Possessed of the Plenty of the Earth

JF and kids

Coincidence brings the simultaneous release of superb new Blu-ray editions of two of John Ford’s finest non-westerns, his 1941 “How Green Was My Valley” from Fox Home Video, and the 1952 Technicolor fantasy “The Quiet Man” from Olive Films. The two films are as thoroughly complementary as if they had been designed as a diptych — or perhaps it simply goes without saying that every single film by Ford speaks to all the others.

It is very hard to imagine a movie as uncompromisingly tragic as “How Green” sweeping the Oscars (as it did in 1942) earning anything more than an award for costume design in the relentlessly upbeat Hollywood of 2013, which is apparently about to award Ben Affleck’s mildly glorified HBO movie “Argo” Best Picture honors for concocting an feel good story about American operations in the middle east (the bummer “Zero Dark Thirty,” with its uncomfortable suggestion that a more recent triumph, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, might have been facilitated by an immoral act of torture, has been run out of town). But Ford’s epic vision of loss — social, familial and romantic, with no compensating production of a couple to complete it — remains a powerful reminder of the artistic integrity and ambition once possessed by the American film industry. How green was Century City, then.

Arthur Miller’s magnificent black-and-white photography — which ranges from soft-focus remembrances of a mythical past to hyper-realist close-ups of working class faces that might have been taken by Lewis Hine or Dorothea Lange — is beautifully represented on the Fox disc. And the new, high-def restoration of “The Quiet Man” that Olive has licensed gives equal presence to Winton C. Hoch’s impossibly verdant representation of the Emerald Isle, a Garden of Eden, in Ford’s fond dream, bursting with brightly contrasting reds and greens. These are precisely the colors that do not survive between the yellow sand and blue sky of Monument Valley — with the stirring exception of the desert rose that Tom Doniphon presents to Hallie in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”

Further musings here, in my New York Times column.

87 comments to Possessed of the Plenty of the Earth

  • “There is a 1975 BBC production of HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY with a dominantly Welsh cast of excellent actors headed by Stanley Baker (his last performance) and Siân Phillips which I remember as well made but not with anywhere near the emotional impact of the Ford movie.”

    I’d almost forgotten about the BBC version Johan. It was a respectable effort but altogether lacking in the beauty and emotional resonance of the Ford version.

    Speaking of Irish-American coal miners in Pennsylvania, I’ve often wondered what a Ford version of “The Molly Maguires” would be like.

  • Blake Lucas

    Lots of good discussion that I hope to get back to at more length while its on.

    But meantime, I want to contribute this–the 1971 DGA tribute to Ford was a screening of a beautiful nitrate print of How Green Was My Valley (the one long held by UCLA if I’m not mistaken, which I was fortunate enough to see quite a few times though I guess it isn’t taken out anymore). Present were not only Roddy McDowall and Walter Pidgeon but also Maureen O’Hara, Anna Lee and Philip Dunne, who all spoke (and John Wayne, too, was at least up on the stage, next to Ford)–and there were scenes from movies he was in in a group of clips). Quite a wonderful evening it was.

    Ford also spoke, saying How Green was his favorite of all his films (of course, he said different things at different times about this but apparently did choose the movie for the tribute). He said it had a “great script by Philip Dunne.” When Dunne spoke, he said that seeing the film again that night he realized that his script (which we do know he was proud of) was “1000 times better” as a film and “that I owe to Jack.”

    I also heard Dunne speak at least one other time, read other things he said on this, and it was not always the same. For a clip of the big Pidgeon/O’Hara renunciation scene (I hope to weigh in on this too) at an Academy evening for him, he offered that he felt Wyler would not have had the actors as close to each other in the scene as Ford did–which I thought was a discerning observation; he also took up for Ford as a great director for tender, sensitive love scenes (and mentioned The Quiet Man in this context) which was not conventional wisdom at the time.

    It may have been then or some other time that he said that although he felt it would have been a great film with Wyler too, it would have been different, and this was in context that Wyler had prepared the film and worked on it a lot. As to the script, he said Ford did not change much, but he plainly was referring to dialogue and not mise en scene. He has said Ford built up the choir a great deal in that one scene, and did credit Ford with the line “It’s a coward I am but I’ll hold your coat” (Barry Fitzgerald’s character).

    Dunne thought Ford was a great director and glad for him to do the film, even though he thought Wyler was great as well. And Ford plainly thought this was a great script, which it is, and was happy to give credit to Dunne for the writing (obviously, Llewellyn also deserves much credit for her). Where we might disagree with Dunne is over his view of whose overaching vision finally makes this the film it is. That doesn’t take away from anyone’s contributions–one of the glories of Ford is that he makes the contributions of the others glow as they as do.

    Though Roddy McDowall was cast before Ford came on, it is only Ford who directed him (and for me, this is the greatest performance ever given by an actor of this age; really one of the best ever by anyone of any age). At the DGA screening and many other times, McDowall said the same thing–“He played me like a harp.”

    I guess I must add now that it is always a pleasure to read such a sensitive piece as Dave’s on these two top of the top masterpieces. It partly motivated me to get my copy of The Quiet Man this week in time for my wife and I to watch it on Valentine’s day. I’ve been living with these two films most of my life (and The Quiet Man was the first Ford I ever saw) and they are both very special to me.

  • Blake Lucas

    “…Llewellyn also deserve much credit here”

    (wasn’t able to edit it). Also had meant to note Dunne claimed he and Ford had been friends long before How Green was made. I had mainly wanted to stress in the previous that he plainly never had any quarrel about Ford or Ford’s gifts as a director–as others have said, he just felt screenwriters were not given sufficient credit. Screenwriters should be given credit for their work and Dunne was excellent (if never better than here)–what he doesn’t understand about a director being crucial may be well measured, though, by looking at the results that came when he began directing his own scripts later. They are, let’s say, somewhat less than How Green Was My Valley.

  • One of the highlights from my visit to the Lindsay Anderson archives in Stirling was the letters Anderson got from one screenwriter working with Ford who claimed that the only good films Ford ever made were the one he (the letter writer) had written, and when Ford had other screenwriters the films were rotten. I can’t for the life of me remember which screenwriter it was but I’m sure somebody here does (my notes are not where I am). Was it Nunnally Johnson?

    Here’s a link to Kristin Thompson’s spirited defence of HGWMV against the CITIZEN KANE-was-robbed complaint: http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2012/03/06/john-ford-and-the-citizen-kane-assumption/

    As the topic is Ford it’s a great opportunity to quote one of my alltime favourite critics, Dilys Powell. She loved Ford and opened her 1953 review of THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT like this:
    “To explain to a sophisticated taste why The Sun Shines Bright is so good a film strikes me as nearly impossible. A sophisticated literary taste, that is. In the cinema sophistication wears strange colours, and the most austere judge will admire a piece which to a reading man may appear tearful tosh. Nothing sadder than to watch some devoted film critic trying to explain to a dramatic or a literary critic – or even an art critic, for artists outside their own field are ruled more than they think by literary ideas – that to appreciate a film you have to look at it, not just listen to it. Human desperation can go no further.”

  • Michael Dempsey

    Though I’ve expressed reservations about the work of John Ford and continue to hold the body of it in less esteem than most commentators here, I am happy to join in the praise for “How Green Was My Valley,” which I’ve watched many times and always loved.

    For me, it is one of his career summits along with (to cite only two personal favorites) “They Were Expendable” and “The Long Voyage Home.”

    The richly detailed family portrait in a time of social turmoil in this picture can stand with any ever produced in the cinema; likewise, the virtually perfect balance of deep emotion and delightful comedy in this epic but also elegiac study of intertwined private and personal upheaval.

    This is all the more remarkable given that, as many have noted here, Ford replaced William Wyler as the film’s director on short notice, yet stamped – indeed, saturated and enriched — it with the best manifestations of his distinctive tones, themes, and outlook on life.

    This applies all the more when one reads what Thomas Schatz reports in “Boom and Bust: American Cinema in the 1940s”:

    “[20th Century Fox Production Chief Darryl] Zanuck did resume authority once shooting was completed…Production records bear this out, indicating not only that Zanuck supervised the editing of both THE GRAPES OF WRATH and HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, but that once Ford finished shooting, he did not even see either picture until it was ready for release.”

    This can be taken as a vindication of the auteur theory, since even if one doesn’t like either or both of these films (I myself have many problems with “The Grapes of Wrath”), they are plainly Ford-dominated productions.

    I’m prepared to believe that Wyler might also have made a fine, though undoubtedly different version of “How Green Was My Valley” using the Philip Dunne screenplay that was developed under his aegis. But of course this is alternate-history fodder – we will never know.

    A final note: we also will never know what a Ford version of “The Molly Maguires” would have been like. I’m content not to know, inasmuch as I consider Martin Ritt’s film to be flawless as well as every bit as moving as “How Green Was My Valley.”

  • Daniel F.

    Re: Sarris: for those interested in the New York area, Anthology Archives will be screening a series beginning later February, entitled ANDREW SARRIS: EXPRESSIVE ESOTERICA. Directors to include Stahl, Karson, Joseph H. Lewis, Gerd Oswald, Tay Garnett, Allan Dwan, etc.

    For those located anywhere (or at least anywhere in the U.S., as I’m not sure on international access for Hulu Plus): Criterion, along with Hulu Plus, will be granting free, streaming access to its entire collection this weekend for non-subscribers, through Monday (with commercial advertisements). I’ll be taking advantage of a few of the unreleased titles there.

    Disclosure: I’m not affiliated with any of these organizations. Hopefully OK to post the heads-up here.

    I find Robert Garrick’s assessment of “Talking Pictures” both informative and accurate. I picked up a copy some time ago. While I hadn’t quite realized the debt Corliss owed to Sarris in terms of the former’s categorization, I had wished Corliss had striven to include more of the “Expressive Esoterica” insights vis-a-vis screenwriters that Sarris had in his respective endeavor.

  • “Zanuck supervised the editing of both THE GRAPES OF WRATH and HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY”

    A member of Joseph La Shelle’s camera crew on “7 Women” observed that Ford would take his cap off and hold it in front of the camera lens, and Jimmy FitzSimons also saw Ford do this on “The Quiet Man,” “The Last Hurrah” and “Cheyenne Autumn,” a way of editing in camera. Zanuck didn’t have much wiggle room to work with the footage Ford shot assuming Ford shot only what he want used as he did with the pictures mentioned above, unlike in Renoir’s case on “Swamp Water” where Zanuck was able to break up his long takes.

    With respect, I must disagree with Michael Dempsey. Ritt’s take on the Molly Maguires wasn’t particularly insightful, his mind as revealed here and in other pictures wasn’t nearly so interesting as Ford’s, who was passionately engaged with Irish America, and I for one would like to have seen a hybrid of “The Informer” and “How Green Was My Valley.” Of course, this only exists in imaginary fantasies where the true, delirious, electromagnetic river of surreality flows.

  • mike schlesinger

    ““I’ve mentioned before, on this site, that the “Sight & Sound” world critics poll ignored “Citizen Kane” in its first top ten list, in 1951, but suddenly ranked it in first place in 1961. What happened? I don’t know. But it’s interesting.”

    “Probably the re-release of KANE in 1956 did a lot to boost its reputation, just like the 1983 re-release did for VERTIGO.”

    True, but even more likely was its release to television shortly thereafter. That gave it four years of steady exposure that it couldn’t have gotten in 1951.

  • Alex

    The “maturity” argument for preferring latter Welles films to KANE is an engaging one, but perhaps Welles was best with those works that came early on in his bursting forths upon a scene– the Vodoo MACBETH and JULIUS CEASAR in theater, DRACULA in radio theater. KANE in film. Although on first acqaintance AMBERSONS, TOUCH OF EVIL and FALSTAFF each, at first, supplanted KANE as my Welles favorite, I find that, moving beyond ten viewing for all these films (beyond 20 for KANE), it is KANE that has best resisted the disenchantment of repeated viewing. The virtuousity — of everything: mise-en-scene, performance, cinematorgraphy, editing, music, metaphoric integration– retains such vigor withoiut ever losing it aesthetic aptness and impact.

    For anyone interested in the issue of ZERO DARK THIRTY on torture who finds that the NYRB piece I referenced does not engage the actuall events of the film (e.g., the supposedly seminal role of a waterboarded detainee in alerting the CIA to courier Abu Ahmed and initiating a Beeline to Abbottabad) directly enough, a good source is Emily Bazelon’s SLATE piece.

    Personally, I would not discount ZERO DARK THIRTY for Oliver-Stone-ish play with the facts so much as to prefer it to ARGO. However, the shame of the 2013 Oscars would be for the BEST PICTURE Oscar to go to any nominee but THE MASTER or AMOUR. (The mitigation would be that THE MASTER and AMOUR are too irredemably immune for popular appeal or even tolerance and too predictably beyond Oscar’s sympathies for much disappointment.)

  • Jonah

    ““I’ve mentioned before, on this site, that the “Sight & Sound” world critics poll ignored “Citizen Kane” in its first top ten list, in 1951, but suddenly ranked it in first place in 1961. What happened? I don’t know. But it’s interesting.”

    No, they didn’t. Kane was just below the top ten in 1952, at #11. It had one fewer votes than La Règle du jeu, Le Million, and Brief Encounter, and as many as La Grande illusion and (relevant to this thread) The Grapes of Wrath.

    Surely some shifts in critical tastes took place in those years, but they didn’t happen all of a sudden and were well underway before the ’52 poll.

  • Alex

    Jonah,

    Nice point, and not too fine a one at all.

    People were thunderstruck by KANE right away. John O’Hara, reviewing it in Newsweek, called it “the best picture” he’d “ever seen”. Expressionistic cinematography and elaborate flashback structures were soon everywhere — in noir (THE KILLERS), women’s films (MILDRED PIERCE),musicals (YANKEE DOODLE DANDY).

    Although identifying literay spin-offs would be tricky given the big impact of Conrad and Faulkner on multi-vocal, temperally elaborate narrational structure, Carlos Fuentes traced his decision to be a novelIst to KANE and reflects its form in LA REGION MAS TRANSPARENTE and THE DEATH OF ARTEMIO CRUZ.

    Would all votes ever cast for HGWMV ever equal the 1952 balloting for KANE?

  • Regarding Orson Welles: I’m wondering what is the consensus regarding the documentary It’s All True, where it is argued that Nelson Rockefeller and John Whitney, who had a lot of stock in RKO, assigned Welles to a diplomatic venture as a state ambassador in Brazil, where his three-part feature It’s All True then became an improvised project. Welles then complains how when he was eventually fired, when the studio head was replaced, before he was finished, RKO made a big show about how he went overboard and portraying him as a uncooperative and irresponsible filmmaker, and he was not being able to work afterwards. Is this correct? It almost seems like a conspiracy where it is the fault of a few American politicians that trapped Welles and then dropped him, that ruined his career.

  • Gregg Rickman

    David, I believe you have the gist of it. There’s a couple of books out there specifically on that film that fill in the details. The detail that always amused me was Welles’ use of Nelson’s mannerisms (his use of the term “fella” for example) for the Glenn Anders character, Grisby, in LADY FROM SHANGHAI (which of course is all about innocent Orson being multiply betrayed in tropic climes). I wonder if Nelson ever spoke the phrase “target practice” (or should I say “taaaaarget practice”) in Welles’ hearing?

    Did that documentary (on IT’S ALL TRUE) ever come out on dvd? I have the laser disc. The filmmakers did a great job with the material.

  • Interesting, thanks for that Gregg.

    Yeah, it is on dvd. The movie includes some great archive footage of Welles talking about the subject, a history about its development, interviews in Brazil with the relatives of the participants, and footage from the three short-films that would have comprised It’s All True: My Friend Bonito, The Story of Samba and Four Men on a Raft (presented in its entirety).

  • alex

    RKO’s appropriation and re-editing of AMBERSONS may have been as important for Welles ‘ Hollywood marginalization as his governmental-and-RKO termination Re IT’S ALL TRUE, for Welles ‘ AMBERSONS might have been far more the critical success and somewhat less the commercial flop than RKO ‘s diminished version was and have enhanced Welles ‘ 40s Hollywood prospects and post-AMBERSONS future. (I ‘m assuming that Welles ‘ AMBERSONS track was sufficiently independent of his ALL TRUE track to be regarded as a separate influence on his Hollywood fortunes.)

  • Barry Lane

    About a dozen years ago Peter Bogdanovich published a book length interview with Welles covering a lot of this ground but with a softer, gentler take. That book also included the full and orginal screenplay for Ambersons. There may have been some changes to the finished product but nothing in my view that made major changes to the sense of either Orson’s interpretation or Booth Tarkington’s. As for Welles in Hollywood, that continued through The Stranger and Lady From Shanghai. Everyone gets interfered with at least somewhat. From Zanuck to Yates for Ford. So, why not Welles and/or anyone else.

  • alex

    By my recollection of Carringer ‘s AMBERSONS book and the PB book you mention, a cut close to the Welles script (and intent) would have diiffered markedly in 4 respects: (a) a film much more attentive to the socio-economic transformation of. Indianapolis;(b) a film with the ball filmed all in one shot; (c) a film with not the saccharine conclusion we have but a truly tragic one centered on Aunt Fanny and Eugene Morgan as much as on George ; (d) a film concluding with a strikenly inventive visit of Eugene to Fanny at a very declasse boarding house to the sound of a Heckle and Jeckle type radio show in the background – a film remarked by Welles to be the glory of his creative life and one utterly gutted by RKO. (One of my favorites as it is, but still….)

  • Nicolas Saada

    Had Ford only directed PILGRIMAGE, GRAPES OF WRATH and THE SEARCHERS, he’d be already part of the pantheon. I have watched HGWMV lately and was stunned by its beauty, its complexity as well as a tension which, though not entirely sexual, manages to bring an intensity between O’hara and Pidgeon that I have seldom seen in films of the period. Having worked with Patrice Rollet on the only Cahiers du Cinema publication on Ford, I was intensely into his work for a whole year. A man who can direct a “premingerian” effort such as THE LAST HURRAH and a film as rich and sophisticated as MY DARLING CLEMENTINE deserves by no means the epiteth great.
    Problem with Ford is that the films seem to be known while they are not at all “looked at”. I belong to a generation that grew up with picture books about films, and for a while I associated a film title with a generic image, mostly a still from a book. I would then discover the films, and revisit the painted and stilted image I had in mind. While not willing to fall about the recent controversy about Ford raised here and there, it is obvious that people who attack him have not seen his films in a while : PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND, or WAGON MASTER have what I would call genuine “badass” moments; if you see what I mean.

  • Nicolas Saada

    Barry, I have never regarded myself as a serious critic. Even when I was one, long ago.
    I understand the issue of screenwriters being part of the success of a film. But a poor directorial effort will never make anything of a good script : it will just look like television. Just thinl of what Don Siegel would have made of WARNING SHOT, and what Buzz Kulik would have made of MADIGAN, both shot the same year. WARNING SHOT is a terrific story.

  • David D.

    I don’t think that the editor of Ambersons deserves as much scorn as he usually receives. In Bertrand Tavernier’s excellent book Amis Americains he interviews Robert Wise who speaks about his experiences editing the film and that he had the unfortunate job of mediating between the producers and Welles. And that Welles who was off in Brazil was not responding to his correspondence, and did not offer feedback at the necessary time regarding how to edit it.

  • Alex

    Nicolas Saada ,

    I’m not too sure it’s accurate to say that Ford films “are not at all ‘looked at’.” HGWMV was on NYC 50s and 60s TV enough for me to catch it — as a favorite of my father– a number of times while I was in primary and secondary school, shown at Wisconsin a time or two when I was there in graduate school in the 70s, where and when I caught it once, been on TCM from time to time (where I’ve also caught stetches of it a couple of times). It’s not clear to me that it’s been especially unavailable, whether relative to a dozen or two Ford “classics” or most other of what seems to me two or three hundred other oustanding films of the Hollywood studio era.

    Perhaps HGWMV has not been much “looked at” in France. Hard to know hat circulates where. When I Lived in Santiago Chile around in 1959-62 YELLOW RIBBON and QUIET MAN circulate in repertory houses. But I don’t recall much Ford in NYC art houses in the ’60s, but perhaps TV availability was too great for showings at such theaters.

    What’s to be telegraphed about PILGRAMAGE, which I’ve barely seen listed, much less mentioned, and have never seen?

  • “In Bertrand Tavernier’s excellent book Amis Americains he interviews Robert Wise who speaks about his experiences editing the film and that he had the unfortunate job of mediating between the producers and Welles. And that Welles who was off in Brazil was not responding to his correspondence, and did not offer feedback at the necessary time regarding how to edit it.’

    Well, that’s Wise’s story. According to Bill Krohn and others, the real culprit was Jack Moss who never passed on any of the detailed notes he received from Welles.

    Bill is one of the producers of the documentary “It’s All True” and has a “director’s cut” of it on VHS. He told me that like the original production, there was a regime change at Paramount, and the new bosses had absolutely no interest in supporting the movie, so it got a rush job. By the way, he also has Monte Hellman’s edit of “Four Men on a Raft.”

    Some years ago additional footage from the “My Friend Benito” sequence was screened at UCLA by Catherine Benamou with an introduction by Joe McBride. At the screening we got a list of all the extant footage, and it came to 1000s of feet, including color footage of the “Carnival in Rio” section.

    Catherine’s book “It’s All True: Orson Welles’s Pan-American Odyssey” is the definitive account of the making of the movie, extensively documented, and clears away much anti-Welles misinformation that’s dogged his reputation down the years. In my view, there can be no balanced and informed discussion of Welles’ work on this picture in particular and his career in general without giving due consideration to Catherine’s book.

  • “I’m not too sure it’s accurate to say that Ford films “are not at all ‘looked at’.” HGWMV was on NYC 50s and 60s TV enough for me to catch it”

    1950s and 60s TV broadcasts are like seeing a movie through a dirty aquarium, not to mention cutting to fit time slots and interrupting with commercials every 10 minutes.

    If I understand Nicolas correctly, “not looked at” means not carefully viewed or re-viewed, and I would say that’s true based on the facile dismissals of Ford’s pictures by some commentators.

    A for “Pilgrimage” I saw it for the first at the John Ford Centenary screenings held jointly at UCLA and LACMA in a 35mm print. A remarkable picture in every respect. Since 1994 it’s been easier to see and I believe it’s available as part of the “Ford at Fox” DVD series or box. I recommend it without reservation.

  • nicolas saada

    Dear x359594 thank you for helping me with the rather clumsy “not looked at” that I used in my post. Alex what I meant was the impression that the tw words “John Ford” seem often to conjure (?) the eversame clicheed images, from Monument Valley to a would be “feel good” Irish vibe that reflects only a fraction of what the real Ford is about. PILGRIMAGE is as devastaying a film as Mc Carey’s’MAKE WAY FOR TOMMOROW. FOUR SONS is a work of genius. And so on. And HGWM is anything but the sentimental mishmash some have said it was.

  • Junko Yasutani

    I am sad to report that Donald Richie has passed away, 88 years old.

  • Sorry to hear about Donald Richie. He pioneered scholarship about Japanese cinema here in the US, and for many years his views shaped American perceptions about Japanese film makers.

  • Steve elworth

    So sad to hear about Donald who told us so much about Japan and its cinema.

  • Alex

    “the facile dismissals of Ford’s pictures by some commentators”

    x359594,

    The more and more closely I look at those Ford films that I think have inflated reputations either generally –LIBERTY VALANCE– or by Fordist — SUN SHINES BRIGHT. the less admiring about those films. And facile acclamations of them don’t help. (Nor do clainms of non-existent “dismissals.”)

    Alas, Ford’s production of fine films — towering masterpieces among– is so great that its all quibbling as regard his overall achievement (unless, perhaps, we’re thinking of “one of the great artisist of the twentieth century in any art” –a tough plug, it seems to me, for even the few film directors I think better than Ford).

  • nicolas saada

    alex, I believe Ford’s input is major : look at the silent films,, FOUR SONs, THREE BAD MEN, STRAIGHT SHOOTING. Would I question an artist whose contribution to an art form is close to paramount ? i dońt think so. Like most artists who worked over such a long time, Ford had some set backs. BUt some recordings by Duke Ellington in the late forties or late sixties (the reprise records) are not as brilliant as his majors works. But he did create generic motifs. Same could be said of Ford. I’d call it an achievement. Moments of grace (MY DARLING CLEMENTINE), flashes of lyric ilmages (DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK), almost stark and abstract poetry (SGT RUTLEDGE) ‘…

  • Alex, I wasn’t referring to you or to anyone who’s posted here, rather to mainstream film critics who write for the dailies and popular magazines. I haven’t come across any cinephiles who dismiss Ford with the exception of Quentin Tranantino.

    Thanks to the release of Ford’s movies in various home video formats they are reviewed in popular film/entertainment magazines where they’re often treated as Nicolas has described above, i.e., not really seen.

  • “Would I question an artist whose contribution to an art form is close to paramount ? i dońt think so. Like most artists who worked over such a long time, Ford had some set backs.”

    In this connection, it’s worth noting that Ford’s career encompassed several technical changes that he had to adapt to: monochromatic film to panchromatic film, black and white to color, hand cranked to mechanical cameras, silent to sound,1.33 to wide screen and scope. And the evidence of his best films shows that he mastered every one of these changes.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    On Kane’s elevation – The Brussels World Fair in 1958 polled critics and Kane was named best there. That seemed to be the big boost it needed before the 1962 S&S poll.

  • Scott

    Saddened to hear about the passing of Donald Richie, who made such significant contributions to culture and film history.

    I read that Apichatpong Weerasethakul had been working on a film in collaboration with Richie. However, Richie’s health was apparently already failing in recent years, so I don’t know how much of that project ever came together. It would be nice to have something, though, as a memorial.

  • David D.

    I like how in the great documentary “Filming Othello” Welles at first acknowledges and appreciates Andre Bazin’s writing on Kane and its use of the long-take as a democratic filming style. And then he scoffs that in retrospect it is very obvious that if you film in a long shot that the viewer will be able to look at more things that are going on in the frame.

  • Junko, that was sad news about Donald Richie, that grand ambassador of Japanese culture and cinema. I keep reading his books, and tomorrow when we are screening Ozu’s LATE SPRING / BANSHUN I’ll be thinking about him. I have only read Richie’s books on the Japanese cinema, but I realize there’s more worth reading. I had the pleasure to meet him twice, once in Pordenone and once in Tokyo at the reception of the FIAF Congress. A fine and distinguished character also in person.

    I am reading the programme booklet of this year’s retrospective of the Berlin Film Festival. The theme was The Weimar Touch, and HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY was included because of the Murnau touch! The retrospective is a co-production between Deutsche Kinemathek and The Museum of Modern Art, which must mean it will be seen in New York, too.

  • Alex

    nicolas saada,

    Four Cheers for MY DARLING CLEMENTINE and THE SEARCHERs. (Found access to a copy of FOUR SONS I get to pick up this week!)

    x359594,

    Well I was kind of tough on HGWMV suggesting it was sentimental and bombastoic and that I was quite happy seeing it like the 225msot regraded film in the latets Sight and Sound poll.

  • Mark Fallon

    Dave Kehr,

    Though many days late and certainly a few dollars short, I am compelled to write a note of thanks for your comments on both films. HGWMV has indeed been overlooked and belittled in comparison to Kane. Your comment on the “mature vision” of Ford in comparison to the exuberant bravura of Welles is on the money. The deep focus so effective by Ford and Toland in The Long Voyage Home is perfected in HGWMV by Ford and Miller. Bronwyn’s “I put his clothes out” scene is perfectly underplayed and stunning in its marriage of cinematic technique and human honesty. Welles didn’t get “robbed” of an Oscar, but Philip Dunne’s screenplay certainly did. Dunne distilled Llewellyn’s expansive novel into a Napoleon brandy of a screenplay. In the final sequence of HGWMV, Ford bridges the gap between human tragedy and spiritual transcendence with remarkable alacrity and truthful sentiment.

    The Quiet Man is indeed a fantasy and a comedy. It is a classical Romance in that life is as it “ought to be” rather than how it truly is. A deep love story and sensual in the best sense of the word. Sean and Mary Kate do not tell each other of their mutual attraction and love, they demonstrate it physically. It is also the quintessential Irish-American film in that it is a work of the children of exiles. Those children have a romanticized vision of whatever “old country” their ancestors emigrated from, moreso for us Irish-Americans. Everything is “righted” in the end: The correct people marry each other, the Catholic priests and people “save” the Protestant pastor’s job and White O’ Morn and its land are in the hands of its rightful owner.

    It is remarkable that Ford can communicate the tragedy of Cumrownda and dissolution of the Morgans together with the comedy of Inisfree and the restoration of the Thorntons with clarity and honesty. Both those virtues are quite evident in your comments. Bravo!