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I regret to admit that I've only seen 7 of John Ford's films: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), The Searchers (1956), Mister Roberts (1955), My Darling Clementine (1946), How Green Was My Valley (1941), Stagecoach (1939), and Bucking Broadway (1917).  So after we've done our voting and writing, I intend to do a personal retrospective.

So, two questions:

- Among the nominees for this year's list, how would you rank the nominated Ford films?  As I see it, they are The Searchers, How Green Was My Valley, The Quiet Man, The Fugitive, and The Grapes of Wrath.  (I'd like to pick a couple to rewatch before I vote, so your thoughts here would help.)

- A related question, I know, but which Ford films do you esteem most highly?  And what are your reasons for that esteem?

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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34 minutes ago, Andrew said:

So, two questions:

- Among the nominees for this year's list, how would you rank the nominated Ford films?  As I see it, they are The Searchers, How Green Was My Valley, The Quiet Man, The Fugitive, and The Grapes of Wrath.  (I'd like to pick a couple to rewatch before I vote, so your thoughts here would help.)

- A related question, I know, but which Ford films do you esteem most highly?  And what are your reasons for that esteem?

It's been years since I've seen it, but The Quiet Man was a source of contention in my family, and I remember being on the side of the naysayers, thinking the film romanticized (or at least normalized) domestic violence and traded in some of the more cringe-worthy stereotypes of Irish life. I don't think it/they were nominated, but I think there are better depictions of Irish life (if that's what anyone cares about), such as Brooklyn or maybe one of Jim Sheridan's films. 

I really dislike The Fugitive, but that's coming from a particular place of having done a Graham Greene chapter on my dissertation and spent a few years doing a deep dive into that book, which is my least favorite Graham Greene (The Power and the Glory). I seem to remember SDG being more of a fan of it (the novel) than I was, so your mileage may vary. But here again, given that my grandmother was a Mexican-American Catholic, the racial depiction in the film were a bit much. 

I kinda like Mogambo, but I don't think of it as a serious film. I remember liking Fort Apache quite a bit. I guess of the nominees I like The Grapes of Wrath (Greg Toland's cinematography and the significance of the story) and The Searchers, though I respect those who might find it problematic. 

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I have not seen The Fugitive, nor have I read The Power and the Glory - both things I intend to do, although I'm not sure if I'll get to it before voting.

Using Darren's breakdown for the 6 point scale, I'll probably give 5s to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Grapes of Wrath, 4s to The Searchers and How Green Was My Valley, and a 2 or a 3 to The Quiet Man. Like Ken, I couldn't quite shake the feeling that is was downplaying the seriousness of domestic violence. However, I'm certainly open to being persuaded that I'm wrong about The Quiet Man, especially given how much its defenders love it.

Edited by Evan C

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

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I would rank our nominees: The Grapes of Wrath, The Quiet Man, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, How Green Was My Valley, and The Searchers, although there isn't much separating them.

Andrew, I watched 30 or 40 Ford films in 2008-2009 and came away from the experience convinced he's the greatest filmmaker who's ever lived. I'd encourage you to track down a few of the silent films and to read Tag Gallagher's biography, which is one of the best book-length works of criticism I've found. I've said this line many times, but one of my main takeaways from watching Ford's films in sequence is that he began his career as a silent expressionist (he worked at Fox alongside Murnau and Borzage) and he ended his career as a silent expressionist (The Long Gray Line is a Sirk-ian melodrama for men).

Of the films you haven't seen yet, here are ten that'll give you the full Ford spectrum:

  1. The Iron Horse (1924)
  2. Four Sons (1928) <- Borrows sets from Murnau's Sunrise
  3. Pilgrimage (1933)
  4. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
  5. Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)
  6. The Long Voyage Home (1940) <- My favorite Ford
  7. 3 Godfathers (1948)
  8. Wagon Master (1950) <- My favorite Ford Western
  9. The Long Gray Line (1955)
  10. Cheyenne Autumn (1964)

I have nearly all of these on DVD if you want to borrow any.

Edited by Darren H
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16 hours ago, Darren H said:

I would rank our nominees: The Grapes of Wrath, The Quiet Man, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, How Green Was My Valley, and The Searchers, although there isn't much separating them.

Of the films you haven't seen yet, here are ten that'll give you the full Ford spectrum:

I have nearly all of these on DVD if you want to borrow any.

Thanks for the recommendations and comments, everyone.  I'll be making a viewing of Grapes of Wrath a priority before our voting.  And I'll probably be taking you up on that offer, Darren, after our Top 100 list is composed.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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I'll be especially curious to hear what you think of Drums Along the Mohawk, Andrew. It contains a sequence I think about often where Henry Fonda returns from a battle and is clearly traumatized by it. The film tries to pick up from there, in classical Hollywood fashion, but the rest of the movie is colored by that trauma. It was released in 1939, as Fascism was spreading, and I think Ford had an acute sensitivity to the sorrows and violence of war -- despite his reputation as a hard-drinking, hell-raising manly man.

I saw The Grapes of Wrath in high school after reading the novel and spent the next twenty years thinking it was ridiculous and dull. It's neither! The first 30 minutes in particular are as good as cinema has ever been. It and The Long Voyage Home were both shot by Gregg Toland, most famous for Citizen Kane and The Best Years of Our lives. It's crazy to think that between 1939 and America's entry into the war, Ford made:

Stagecoach
Young Mr. Lincoln
Drums Along the Mohawk
The Grapes of Wrath
The Long Voyage Home
Tobacco Road
How Green Was My Valley

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I've been reading Mark Harris's Five Came Back on and off since Christmas, and really Ford comes across as a complex and nuanced figure of which we don't have much room for in the world today. So many great stories about him: I dread/would relish a great film about the director himself!

1 hour ago, Darren H said:

I'll be especially curious to hear what you think of Drums Along the Mohawk, Andrew. It contains a sequence I think about often where Henry Fonda returns from a battle and is clearly traumatized by it. The film tries to pick up from there, in classical Hollywood fashion, but the rest of the movie is colored by that trauma. It was released in 1939, as Fascism was spreading, and I think Ford had an acute sensitivity to the sorrows and violence of war -- despite his reputation as a hard-drinking, hell-raising manly man.

I saw The Grapes of Wrath in high school after reading the novel and spent the next twenty years thinking it was ridiculous and dull. It's neither! The first 30 minutes in particular are as good as cinema has ever been. It and The Long Voyage Home were both shot by Gregg Toland, most famous for Citizen Kane and The Best Years of Our lives. It's crazy to think that between 1939 and America's entry into the war, Ford made:

Stagecoach
Young Mr. Lincoln
Drums Along the Mohawk
The Grapes of Wrath
The Long Voyage Home
Tobacco Road
How Green Was My Valley

Since I nominated it, I do think The Grapes of Wrath belongs on this list. It's easy to forget that Steinbeck and Ford were dramatizing events that were not the distant past, but the decade just before the movie was made. It's something I harp on a lot in other venues, but we are really still shackled by our "end of history" thinking (even as COVID is putting that to lie), but the 30s and 40s, history was alive and Ford was attempting to use a popular form to speak to those events.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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> history was alive and Ford was attempting to use a popular form to speak to those events.

That's a great point. I haven't dug up our old discussion of Jia yet, but this is why I'm really hopeful that Still Life makes it back onto our list. Jia and Wang Bing have been racing as fast as they can to document and make sense of the radical transformation of China over the past two decades.

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9 minutes ago, Darren H said:

> history was alive and Ford was attempting to use a popular form to speak to those events.

That's a great point. I haven't dug up our old discussion of Jia yet, but this is why I'm really hopeful that Still Life makes it back onto our list. Jia and Wang Bing have been racing as fast as they can to document and make sense of the radical transformation of China over the past two decades.

Yes, I'm going to make an extra effort to catch up on Still Life, but I'm also kinda feeling sad I couldn't find room for Mountains May Depart on my nominees for this same reason. I was just mentioning yesterday on Twitter, the "Go West" scenes in that film, and how the second use of it is just overwhelming to me.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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5 hours ago, Anders said:

I've been reading Mark Harris's Five Came Back on and off since Christmas, and really Ford comes across as a complex and nuanced figure of which we don't have much room for in the world today. So many great stories about him: I dread/would relish a great film about the director himself!

How did I miss this book?  It's totally in my wheelhouse!  And I see that it's also a Netflix miniseries; do you (or anyone else here) know if it's any good?

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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I haven't seen the miniseries. I didn't even know it existed. Huh.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Harris' book is very good. Not as compulsively readable as his Pictures at a Revolution, but educational and inspiring. The director I remember most from the book is Stevens, whose concentration-camp footage was used later in Nazi war-crimes trials. 

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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30 minutes ago, Christian said:

Harris' book is very good. Not as compulsively readable as his Pictures at a Revolution, but educational and inspiring. The director I remember most from the book is Stevens, whose concentration-camp footage was used later in Nazi war-crimes trials. 

Yeah, this is going on my next mail order to my favorite Asheville bookshop.  My curiosity is definitely piqued.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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  • 2 weeks later...

The Grapes of Wrath.  Wow.  Yes, the expressionistic influence is hard to miss, and the images of Tom Joad on a winding California road and in extreme long range ascending the hill at the end are some of the best I've seen in recent memory.  I certainly see how this film embodies "spiritual significance" in its notion that we are all part of a greater whole, and if one is suffering, we all suffer.

Unexpectedly, this was a difficult film to watch during a pandemic.  The heartbreakingly precarious financial state of so many people today doesn't look much different from the Okies fleeing the Dust Bowl.

And the more that changes, the more remains the same.  The way the members of the working class are pitted against one another rather than their exploiters; the fat cats untouched by the economic downturn; police forces that exist to protect the upper class and can kill the nameless poor with impunity - it all looks rather familiar.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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  • 3 months later...
On 4/19/2020 at 2:47 PM, Darren H said:

Of the films you haven't seen yet, here are ten that'll give you the full Ford spectrum:

  1. The Iron Horse (1924)
  2. Four Sons (1928) <- Borrows sets from Murnau's Sunrise
  3. Pilgrimage (1933)
  4. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
  5. Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)
  6. The Long Voyage Home (1940) <- My favorite Ford
  7. 3 Godfathers (1948)
  8. Wagon Master (1950) <- My favorite Ford Western
  9. The Long Gray Line (1955)
  10. Cheyenne Autumn (1964)

I have nearly all of these on DVD if you want to borrow any.

Darren, I'm finally getting around to watching some Ford.  I can easily find all but two of these - Iron Horse and Pilgrimate - so I'd love to borrow those, if you're still offering.

Just watched Four Sons today, and wow, that's a great film.  The scenes around the dining table, morning fog over the battlefield, the concluding sequence - hands down, some of the best things ever committed to celluloid.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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I don't know Ford very well, but I recently saw and really liked The Long Gray Line, a biopic about Marty Maher, an Irish-born army officer who spent fifty years at West Point. The film turns on an interesting tonal shift that happens partway through. When Maher arrives at West Point as a young immigrant fresh off the boat, initially working as a waiter who breaks a lot of dishes, the film plays as a broad comedy with a lot of faith-and-begorrah Irish jokes and some outright slapstick. However, it eventually transitions, surprisingly smoothly, into a weightier drama with serious themes related to honor, patriotism, and teaching. It's very much carried by its stars, Tyrone Power and, just as importantly, Maureen O'Hara, who plays Maher's wife (and whose Irish accent is authentic, unlike Power's).

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