DATELINE: America’s Master Director
Johns Wayne & Ford
A documentary on the career of American film master John Ford really came about shortly before he died in 1971. A few years ago, Turner Classic Movies produced an update with newer interviews to go along with the original insights into Hollywood contrarian Ford.
This is one of those documentaries that will send you scurrying to watch the classics of the past: Directed by John Ford.
The result is to bring back Peter Bogdanovich decades later, with other modern masters like Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorcese, and Steven Spielberg, noting the importance of Ford to history.
The original narrator was Orson Welles—and his voiceovers continue with some amusing anecdotes added by Bogdanovich.
The heart of the film is always the clips of an endless 140-movie filmography of sheer brilliance, legendarily American.
We could fill the page with notable titles to remind you of what you have missed or should see again. If John Wayne, James Stewart, and Henry Fonda, are not enough, you might also ask Maureen O’Hara, another staple of his movie stock company of actors.
Use of musical motifs transcend his films whether set in Ireland or the Old West. His panoramas and vistas show invariably minor characters against the progression of history. And, Ford covered it all: from Revolutionary War, Old West, to World War II, as settings.
His films have composition that give peace and still-life of painting with deep emotional wallops. Color movies only gave his canvas more depth, but black and white looks documentarian.
Spielberg, among others, give more than cursory interviews. You have here insights into what challenge there was working with a genius of the first order: the belligerent, irascible curmudgeon who was John Ford.