Ford shares the spotlight with fellow directors William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens in this unique book about the impact of World War II on their careers. Author Mark Harris reveals the complex relationship of this historical phenomenon, as World War II transformed Hollywood, and Hollywood transformed World War II.
Ford was among the five major wartime directors given a commission to spend the war producing movies. Ford was assigned to make documentaries for the Navy Department and won Academy Awards for two of the films he produced during his services – for semi-documentary ‘The Battle of Midway’ (1942) and ‘December 7th’ (1943).
While Ford is best known for his westerns, the fact that what he was producing in this period challenged the standard format of the propaganda and training films required of him, and produced some extraordinary films, demands this kind of attention.
Mark Harris worked for Entertainment Weekly for fifteen years and is the author of ‘Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood.’
‘Five Came Back’ is available in Irish bookstores, including Dubray Books and Easons, now.
Novel ‘Three Bad Men’ Examines the Relationship between the Legendary Trio of Pappy, Duke Wayne, and The Judge
‘Three Bad Men: John Ford, John Wayne and Ward Bond’ looks at the unique and complicated, professional and personal lives of John Ford and his two favourite actors, John Wayne and Ward Bond. It is written by biographer Scott Allen Nollen.
The book has received rave reviews. It was awarded five out of five stars and hailed as “the story of Hollywood” and “a must read” by The Examiner. Dennis King of NewsOK called the book a “tough and entertaining bromance about three very contradictory musketeers.” Other reviews have deemed the biography a “fascinating read” and an “insightful and revealing narration.”
‘Three Bad Men’ shows how the lives and works of Wayne and Bond were strongly intertwined with Ford’s. The book contains a number of stories relating to creativity, toil, perseverance, bravery, masochism, mayhem, warfare, brilliance, stupidity, rationality, insanity, friendship and a testing of its limits, love and hate – relationships that affected all three heroes.
While Ford and Wayne are extensively covered both individually and in their relationship to one another, this book is unusual in that it is equally dedicated to portraying the life and work of Ward Bond, who made 23 films with Ford altogether. ‘Three Bad Men’ marks the first biography written about the character actor.
This one-of-a-kind biography about three cinematic giants is not to be missed.
The Late Shirley Temple’s Work with John Ford
‘America’s little darling’ Shirley Temple has died at the age of 85 in Woodside, California. The former Hollywood child actress, with her charismatic personality and little blonde curls, was one of the biggest stars of the 1930s.
The youngest ever Oscar winner was a singing, dancing, acting superstar who wowed audiences and filmmakers alike. Among the directors who could not resist her charm was John Ford. Ford worked on two American classics with the late Shirley Temple, Wee Willie Winkie in 1937 and Fort Apache in 1948.
The combination of probably the most popular and famous child star of all time and one of the greatest directors of all time could only be seen as a match in heaven, and the production of two timeless, popular films would seem to be evidence of this.
Upon meeting for the first time, before she was to act in his film, John Ford said to Shirley Temple, “How do you do, Miss Temple? I am the man you are going to direct in Wee Willie Winkie.” In spite of Ford’s reputation on set, the two became close. Shirley acknowledged this in her autobiography Child Star, writing, “Outwardly he is a rugged person, but inside he’s kindly and even sentimental.”
According to Shirley, Wee Willie Winkie was one of her favourite films. In the film she plays Priscilla Williams, a young girl who travels with her mother to join her grandfather, a British army colonel, at the post he commands in northern India. Priscilla finds herself enraptured by the exciting events of the troop activities. She starred opposite Victor McLaglen, another regular in John Ford’s films, for the picture.
Blogger ‘The Siren’ offers an analysis of the film and talks about how Shirley Temple ‘got along well with Ford, who seems to have brought out the very best in her acting.’ Not only that, but the writer discusses how the film is not just another vehicle for Temple’s star status: “The first thing to know about Wee Willie Winkie is that it isn’t a Shirley Temple movie that happened to be directed by John Ford; it’s a John Ford movie that happened to star Shirley Temple.”
‘The Siren’ observes how, rather than giving into studio pressures, Ford remained loyal to his authorial style and content. The article can be read in full at: http://selfstyledsiren.blogspot.ie/2010/08/wee-willie-winkie-1937.html
A clip of Wee Willie Winkie, in which John’s distinctive camera style and touching direction perfectly merges with Shirley’s sweet, innocent presence, can be viewed here: " target="_blank" rel="nofollow">
Fort Apache was made close to Shirley’s retirement from films in 1950. It shows not only a continuing ambition in Ford to revisit and re-evaluate the western genre, but also the attempt on Shirley’s part to escape from the ‘child-star’ persona, which Ford helped with through his more mature direction of the then 20 year old.
The feature stars John Wayne and Henry Fonda, both Ford regulars, who play Captain Kirby York and Lieutenant Colonel Owen Thursday respectively. York is at odds with Thursday who proves himself an ambitious, arrogant young man upon being posted to Fort Apache. When Thursday’s prejudice towards the local Apache tribe reaches new heights, York feels it is time to step in.
Shirley Temple plays Philadelphia, Thursday’s eligible daughter. She has her own romantic side-plot in the film, evidence of Ford’s desire to include both romance and adventure in his films. McLaglen features in the film as a sergeant.
Fort Apache was the first of John Ford’s ‘cavalry trilogy’, which also included She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande. Some of the exteriors were shot in one of Ford’s favourite locations, Monument Valley, Utah, and it was one of the first films to portray Native Americans in an authentic, sympathetic way.
Below is a clip from the film, eerily reminiscent of the dancing sequence of My Darling Clementine, in which Fonda and Temple lead the dancing on the floor:
Although Ford has often been portrayed as being rather tough with his actors, Shirley Temple’s performance shows Ford’s tender, sensitive direction. Perhaps it was the combination of Ford’s direction and Temple’s performance meant they made an inspiring pair.
Shirley is survived by her children Susan, Charlie Jr and Lori, granddaughter Teresa and great-granddaughters Lily and Emma.
John Ford’s The Searchers has often been named Greatest American Western of all time by the American Film Institute in 2008, but in 1998, Geoffrey O’ Brien published an article on why he regards the 1956 film starring John Wayne as the greatest movie of the century.
The poet, historian, author and critic O’Brien wrote about how The Searchers is unlike any other western: “It wasn’t about the deed to the mine, or the coming of the railroad, or the first great cattle drive, or a hotheaded young gunslinger out to make a name for himself… No recourse was had to the comforting rituals of the genre, those depredations and confrontations that recur with a lulling predictability.”
O’Brien sums up the timelessness of the film, stating, “it looks both ways in time, embodying all the traditional virtues of storytelling and technical command, yet expanding established limits to suggest a world of possibilities beyond what Hollywood had permitted itself.” He calls it “an extraordinarily generous and exploratory piece of work.”
Published by the American Heritage Magazine, the article may be read in full here: http://www.americanheritage.com/content/movie-century
Article © American Heritage Magazine, November 1998. All rights reserved.
Although a number of novels have been written about the life of John Ford in the past – Pappy: The Life of John Ford by John’s grandson, Dan Ford (Da Capo Press, 1998), Searching for John Ford: A Life (St. Martin’s Press, 2001) by Joseph McBride, and Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford by Scott Eyman (Simon and Schuster, 2012) to name a few works – it seems there is still more to explore.
Published in November of last year, Joseph Malham’s John Ford: Poet in the Desert (Lake Street Press, November 2013) has been described by as ‘an uncommon biography’ that ‘offers rarely explored facets of this dark yet towering poetic genius in a fascinating analysis of the artist's personal life.’ The biography explores Ford’s influences as well as meanings nehind the director’s representations of rituals and customs, be they familial, military or religious.
Malham has said of Poet in the Desert that “What I hoped to do was to examine Ford’s life and work through the lens of the people and things that influenced him. Namely, this would be history, art, politics, mythology and people both historical and contemporary who affected him and, in the latter, who he affected.”
Malham also noted Ford’s Irish roots: “Ford strongly identified with and was greatly proud of his Irish heritage… he saw in the Irish people the themes of oppression, resilience, politics and justice, faith and, most important, the bonds of family and community as the barriers between them and a hostile world. Ford was a sentimental Irishman but his sentiment was always integrated into larges themes of communities moving through time but dealing with serious issues.”
John Ford: Poet in the Desert is available in print or on Kindle at Amazon.com
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