosecution. He will also film the trial. From February to June 1945, he turns The Sacrificed (They were expendable) for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with John Wayne and Robert Montgomerywho finished the film, Ford having broken his leg. He finds the writer of Air Mail, Frank Wead , on which he will make a film in 1957 , The eagle flies to the sun . The Sacrified is curiously one of the rare films of Ford (except the comedies Permission until dawn and Planqué despite him ( When Willie Comes Marching Home) on the Second World War, to which he nevertheless participated actively. money earned withThe Expendables allows Ford to partly finance the construction close to Encino from one institution to receive free veterans of the Field Photo Unit , the Field Photo Farm .
After the war, back in Hollywood, Ford takes the road to Monument Valley to turn The Infernal Pursuit ( My Darling Clementine ). There he finds Henry Fonda whom he directs again in God is dead ( The Fugitive ) in 1947 . God Is Dead is the second film produced by Argosy Pictures that Ford founded with Merian C. Cooper in 1939 . Argosy will produce nine Ford films before being disbanded in January 1956 . Argosy allows Ford to work freely, he will say about God is dead : “I made the film as I wanted it. For me, he is perfect. Criticism appreciated him, but he obviously had no appeal to the public. I am very proud of my work. ”
The Quiet Man
Ford quickly found the popular success with The Massacre of Fort Apache which opens the Cycle of the cavalry . This is his first collaboration with Frank S. Nugent who succeeds Dudley Nichols as the director’s screenwriter. While God died of Dudley Nichols is a work animated by a rather arid formal research, the adaptation that makes John Ford, reconnecting with the style of his first films, brings him more simplicity. The passage of witness between two actors as antinomic as Fonda and Wayne, also marks a rupture in the cinema of Ford. Bertrand Tavernier , who does not like “the Ford esthete and intellectualEncouraged by the capital and rather pernicious influence of Dudley Nichols, “writes:” Dramatic strokes are supplanted by love. This movie that takes its time and seems to be invented before our eyes abolishes this famous building acts, Hollywood credo in favor of a broader story, majestic, tormented and lazy as the course of a river 7 “. Compared to previous films about Ireland, The Quiet Man is the perfect example of this metamorphosis even if the western appears as the genre favored by Ford to explore the new momentum taken by his cinema. He turns successively in two years, from 1948 to 1950 : The Son of the Desert ( Three Godfathers), The Heroic Charge ( She Wore A Yellow Ribbon ), The Convoy of the Braves ( Wagon Master ), Rio Grande . The director, however, offers a break with the comedy Willie Comes Marching Home ( When Willie Comes Marching Home ).
During the dark period of McCarthyism , Ford denounced “methods worthy of the Gestapo”. He is fiercely opposed to Cecil B. DeMille who wants the Screen Directors Guild members to sign an oath of loyalty to the United States. One time, the FBI suspects him of Communist sympathies; he adheres to a movement of opinion very right to protect himself from rumors. In 1950 , Ford leaves for Korea and turns for the Navy a documentary on the Korean War , This Is Korea! . This film is very different from The Battle of Midway, Ford does not put forward American patriotism and heroism, but on the contrary delivers a pessimistic work that questions the meaning of this war. In March 1951 , Ford has been promoted against Admiral asks to be retired from the Navy and moved to Ireland turn The Quiet Man ( The Quiet Man ) project close to his heart since the thirties. The film is one of the most important public hits of Republic Pictures and allows the director to win a fourth and final Oscar in 1952 .
Ford then takes to the cinema a piece he had mounted in 1949 , What Price Glory before making The sun shines for everyone , remake of Judge Priest . In 1952 , he toured Mogambo in Africa with a dream trio ( Ava Gardner , Clark Gable and Grace Kelly ). After overcoming health problems, he returned to the cinema in 1955 to film in CinemaScope This is a goodbye ( The long Gray Line ). But his alcoholism gets worse; he is soon suffering from internal bleeding and the reunion withHenry Fonda for Permission until dawn ( Mister Roberts ) are calamitous. Ford fights with Fonda and, too drunk, he is replaced by Mervyn LeRoy . He nevertheless finds all his means to achieve the magnificent The Prisoner of the Desert ( The Searchers ). Argosy was dissolved in January but in August 1956 , Ford founded, with John Wayne among others, John Ford Productions .
The last years
Tired of alcohol and a tireless career, John Ford returns to Ireland to perform When the Moon Rises , a movie “to have fun”, about the Irish origins of Tyrone Power . He continues with The eagle flying in the sun on his friend the writer Frank Wead , a forerunner of Naval Air, before moving away from Hollywood to perform in 1957 in London a detective film, The Inspector Service ( Gideon’s Day ). The following year, The Last Hurray ( The Last Hurray ) with Spencer Tracysounds like a melancholy song. In this film, which he produces himself, he brings together actors and friends who have accompanied him during his career. Pessimistic film in the image of the defeat and the death of Skeffington (Spencer Tracy), which is also that of an America of men of character, exhausted heroes facing an America of mediocrity.
In 1959 , Ford directed The Riders ( The Horse Soldiers ) based on a script by John Lee Mahin, who was also the producer of the film, and the following year, The Black Sergeant ( Sergeant Rutledge ), a western with Woody Strode whose an American black is the hero. He becomes friends with Strode, whom he will lead three times in The Two Riders , The Man Who Killed Liberty Valance and The Chinese Border . It is also out of friendship that he helps John Wayne to make some sequences of Alamo. John Ford pessimism in his later years appears in The Two Cavaliers ( Two Rode Together ) made in 1960 . During filming, he learns of the death of his friend and actor Ward Bond . Very touched by this disappearance, Ford takes refuge in his yacht and takes refuge in alcohol. He will again be hospitalized urgently in Honolulu . Back in Hollywood, he has to fight for five months with Paramount Pictures to get funding for The Man who killed Liberty Valance . Ford films with force this western intimate whose action takes place behind closed doors, far from the wide open spaces. The man who killed Liberty Valanceagain tackles the themes developed in The Last Fanfare : the true heroes are now useless and derisory. We saw in the film a passage of symbolic witness between the classic western of the pioneers and that of the newcomers like Arthur Penn or Sam Peckinpah .
After Flashing Spikes , made for television, and the segment on the Civil War in The Conquest of the West , John Ford turns with friends The Tavern of the Irishman ( 1963 ) on his yacht “Araner”, in a nice atmosphere. The Cheyenne ( Cheyenne Autumn ) is his last western, tribute to the Indian people. “I wanted to show here the point of view of the Indians, for once. Let’s be fair. We mistreated them. It’s a real stain in our history. We rolled them, robbed them, killed them, murdered them, massacred them, and, if they sometimes killed a white man, we sent them the army. » 8But John Ford is overtaken by fatigue and illness, and despite his enthusiasm from the beginning of filming, he leaves his assistant director to shoot many scenes. The following year he had to give Jack Cardiff the filming of Young Cassidy and set off again on L’ Araner .
In 1966 , while Peter Bogdanovich made a long interview with the director and Les Cahiers du cinéma devoted a special issue to him, Ford filmed his latest film Frontière chinoise ( 7 Women ) before committing himself for the last time to the Army. support the Vietnam War . He went there twice in 1967 and 1968 and produced Vietnam, Vietnam for the United States Information Agency .
No longer working, John Ford can no longer bear the financial burden of the Araner he has to sell in 1970 . In 1969 it is his charitable work, the Field Photo Farm is forced to close. In 1970, Ford, sick and with two broken ribs, suffered a car accident that further weakened him. He is diagnosed with cancer. In March 1973 , two years after the Venice Film Festival where he was awarded a Golden Lion for his entire career, Richard Nixon paid him a deep tribute and awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom . He dies on August 31at the end of the afternoon, holding his rosary. His wife died in 1979.
Ford has made 142 films, so far 53 seem permanently lost.
Partially sound films
- 1955 : The Choice of … ( Screen Directors Playhouse ) (series), episode: The Revelation of the Year ( Rookie of the Year )
Oscar for Best Director
John Ford has won the Oscar for Best Director four times (current record) with:
- 1935: The informer ( The Informer )
- 1940: The Raisins of Wrath ( The Grapes of Wrath )
- 1941: How green was my valley ( How Green Was My Valley )
- 1952: The Quiet Man ( The Quiet Man )
Note : He has never won the Oscar for best director for a western, although he is considered the master of the genre.
Notes and references
- ↑ Ford has always claimed to have as his birth name Sean Aloysius O’Feeney (Aloysius is the borrowed first name he chooses for his confirmation ), but his baptismal record shows that John Ford’s name was John Martin Feeney 1 .
- ↑ It is in 2018 the only director to have achieved so much.
- ↑ (in) Tag Gallagher , ” Excerpt from John Ford: The Man and His Movies ” [ archive ] , on books.google.fr , University of California Press, (accessed May 10, 2018 ) ,p. 2.
- ↑ Eyman, Scott. Print the Legend: John Ford’s Life and Times [ archive ] . New York: Simon & Schuster. 1999. ( ISBN 0-684-81161-8 ) (excerpt c / o New York Times )
- ↑ Peter Biskind , The New Hollywood , Le Cherche midi ,, 704 p. ( ISBN 9782749105093 ), p.10.
- ↑ http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/jun/07/john-ford-movie-new-zealand [ archive ]
- ↑ in In Search of John Ford of Joseph McBride , p. 122
- ↑ Ford talks about Ford ( film presence , March 1965)
- ↑ in 50 years of American cinema
- ↑ in the interview granted to Peter Bogdanovich in 1966