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AM213, Week 7 Born to Irish immigrants in Portland, Maine First feature film was a western, Straight Shooting, starring Harry Carey (1917). He would make 130 more films through the 1964 Cheyenne Autumn and Seven Women (1966) An auteur in Hollywood even before French filmmakers and theorists popularised the term, Ford remained the industry’s most enduring director Unique vision of America centred on western history and set in Utah’s Monument Valley (Stagecoach, 1939; Fort Apache, 1948; She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, 1949; The Searchers, 1956) Influenced by Turner, Catlin, Remington Called the ultimate historian of America’s West The Big Trail, 1930: failure of old epics during Depression Cimarron, 1931: multiracial picture of new West (Oklahoma) very successful Many historical westerns like Annie Oakley (1935) and The Plainsman (1936) made throughout 1930s Historical westerns, serials, then return of John Ford to genre (Stagecoach, 1939). Critics argue this represents myth of West rather than standard historical western Westerns grow as staple during WWII Cold War westerns (High Noon, 1951) and questions of race (The Searchers, 1956—week 8-9) Violence as the American way of life (Wild Bunch, 1969, connection with Vietnam, week 10) *Plays with Custer mythology W *Famed quote: “When history become legend, print the legend” * many have taken this to mean Ford embraces mythology, but film and Ford show audiences the whole process of history and myth- making Ford’s cavalry trilogy (Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande) explore not only the heroism, but the stupidity and racism at the heart of the American military Turner: Roosevelt: Westward Expansion and themes of Focus on heroes democracy (Iron Horse, 1924; Custer (Fort Apache), military and Stagecoach, Fort Apache, Liberty patriotic themes Valance) Violence as uniquely American Ethnic and Immigrant experience Opposition to Native Americans Waves of frontier development (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Searchers) (Liberty Valance) Masculinity and racial conflict Farmers’ experiences/frontier communities (The Grapes of Wrath, 1940; My Darling Clementine, 1946; The Searchers) Sense of loss and nostalgia (Liberty Valance) Resistance to white assimilation and historical notions of progress (Stagecoach, Fort Apache, Liberty Valance) Stays in classical nineteenth-century West Irish background (history of discrimination) Ethnic experience key to everything good in US culture (the margin/frontier is central) Mainstream America is corrupting influence Ford’s Native Americans are culturally cohesive, unlike settlers Linearity of narrative in Stagecoach becomes more complex as racial conflicts develop in Ford’s work (Fort Apache, Searchers) Multiracial characters played by Mexican/Native American actors (Sergeant Beaufort and Cochise in Fort Apache (Pedro Amendariz, Miguel Inclan) Militarism=patriotism, but also a leveling of class distinctions-- whites have equal chance (Fort Apache) and blacks too (Sergeant Rutledge and Woody Strode First to pay Native American and African American actors the same wage as whites Women also have active role in West as pioneers (Drums Along the Mohawk, 1939), civilizers (My Darling Clementine, 1946), symbols of justice (Sergeant Rutledge), and as bridges between races (Two Rode Together, The Searchers) With Woody Strode (1914-1994) Geronimo, 1829-1909 Cochise, 1810-1874 Geronimo prepares to ambush the stage in Stagecoach (1939) Ford’s populist view of West like Turner’s: camera sides with Dallas and Ringo in dinner sequence (Brown) and throughout film—yet this shot is ironically from With some exceptions, this first film glorified the coming of the railroad, but Liberty Valance self-consciously critiques man-made progress Unreliable text versus the truth in cinematic flashbacks Public words versus private images verum factum: Truth is verified through creation or invention, not observation The New Science (1725) Nations and society pass through three stages: Age of gods, heroes and men History is cyclical, not linear—never reaches perfection Corruption in age of men brings society back to primitive state Heroic Age relies on metaphors, fables and myths, whereas age of men relies on reflection Influenced Marx, Collingwood and Joyce Liberty Valance about the conflict between age of heroes and age of men Tom (John Wayne) Rance (James Stewart) Native Westerner Easterner Stagecoach Railroad Horse Buggy Man of action Man of words/reason Professional gun Studies law Self-sufficient Works for others Frontiersman Politician Really shoots Liberty Publicised as killer of Myth or key to true Liberty version of western Possessor and teacher of history? western history or the creator of usable myths?
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