Directed by John Ford

John Ford stages a fight between James Stewart and John Wayne for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

By Sven Mikulec

Peter Bogdanovich first met John Ford in 1963, when he conducted the first out of a series of interviews with the legendary filmmaker. Four years later, Bogdanovich published an interview book about Ford, and even though the director was allegedly dissatisfied with both the original Variety piece from 1963 and the “caricature” of a book from 1967, the two of them started a friendship that prompted Bogdanovich to start working on a documentary. Directed by John Ford was introduced to the world in 1971 with high praise from critics. Bogdanovich, however, wasn’t all that happy about what his passionate documentary tribute turned out to be. Since there were insufficient funds to purchase the rights to relevant inserts from Ford’s movies, the documentary was destined to be shown only in non-profit venues, meaning it was rarely seen upon its initial release. Furthermore, Bogdanovich felt he failed to explore Ford’s character and personal life in sufficient depth. After a critically successful screening of the original documentary at the 1999 Telluride Film Festival, Bogdanovich decided to make a revised version of the film that ultimately came out in 2006.

As promised to producer and friend Frank Marshall, Bogdanovich kept “all the good stuff” in the film—such as brilliant material with John Wayne, James Stewart and Henry Fonda—enriching it with additional interviews with actors Clint Eastwood, Maureen O’Hara and Harry Carey, Jr., as well as inserting his conversations with filmmakers Martin Scorsese, Walter Hill and Steven Spielberg. With the new version, Bogdanovich felt he rounded up what he wanted to say about the iconic filmmaker considered by most as one of the most significant cinematic authors in American cinema. John Ford would have probably discarded the film, claiming he only endured three minutes of it before nausea started to kick in. But then again, he made similar comments on Bogdanovich’s interview book about him, only to buy 200 copies of the collection. It’s just who John Ford was, a complex man with one heck of an unprecedented talent for cinema. You can watch the documentary online at Internet Archive. The DVD of the documentary is available at Amazon and other online retailers.



“Then, last year, while on a YouTube search, I found a fragment of what purported to be a never broadcast BBC interview of Ford from 1968. I recognized it instantly as the interview on which I had worked. The video looked like uncorrected, raw dailies; I could believe it had never been broadcast, although Joseph McBride says he saw a finished version titled My Name is John Ford: I Make Movies.” —My Morning with John Ford: Through a Pilsner Glass

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1971 CBS TV documentary on the career and Westerns of the legendary filmmaker. Narrated by John Wayne, James Stewart and Henry Fonda.

“John Ford as featured director in an episode of the television series Cineastes de notre temps; author’s attempts at befriending Ford; personality and charisma of Ford; influences of other directors on Ford; making of Western movies; reason for being a director; working relationship with actors. He had conducted that one from his bed, having taunted the hapless Gaul with his own fractured French. Shortly before his death in 1973 and now living in La Quinta, Ford allowed himself to be photographed in his bed with his friends John Huston and Dennis Hopper.” —My Morning with John Ford: Through a Pilsner Glass

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