Happy Birthday to Classic Movie Legend, John Ford, born February 1st, 1894.
One of the most powerful aspects of film is its ability to create a self-contained world void of the trappings of reality. A well-crafted film can transport an audience from the comfort of their theater seats to the far reaches of time and space without having them question the logic of how they got there. It’s that willingness to suspend belief, to trust the filmmaker in guiding them safely through this new world, that gives the filmic image such power. Whatever is represented on screen becomes truth for the viewer. Because of this, the title of filmmaker can sometimes be synonymous with that of mythmaker. No other filmmaker can demonstrate this point more than John Ford.
Although the western as a genre existed before Ford began making movies, it’s Ford who created what we collectively perceive as the Wild West. Ask the majority of people what they picture when they think of the Wild West. More than likely they will conjure up images of Indians fighting cowboys, gunfights in lawless western villages, and perhaps even the sun setting ever the distinct rock formations of Monument Valley as John Wayne rides his horse into unknown territories. They will conjure images created by John Ford, for in reality, the “Wild West” wasn’t really that wild at all. Gun fights were a rarity, Native Americans were rounded up then displaced by the US government and all cowboys did was sit around all day keeping an eye on, you guesses it, cows. Our collective perception of the Wild West, what we believe to be reality, is actually nothing more than a representation — a myth created by John Ford. And to celebrate this maker of myths, this manipulator of perceived reality, let us take a look at the films that helped create the Legend of the Wild West.
John Wayne as the mythical hero cowboy in Stagecoach (1939, John Ford director)
Victor Mature in the mythic activity of gun fighting in My Darling Clementine (1946, John Ford director)
Monument Valley, mythic land of the West in The Searchers (1956, John Ford director)
Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub
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