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John Ford, Revised and Enlarged edition (Movie Paperbacks) Paperback – June 28, 1978
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What you can't see from home is that the book is truly tiny, about a quarter inch thick and six inches square. It's only 144 pages long; the last 35 of those pages are a John Ford filmography and the first 35 are a Bogdanovitch essay.
The interviews in between are similarly miniature, and in typical Bogdanovitch fashion they revolve more around anecdotes and personalities than film making and theory. For instance, here's what Ford says about my nominee for his best film, My Darling Clementine:
"I knew Wyatt Earp. In the very early silent days, a couple of times a year, he would come up to visit pals, cowboys he knew in Tombstone; alot of them were in my company. I think I was an assistant prop boy then and I used to give him a chair and a cup of coffee, and he told me about the fight at the O. K. Corral. So in My Darling Clementine, we did it exactly as it had been. They didn't just walk up in the street and start banging away at each other; it was a clever military maneuver."
And that's it. A good story. But a short one. Not much about the film itself, though, is there? The longest statements go on for about one full page.
Ford's thoughts on film making are scattered throughout, and it's good stuff:
-On his dislike of close-ups: "We've got this big screen - instead of putting a lot of pockmarked faces on it...play a scene in a two-shot. You see people instead of faces."
-On actors: "If you get the first or second take, there's a sparkle, an uncertainty about it; they're not sure of their lines, and it gives you a sense of nervousness and suspense."
-On film music: "I don't like to see a man alone in the desert, dying of thirst, with the Philadelphia Orchestra behind him."
Ford talks about almost every film he ever made, including most of the silents that no one's ever seen. You can read the book in one sitting, and by the end you'll have a sense of who John Ford was and what he was all about. Since Ford hated giving interviews, but was very patient with Bogdanovitch, this one is something of a standout.
It's a good book, I just wish there was more of it.
(A poster below slags the Hitchcock/ Truffaut book; don't listen to him, that book is marvelous.)
This is very much a loving account of John Ford, his life, and his films. There are a few important insights, such as Bogdanovich’s observation that all great directors are also great actors. In Ford’s case this was the front that he put up to all around him and the hard image he had for many of his actors that masked a soft heart. Mostly, however, this is a mythmaking account that discusses Ford’s films in order, while interspersing observations from the director himself.
This is enjoyable and certainly a work that works well with other accounts of Ford’s life and work. For insight into his films, the best work remains Joseph McBride’s Searching for John Ford: A Life (1999). For details about Ford’s life I would recommend "John Ford: Hollywood’s Old Master" (1995) by Ronald K. Davis and "John Ford: The Man and His Films" (1986) by Tag Gallagher. Bogdanovich’s "John Ford" is a highly personal and personable account of a film icon.