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Published: 10 Nov 2022


It is well known that John Ford was an angry despot on his shooting sets, capable of savagely beating his main actors, of publicly humiliating his brother, of throwing his actresses into a swimming pool. An unrepentant alcoholic, he exercised tyrannical violence with the malice of one who knows that he has at his disposal the necessary power to exercise it.

I don't think we can and should not excuse John Ford for those behaviors, neither in the 30s/40/50s nor now in 2022. But neither can we ignore them, as if they were acceptable, nor cancel John Ford entirely, as if we hope that great creators should not have serious character flaws. What we can do is assume the natural imperfection of the human condition, accept John Ford as a great creator with terrible flaws that should never be silenced, and appreciate his films to a greater or lesser extent. It's easy to say, very hard to do.

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