on 31 May 2010
Joseph McBride's epic biography of film director John Ford revisits the life of one of Hollywood's most complicated and fascinating figures; it is the story of a man always conscious of his Irish roots, whose films came to embody an aspect of the American spirit- the battle to impose the values of society across the vast inhospitable landscapes of the American west. Ford came to be seen as a figure of American conservatism, yet as McBride opens up the many sides to his character, we can appreciate the meanings and messages of his films and how his portrayal of the American past reflected his perception of the America he experienced.
Ford can never have been an easy director to work for. His treatment of his actors was often rude and highly manipulative and he seemed to struggle with the demands of being a husband and a father. However his relations with those he worked with most closely, figures such as John Wayne, James Stewart and Harry Carey survived many films and in some cases, lasted for decades. The John Ford Stock Company formed the core cast of many of his most famous productions and Ford performed many acts of kindness towards them and their families.
As the founder of John Ford's Field Photographic Branch, Ford recognised the importance of photographic reconaissance to America during the Second World War and his involvement with the Navy was recognised with medals and honours, his work demonstrating an unquestioning patriotism that was perhaps only called into question by the discomforts caused by the HUAC investigations.
This biography pays closes attention to the artistic, the military and the political aspects of Ford's life. It is a fascinating account of a rich and controversial figure who was often misunderstood by his more 'liberal' peers. Unfortunately the production of the paperback lets down its excellent content- the type is uncomfortably small and photographs are reproduced poorly. However I would urge anyone interested in the history of American cinema to read this excellent biography.
on 30 September 2015
Arrived on time, it decent condition, as expected. The print in the book is very small, which makes reading a bit difficult, but that's not the fault of the supplier. The book itself is a great biography, as I expect from McBride.
Joseph McBride, like Kevin Brownlow has a talent for the written word. Their style is easy, conversational, humorous and impeccably researched. Other authors such a Christopher Frayling while in command of their subject cannot write about it well.
Searching for John Ford is a brilliant work and the authoritative study of the man. This brick of a book is very hard to put down and I recommend it to any fan of early cinema, the western genre or the man himself.
The one element that could be considered as lacking is the investigation into Ford's repressed sexuality. As this book is as much about the man as his films, the subject is valid.
Joseph McBirde touches upon the subject early on with a tantalising tale of John Ford kissing Harry Carey Jr. When this moment finally arrives it is a drunken desperately yearning paternal kiss on the cheek with the words "My son, my son!"
Maureen O'Hara in her shallow autobiography Tis Herself: An Autobiography (2005) states that she walked in on Ford while he was kissing a young male actor. This testimony is notably lacking in McBrides biography.
If it is true that John Ford was a homosexual, how would that alter the study of his work?
Assuming, for arguments sake that Ford was indeed a repressed homosexual, it could explain his constant desire for male company, his tendency to treat preferred women as one of the guys, his lack of understanding of heterosexual relationships, his depiction of women in his movies and possibly his acidic verbal abuse of those closest to him.
While McBride does explore Ford's intense relationship with Katherine Hepburn, it is still unclear if any sexual interaction was involved.
Ford was most certainly confused sexually and Joseph McBride makes this clear but this superb portrait only heightens the fact that Ford was possessed by many internal demons. Possibly denying his homosexuality because it did not correspond with his ideals of himself could have been the greatest demon of them all.
on 14 December 2012
McBride's book is a well researched document of one of the foremost film directors on the 20th Century. It runs along on parallel lines ie Ford's life and the history of the Hollywood industry which are both facinating for anyone who has an interest in the world of film. Many other characters, both male and female who were associated with Ford move in and out of the story, highlighting many of the weaknesses that we didn't expect from our heroes.