Transcript:

Speaker I was writing for Esquire that time was in the early 60s, and I asked them if I could do a piece about John Ford for the magazine. He was at that time shooting Cheyenne Autumn in Monument Valley, and they agreed. So I went I went to Monument Valley and spent three weeks there.

Speaker What was it like when you first met? I didn't strike you. Tell us a little bit about his personality.

Speaker Well, Ford was pretty terrifying. I mean, the the publicity fellow at the on the picture when he heard what I was doing there, I'm doing a piece on John Ford. He said, oh, no, he turned he turned white and and looked panicked and refused to introduce me. He said, no, you he hates the press. You can't go near him. And I said, well, that's why Warner Brothers sent me here. No, you and Ford was chewing on a handkerchief, which he chewed on a handkerchief, quite often a long white handkerchief. And the press agent said, you see that when he's chewing on that handkerchief means he's very, very, very angry. I said, oh, tonight, it's not true. He chew on the handkerchief all the time. But there was an attempt to not smoke as much or something. So eventually I got introduced to Ford. Who was actually very nice to me. He was quite nice to me and made a point of, you know, pointing things out to me on the set and everybody was amazed at how nice he was to me and I did it. To this day, I don't know exactly why, because he later on and we got friendlier. He'd pick on me quite often. But at first he was very nice to me. I think he was a bit flattered that I knew so much about his pictures. And I was young and, you know. I guess, but he was and he was it was extraordinary to watch him work because he was very thin at that time.

Speaker He was rather frail and.

Speaker He had command of this 600 people or something went down there, so the whole city of trailor is, you know, parked in the valley and he was he was everybody jumped when he spoke and, you know, and he was totally in control and really very impressive to watch. He would make up dialogue for the actors. You know, before you say this, you say this and so on. And you weren't supposed to laugh. Sometimes the dialogue was funny. I laughed. It was like everybody was scared of him.

Speaker Even then, I was so scared of him.

Speaker What was it about for? I mean, I grew up with the what was it about his upbringing that had such an impact on him as a filmmaker, Carl?

Speaker Well, I don't know, I think he the key thing about Ford, I think, was his his affection for and ambivalence about the family, a family as a unit.

Speaker He supposedly was the 13th of 13 children and had a very you know, his parents had met that were born in Ireland but met in Maine. And he was right from the beginning.

Speaker He had an eye for an eye for pictorial things. He he at some point toyed with the idea of being a painter or something. And he loved the sea and he was a sailor at an early age. I think his films, of course, many of his films, so many of his films deal with the the dissolution of a family, the bonding and then dissolution of the family, whether it's The Grapes of Wrath or My Darling Clementine or How Green was My Valley.

Speaker There's so many of them.

Speaker And I think his his love of family goes way back.

Speaker And he his films he created often on the set and in honor, in particular when they were on location, a family feeling that was what he tried to do. And I remember when Hunchy and Autumn, he he would have a party on the weekend and everybody would sing. And it was kind of a family kind of get together feeling.

Speaker Twenty four, he directed The Iron Horse, which was a groundbreaking film for John for Desires Irish. He's a student of history. Well, what was so important about that film?

Speaker Well, he'd made a whole bunch of Westerns with Harry Carey, and this was the first big Western he made at Fox. He'd made a few small Westerns at Fox as well. But this was an epic, was longer was, you know, more expensive and more complicated than any Western he'd ever made. And it was a breakthrough for him. It was a big success. So it had a tremendous impact on his career. I mean, it was his first big sort of smash hit, came out in 1924. He supposedly gave his wife a present that year of a Rolls Royce. I saw that Rolls-Royce, she still had it when I knew her in the back seat of the Rolls-Royce was a mink coat and then with a note saying, Merry Christmas, this ought to do you for a while and didn't give her any presents for 25 years. This story goes like this.

Speaker Many families in this film, you know, he developed a relationship with people often on the set, Harry Carey in The Shining Harry.

Speaker And whilst it was a very complicated relationship, very close relationship, but then he didn't work with Harry Carey again for almost 16 years. What was what this is about for that? He would do this with other people, just not Harry Carey and. George O'Brien. What do you mean? Well, he would stop working with him, he was of follow follow that I don't know the story about Harry Carey and John Ford.

Speaker I think he was I don't know the story. And I'm sure her Dobe Carey knows the story. Didn't he tell you about it? I don't know what happened. I thought would lose would get miffed about something or put somebody in the doghouse for a bunch of years. He did it with Ben Johnson when he thought Bennett said something insulting and didn't work with him for 12 years or something. And he did it with Wayne. He. It was very friendly with John Wayne. They did a bunch of little pictures together and then Wayne was in Raoul Walsh is the big trail, starred in that picture was a flop. And Wayne was relegated to doing B pictures that or Z pictures at Republic or Monogram or something before. Didn't speak to him for a bunch a year for a couple of years. Wayne told me he said, go up to 40 to hijack. How are you doing, Coach Ford? We just ignore him, pretend he wasn't there and Wayne couldn't figure it out. And finally, he never did figure it out. And finally, Ford just took him back in again. And and I asked Wayne why that had happened. He said, I don't have no idea. Now, I can guess that possibly Ford was grooming Wayne to be an actor in his pictures, and he was resentful that Walsh had beat him to it and took it out on Wayne. It's possible he was a strange guy, Ford. I mean, you could take him off and then he'd just turn on. You never really happened to me. No, no, no. I mean, I think he had you know, I said I wrote a book about him and in the sixties and late 60s and I sent it to him and then I called him. I said, what do you think of the book jacket? So I threw it across the room. Oh, you liked it that much? Yeah, I was about it.

Speaker Well, I wasn't. But they had a relationship that lasted like 30 years. What was it that made them so close? It's such a tight knit threesome.

Speaker I wouldn't know. I mean, he he he you know, he picked on Wayne a lot. I mean, that was everybody says he picked on Wayne all the time. Wayne told me he picked on Jimmy Stewart, told me, you know, that there was always somebody on a Ford picture that was at the bottom of the barrel. And it was usually Duke. I think, you know, I've thought about it often. Why did he pick on Duke so much? I think because Wayne Big, it was a big star and it was his way of keeping him in line. I think Ford resented the fact that he had to have stars and pictures. I think he you know, he just felt he probably on some level felt that he was the star of the picture. And in most ways he was. But he had to have actors. And I think some part of him, you know, you always make fun of actors. I once said to him, you act in a couple of movies. Me now an actor. I mean, he he had this kind of attitude about actors. And I think it was a way of maybe it was a kind of inherent jealousy about the fact that actors got all the attention. But he definitely was of the school that belittled actors and Wayne was a big star, and I think he kept them in line by making fun of him all the time by putting him down.

Speaker And they always held his career for our country.

Speaker They always say Lil Wayne adored Ford. I mean, you can see it. He would be critical of him sometimes, but with a certain amount of trepidation and never to his face. But I mean, Stagecoach made his career. I mean, he he was stuck in Republik Westerns and Ford fought to put him in Stagecoach. The producer, Walter Wangel, didn't want him. Nobody wanted him. They wanted Gary Cooper. And Ford said no, he wanted John Wayne, who at that point was considered a negative because he was in all these cheap republic pictures. You could get him down the street for a nickel. Why go to, you know, spend a dollar, see him in a in a respectable movie. So that changed his career. I think it was Howard Hawks who first gave him a good part of a really, really important acting role was in Red River. And Ford famously when he saw the film, was astounded and said, I didn't know the big son could act. So so then he tried to top it and gave him an even older character to play in. And she wore a yellow ribbon Captain David. And that not became one of I think is one of Wayne's favorite roles. Nathan Bretholz. That and Ethan Edwards in The Searchers.

Speaker Now, we've been asking, you know, before before before Ford came back from the war, he was at D-Day. That's when he met John Brinkley, you know.

Speaker OK, what was the Fort Wayne relationship like off the set? He was a piece of time on the set. But what was it like, Officer?

Speaker Well, I think, you know, I didn't see them together much, hardly at all. But the word is that he, you know, treat him like a son, which didn't mean he couldn't be abusive to his son, too. He was abusive to his son. I saw him pick on Pat, his son, but I think it was a bit friendlier. He offered was different off the set anyway than he was on the set. He was kind of very edgy on the set. And often, you know, turn I remember one time he'd asked. One of the crew to see if they could take this horse and buggy through the across the river because Carol Baker had to do it and they wanted that, he wanted this guy to check to see if it could be done safely. And the guy comes riding up on a horse and buggy. And Ford says, so what happened when the guy says, well, what's the verdict or something? And the guy says, well, where I crossed the river, Mr. Ford and Ford just snapped and says, don't give me the story of your life. Just yes or no? Yes, sir. All right. Don't give me the guy just started to explain. Don't give me the story of your life, you know, or somebody would make a suggestion to him. He turned and looked at them and say, have you ever directed a whole picture? You know, I mean, he never knew what he was going to do with weight.

Speaker I mean, the wave of his success. I mean, when you interviewed Wayne.

Speaker Durango, I guess, was a real I mean, I met Wayne in old Tucson when he was doing Elderado with Hauck's.

Speaker Did Wayne ever resent the fact that a lot of people thought that his success was all credited to Ford?

Speaker No, I didn't think he presented anything, I didn't know Wayne was like a big kid. He was very affectionate, open, garrulous, gregarious, friendly. Sort of like a very big ten year old, he was very, very outgoing, loved to be on the set. I never saw him, never saw him go to his trailer all the time. He was shooting that. And I watched him on Rollerblader. I never saw him go to his trailer. He'd hang out on the set and you could talk to him. He was very friendly and he was always playing with his six shooter or his rifle. But when he used the stagecoach, yeah, he always had the same rifle and seemed like he was playing and looking around or he was got the six shooter and he was twirling and putting in his, you know, his holster and and he was fidgety. Would need you know, you couldn't sit still. He was very active. And obviously loved the process of making pictures.

Speaker It was clear and he wasn't resentful kind of guy 39 when he becomes a star on stage because the balance of power is down on top. By the time you get to maybe balance the balance, the shift shifted. Weight is a superstar and fourth career sort of near the end. Was there a difference now between these two men communicating with each other?

Speaker I don't think so. I think just for just picked on Wayne more. You know, I think the more bigger star Wayne became, the more Ford picked on him.

Speaker What do you think the balance shift was?

Speaker I don't think it ever shifted. I think you know, I think Ford. We got to the point where he couldn't make pictures anymore, and I think he he wanted to.

Speaker I don't know exactly what happened.

Speaker But, you know, he he made pictures right up until about eight years before he died. So it wasn't like he is on a work long. And Wayne was loyal, kept to see come on coming over to see him all the time. Although Ford would complain that that Wayne didn't come to see him, it's not true. He came quite often. I had a feeling that he made do feel guilty a lot because I notice from Wayne that he would sometimes I was over there, you know, he says, I don't come to see him. I just went and saw him. You know, he was kind of defensive, was a strange relationship with two men. After Liberty Valance and Donovans reify and were both on Liberty Valance and Donovans, Raev Wayne complained that he didn't think his part was very good on Donovans or if he didn't think his part was he didn't think he should have played things, should have been a younger man.

Speaker He thought this was kind of a vacation. I think I think it was about taking the getting the ironer that his yacht paid for, get it fixed up and paid for on the picture. And the picture was kind of a vacation, it seemed to me, in Hawaii. Everybody had a fun time. A family was there. He had all these actors he liked, like Lee Marvin and Duke and, uh, Elizabeth Allen. He got along with everybody. And I was kind of a it's a very, very light picture, to put it mildly. And Duke didn't like it particularly. I remember he said, you know, he didn't the script wasn't very good.

Speaker It's a likable movie. You have to sort of really like Wayne and Ford to get into it. Oh, yeah. It's not just a you know, it's hard to explain that movie to people, but I like it.

Speaker I look forward. I mean, you spend a lot of time for it.

Speaker I mean, there's a story about Liberty Valance where supposedly Ford said to Wayne, we don't need that scene where you come in and tell Stewart what happened. And it's a big scene for Wayne. It's Wayne's big scene. And Wayne told me that, you know, Ford had told him we didn't need the scene. And it's only because Jimmy Stewart said, what do I think we need that scene that the scene remade in Will that is so completely transparent that Ford was just needling Wayne. You couldn't do without that scene. You know, I mean, the scene had to be in the picture. It was what the picture was all about, in a way, but that be typical of Ford to try to make Wayne nervous that he was going to cut his big scene. I mean, that's just just to make him work harder at the scene. Probably, you know, he played those kind of tricks on people.

Speaker Wayne Stevenson, he's great in the scene. It's great in the picture by the late 60s has afforded seven women.

Speaker How do you feel about what his career was growing, you know? Did you talk to Ford's really tight unions?

Speaker I felt that after seven women that Ford was disappointed in how badly the picture did. And plan to make April morning, which was a Revolutionary War picture with Lee Marvin and couldn't get a couldn't get it financed, and I think he was he was he I think Ford never really officially retired. I think he just was figuring he'd do a picture again somehow and couldn't and didn't. But I don't think he ever gave up, really. He certainly never talked about well, you know, this position he's in and all that. He never he was much too proud a man to even, I think to himself, perhaps copped to the fact that he wasn't hirable. Uh, no, I don't think he and he didn't complain. He would complain about how bad the scripts were and how movies had become rotten. And it was all dirty stuff and things that he didn't approve of. But, you know, he said one somewhere. And I read an interview where he said he loved going on the set, being with the crew and the cast. He always emphasized the crew. He liked the crew more than the cast. But and he said if he could just go get up every morning and go on the set and that he'd be happy. And I think that's true. I think Ford was happy to shoot and happy to be shooting, you know.

Speaker And.

Speaker There's a funny story he told me about when he was doing silent pictures. You said, you know, you never knew what you were shooting. He said, you know, they'd throw a script on the on the lawn like you do the morning paper and not be them what you're going to shoot. So one day he was directing a scene with a couple of actors, an older man and a woman, and he said and he says and the guy was kisser. And he said, I mean, what are you doing it if you're going to kiss her, I mean, you know, like you're in your arms and, you know, kiss her on the mouth. I mean, what do you don't just, you know, and the guy says, Mr. Ford, she's playing my daughter. And I said, oh, jeez, let me see the script.

Speaker You know, he hadn't bothered to read it, I guess. But I think that the truth is he enjoyed being on the set.

Speaker He enjoyed being with the Cowboys, being with the crew. That was made him happy and unusual that he would say that flat out. But in an interview somewhere, he did say he could do that every day of his life. He'd be happy. So I would think the last few years were not happy. And then he got cancer and he got pretty sick. But he never I never heard him complain, I thought was a pretty good drinker by the time you saw me.

Speaker You know, he has I'm going off on adventures on the island.

Speaker Yeah, but I never saw that. I mean, when I was interviewing him for the book we did, there were days when he was definitely had had a few drinks or had a drink. He was an alcoholic. So we just one beer and he was he was pissed. And, you know, Duke would say he's a terrible drunk. You know, he's just mean. And he was evidently a very messy drunk, but I never saw any of that. He didn't he didn't reveal that aspect of himself. I think there was a day when we were shooting a documentary where he had a few drinks and could just go, why don't you go shoot the Indians? I said, why? I was not a film about the Indians, Jack. He said, Well, go shoot the Indians. So we shot a bunch of stuff we couldn't use just to make him happy that I think he was indisposed a little bit.

Speaker That's very funny for, you know, your questions before.

Speaker And finally he says, oh yeah, that was what he was mean. He wouldn't answer any of my questions. We went all the way out to Monument Valley and ask him questions. He'd be evasive or he wouldn't answer. He'd say, I don't know. But then he would answer it. He he was like that. It was perverse was, you know, there's a great line that Cagney, who told me some wonderful stories about working with Ford and Cagney, said there's one word that sums up Jack Ford and the Irish mamas. And Cagney was Irish. And and I guess he knew what he was talking about.

Speaker One of the major characters in the Ford films. The rest of my family was about 100000. And so attractive to Ford made such a great vision.

Speaker Well, I mean, it looks like the Monument Valley has this extraordinary. Sense of history within itself, it looks like it's been there, carved out of carved out of the landscape by the hand of the maker, you know, the creator. It has a feeling of of monumental sense of history. And so it feels. Prehistoric in some way, it seems like the beginning of time, and yet it's all about erosion, really, so it has a combination of being very beautiful, visually, very striking, visually, very striking visually and also. So that's the positive. And then it has a sense of loss because its erosion on some level. So it's this complicated effect that Monument Valley gives. It's haunted. It has a sense of, you know, it's like it's seen a lot.

Speaker A lot has happened in that valley. Good and bad, mostly bad. A lot of death and a lot of hopes that are dashed.

Speaker It's good to strange. I mean, I've been there. I spent some time there when he was doing Shion Autumn and I took him back there when we did the documentary. And you you you feel a sense of awe in that place. It's it's all inspiring. And and I think Ford I mean, Ford would have he had such a eye for visual things. He must have flipped when he saw it the first time. Got to shoot a picture here. And he did was the first one to do it was not easy to get there. So it takes some doing to get there. And he did nine pictures there, I think.

Speaker And before they never saw himself. We never openly said he was an artist, but he had such a great sense of visual beauty and pictorials feeling.

Speaker He had a real he said he said to me that I always I guess I always had an eye for composition. I don't know where I got it, but I guess I always had it. That was about as far as he'd go in terms of saying anything about, you know, being consciously an artist. He said he always I asked him, you know, did you ever think about what you were doing is art or something that you were creating?

Speaker And, you know, I was always thought of as a job of work, one that I liked very much. But it's a job of work. But I don't believe that.

Speaker And, you know, Hollywood in those days and now, although now it's a little bit more ambiguous, but in those days, particularly in the 20s, particularly in the 30s, 40s, 50s, it was not something you did was talk about art.

Speaker You were there to make a picture and make money, and you can see in some of the things Ford said or wrote, in fact, in the 20s when he was younger, where he clearly was talking about artistic things, about creating something artistic. I mean, he did it in his writings. You can read it and in his interviews. And you can see it in films like. The informer that he was trying to create something beyond just an entertainment, nothing, it's very clear. But as he got older, he would deny that it was just a good story, which was the job of work. It's just a story or, you know, whatever.

Speaker What is me? I mean, for me, growing up in Fort Wayne, collaboration's, you know, for the Pache, the quiet man, the searchers, Liberty Valance, which made this film such classic films now that we watch over and over again.

Speaker Why?

Speaker Well, Ford was an amazing American for Ford was an amazing director. I mean, he had a real eye and he had a real sense of the flow of history. And the loss loss that comes through time, I mean, he was he he was in L.A., he was allergic and his work goes very well with the Western. He's also was very he like many first generation Americans, he was very he loved America. He loved the Americana and was one of the great creators of it. In John Wayne. He found the ideal American hero. And the two things were dynamite together. I mean, Ford was a myth maker and Duke Wayne was the stuff of legend. You know, he I don't think he was aware of it particularly. I don't think he was he wasn't self-conscious and he never took himself particularly seriously. John Wayne and Ford pretended not to. But Ford saw what Wayne brought to the brought to the party and was immense. I mean, he had a personality that was he was very photogenic and he had a size. He you know, he was a big guy. I mean, I met him. I said a few times he was six, three or six. Four or six five. He was a big guy and his hands were big and shake hands with him. Your hand disappeared and he was once trying to show me and he was giving me an example of how he got angry at John Houston one time when and he grabbed me by the shirt like this to show me. And it was right up. My face was right. I thought, OK, I said, you know, and he said, sorry, but that guy gets my goat. I thought I wouldn't want I wouldn't want him to be sore at me. This guy, you know, I'm he was a big guy and. He was bigger than life and movies are big, we used to be bigger than life and so forth, and Ford was very much aware of that. You can see it in the work. He was aware that, you know, you have to remember in those days, there was no television or television, didn't show up till much later. And the idea that everything made on the big screen was going to end up on a little screen was not something people thought about. So Ford painted, so to speak, for the big screen. His compositions were very daring for the big screen. And sometimes these very compositions that are so powerful on the big screen tend to not be so effective on this little screen because it's a small image. And, you know, you see the beginning of The Grapes of Wrath, for example, or the gunfight at the OK or beginning of the gunfight at the OK Corral. And my Darling Clementine, he uses the big screen brilliantly and there's very small figures. This this has a very reduced impact on television. This is one of the reasons why when I was first interested in movies, kind of growing up with movies, we had a kind of fancy crowd that I hung around with. You know, we'd say if you haven't seen it on the big screen, you haven't seen it, period, or you can't say that today because you might as well forget it because nobody can see these pictures on the big screen. But there is an enormous difference between seeing something on the big screen and seeing it on the small. You know, my mother used to say it was the difference between seeing a painting on a wall or seeing a reproduction of the painting in a book. That's the difference. So Ford was an extraordinary myth maker and the size. Don't forget, this is where I was going with all that is that the size of the screen was the size of myth and legend. It was bigger than life. And we've reduced all that to now. It's smaller than life. And so, of course, a huge amount of the impact is is gone.

Speaker What do you think their legacy is for, in a way, for our generation today? Well, you know.

Speaker I think some years after Duke died, they took a poll and he was still the most popular movie star in the history of pictures, American movie star in the history, pictures, I think he still is. I think people, you know, he had this extraordinary impact and there's no question but the fact that that impact began with what John Ford did with it, with him in those pictures, and I think Howard Hawks had a little something to do with it with the Red River and Rio Bravo, but. But forward, I said, would be the most. Responsible for creating that kind of movie star that Wayne Baquet became, and he's kind of the you know, he became the archetypal American hero of the West, he's he's the man of the West. He is sort of what started this country.

Speaker What, what, what.

Speaker Who created this country on some level, you know, people think of him that way, I think.

Speaker And it's the stuff of legend, and so Ford and Wayne are kind of inextricably linked. Both of them, one to the other, as director, actor, actor, director, you can't take one without the other. You to remove Wayne from parks, to remove John Wayne from John Ford's work. You'd still have something. To talk about that would be pretty powerful to remove John Ford from Wain's work has been greatly diminished. Well, Ford was nothing, if not a bad bundle of contradictions, and, you know, I once said to him.

Speaker He once said to me, heroes are good for the country.

Speaker For good, for morale for the country. OK, that was one point of view, however, in Fort Apache, explicitly in Fort Apache and explicitly and the man who shot Liberty Valance, he shows you a historical event. He shows you the truth of that historical event in both cases. In the first case for the Apache, the man based on Custer, played by Hank Fonda, is a martinet who's bigoted, racist and terribly wrong, leads his men into a massacre and it's his fault.

Speaker And at the end of the picture, Wayne goes along with the historical perspective on that massacre and says he was a brave man, you know, and leading his men through, you know, through Thursdays charge. And it was a great moment. And we know it wasn't when we saw it. We know what happened in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. We find out who the man who shot Liberty Valance was. And it wasn't it wasn't Jimmy Stewart. And the man who did shoot him ended up a pauper and died in poor pauper's grave. Right.

Speaker So people have said, why does Ford say print the legend? And what seems to irritates me that they're saying that Ford is is saying that the legend is more important than history. That's not what he's saying. He is saying the opposite. He is saying, look, history is often fuller, is what he's saying. That's what the point of those two movies is. History is often wrong.

Speaker And then Ford says to me, but heroes are good for the country. So he you know, he's trying to have it is not really trying to have it both ways. He's just not going to be pinned down. You know, Ford, for example, also was you look at a movie like The Grapes of Wrath and you cannot see you cannot get a more, quote, liberal. Movie. It's definitely Democrat, Democratically inclined, and if not liberal, the whole movie is. We were talking about China and I asked him why it made China. And he talked about how the Indians had killed more Indians than than any than any number of Indian fighters in these pictures. And he felt he should show the Indians point of view. And then he made a connection between the Indians and the black people and whites who had just rioted. He said, look, you know, we kill black people and hang them for no reason and they go and kill a couple of white men. And it's a massacre. Same thing happened with the Indians. He made that analogy when I showed him that quote from my book. He cut made me cut it out. He's trying to get me in trouble. So he was very much aware of what he believed and yet what he would he was I'm apolitical. He wouldn't go there because he thought it could hurt his work, make it difficult for him if he was really on the level about what he was, if he cop to what he was making films about and he might not be able to make films, that's sort of what I get. But the liberal Liberty Valance and Fort Apache are two films that basically tell you history is often wrong.

Speaker You mentioned for its politics what was forced politics by this time.

Speaker Well, he you know, he voted for Kennedy said, because he was Irish. You know, and he voted for Nixon, he said, I don't know if it's true, you never know if Ford. Ford, he referred to D'Wayne, is that I love that damn Republican. Does that mean he wasn't a Republican and that he was a Democrat? What did he mean by that? But you can see in Ford's work that he was definitely for the underdog. I mean, his films were about that. You can see it in. Seven women, you can see it in Cheyenne autumn, you can see it in Sergeant Rutledge, he's making movies about that show that the underdog is, you know, what the underdog goes through.

Speaker Look at look at Grapes of Wrath. Those people are always, you know, um, losers.

Speaker He also has this recurring theme in his films of defeat and failure.

Speaker And they were expected to go forward and talk about that. Ford, you know, I once said to him, would you say a lot of your films are? I said in.

Speaker In.

Speaker The last hurrah, there's a line where. Somebody says, I'm talking about Tracy Spencer Tracy loses his last campaign, he said he was glorious in defeat.

Speaker So I made the connection between that quote and they were expendable, which is all about the glory and defeat. And this is this is a theme that runs through a lot of Ford's pictures, you know. I mean, they were expendable is one of the most tragic war films ever made. It's not about winning, it's about losing. Most war films are about winning.

Speaker That's typical of Ford.

Speaker You know, typical of him that he would go for that kind of story at the end of the war. What did it mean to lose? And again, he was with the loser, he's with the underdog, with the guy that doesn't win. He shows you the history, but he shows you that the hero was wrong or the hero wasn't a hero. This is typical of Ford, what he was all about. He's kind of a poet of the of the loser, in a way.

Speaker So later on in that conversation, after I'd made that point about glory and defeat, we were talking about another picture of his camera. Which one? And this is one of the few times he actually, you know. Acquiesced to something he said to me obliquely.

Speaker So what was that thing you call it done by another picture? That had the same point was that then you called it glory in defeat? Well, there you are, you know.

Speaker Yeah, like that.

Speaker OK, OK, I deal the other side, and this just occurred to me the other day, looking at Liberty Valance.

Speaker Given some of what you said to us at the beginning of this interview that Ford may have had a little, uh, a little resentment toward when the Wayne character at the end and at the end of the day is a alcoholic who's been forgotten by history. It struck me, as for the first time, this autobiographical.

Speaker That if Wayne is Ford, which I think is something I know it's a reach, but and you don't need to say it if you don't feel it, but it's just I've seen that film 20, 30 times, just going through all this stuff.

Speaker I thought, wow, you know, there's the man who the guy really did it is forgotten.

Speaker I don't know what I can say about that.

Speaker I felt the first time I saw the man who shot Liberty Valance, I saw it before it was released in a critical screening in which nobody, almost nobody attended Paramount in this late in 62 or 61. And it struck me at the time, I thought the ending was extraordinarily moving because it seemed to me it was the end of everything. It was the end of an era, certainly was not just the end of the movie, it was the end of of a golden age. And I think you could say without stretching the point that the man who shot Liberty Valance is probably the last great film of the golden age of movies. It's extraordinarily resonant in terms of what it says about. History, and this was a year before Kennedy was killed under mysterious circumstances, the same year that Marilyn died under mysterious circumstances, we'll never know what the truth is of any of those things. And that connects to the man who shot Liberty Valance, too. So it was a prescient movie. I think Ford was an instinctive artist, but I think he also had an enormous grasp of history. I mean, you know, you'd sit and sit in as you come to his bedroom or even on location, and there'd be a stack of books next to his bed, you know, 10 books piled up. And they were all history books. He was very into that. One of the thing about Wayne Ford is that Wayne, like a lot of actors, was not he wasn't self-conscious. Mercifully, he wasn't. And he also didn't realize how good he was on a certain level.

Speaker I don't think he did because he would otherwise. He wouldn't have said to me two interesting things. He said that in in a man who shot Liberty Valance, he had nothing to do in the picture except that big scene. He had nothing to do. And in The Quiet Man, he had nothing to do for eight reels until the fight. And then he finally got a part. What he was missing was what Ford saw was he didn't have to do much, he'd have to do hardly anything. And he'd be interesting because he was a star. You wanted to see his reaction. You wanted to see how he would react. You see that right from the beginning with Stagecoach, where he's constantly cutting to Wayne to see Wayne's reaction and do must I must say, he said to me, once people think of me as an action star, I'm really an action actor.

Speaker I'm really a reaction actor, which is true. He was great at reactions, thinking you could see him thinking. Ford showed that quite often. And for a guy who wasn't particularly cerebral, Duke, I wouldn't say was the first word that would spring in my mouth. The cerebral is not. But Ford would give him a sense of of being a thinker, somebody who pondered, who thought about things, who reacted to things, did it to the thing is, you didn't have Wayne didn't have to do much to be enormously convincing and interesting. And I thought that's typical of the academy, that they'd give him an Oscar for the most outrageous performance of his career. And the one really bad one, which is True Grit, where he's acting his head off, was a parody of himself. And of course, they said, well, that's acting well. That's not untypical of the way acting is thought of, which is being acting a lot and not acting where you don't see anybody working. That's real movie acting is when you don't see the machine working at all. And Wayne was extraordinary at that. I just being he didn't have to act. He just was like, my last question.

Speaker You said you're saying sixty two million dollars was the end of a golden age. What was the Hollywood now that forms part of that movie set by 1962, it was over because the Golden Age was over by then, because contract, everybody was used to be under contract.

Speaker Now, all the contracts were gone. Nobody was under contract. I mean, what was fading out? I mean, Universal still had a few people under contract, but the whole thing was gone. The whole factory system, which had its bad points as well, had gone. You didn't know everything. Every movie from Syria from then on became one at a time, you know, OK, we have to hire everybody for this movie now. We have to hire. We used to have everybody under contract. You know, people say it's the studio system those days now it's the same thing. It's not even remotely the same thing. It's nothing to do with it.

Speaker It's a whole different animal entirely to for.

Speaker Well, Ford was under contract, you know, he must have loved it. I think anybody who loved making movies loved it because you'd be working 360 days of the year pretty much. You know, just the whatever the script was, it didn't matter, really. It was you go and on the set and you got the crew and the cast and let's do something. Let's make a picture. I wish I'd been born in a different time. I would have been more fun, you know, just working all the time on a picture. And everybody was on a contract. You know, they'd make five pictures, one after the other in a year. What a joy.

Speaker If you like making play and they'd make them fast. You realize Ford finish Grapes of Wrath. I think it was released a month later.

Speaker Imagine just.

Speaker Just one more, Sam, which it could could you say anything about it? You talked about the family thing a number of times, the and loving to be on sets, but he he was the patriarch of the set and his. And obviously, the patriarch and some of these films, I mean, you say you have any thoughts on that?

Speaker I think Ford was certainly the patriarch on the set and he was the patriarch at home. I mean, that was the way he wanted things. He was the boss. And I must say he had a very courtly way with women. He was the most charming when he was around an attractive woman.

Speaker He had a kind of courtly quality, it was very interesting, and he respected you if you talk back to him.

Speaker I mean, it was hard to talk back to him. I don't know. I don't think I ever did. But there's a wonderful story about Ava Gardner. I just read what they did, Mogambo together. And evidently he started picking on her saying write early on saying, you know, I didn't want you for this part. I wanted to Maureen O'Hara. She told him, she told me, take that handkerchief. He was going to shove it up his ass. Well, you know. God, evidently, it worked because he loved her and and if you see the picture, you can see through the picture to her scene after scene shows her in the closer angle than Clark Gable and gives her the scene, gives you the whole picture, really. And evidently, the same thing happened with Katharine Hepburn on Mary of Scotland, where he said, why don't you direct it? And she said, all right, I will. And he walked off and she directed the scene and he fell in love with her. So Ford was the kind of and he had had an affair, evidently. And he almost left his family for her, but he didn't. So I think if you stood up to Ford, you know, he'd he'd have respect for that. But it was a scary thought to try to do it. So I never did.

Speaker OK, let's go.

Peter Bogdanovich
Interview Date:
2006-01-16
Runtime:
0:51:23
Keywords:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-7p8tb0z97w, cpb-aacip-504-v69862c602
MLA CITATIONS:
"Peter Bogdanovich, John Ford / John Wayne: The Filmmaker and the Legend." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 16 Jan. 2006, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/915
APA CITATIONS:
(2006, January 16). Peter Bogdanovich, John Ford / John Wayne: The Filmmaker and the Legend. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/915
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Peter Bogdanovich, John Ford / John Wayne: The Filmmaker and the Legend." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). January 16, 2006. Accessed May 22, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/915

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