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John FordPoet in the Desert is an uncommon biography of one of America's iconic Hollywood directors who made famous such actors as John Wayne Maureen O'hara Henry Fonda and other legends He won six Academy Awards for his Westerns; The Searchers The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon


10 thoughts on “John Ford

  1. says:

    Not only are Joseph Malham's words inspiring but he offered me a window into the private world of John Ford which has changed the way I watch and interpret his movies


  2. says:

    I believe a good biography should raise uestions than it answers This is not to say that a biography should be incomplete or lack enough details to make me feel like I’ve come to know the subject intimately But when an in depth examination such as John Ford Poet in the Desert by Joseph Malham leaves me with the desire to know even about the subject and continue my search past the last page I know it’s been a good read Malham trains his eye on Ford the legendary filmmaker of such cinematic classics as The Searchers The uiet Man and Grapes of Wrath much the same way a director would approach the material of a film Through in depth scenes of Ford’s life and career Malham’s prose reads like well placed camera shots and as he writes I can imagine the “towering poetic genius” nodding his head in agreement with the varying perspectives Malham uses to reveal his subject’s incredible life story These “camera shots” are very effective in giving the reader a strong visual which given the subject matter fits nicely This is evident throughout the book; for example in this scene where Malham describes Ford’s depiction of Abraham Lincoln in his 1936 film Prisoner of Shark Island He Lincoln is first seen emerging from the curtains of the White House balcony to address the crowd reveling in the streets following Lee’s surrender to Grant A model of translucent asceticism Lincoln is draped in a shawl resembling a Jewish tallit that gives him the air of Moses on Mt Sinai or Jesus transfigured on Mt TaborMalham’s visual writing verges on the eerie when in still describing Lincoln he “pulls back the curtain” to show us Ford’s last “shot” of Lincoln in this film “slumped in his chair at Ford’s Theateras a lace curtain slowly pulls across the scene” Malham’s range of scenes in this book impressed me; from the chill inducing gloom of this scene with Lincoln to the natural spectacle and beauty of Ford’s beloved locations such as Monument Valley Malham seems comfortable and very capable of taking us on an intimate tour of every corner of Ford’s life and work Malham is also to be commended for his even handed treatment of Ford Though he obviously conveys a level of respect for the director and his craft he is careful not to idolize him and relays Ford’s triumphs as well as his failures both personal and professional The result is that John Ford a true “poet in the desert” emerges from the book as a fully realized human neither hero nor anti hero but managing to dominate the “screen” and capture our hearts at the same time As Katherine Hepburn wrote about Ford in a uote included in the book “Had he been happy he never would have been the artist he is” It’s difficult to capture the essence of such an artist but Malham’s portrayal is finely layered and feels both honest and original Malham’s writing also reveals both a deft use of language as well as a playful drily humorous tone His description of Hollywood mogul Darryl Zanuck is a perfect example of this He was a diminutive force of nature a walking Krakatoa with curly hair mustache and a set of irregular and gapped teeth between which was permanently clenched a massive stogie Malham’s ability to make each new character we meet stand out is truly impressive and this is no easy task as the cast of characters in John Ford’s life is uite large It helps in reading this book to have some knowledge of the early days of movie making and who was who in Hollywood back in the day Malham does engage in uite a bit of name dropping and while I found this interesting it could be a bit heavy handed for those not as versed in Hollywood lore I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys movies biographies in general or those who enjoy reading about a complex figure who somehow manages to defy society’s expectations while simultaneously paving the way for generations to follow in his footsteps Joseph Malham’s John Ford comes across as not only a poet but a pioneer and by the end of the book I realized I both needed and wanted to seek out some of Ford’s landmark films I’m chagrined to say I’ve never seen In John Ford Poet of the Desert Malham gives us not just a legend but a true titan from the history of Hollywood The story and subject are eually compelling and the reader closes the book satisfied in knowing John Ford’s story but also eager to see the body of work he left behind


  3. says:

    I will say neither John Ford nor John Wayne interested me very much In fact I never knew the name John Ford before reading this book However the book is an extremely well written biography of a man who was indeed a natural with film as his medium Anyone with a distinct interest in Hollywood Golden years or John Wayne or Henry Fonda should take a look