Thomas Myler begins his new series looking at the life and career of The Quiet Man director, John Ford


The girl at the immigration desk asked the man with the battered old hat and the eyepatch, “Name and occupation, please?”
The man took the eight-inch cigar from between his teeth.
“My name is John Ford and I make westerns,” he said.

John Ford did make westerns, directing more than anybody else in the history of the cinema. Classics such as Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Searchers, Rio Grande, My Darling Clementine, Two Rode Together, Ford Apache, How the West was Won and many more.

In the making of his films, Ford expressed a deep sentiment for camaraderie through his repeated use of certain actors in lead or supporting roles.
He was particularly close to John Wayne and Ward Bond, and frequently employing James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Victor McLaglen, Harry Carey Junior and many others who over the years, forming a sort of Ford stock company.

Wayne had good reason to be grateful for Ford’s support. Stagecoach, made in 1939, provided the actor with the career breakthrough that elevated him to international stardom. Over 35 years, Wayne appeared in 24 of Ford’s films and three television episodes.

Cast member Louise Platt, in a letter recounting the experience of the film’s production, quoted Ford saying of Wayne’s future in film, “He’ll be the biggest star ever because he is the perfect everyman.”
In a career of more than 50 years, Ford directed more than 140 films, although most of his silent movies are unfortunately now lost.

His work behind the camera was held in high regard by his colleagues, with Orson Welles and Ingmar Bergman naming him one of the greatest directors of all time.
He won four Oscars as Best Director for The Informer, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley and The Quiet Man. He also received the New York Film Critics Award four times.
Besides his westerns, Ford was associated with social, war, and romantic dramas, while his name will be forever linked to the movie he shot here, a perennial favourite, The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in the leads.

Both Ford’s parents were Irish. His father John Augustine O’Feeney was born in Spiddal, Co. Galway and his mother, Barbara Curran, in Kilronan on the Aran Islands. They emigrated to the USA in 1872 and married in 1875, residing in the predominately Irish neighbourhood of Munjoy Hill in Portland, Maine.
John Aloysius O’Feeney, who would become John Ford, was the couple’s 13th and youngest child. “My father had a variety of jobs to support his family,” he recalled in later years. “He worked on a fishing boat, a labourer for the gas company, an alderman and one time ran a saloon.”

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own