|Birth Day:||February 1, 1894|
|Death Date:||August 31, 1973(1973-08-31) (aged 79)
Palm Desert, California, U.S.
|Birth Place:||Cape Elizabeth, United States|
As per our current Database, John Ford died on August 31, 1973(1973-08-31) (aged 79)
Palm Desert, California, U.S..
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Ford 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; an Irish language 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 inscribed on his tombstone). His father, John Augustine, was born in Spiddal, County Galway, Ireland, in 1854. Barbara Curran was 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 an impoverished branch of a family of the Irish nobility, the Morrises of Spiddal (headed at present by Lord Killanin).
Feeney attended Portland High School, Portland, Maine, where he played fullback and defensive tackle. He earned the nickname "Bull" because, it is said, of the way he would lower his helmet and charge the line. A Portland pub is named Bull Feeney's in his honor. He later moved to California and in 1914 began working in film production as well as acting for his older brother Francis, adopting "Jack Ford" as a professional name. In addition to credited roles, he appeared uncredited as a Klansman in D. W. Griffith's 1915 The Birth of a Nation.
John Ford began his career in film after moving to California in July 1914. He followed in the footsteps of his multi-talented older brother Francis Ford, twelve years his senior, who had left home years earlier and had worked in vaudeville before becoming a movie actor. Francis played in hundreds of silent pictures for filmmakers such as Thomas Edison, Georges Méliès and Thomas Ince, eventually progressing to become a prominent Hollywood actor-writer-director with his own production company (101 Bison) at Universal.
Throughout his career, Ford was one of the busiest directors in Hollywood, but he was extraordinarily productive in his first few years as a director—he made ten films in 1917, eight in 1918 and fifteen in 1919—and he directed a total of 62 shorts and features between 1917 and 1928, although he was not given a screen credit in most of his earliest films.
There is some uncertainty about the identity of Ford's first film as director—film writer Ephraim Katz notes that Ford might have directed the four-part film Lucille the Waitress as early as 1914—but most sources cite his directorial début as the silent two-reeler The Tornado, released in March 1917. According to Ford's own story, he was given the job by Universal boss Carl Laemmle who supposedly said, "Give Jack Ford the job—he yells good". The Tornado was quickly followed by a string of two-reeler and three-reeler "quickies"—The Trail of Hate, The Scrapper, The Soul Herder and Cheyenne's Pal; these were made over the space of a few months and each typically shot in just two or three days; all are now presumed lost. The Soul Herder is also notable as the beginning of Ford's four-year, 25-film association with veteran writer-actor Harry Carey, who (with Ford's brother Francis) was a strong early influence on the young director, as well as being one of the major influences on the screen persona of Ford's protege John Wayne. Carey's son Harry "Dobe" Carey Jr., who also became an actor, was one of Ford's closest friends in later years and featured in many of his most celebrated westerns.
During that year Ford also assisted his friend and colleague Howard Hawks, who was having problems with his current film Red River (which starred John Wayne) and Ford reportedly made numerous editing suggestions, including the use of a narrator. Fort Apache was followed by another Western, 3 Godfathers, a remake of a 1916 silent film starring Harry Carey (to whom Ford's version was dedicated), which Ford had himself already remade in 1919 as Marked Men, also with Carey and thought lost. It starred John Wayne, Pedro Armendáriz and Harry "Dobe" Carey Jr (in one of his first major roles) as three outlaws who rescue a baby after his mother (Mildred Natwick) dies giving birth, with Ward Bond as the sheriff pursuing them.
He married Mary McBride Smith on July 3, 1920, and they had two children. His daughter Barbara was married to singer and actor Ken Curtis from 1952 to 1964. The marriage between Ford and Smith lasted for life despite various issues, one being that Ford was Catholic while she was a non-Catholic divorcée. What difficulty was caused by this is unclear as the level of Ford's commitment to the Catholic faith is disputed. Another strain was Ford's many extramarital relationships.
Ford directed around thirty-six films over three years for Universal before moving to the William Fox studio in 1920; his first film for them was Just Pals (1920). His 1923 feature Cameo Kirby, starring screen idol John Gilbert—another of the few surviving Ford silents—marked his first directing credit under the name "John Ford", rather than "Jack Ford", as he had previously been credited.
Stagecoach (1939) was Ford's first western since 3 Bad Men in 1926, and it was his first with sound. Reputedly Orson Welles watched Stagecoach forty times in preparation for making Citizen Kane. It remains one of the most admired and imitated of all Hollywood movies, not least for its climactic stagecoach chase and the hair-raising horse-jumping scene, performed by the stuntman Yakima Canutt.
Ford's output was fairly constant from 1928 to the start of World War II; he made five features in 1928 and then made either two or three films every year from 1929 to 1942, inclusive. Three films were released in 1929—Strong Boy, The Black Watch and Salute. His three films of 1930 were Men Without Women, Born Reckless and Up the River, which is notable as the debut film for both Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart, who were both signed to Fox on Ford's recommendation (but subsequently dropped). Ford's films in 1931 were Seas Beneath, The Brat and Arrowsmith; the last-named, adapted from the Sinclair Lewis novel and starring Ronald Colman and Helen Hayes, marked Ford's first Academy Awards recognition, with five nominations including Best Picture.
Ford's legendary efficiency and his ability to craft films combining artfulness with strong commercial appeal won him increasing renown. By 1940 he was acknowledged as one of the world's foremost movie directors. His growing prestige was reflected in his remuneration—in 1920, when he moved to Fox, he was paid $300–600 per week. As his career took off in the mid-Twenties his annual income significantly increased. He earned nearly $134,000 in 1929, and made over $100,000 per annum every year from 1934 to 1941, earning a staggering $220,068 in 1938—more than double the salary of the U.S. President at that time (although this was still less than half the income of Carole Lombard, Hollywood's highest-paid star of the 1930s, who was earning around $500,000 per year at the time).
The Last Hurrah, (Columbia, 1958), again set in present-day of the 1950s, starred Spencer Tracy, who had made his first film appearance in Ford's Up The River in 1930. Tracy plays an aging politician fighting his last campaign, with Jeffrey Hunter as his nephew. Katharine Hepburn reportedly facilitated a rapprochement between the two men, ending a long-running feud, and she convinced Tracy to take the lead role, which had originally been offered to Orson Welles (but was turned down by Welles' agent without his knowledge, much to his chagrin). It did considerably better business than either of Ford's two preceding films, grossing $950,000 in its first year although cast member Anna Lee stated that Ford was "disappointed with the picture" and that Columbia had not permitted him to supervise the editing.
With film production affected by the Depression, Ford made two films each in 1932 and 1933—Air Mail (made for Universal) with a young Ralph Bellamy and Flesh (for MGM) with Wallace Beery. In 1933, he returned to Fox for Pilgrimage and Doctor Bull, the first of his three films with Will Rogers.
His pride and joy was his yacht, Araner, which he bought in 1934 and on which he lavished hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs and improvements over the years; it became his chief retreat between films and a meeting place for his circle of close friends, including John Wayne and Ward Bond.
Ford's first film of 1935 (made for Columbia) was the mistaken-identity comedy The Whole Town's Talking with Edward G. Robinson and Jean Arthur, released in the UK as Passport to Fame, and it drew critical praise. Steamboat Round The Bend was his third and final film with Will Rogers; it is probable they would have continued working together, but their collaboration was cut short by Rogers' untimely death in a plane crash in May 1935, which devastated Ford.
Ford's last completed feature film was 7 Women (MGM, 1966), a drama set in about 1935, about missionary women in China trying to protect themselves from the advances of a barbaric Mongolian warlord. Anne Bancroft took over the lead role from Patricia Neal, who suffered a near-fatal stroke two days into shooting. The supporting cast included Margaret Leighton, Flora Robson, Sue Lyon, Mildred Dunnock, Anna Lee, Eddie Albert, Mike Mazurki and Woody Strode, with music by Elmer Bernstein. Unfortunately, it was a commercial flop, grossing only about half of its $2.3 million budget. Unusual for Ford, it was shot in continuity for the sake of the performances and he, therefore, exposed about four times as much film as he usually shot. Anna Lee recalled that Ford was "absolutely charming" to everyone and that the only major blow-up came when Flora Robson complained that the sign on her dressing room door did not include her title ("Dame") and as a result, Robson was "absolutely shredded" by Ford in front of the cast and crew.
Republic's anxiety was erased by the resounding success of The Quiet Man (Republic, 1952), a pet project which Ford had wanted to make since the 1930s (and almost did so in 1937 with an independent cooperative called Renowned Artists Company). It became his biggest grossing picture to date, taking nearly $4 million in the US alone in its first year and ranking in the top 10 box office films of its year. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won Ford his fourth Oscar for Best Director, as well a second Best Cinematography Oscar for Winton Hoch. It was followed by What Price Glory? (1952), a World War I drama, the first of two films Ford made with James Cagney (Mister Roberts was the other) which also did good business at the box office ($2 million).
Ford made a wide range of films in this period, and he became well known for his Western and "frontier" pictures, but the genre rapidly lost its appeal for major studios in the late 1920s. Ford's last silent Western was 3 Bad Men (1926), set during the Dakota land rush and filmed at Jackson Hole, Wyoming and in the Mojave Desert. It would be thirteen years before he made his next Western, Stagecoach, in 1939.
Ford won a total of six Academy Awards. Four of these were for 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). He won two Oscars for Best Documentary for The Battle of Midway and December 7th: The Movie. To this day Ford holds the record for winning the most Best Director Oscars, having won the award on four occasions. William Wyler and Frank Capra come in second having won the award three times. Ford was the first director to win consecutive Best Director awards, in 1940 and 1941. This feat was later matched by Joseph L. Mankiewicz exactly ten years later, when he won consecutive awards for Best Director in 1950 and 1951. As a producer he received nominations for Best Picture for The Quiet Man and The Long Voyage Home. In 1955 and 1957, Ford was awarded The George Eastman Award, given by George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film. 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.
As time went on, however, Ford became more publicly allied with the Republican Party, declaring himself a "Maine Republican" in 1947. He said he voted for Barry Goldwater in the 1964 United States presidential election and supported Richard Nixon in 1968 and became a supporter of the Vietnam War. In 1973, he was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Nixon, whose campaign he had publicly supported.
Ford's first postwar movie My Darling Clementine (Fox, 1946) was a romanticized retelling of the primal Western legend of Wyatt Earp and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, with exterior sequences filmed on location in the visually spectacular (but geographically inappropriate) Monument Valley. It reunited Ford with Henry Fonda (as Earp) and co-starred Victor Mature in one of his best roles as the consumptive, Shakespeare-loving Doc Holliday, with Ward Bond and Tim Holt as the Earp brothers, Linda Darnell as sultry saloon girl Chihuahua, a strong performance by Walter Brennan (in a rare villainous role) as the venomous Old Man Clanton, with Jane Darwell and an early screen appearance by John Ireland as Billy Clanton. In contrast to the string of successes in 1939–1941, it won no major American awards, although it was awarded a silver ribbon for Best Foreign Film in 1948 by the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists, and it was a solid financial success, grossing $2.75 million in the United States and $1.75 million internationally in its first year of release.
In 1949, Ford briefly returned to Fox to direct Pinky. He prepared the project but worked only one day before being taken ill, supposedly with shingles, and Elia Kazan replaced him (although Tag Gallagher suggests that Ford's illness was a pretext for leaving the film, which Ford disliked).
In 1952, Ford hoped for a Robert Taft/Douglas MacArthur Republican presidential ticket. When Dwight Eisenhower won the nomination, Ford wrote to Taft saying that like "a million other Americans, I am naturally bewildered and hurt by the outcome of the Republican Convention in Chicago."
In November that year, Ford directed Fox's first all-talking dramatic featurette Napoleon's Barber (1928), a 3-reeler which is now considered a lost film. Napoleon's Barber was followed by his final two silent features Riley the Cop (1928) and Strong Boy (1929), starring Victor McLaglen; which were both released with synchronised music scores and sound effects, the latter is now lost (although Tag Gallagher's book records that the only surviving copy of Strong Boy, a 35 mm nitrate print, was rumored to be held in a private collection in Australia). The Black Watch (1929), a colonial army adventure set in the Khyber Pass starring Victor McLaglen and Myrna Loy is Ford's first all-talking feature; it was remade in 1954 by Henry King as King of the Khyber Rifles.
In 1955, Ford made the lesser-known West Point drama The Long Gray Line for Columbia Pictures, the first of two Ford films to feature Tyrone Power, who had originally been slated to star as the adult Huw in How Green Was My Valley back in 1941. Later in 1955, Ford was hired by Warner Bros to direct the Naval comedy Mister Roberts, starring Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, William Powell, and James Cagney, but there was conflict between Ford and Fonda, who had been playing the lead role on Broadway for the past seven years and had misgivings about Ford's direction. During a three-way meeting with producer Leland Hayward to try and iron out the problems, Ford became enraged and punched Fonda on the jaw, knocking him across the room, an action that created a lasting rift between them. After the incident Ford became increasingly morose, drinking heavily and eventually retreating to his yacht, the Araner, and refusing to eat or see anyone. Production was shut down for five days and Ford sobered up, but soon after he suffered a ruptured gallbladder, necessitating emergency surgery, and he was replaced by Mervyn LeRoy.
Ford also made his first forays into television in 1955, directing two half-hour dramas for network TV. In the summer of 1955 he made Rookie of the Year (Hal Roach Studios) for the TV series Studio Directors Playhouse; scripted by Frank S. Nugent, it featured Ford regulars John and Pat Wayne, Vera Miles and Ward Bond, with Ford himself appearing in the introduction. In November he made The Bamboo Cross (Lewman Ltd-Revue, 1955) for the Fireside Theater series; it starred Jane Wyman with an Asian-American cast and Stock Company veterans Frank Baker and Pat O'Malley in minor roles.
After completing Liberty Valance, Ford was hired to direct the Civil War section of MGM's epic How The West Was Won, the first non-documentary film to use the Cinerama wide-screen process. Ford's segment featured George Peppard, with Andy Devine, Russ Tamblyn, Harry Morgan as Ulysses S. Grant, and John Wayne as William Tecumseh Sherman. Also in 1962, Ford directed his fourth and last TV production, Flashing Spikes a baseball story made for the Alcoa Premiere series and starring James Stewart, Jack Warden, Patrick Wayne and Tige Andrews, with Harry Carey Jr. and a lengthy surprise appearance by John Wayne, billed in the credits as "Michael Morris".
Ford was also present on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He crossed the English Channel on the USS Plunkett (DD-431), which 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 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." Thirty years later, historian Stephen E. Ambrose reported that the Eisenhower Center had been unable to find the film. 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. In 1945, Ford executed affidavits testifying to the integrity of films taken to document conditions at Nazi concentration camps.
In 1965 Ford began work on Young Cassidy (MGM), a biographical drama based upon the life of Irish playwright Seán O'Casey, but he fell ill early in the production and was replaced by Jack Cardiff.
In 1966, he supported Ronald Reagan in his governor's race and again for his reelection in 1970.
Ford's next project, The Miracle of Merriford, was scrapped by MGM less than a week before shooting was to have begun. His last completed work was Chesty: A Tribute to a Legend, a documentary on the most decorated U.S. Marine, General Lewis B. Puller, with narration by John Wayne, which was made in 1970 but not released until 1976, three years after Ford's death.
Ford's health deteriorated rapidly in the early 1970s; he suffered a broken hip in 1970 which put him in a wheelchair. He had to move from his Bel Air home to a single-level house in Palm Desert, California, near Eisenhower Medical Center, where he was being treated for stomach cancer. The Screen Directors Guild staged a tribute to Ford in October 1972, and in March 1973 the American Film Institute honored him with its first Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony which was telecast nationwide, with President Richard Nixon promoting Ford to full Admiral and presenting him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
A television special featuring Ford, John Wayne, James Stewart, and Henry Fonda was broadcast over the CBS network on December 5, 1971 called The American West of John Ford, featuring clips from Ford's career interspersed with interviews conducted by Wayne, Stewart, and Fonda, who also took turns narrating the hourlong documentary.
Ford died on 31 August 1973 at Palm Desert and his funeral was held on 5 September at Hollywood's Church of the Blessed Sacrament. He was interred in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.
A statue of Ford in Portland, Maine depicts him sitting in a director's chair. The statue made by New York sculptor George M. Kelly, cast at Modern Art Foundry, Astoria, NY, and commissioned by Louisiana philanthropst Linda Noe Laine was unveiled on 12 July 1998 at Gorham's Corner in Portland, Maine, United States, as part of a celebration of Ford that was later to include renaming the auditorium of Portland High School the John Ford Auditorium.
Ford's first feature-length production was Straight Shooting (August 1917), which is also his earliest complete surviving film as director, and one of only two survivors from his twenty-five film collaboration with Harry Carey. In making the film Ford and Carey ignored studio orders and turned in five reels instead of two, and it was only through the intervention of Carl Laemmle that the film escaped being cut for its first release, although it was subsequently edited down to two reels for re-release in the late 1920s. Ford's last film of 1917, Bucking Broadway, was long thought to have been lost, but in 2002 the only known surviving print was discovered in the archives of the French National Center for Cinematography and it has since been restored and digitized.
There were occasional rumors about his sexual preferences, and in her 2004 autobiography 'Tis Herself, Maureen O'Hara recalled seeing Ford kissing a famous male actor (whom she did not name) in his office at Columbia Studios.
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 during 1936 to 1941 was due in part to an intense six-month extra-marital affair with Katharine Hepburn, the star of Mary of Scotland (1936), an Elizabethan costume drama.
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.
Ford returned to the big screen with The Searchers (Warner Bros, 1956), the only Western he made between 1950 and 1959, which is now widely regarded as not only one of his best films, but also by many as one of the greatest westerns, and one of the best performances of John Wayne's career. Shot on location in Monument Valley, it tells of the embittered Civil War veteran Ethan Edwards who spends years tracking down his niece, kidnapped by Comanches as a young girl. The supporting cast included Jeffrey Hunter, Ward Bond, Vera Miles and rising star Natalie Wood. It was Hunter's first film for Ford. It was very successful upon its first release and became one of the top 20 films of the year, grossing $4.45 million, although it received no Academy Award nominations. However, its reputation has grown greatly over the intervening years—it was named the Greatest Western of all time by the American Film Institute in 2008 and also placed 12th on the Institute's 2007 list of the Top 100 greatest movies of all time. The Searchers has exerted a wide influence on film and popular culture—it has inspired (and been directly quoted by) many filmmakers including David Lean and George Lucas, Wayne's character's catchphrase "That'll be the day" inspired Buddy Holly to pen his famous hit song of the same name, and the British pop group The Searchers also took their name from the film.
During his first decade as a director Ford worked on dozens of features (including many westerns) but only ten of the more than sixty silent films he made between 1917 and 1928 still survive in their entirety. However, prints of several Ford 'silents' previously thought lost have been rediscovered in foreign film archives over recent years—in 2009 a trove of 75 Hollywood silent films was rediscovered in the New Zealand Film Archive, among which was the only surviving print of Ford's 1927 silent comedy Upstream. The print was restored in New Zealand by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences before being returned to America, where it was given a "repremiere" at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills on August 31, 2010, featuring a newly commissioned score by Michael Mortilla.
In December 2011 the Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA), in association with the John Ford Estate and the Irish Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, established "John Ford Ireland", celebrating the work and legacy of John Ford. The Irish Academy stated that through John Ford Ireland, they hope to lay the foundations for honoring, examining and learning from the work and legacy of John Ford, who is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers of his generation.
Clint Eastwood received the inaugural John Ford Award in December 2011. It was presented to Mr Eastwood, at a reception in Burbank, California, by Michael Collins, Irish Ambassador to the United States, Dan Ford, grandson of John Ford, and Áine Moriarty, Chief Executive of the Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA).
The John Ford Ireland Film Symposium was held again in Dublin in Summer 2013.
Mankiewicz's version of events was contested in 2016, with the discovery of the court transcript, which was released as part of the Mankiewicz archives. Mankiewicz's account gives sole credit to Ford in sinking DeMille. The account has several embellishments. DeMille's move to fire Mankiewicz had caused a storm of protest. DeMille was basically on the receiving end of a torrent of attacks from many speakers throughout the meeting and at one point looked like being solely thrown off the guild board.
In 2019 Jean-Christophe Klotz released the documentary film John Ford, l'homme qui inventa l'Amérique, about his influence in the legend of the American West in films like Stagecoach (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and Cheyenne Autumn (1964).
Currently, John Ford is 129 years, 1 months and 29 days old. John Ford will celebrate 130th birthday on a Thursday 1st of February 2024.
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