Biography of John Ford (director)

John Ford was an iconic American film director, particularly known for his adaptations and American Westerns. He directed nearly 150 films in his 50 year career, and he was well-respected by his colleagues and proteges. In addition to directing films in Hollywood, Ford served as a commander in the United States Navy in World War II, and made documentaries while serving. Today he is touted as a master filmmaker from a long-gone Hollywood, an innovator and game-changer.

Ford was born in Maine in 1894 and in 1914 moved to Hollywood where he worked in film production and as an actor. His first acting credit was as a Klansmen in D.W. Griffith's controversial film The Birth of a Nation. John's older brother, Francis, was also a director, which motivated John to try his hand at it, starting out as his brother's assistant before working on his own silent films. His first full-length film was called Straight Shooting and came out in 1917, and his first success was The Iron Horse in 1924.

Ford successfully made the rocky transition from working on silent films to working on "talkies," and was an early adopter of sound in film. Throughout his career he was known for his speedy and efficient work ethic, his use of the natural world and landscape in his photography, and his preference for silence over dialogue. His most famous films include Stagecoach, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley, The Searchers, and The Quiet Man. He won 4 Academy Awards for Best Director.

Study Guides on Works by John Ford (director)

John Ford’s The Searchers is considered to be one of the greatest American westerns of all time. Released in 1956, it is based on a novel by Alan Le May and depicts a version of the Texas-Indian wars. A commercial as well as critical success, the...