Highlights of annual John Ford Ireland Film Symposium 2014

Highlights of annual John Ford Ireland Film Symposium 2014
This year’s John Ford Ireland Film Symposium took place from 6th to 8th June. The Symposium, which is dedicated to the life and works of legendary Irish-American filmmaker John Ford, consisted of a number of events such as Industry Panel Discussions, rare Ford Screenings, Academic Panels, In Conversation With and a Masterclass. Special guests attended and screenings of some of Ford’s most beloved films were presented.

Opening night took place on Friday 6th June in the Savoy Cinema. The night was orientated around Hollywood’s Golden Year of 1939, which saw classic films like ‘The Wizard of Oz’, ‘Gone With the Wind’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’ hit the big screen for the first time. It was also the year that Ford’s ‘Stagecoach’ was released, the film which not only revived the western as a significant movie genre but also launched the career of its lead, John Wayne.


‘Stagecoach’ was brought to the big screen again that night, with special guests Marisa Wayne (the daughter of John Wayne), Dan Ford (the grandson of John Ford) and Scott Eyman (author of ‘John Wayne: The Life and Legend’) introducing the film. Marisa Wayne said that her father loved Ireland and expressed awe at how “it’s amazing that he has been gone 35 years and that he still has the popularity internationally that he has.”

Another highlight of the first day of the Symposium was a sold out Directing Masterclass with Ben Wheatley. The Masterclass, supported by Screen Training Ireland and hosted by writer/director Ian Power was attended by up and coming writers, directors and producers from across the industry. Wheatley, whose films include ‘Kill List’, ‘Sightseers’, ‘A Field in England’ and the upcoming ‘High Rise’, which will be filmed in Belfast this summer, shared his expertise as a creator, director, writer, editor and producer of feature films, viral ads, commercials and shorts.


Wheatley also participated in the Director’s Hub (which formed part of the Industry Hub, presented in association with the Irish Film Board) alongside Whit Stillman, Kieron J Walsh, Ken Girotti and Neasa Hardiman, who chaired the discussion. The directors presented clips from their favourite Ford films and engaged in a heated debate over Ford’s continued influence on contemporary films. The Industry Hub also included the Producer’s Panel, with guests Laura Hastings Smith, (Macbeth, Hunger) Andrew Reid (Northern Ireland Screen), James Flynn (Calvary, Vikings), Sue Bruce Smith (Film Four) , Alan Moloney (Byzantium, Albert Nobbs) and chair David Collins (Sampson Films) discussing the challenges of making independent films in the UK and Ireland today. Both panels took place in the Gresham Hotel on the Saturday of the symposium, as did an ‘Adapted by John Ford’ panel made up of Irish and UK Academics Liam Burke, Ian Hunter, Charles Barr And Tony Tracey and a presentation by film critic Edward Buscombe on John Ford and the significance of ‘Stagecoach’ to the western genre.


One of the special guests at the John Ford 2014 Symposium was biographer Scott Eyman. Eyman wrote ‘Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford’ and on Saturday afternoon, he attended a book signing event at Eason’s for his latest work, ‘John Wayne: The Life and Legend’. Later that day, he took part in what proved to be a very popular conversation event with Tara Brady from the Irish Times. Eyman discussed his new book as well as the life and career of the beloved actor John Wayne in general.


The 7th of June also saw a number of screenings of Ford favourites such as ‘My Darling Clementine’ and ‘The Searchers’, both shown in the Savoy on O’Connell Street along with a special FREE outdoor screening of ‘The Quiet Man’ at Meeting House Square, which Ford filmed in Mayo and Galway and starred John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.


The final day of the event, Sunday 8th of June, saw a poignant presentation dedicated to honouring John Ford’s involvement in World War II in association with Collins Barracks, a screening of Ford’s Academy Award-winning documentary ‘The Battle of Midway’ was presented along with a lecture from Lar Joye, the Curator of Military History Collections, and a discussion with Dan Ford on his grandfather’s involvement in the war. Free guided tours at the National Museum of Ireland’s Soldiers & Chiefs exhibition took place in the afternoon and the symposium closed with a screening of ‘The Were Expendable’, John Ford’s tribute film to the United States Navy.

Career-spanning John Wayne DVD boxset to be released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment in May

John Wayne, the iconic actor most synonymous with the films of John Ford is to be celebrated with a new comprehensive and career-spanning DVD box, set to include 40 of his films. The box set will include Ford classics such as They Were Expendable, Fort Apache, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Donovan’s Reef, as well as the actor’s Oscar winning role in True Grit. The collection will also come with special features including commentaries, documentaries, featurettes and special John Wayne collectibles such as personal correspondences and script pages with Wayne’s notations.

Ford Favourite Maureen O’ Hara interviewed at screening of ‘How Green Way May Valley’

With her fiery red hair and energetic performances to match, Maureen O’Hara has long been hailed as one of Ireland’s most renowned and celebrated actresses.


This month, O’Hara made a rare public appearance at the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Film Festival, at which she was interviewed before a jubilant crowd preceding a screening of ‘How Green Was My Valley’ in its world premiere restoration. It was the first film that O’Hara worked on with John Ford, and they would form a lifelong working bond subsequently.


She has starred in films that are deeply ingrained in cinematic history: ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, ‘The Black Swan’, ‘The Parent Trap’ and, of course, her outstanding films with legendary director, John Ford. She is particularly well-known for her roles in Ford’s ‘The Quiet Man’ and ‘How Green Was My Valley’, where she plays Angharad Morgan, the daughter of a close-knit Welsh mining family.



Often referenced simply as the film that beat out ‘Citizen Kane’ for the Best Picture Oscar in 1941, ‘How Green Was My Valley’ is a touching tale of family bonds that more than stands on its own as one of Ford’s most important films. It portrays the many struggles of a Welsh mining family, including strikes, mine disasters and catastrophic illness. The film also allowed Ford to work with a three actors who would become key parts in his unofficial stock company: O’Hara, Donald Crisp and Anna Lee.


O’Hara has said that the director is “... the greatest director that the picture business has ever known.”


In the interview below, Master of Ceremonies and TCM’s Robert Osborne welcomes Maureen O'Hara at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. She had long been on TCM’s short-list of most desired guests for the festival. We can see here how the Irish actress cheekily talks about Ford, and shows that she is still as bright, charming and good-humoured as ever, even at 93 years of age.




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Steinbeck Loved Henry Fonda’s Portrayal of Tom Joad

Steinbeck Loved Henry Fonda’s Portrayal of Tom Joad


This gem reveals John Ford’s talents not only as a great director of actors, but also his delicate skill in faithfully adapting John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’.


Executive producer Darryl Zanuck purchased the film rights for ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ for $75,000 following a major bidding war between several film production companies. Concerned about controversy, Zanuck decided to hold the premiere of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ in New York. The film, directed by John Ford, received glowing reviews and earned Ford an Academy Award for Best Director.


One of Ford’s favourite actors, Henry Fonda, played the challenging lead role of Tom Joad, a character who loves his family and tries to be good, but is tainted by his violent past and ultimately doomed by it. Fonda’s strong yet subtle portrayal of the character earned the actor his first ever Oscar nomination as Actor in a Lead Role.


Steinbeck said Fonda’s performance as Joad made him “believe my own words”. Steinbeck and Fonda remained friends and the actor read Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem ‘Ulysses’ at Steinbeck’s funeral in 1968.


2014 marks the 75th anniversary of John Steinbeck’s novel ‘The Grapes of Wrath.’ This year also marks the 74th anniversary of John Ford’s film adaptation.


Rave Reviews for Scott Eyman’s new book on John Wayne

Rave Reviews for Scott Eyman’s new book on John Wayne


Author Scott Eyman’s new biography, John Wayne: The Life and Legend has garnered rave reviews from critics since its release in early April. The book, which chronicles the life of the iconic film star, places a special focus on the many films Wayne made with John Ford and the significance of their forty-year friendship. Eyman has previously written the John Ford biography Print the Legend: The Life of Times of John Ford as well as two books on actor Robert Wagner, who himself starred in Ford’s What Price Glory.


In a New York Times review, film director and previous John Ford Ireland Symposium guest Peter Bogdanovich called the book “an insider’s journey...authoritative and enormously engaging” while Salon called it “one of the greatest movie star biographies ever written”. Associated Press reviewed that the biography contained “perceptive views of Wayne's many films and a wagon's worth of revealing and entertaining anecdotes” while Publisher Weekly called it “compulsively readable”.


The New York Times Review by Peter Bogdanovich, March 28 2014