When John Ford directed the hugely popular The Searchers, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave him the honor of best director. Now presenting the award to Eastwood, Ireland’s ambassador to the United States, Ambassador James Moriarty, said, “John Ford is one of America’s most respected living filmmakers, an innovative visionary whose work is leaving its profound mark on our world, as John Ford himself did in his own life. John Ford’s filmography is unmatched in scope and accomplishment.”
As a long-time resident in the film industry, I’ve always admired the award given to a living director. But not this year. While the movie itself may be good, it is a very weak selection of directors for the Best Director trophy, and John Ford’s credentials as a director is seriously questioned.
The movie opens with the story of two western heroes (John Travolta and Kurt Russell) battle the forces of evil in a Wild West setting. For the first half of the movie, it is easy to forget the fact that the film is about John Ford. The film drags its feet along the way, and while the storyline is entertaining, the story falls flat in the middle and gets even weaker near the end of the film.
As a result, the Best Director award should have gone to John Ford Ireland, one of his many Irish directors. But then again, that the award may have gone to some other of his many films instead. If they had given it to Ford for The Searchers, then there is no doubt that his credentials as a director would still stand. That movie was good, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the next John Ford movie, A Passage to India.
However, The Searchers is not a film for everyone, so it does deserve to be up for an Academy Award. After all, it is a worthy candidate and deserves to be up there with some of the best westerns of all time. That being said, it is probably unfair to put John Ford Ireland’s name atop the list when he hasn’t been around as much as some of his other great westerns. (such as Stagecoach or The Great Train Robbery).
John Ford Ireland deserves a little bit of credit. He made one great movie, but it is not a masterpiece like the other greats.