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This radical re-reading of Ford's work studies his films in the context of his complex character, demonstrating their immense intelligence and their profound critique of our culture.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780520063341
ISBN-10: 0520063341
Format: Paperback
(226mm x 152mm x 41mm)
Pages: 600
Imprint: University of California Press
Publisher: University of California Press
Publish Date: 20-Apr-1988
Country of Publication: United States

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US Kirkus Review » Definitive life and critique of John Ford (1895-1973) and his films - or as adequately definitive as can be written about as "direct and devious, charismatic and sardonic, amusing and caustic" a man as Ford, who hid his great erudition under a pose of illiteracy, "his wealth under baggy clothes and his sensitivity under a tough crust." He was not all one piece. He was a functioning, periodic alcoholic, a fact which critic David Thomson sees as lending a devastating befuddlement, sentimentality, racism, militarism and extreme conservativism to his films. Gallagher convincingly presents the other side, showing Ford as a virtuoso of filmic literacy, and the hard choice between these critical rivals must be left up to the reader/viewer. Undoubtedly, Gallagher's work will boost Ford's stock substantially in coming years. Contrarily, it reinforces Thomson's argument about Ford's alcoholism - ("After a picture he would lock himself in his room, dress in a sheet, and go on a three-or four-day binge. Objections were of no avail. 'Fuck you!' he would scream defiantly. 'I'm going to get drunk!' Then he would repent and sign solemn pledges with his parish priest: he would never drink again.") - throwing a dark shadow on his work. According to Ford's much-abused brother Francis, Ford built a legend of his toughness around himself to protect his softness. Various actors and technicians are quoted to good effect, showing how Ford handled his actors, cameramen, scriptwriters and others to achieve his visions. He would seldom explain anything and seemingly gave his actors no directions at all, except where to move. He was a master of compositional eloquence, often throwing out gobs of dialogue to allow the eye to tell the story. He made some 43 westerns (mostly silents) before entering a 13-year period of non-westerns (then again returning to them); 25 of his early silents were made with cowboy actor Harry Carey, of whom Ford said: "You could read his mind, peer into his eyes and see him think." "The secret," said Ford of moviemaking, "is people's faces, their eye expressions, their movements." He was a sad man all his professional life because his necessary aloofness (and total obsession with thinking about the movie at hand) kept him from being "one of the boys" - though all of his films are about community and individualism. And while building great myths, he loved to lay them bare as well, as when he cajoled Henry Fonda into playing Lincoln: "You think you'd be playing the goddamned great emancipator, huh? He's a goddamn fucking jake-legged lawyer in Springfield, for Christ's sake!" An immense reputation being rebuilt. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Tag Gallagher

Ted Gallagher's articles have appeared in Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Artforum, and many other publications.

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