Poll

What's the best film by John Ford?

The Iron Horse
0 (0%)
3 Bad Men
0 (0%)
Four Sons
0 (0%)
Up the River
0 (0%)
Pilgrimage
0 (0%)
Judge Priest
0 (0%)
The Informer
0 (0%)
Steamboat Round the Bend
0 (0%)
The Prisoner of Shark Island
0 (0%)
Wee Willie Winkie
0 (0%)
Stagecoach
3 (6.4%)
Young Mr. Lincoln
5 (10.6%)
Drums Along the Mohawk
0 (0%)
Grapes of Wrath
4 (8.5%)
The Long Voyage Home
0 (0%)
How Green Was My Valley
5 (10.6%)
The Battle of Midway
0 (0%)
They Were Expendable
0 (0%)
My Darling Clementine
5 (10.6%)
The Fugitive
0 (0%)
Fort Apache
1 (2.1%)
3 Godfathers
0 (0%)
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
1 (2.1%)
Wagon Master
1 (2.1%)
Rio Grande
0 (0%)
The Quiet Man
1 (2.1%)
The Sun Shines Bright
0 (0%)
Mogambo
0 (0%)
The Long Gray Line
0 (0%)
The Searchers
13 (27.7%)
The Wings of Eagles
0 (0%)
The Last Hurrah
0 (0%)
The Horse Soldiers
0 (0%)
Sergeant Rutledge
0 (0%)
Two Rode Together
0 (0%)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
6 (12.8%)
Donovan's Reef
0 (0%)
Cheyenne Autumn
0 (0%)
7 Women
0 (0%)
haven't seen any
0 (0%)
don't like any
2 (4.3%)
other
0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 45

Author Topic: Ford, John  (Read 10266 times)

pixote

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Re: Ford, John
« Reply #150 on: October 15, 2017, 09:34:18 PM »
































Pilgrimage  (John Ford, 1933)

It's 1933, and Jack Ford has figured out how to make talkies! And pre-marital sex and babies born out of wedlock are still viable plot devices, yay!

Pilgrimage finds Ford back in a Murnau-influenced mode, picking up where Four Sons left off. In some ways, it's like a inverted remake of that film, where a mother's angelic love for four sons becomes a mother's destructive possessiveness for a single son. I had assumed the movies were connected just by theme and Ford's stylistic choices, but it turns out they both have their origins in the stories of the same author, I.A.R. Wylie.

Pilgrimage unfolds over three acts that are too distinct for their own good. The first act is like a Greek tragedy, where a youthful romance is thwarted by a mother's jealousy and pride and also by war. The setting is Arkansas an Arkansas where it snows with odd frequency and the ornery, spiteful mother is wonderfully played by Henrietta Crossman. The second act follows her to France as part of a post-war delegation of "gold star" mothers, and here the film becomes a genial "Americans abroad" comedy. In the final act, the film veers close to the fantastic, echoing something like A Christmas Carol in the way the unseen presence of the the dead rapidly transforms Crossman's character.

The problem, really, is that the script stacks the deck too strongly in the first act, painting the mother as almost completely unredeemable; an awful human being. Yet redemption is essential to the predictable arc of the story, so the script has to jump through hoops to get to that point in a way that has us rooting for the hateful character. But the switch to Ebenezer Scrooge-style miracle doesn't befit the story at all, and Ford misdirects Crossman in the final third, letting her character's transformation be too sudden and lacking in enough nuance.

The third act isn't without its worthwhile moments, by the way. In fact, in a separate context it might be quite good (minus the extended joke related to a French cab driver who feels cheated). And the second act contains what I suspect is the funniest moment in any Ford film, as Crossman comments on her passport photo ("I look like a horse thief!"). Lucille La Verne is wonderful in this section of the film as well, and there's something special about see the 1930s, intercontinental appreciation of the fallen sons of WWI and the mothers they left behind.

Grade: C+

Up next: Doctor Bull

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I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

1SO

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Re: Ford, John
« Reply #151 on: October 15, 2017, 09:38:19 PM »
I've seen 35 films directed by John Ford. I wonder how long it'll be before I get to Seas Beneath, who doesn't have a single actor on my Watchlist. Pilgrimage also has nobody of interest, but its IMDB rating is above 7, so it's at least likely.

pixote

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Re: Ford, John
« Reply #152 on: October 15, 2017, 09:40:57 PM »
How highly do you rate Air Mail? That's one I overlooked when I expanded my marathon from "Ford to Fox" to a more thorough examination of his filmography.

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

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Re: Ford, John
« Reply #153 on: October 15, 2017, 10:08:12 PM »
It's * * * - Okay. Difficult to not compare it to Only Angels Have Wings. Ralph Bellamy is no Cary Grant, but at least he's Ralph Bellamy. I'm a bigger fan of Pat O'Brien than I should be considering how often he plays an arrogant jerk (or a typical 1930s male). Angels is Howard Hawks at some of his Hawksiest in terms of the camaraderie, but I like what John Ford brings to the table too. Plus, no Rita Hayworth.

pixote

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Re: Ford, John
« Reply #154 on: October 17, 2017, 08:31:21 PM »




















Doctor Bull  (John Ford, 1933)

I've always been wary of Will Rogers for some reason, perhaps associating him negatively with Roy Rogers and expecting his films to be cowboy hokum. Instead, Will Rogers is like W. C. Fields' more humane older brother a super appealing and warm screen presence armed with a subtle wit. I couldn't be more excited now to catch up with his two other films in this marathon, Judge Priest and Steamboat Round the Bend.

Rogers plays the title character in Doctor Bull, a physician in a small, New England town with the usual small town problems: elderly gossips, youthful indiscretions, etc. The Americana on display feels more Capra than Ford, though in some ways the film feels like a continuation of Pilgrimage's critique of American Puritanism a critique made possible, in part, by the pre-Code freedom that lets young people have sex with each other (which is perhaps still frowned upon but not necessarily a source of shame).

Doctor Bull is based on the novel The Last Adam by James Gould Cozzens, and I think I'll add the book to my reading list. Cozzens isn't an author I know which seems odd, given that he won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Guard of Honor but he seems like a fascinating figure in 20th century American letters.

I actually wasn't enjoying Doctor Bull at all early on I was just completely disengaged and I think it's because I refused to admit that no matter how loud I turned up the volume, I still couldn't make out half the dialogue. The second I acquiesced and turned on captions, I started to enjoy the movie way more than I was expecting. It's such a pleasant tale of small town life and morality and and I might have even rated it more highly, had the third act been a tad bit stronger.

Grade: B-

Up next: The Lost Patrol

pixote
« Last Edit: October 17, 2017, 08:35:04 PM by pixote »
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

Junior

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Re: Ford, John
« Reply #155 on: October 17, 2017, 10:56:01 PM »
I've seen those other two Will Rogers movies and they're delightful, outside some uncomfortable racial stuff.
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pixote

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Re: Ford, John
« Reply #156 on: October 19, 2017, 10:01:59 PM »


















Quote from: Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide
Lost Patrol, The (1934) 73m. ★★★★ D: John Ford. Victor McLaglen, Boris Karloff, Wallace Ford, Reginald Denny, Alan Hale, J. M. Kerrigan, Billy Bevan. McLaglen's small British military group lost in Mesopotamian desert, as Arabs repeatedly attack the dwindling unit. Classic actioner filled with slice-of-life stereotypes, headed by religious fanatic Karloff. Fast-moving fun, great Max Steiner score. Scripted by Dudley Nichols, from Philip MacDonald's novel Patrol. Previously filmed in 1929, as a British silent starring Victor McLaglen's brother, Cyril, in the lead role; reworked many times (BAD LANDS, SAHARA, BATAAN, etc.).

The Lost Patrol  (John Ford, 1934)

I consider Maltin's book to be pretty reliable when it comes to classic Hollywood — his four-star review of Wyler's Counsellor-at-Law is the reason that film has been on my radar for so long — but I'm baffled seeing Ford's The Lost Patrol earn the same rating. This is not a good movie. Perhaps I've been spoiled by the production values of Ford's films at Fox, but this RKO production feels dirt cheap, as if it were written and filmed all on a single weekend. (The screenshots above represent some very generous curation.) Presumably Reginald Denny was committed to another project on the last day of shooting, so his character just disappears from the story for no good reason (which is too bad because he's one of the more interesting screen presences in the cast). The action isn't strong — even before you factor in the uncomfortable villainization of the unseen "dirty" Arabs — and the story is only "fast-moving" by virtue of having a short run-time. The story itself moves along in a series of hiccups, due to poor plotting. Karloff comes to life in the second half of the movie, but the simpering nature of his character in the first half detracts from the enjoyment of his increasingly crazed state later on. McLaglen fares better overall, but it's far from his best work. Max Steiner is the only participant who emerges with his head held high.

The words above don't quite jive with the grade below, which should probably be lower. But, despite its failings, The Lost Patrol still possess the general air of likability of genre productions of the era.

Grade: C-

Up next: The World Moves On

pixote
« Last Edit: October 19, 2017, 10:08:42 PM by pixote »
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

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Re: Ford, John
« Reply #157 on: October 20, 2017, 09:57:26 PM »






































Quote from: Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide
World Moves On, The (1934) 104m. ★★ D: John Ford. Madeleine Carroll, Franchot Tone, Reginald Denny, Stepin Fetchit, Lumsden Hare, Raul Roulien, Louise Dresser, Sig Ruman. Long but interesting family saga covering 100 years as Louisiana family is split, three sons heading business operations in England, France, Germany, experiencing tremendous changes from peaceful 19th century through WW.

The World Moves On  (John Ford, 1934)

In some ways The World Moves On is the opposite of Seas Beneath. That film was a promising war film thrown off the rails by some trite romance; this film is a trite romance interrupted by a promising war film.

I'm not convinced that Franchot Tone can carry a movie at this point in his career. He never seems to mesh with the cast around him — something which makes him better suited for a supporting role, the cad sidekick. He exudes a certain kind of narcissistic bravado that suggests a lack of compromise, like an ungenerous actor in an improv group. He certainly has little chemistry with Madeleine Carroll here.

Ford directs The World Moves On with disinterest, as if rebelling against having to work from a script by someone other than Dudley Nichols (Reginald Berkeley, in this case). The film's first forty minutes suffer the most, with Ford's seeming indifferent to script's focus on character and narrative exposition and saving his energies for the moments of action and emotion.

When, after that long slog, the movie explodes with some dynamic war scenes, it's like, "Wow! Where did this come from?!" Turns out, the answer is Raymond Bernard's 1932 French film Wooden Crosses, which Fox bought the US rights to just to cannibalize it for footage in movies like this. Bernard's film has been on my watchlist for too long, but I'll definitely be prioritizing it now, partly to see whether the credit for the Soviet-indebted editing here belongs to that film or to Ford's.

The film's other jaw-dropping sequence also involves found footage — specifically, newsreels of the rising militaristic nationalism in Hitler's Germany, Japan and along countries, along with the armed readiness of countries like the France, the United Kingdom and the United States. It's an extremely prescient moment in this 1934 film, one that makes that movie's shortcoming all the more frustrating. I would love to have seen what Borzage might have done with the same script.

Stepin Fetchit's stereotyped role is unfortunate, but, at the same time, he's a rare source of energy and life in a movie that's too often very staid. The one shot of his family near the end is perhaps the most human and hopeful moment in the whole film, something I found very redemptive.

All told, The World Moves On is a very interesting failure.

Grade: C

Up next: Judge Priest

In the future, I should limit my Ford screenshots to those which show characters looking out through windows. Those seem be be some of the best shots in each of his films.

pixote
« Last Edit: October 20, 2017, 09:59:23 PM by pixote »
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

pixote

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Re: Ford, John
« Reply #158 on: December 18, 2017, 02:22:00 AM »








































Judge Priest  (John Ford, 1934)

Judge Priest follows very closely the template of Doctor Bull, the first collaboration between Ford and Will Rogers, but the result is a comparative let-down. I'm guessing that's mostly attributable to quality of the source material, with Irvin S. Cobb's short stories about Judge Priest likely lacking the cohesion of the James Gould Cozzens novel from which Doctor Bull was adapted.

The change in setting is equally problematic, especially with the film's uncritical attitude towards The Cause (i.e., the war to preserve the institution of slavery). The ending swells with Dixie pride that's rather abhorrent not just by today's standards but even in the context of the film. When it's mentioned in a court proceeding that one character saved the life of a Union solider in battle, I fully expected it to elicit boos from the crowd in the courtroom. The fact that it doesn't lacks credibility, in context, and seems a bone thrown to any potential progressive viewers in the northern states.

An opening quotation from Cobb says of the man who inspired Judge Priest, "...I tried to draw reasonably fair likenesses of him and his neighbors and the town in which he lived." That declaration started me off on the wrong foot with the film, which quickly revealed itself to be populated with caricatures. Most notable in that regard is Stepin Fetchit, inexplicable playing his character as a simpleton. I liked him in The World Moves On, but he's really poorly used here, and it's uncomfortable how the otherwise humane Priest (Rogers just radiates humanity) treats Fetchit like a slave, taking credit for saving him from a lynching.

I came into Judge Priest excited to see another Will Rogers film, but the movie turns into a showcase for Henry B. Walthall instead. It's such a shame that he (like Rogers) died so soon after this film, because he completely commands the screen in his appearances. (Walthall's other most notable role is in Griffith's Birth of a Nation, a connection that underscores the problematic thematic nature of this film.)

Although there are good moments throughout Judge Priest — highlighted by an absolutely wonderful duet between Rogers and Hattie McDaniel — it's really the final act that makes the film worthwhile. Not only is that when Walthall takes over the film, but it's also when Ford comes alive with his highest quality filmmaking, combining Walthall's monologue with some dramatic battle footage and an exceptional use of diegetic music.

Funny to see Tom Brown again — though I'm disappointed that he wasn't playing a character named Tom Brown.

Grade: B-

Up next: The Whole Town's Talking

pixote
« Last Edit: December 18, 2017, 02:24:31 AM by pixote »
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

Dave the Necrobumper

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Re: Ford, John
« Reply #159 on: December 18, 2017, 03:59:08 AM »


The bloke in this shot looks a bit like Matt Damon. Probably because of the expression.