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Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 11, 1999

4.5 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Borrowing his title from dialogue in John Ford's classic Western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ("When the legend becomes fact, print the legend"), Scott Eyman heeds this advice in his splendid study of Ford, finding a convincing balance between the gruff image Ford cultivated and the sensitive artist that Ford truly was. The result is a to-date definitive biography, occasionally prone to indelicate critical assessment while benefiting greatly from Eyman's full access to the Ford family archives. Arguably the greatest American filmmaker of the 20th century, Ford protected himself with a façade of belligerence yet engendered more loyalty among his crew and stock players (notably John Wayne and Ward Bond) than any other director. Eyman illuminates the Ford legend while focusing on fact--on a complex genius who would berate even the most vulnerable actor and then "apologize without apologizing," a binge drinker who never let alcohol interfere with his closely-guarded artistry, and a stalwart Navy captain whose service in World War II became his primary source of pride.

Print the Legend essentially confirms Ford's brief affair with Katharine Hepburn, but Eyman emphasizes Ford's deep, abiding affection for his wife, Mary, who valiantly tolerated his absolute devotion to filmmaking. While hundreds of interviews yield a comprehensive account of Ford's working methods (which the director was loathe to discuss), Eyman expertly navigates around Ford's own penchant for autobiographical embellishment. What emerges is likely to remain the most thorough portrait of a cinematic master who recognized his own greatness without parading it, and whose human flaws were ultimately forgivable by those--and they were many--who loved him. Readers should look elsewhere for more astute studies of Ford's films, but Eyman has captured Ford the man with lasting authority. -- Jeff Shannon

From Publishers Weekly

One of the great directors in the history of film, John Ford (1894-1973) was "America's tribal poet," writes Eyman, a man whose movies added up to a national epic. The director of such classics as The Grapes of Wrath, The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Ford certainly had a dark side, according to Eyman: he was bad-tempered and pugnacious; a sloppy, self-pitying drunk; a dictatorial, frequently abusive director; and a failed father estranged from his son and daughter. Biographer of Ernst Lubitsch and Mary Pickford, Eyman has written a quietly magnificent biography of an American original who has shaped our perception of movies as serious art. His westerns conjure up a democratic community of equals unified by shared purpose. A Maine saloonkeeper's son, Ford grew up in a large, working-class Irish immigrant family. Using hitherto untapped transcripts, Eyman tells the full story of the famous, tumultuous 1950 Screen Directors Guild meeting, when Ford took a courageous stand against hard-line conservative Cecil B. DeMille, who sought to mandate a McCarthyite loyalty oath for members. Eyman's study serves up a big, gorgeous chunk of Hollywood history, chock-full of priceless anecdotes of Katharine Hepburn, James Cagney, Henry Fonda, Frank Capra, Clark Gable and others. Though many considered Ford pass? by the 1960s, a new generation of critics and cineastes were championing the six-time Academy Award winner for his largeness of spirit, his deeply felt poetry, his evocation of innocence and of America as it was meant to have been. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (November 11, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684811618
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684811611
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.6 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #528,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
There are five great "classic" American directors( excluding foreign born figures such as Wilder and Hitchcock): D.W. Griffith,Frank Capra, Howard Hawks, Orson Welles, and John Ford. While Griffith was -often-too primitive in his sensibility, Capra too sentimental,and Orson Welles too experimental and unfinished, Hawks and Ford come closest to leaving only the slightest shadow of a doubt.Hawks had had his biographer; now, his friend and rival, John Ford, has one as well. This book is a masterpiece of research and critical sensibility.Eylan has grasped the essential truth about Ford..he was the great cinematic poet of America, and to extent, one of the great poets of Irealand as well.Eylan is honest about the virtues and faults of Ford the man and honest as well about the virtues and faults of his films.This fine book is more than a contribution to Film history, it is a contribution to American-and Human - self understanding.In this, it has much in common with the best films of John Ford.
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Format: Hardcover
At the end of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," the newspaper reporter interviewing James Stewart discovers that Stewart's hero didn't really kill Lee Marvin's villain. His response is: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." That's just what John Ford did in all 140 of his films over five decades. Ford used a fledgeling medium and created it into an art form. In doing so, he reformulated the American "legend," how we understand our past. Much of how we see ourselves as Americans, for better or worse, has its basis in the film depictions that Ford created. There have been numerous books on Ford and his films, but Scott Eyman's is undoubtedly the most comprehensive treatment of a brilliant artist who was also a deeply flawed man. Previous biographies of Ford have either concentrated on the meanings of his films or on his personal life. Eyman's book does both, but he also looks at how Ford directed actors, how he related to them and how he elicited such great performances from them (sometimes gently and sometimes harshly). No other book on Ford has done this to the same degree, and this is what makes the book so good. Also, Eyman interviewed dozens of Ford's peers from the silents through the sixties. The book is well written, comprehensive and fair in the treatment of its subject. More importantly, like a good Ford movie, it never ceases to hold your attention. I came away from this book with a better appreciation for the films, and a healthy respect for an often difficult yet gifted director. Orson Welles was once asked who he thought were the three greatest American directors. His response was "John Ford, John Ford and John Ford." Whether you agree with Welles or not, Eyman's biography is a great read.
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Format: Hardcover
To some, John Ford's films might seem like simplistic chunks of overly sentimental, Irish blarney, and there are times when they steer dangerously close to those shores (just try to watch THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS these days), but what he put up on that screen were some of the most powerful images and incredible characters ever captured on celluloid. Scott Eyman's book cuts through the fabrications and half-truths to present a picture of a man who was an amazing mass of contradictions. He was both loyal friend and petty bully; a brilliant artist who would only say he was doing a job; a director who insisted on sober co-workers but who could turn into a raging alcoholic in the bat of an eye; and a person who concealed a humanitarian side behind one of the most gruff exteriors since Scrooge. This is the book that both Ford fans, worshippers and mavens have been seeking, and one that both lovers of cinema history and biography will admire. If you love a good biography without being a movie buff, you will like this book. Well researched and structured in a way that keeps both the films and Ford's life in perspective, one cannot imagine a better book on the subject appearing for a long time. Filled with some good surprises (how Ford sided with many blacklisted people in the industry is one of them) and beautiful illustrations, this book ranks with Eyman's previous book on Lubitsch in the clarity of its writing and the understanding of its subject. One even suspects Ford might grudgingly approve of the tome, after cussing out the author and throwing the book across the room, then quietly asking someone to pick it up and give it back to him.
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Format: Hardcover
In my early 20s I found myself working with John Ford and John Wayne. I spent a lot of time with both men and others who were mentioned in Mr. Eyman's book.
Even if I hadn't known Ford, I would have been riveted to this book as it reads like a novel. It also brought back vivid memories to me by describing some of Mr. Ford's traits. Although I wasn't present at the episodes he mentioned, they (his traits) were vividly and accurately portrayed. I was amazed at how extraordinarily well Mr. Eyman, who never met his subject, was able to capture the character of this complex man and gifted filmmaker. It triggered memories I'd completely forgotten about.
I've recommended the book to people who aren't big film fans and they've found it to be a great read. I obviously can recommend this to anyone without further qualification. After reading it, you'll feel like you knew John Ford yourself.
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