Oscar Directors: Ford, John–Auteur, Vision, Genre, Individual Vs. Community

Research in Progress: Oct 18, 2021

John Ford as Auteur:

There is  a John Ford world with a distinctive look to it. He had a definite historical perspective ad unified vision of the world.

John Wayne is the quintessential hero; Maureen O’Hara the quintessential heroine

Ford Vs. Hawks: Individual Vs. Community

Leo Braudy has claimed that unlike Howard Hawks, to whom he is often compared, John Ford was a closed genre (Western especially) director.

Ford’s open space was a potential upon which he imposed his distinct vision.

Hawks explored the conventions of many genres in order to frame the elusive nature of his characters.

Visually, if Ford was defined by composition, Hawks was by movement.

Braudy underestimates actors in Ford’s universe, claiming that acting is generally irrelevant to his films.

The presence of actors is iconographic rather than ironic, viewed from the outside, not inside.

Though Ford relied on a stock company of actors, he treated characters typologically, rather than individually.

Ford is more concerned with community and the role of individuals within them.

Ford’s communities are more designed to be contemplated as ideals than to be participated in.

He holds a more mythic view of West as Eden rather than a real world.

Ford, like other directors, was concerned with the issue of heroism.

For the hero as an individual, death is an absolute limit, which cannot be transcended. Death renders the life that precedes it meaningless and absurd.

How then can there be any meaningful individual action during life?

How can individual action have any value–be heroic–if it cannot have transcended value, because  of the absolutely devaluing limit of death?

Ford finds the answer to this question by placing the individual within community, within society, within history (American history).

Ford finds transcendent values in the historic vacation of America as a nation, namely, to bring civilization to a savage land, to make a garden out of wilderness.

But Ford also sees these values as problematic, and so he begins to question the movement of American history itself.

Career, Fame, Reputation:

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, John Ford’s fame reached a climax, with Stagecocah, The Long Voyage home, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley, all of which had been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, and the latter actually won (competing with Citizen Kane, among other films).