Born: 1 February 1894
Died: 31 August 1973
Birthplace: Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Best known as: Director of The Searchers and other Hollywood westerns
Name at birth: John Martin Feeney
John Ford is one of the most celebrated filmmakers in history, the director of American westerns such as Stagecoach (1939, the movie that made John Wayne a star), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and The Searchers (1956, co-starring Natalie Wood). He started working in Hollywood in the early part of the 20th century and by 1917 he had worked his way into the director's chair, making mostly short westerns. He gained a reputation as a hard worker with an eye for composition, and by the 1930s was regularly directing studio features. He won his first Oscar for the 1935 film The Informer, and won two more for directing The Grapes of Wrath (1940, starring Henry Fonda) and How Green Was My Valley (1941). During World War II Ford made documentary films, including Oscar winners The Battle of Midway (1942) and December 7 (1943). After the war Ford continued making movies, mostly westerns shot in the Monument Valley in Arizona and Utah. Praised for his artistic vision as well as for his work ethic and prolific output, Ford was the first-ever recipient of the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award (1973). His other films include Fort Apache (1948), Rio Grande (1950), The Quiet Man (1952, and his fourth Oscar) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).
Famously irascible and proud of his Irish heritage, Ford often told people his birth name was Sean Aloysius Feeney (or O’Feeney)… Ford also often stated his year of birth as 1895, but city and baptismal records from Maine indicate that the correct year was 1894… Ford used the same group of actors for many of his films, a “stock company” that included John Wayne, Henry Fonda, John Carradine, Harry Carey, Jr. and Victor McLaglen.
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