John Ford Western Movies

Sunday, April 17 by Jackie Barlow

John Ford western movies are just one genre in the more than 140 films over more than 50 years that were directed by this amazing man.  His films began with silent ones which, unfortunately, are mostly lost.  Ford was responsible for lifting the western movie and bringing the genre to popularity.  He was the director who started location shooting at natural settings as a backdrop for his characters.  With his favorite location being the Southwest's spectacular Monument Valley, he filmed seven westerns there. 

  1. "Rider of the Law"  This was one of the early Ford westerns that is considered lost along with 80% of films that were made between 1897 and 1930.  "Rider of the Law" was a 1919 black and white silent movie that lasted 60 minutes and was one of many that told of  adventures of  the Texas Rangers, the "men in the white hats."
  2. "3 Bad Men" In 1926, this was Ford's last silent western.  Filmed in the Mojave Desert and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, it told of the Dakota land rush.
  3. "Stagecoach" Thirteen years later, in 1939, he made his first western with sound. Starring the the unknown John Wayne, along with Claire Trevor, this movie is still the most admired and the most imitated of all the Hollywood movies.  In "Stagecoach" he introduced the stagecoach chase and the horse-jumping scene. 
  4. "Drums Along the Mohawk"  Also released in 1939, this was Ford's first Technicolor movie.  It co-starred Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert and was a big success.  It portrayed settlers on the frontier of New  York during the American Revolution.
  5. "My Darling Clementine"  This was a 1946 romanticized version of the legend of Wyatt Earp and the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.  Some of this film's stars were Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp, Victor Mature as Doc Holliday, and Linda Darnell as a saloon girl.
  6. "Fort Apache"  This was the first of Ford's "Cavalry Trilogy".  Released in 1948, it included John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and also Shirley Temple in one of her last movie appearances. It was one of the first movies to present a sympathetic and authentic view of Native Americans.
  7. "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon"  In 1949, this was the second of the "Cavalry Trilogy" but is said to be the most appealing and most enduring of the trilogy movies.  In rich Technicolor, the images can be compared to the famous classic paintings by Fredric Remington.  At age 42, John Wayne superbly played a sixty-ish career soldier ready to retire at a time when the cavalry was the only defense against the Indian nations. 
  8. "Rio Grande"   This third part of the "Cavalry Trilogy" in 1950 starred John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, and the screen debut of Wayne's son Patrick Wayne.  This movie was shot in a short 32 days but successfully grossed $2.25 million dollars in its first year. Wayne's character had his son under his command, and O'Hara's character, as an angry mother and estranged wife, comes to try to bail her son out of service in the Union army. 
  9. "The Searchers"  The only western Ford made in the 1950's besides "Rio Grande", this 1956 movie was named "the greatest western of all time" by the American Film Institute in 2008.  This was not only John Wayne's best performance, but it also featured the rising star Natalie Wood as well as Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, and others.
  10. "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance"  In 1962, it is said to be Ford's last great movie.  It starred the amazing cast of John Wayne, Vera Miles, James Stewart, Edmund O'Brien, Andy Devine, Lee Marvin,Denver Pyle, and John Carradine.  This is the film where John Wayne used his trademark "Pilgrim" (his nickname for the character portrayed by James Stewart) for the first time.
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