For a better experience on MUBI, update your browser.

John Ford Silents 1917-1929

by Robert Regan
WORK IN PROGRESS “If Ford’s career had ended in 1929, he would deserve at most a footnote in film history, and it is doubtful that scholars would even bother excavating too many of his Twenties works from the Fox vaults. However, a few marginal observations are in order even in this primitive period of film research. Ford can be very profitably studied before 1930 purely in terms of studio policy. In his years at Universal (1917-1921), only two of Ford’s thirty-eight feature films did not qualify as some sort of horse opera…. By contrast, Ford’s output at the fancier Fox studio between a920 and 1929 consisted of five Westerns and… Read more

WORK IN PROGRESS

“If Ford’s career had ended in 1929, he would deserve at most a footnote in film history, and it is doubtful that scholars would even bother excavating too many of his Twenties works from the Fox vaults. However, a few marginal observations are in order even in this primitive period of film research. Ford can be very profitably studied before 1930 purely in terms of studio policy. In his years at Universal (1917-1921), only two of Ford’s thirty-eight feature films did not qualify as some sort of horse opera…. By contrast, Ford’s output at the fancier Fox studio between a920 and 1929 consisted of five Westerns and twenty-three non-Westerns. It might be noted also that in the stylistically formative period between 3 Bad Men in 1926 and Stagecoach in 1939, Ford did not make a single Western.” Andrew Sarris, The John Ford Movie Mystery, 1975.

I must say that I agree with Sarris here. It’s not that none of his silent films are good or even better but, like his contemporary Alfred Hitchcock, he seemed to find himself as an artist after the advent of sound.

Jack Ford, as he was billed until Cameo Kirby in 1923, began his directing career in 1917 at the age of twenty-two. His first five films were two-reel Westerns. In the first three his leading man was himself, but by June of that year he had teamed up with Harry Carey as star and collaborator for his last two 2-reelers. They were to make twenty-five films together in four years, and several more through The Prisoner of Shark Island in 1936. Carey’s influence on Ford lasted a lifetime, and was perpetuated by the regular presence of his son Harry Carey, Jr in countless Ford films, beginning in 1948 with 3 Godfathers, which was dedicated to Carey Sr., “Bright Star of the early western sky”.

UNIVERSAL FILM CORP.

1917 Straight Shooting

The earliest surviving Ford film was lost until 1966 when a print was discovered in the Czech Film Archive.







Read less