Director John Ford stayed an enigma

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

LOS ANGELES -- John Ford worked in the movie studios for 52 years and was creator of such enduring classics as "Stagecoach," "The Grapes of Wrath," "The Quiet Man," "The Searchers" and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." Yet despite his long prominence, Ford remained an enigma to most of Hollywood.

Ford, who died in 1973 at the age of 78, was a study in contrasts. A lifelong Catholic, he was married for 53 years, yet had a reputation as a womanizer. Strictly business on a movie set, he drank himself senseless between pictures. His movies were filled with sentiment, but as a director he often demeaned set workers and actors -- even John Wayne, whom he had made a star.

The aptly titled "Searching for John Ford," by Joseph McBride, explores with rare diligence the many incongruities about the great filmmaker's life. The book is McBride's most thorough yet -- 720 pages of text plus 118 pages of sources, filmology, acknowledgments and index.

He pursued his quest for over 30 years, tracking down everyone he could find who had known Ford.

"There are a number of mysteries; Ford was always a mysterious character," said McBride. "That's why I thought a biography was needed."

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