Wayne and Ford: The Films, the Friendship, and the Forging of an American Hero
For over twenty years John Ford and John Wayne were a blockbuster Hollywood team, turning out many of the finest Western films ever made. Ford, a son of Irish immigrants known for his black eye patch and for his hard-drinking, brawling masculinity, was renowned for both his craftsmanship and his brutality. John -Duke- Wayne was a mere stagehand and bit player in -B- Westerns, but he was strapping and incredibly handsome, and Ford saw his potential. In 1939 Ford made Wayne a star in Stagecoach, and from there the two men established a close, often turbulent relationship.
Their most productive years saw the release of one iconic film after another: Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, The Searchers, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. But by 1960, the bond of their friendship had frayed, and Wayne felt he could move beyond his mentor with his first solo project, The Alamo. Few of Wayne's following films would have the brilliance or the cachet of a John Ford Western but, taken collectively, the careers of these two men changed movie making in ways that endure to this day. Despite the decline of the Western in contemporary cinema, its cultural legacy, particularly the type of hero codified by Ford and Wayne--tough, self-reliant, and unafraid to fight but also honorable, trustworthy, and kind--resonates in everything from Star Wars to today's superhero franchises.
Drawing on previously untapped caches of letters and personal documents, Nancy Schoenberger dramatically narrates a complicated, poignant, and iconic friendship, and the lasting legacy of that friendship on American culture.
"For a tightly focused study of two men and a handful of movies they made together, Wayne and Ford covers an awful lot of ground. From the silent-film era through the 1970's, we're shuttled expertly through the Depression, World War II, McCarthyism, the rise of Method acting, the end of the studio system. We see the Western genre mature, perspectives on the myths of the Wild West shift, and ideas of masculinity interrogated and recast on the big screen. John Wayne's life and work, especially, have an elegiac quality here that contemporary accounts missed. It's often said that John Ford brought out the best in Wayne, but the converse is also plainly true--not in Ford's behavior toward his star, which could be vile, but in his unsurpassed filmmaking. A fascinating two-hander."--William Finnegan, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Barbarian Days
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