John Ford was an American film director, famous for both his westerns such as “Stagecoach”, “The Searchers”, and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”, and adaptations of such classic 20th-century American novels as “The Grapes of Wrath.”
This week, University of San Carlos SineKultura will feature “The Man who Shot Liberty VaLance” and “The Searchers” on Wednesday and Friday respectively.
Widely regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers of his generation, Ford was a pioneer of location shooting and the long shot which frames his characters against a vast, rugged, dramatic vistas.
In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Ford directed more than 140 films (although nearly all of his silent films are now lost), winning a record of four Academy Awards for Best Director (1935, 1940, 1941, 1952). Fellow directors Ingmar Bergman and Orson Welles are among Ford’s colleagues who held Ford’s work and directorship in high regard and considered him as one of the greatest directors of all time.
THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, Wednesday, 530 PM
Synopsis: A senator, who became famous for killing a notorious outlaw, returns for an old friend’s funeral and tells the truth behind his heroic deed.
One notable feature of John Ford’s films is that he used a ‘stock company’ of actors, far more so than many directors. Through his choice of story, Ford championed the value and force of the group, with sentiment for camaraderie through his repeated use of certain actors in the lead and supporting roles.
Many famous stars appeared in at least two or more Ford films, including Harry Carey, Sr., (the star of 25 Ford silents), Will Rogers, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Maureen O’Hara, James Stewart, Woody Strode, Richard Widmark, Victor McLaglen, Vera Miles and Jeffrey Hunter.
Core members of this extended ‘troupe’, including Ward Bond, John Carradine, Harry Carey, Jr., Mae Marsh, Frank Baker and Ben Johnson, were informally known as the John Ford Stock Company.
THE SEARCHERS, Friday, 600 PM
Synopsis: A Civil War veteran spends years searching for a young niece kidnapped by Comanche indians; through his quest, his motivation becomes increasingly questionable.
Ford had a distinctive style as a director, known to never used storyboards and composed his films entirely in his head, without any written or graphic outline of the shots he would use.
He was also one of the first filmmakers to encourage his writers and actors to prepare a full back story for their characters. He hated long expository scenes and was famous for tearing pages out of a script to cut dialogue.
He was relatively sparing in his use of camera movements and close-ups, preferring static medium or long shots.
Ford is justly famous for his exciting tracking shots, such as the chase sequence in “Stagecoach” or the attack on the Comanche camp in “The Searchers”.
Ford was legendary for his discipline and efficiency on-set and was notorious for being extremely tough on his actors, frequently mocking, yelling and bullying them; he was also infamous for his sometimes sadistic practical jokes. Any actor foolish enough to demand star treatment would receive the full force of his relentless scorn and sarcasm.
Despite his often difficult and demanding personality, many actors who worked with Ford acknowledged that he brought out the best in them.