John Ford | 125 Years

Strand, Colonial in statewide film fest

Jan 23, 2019
Harry Carey Jr., left, and John Wayne take a look around Monument Valley in “The Searchers,” generally considered John Ford’s greatest film and the quintessential American western. It also stars Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Mills and Natalie Wood.

More than a dozen arts and education organizations and independent cinemas in nine Maine cities have teamed up for John Ford | 125 Years, a Feb. 1 through 10 festival of screenings and related programs marking the 125th anniversary of the birth here of America’s most celebrated filmmaker.

Winner of four Academy Awards as Best Director (a standing record), Ford was born in Cape Elizabeth on Feb. 1, 1894. He grew up in the Munjoy Hill part of Portland, the son of Irish immigrants when “no Irish need apply” was a prevalent New England sentiment. The experiences of his immigrant roots permeate the characters, music, sensibilities and sentiments of his films.

Ford directed more than 140 silent and sound films covering a diverse array of subjects and categories. While he was said to introduce himself with “My name is John Ford; I make westerns,” none of his four directing Oscars (or two other Oscars for documentaries) was in that genre.

“Consciously or not, many filmmakers today have been influenced by Ford; his westerns in particular are touchstones for cinematic language and storytelling,” said Mike Perreault, executive director of Maine Film Center, which organized the event.

Ford made nine pictures in Arizona’s Monument Valley, single-handedly establishing that location as synonymous with Hollywood westerns. Three of these, generally considered among his best, will play on consecutive days during the festival. They include “The Searchers” (1956, USA), which will be shown in 35mm Saturday, Feb. 2, at 5:30 p.m. the Strand Theatre, 345 Main St., Rockland. Michael Komanecky, chief curator at the Farnsworth Art Museum, will speak after the screening. Tickets are $10, available in advance at rocklandstrand.com and at the door.

All four films for which Ford won the Oscar as Best Director are included in the series, as well. They include “How Green Was My Valley” (1941, USA), which will be screened Friday, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m. at the Colonial Theatre, 163 High St., Belfast, presented by Waterfall Arts. Michael C. Connolly, Ford-focused author, professor and historian, will introduce and lead discussion. Tickets will be $9.50; $8.50 older than 64; $6.50 younger than 13.

During World War II, Ford was a commissioned Naval Reserve officer supervising a team of filmmakers in the OSS Field Photographic Unit and overseeing production of more than 80 training and documentary films, including two Oscar winners he directed. Those include “The Battle of Midway” (1942), for which Ford earned a Purple Heart while personally photographing the actual fighting.

John Ford  | 125 Years will revisit his most seminal works and offer audiences the opportunity to re-examine his films in the context of today’s cultural and political landscape. The MFC project is made possible by support from all of the participating organizations and Unity Foundation, Camden National Bank, Portland Press Herald, Sun Journal and Morning Sentinel. For the complete schedule, visit Ford125.com.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

Watch the film fest trailer
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