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The American West of John Ford -- Documentary on the career of John Ford and in particular the westerns that are his legacy, including clips and interviews with collegues many of which acted in his movies. Features appearances by John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart.


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David H. Vowell (written by) &
Dan Ford (format)
View company contact information for The American West of John Ford on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
5 December 1971 (USA) See more »
The Western films of iconic director John Ford are fondly remembered by stars James Stewart, Henry Fonda, and John Wayne, with whom he shoots a scene in Monument Valley. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
User Reviews:
Elegy In A Rosy Desert. See more (3 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

John Wayne ... Himself - Narrator

James Stewart ... Himself - Narrator

Henry Fonda ... Himself - Narrator

John Ford ... Himself

Andy Devine ... Himself
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Olive Carey ... actress 'The Searchers'

Jeffrey Hunter ... actor 'The Searchers'

John Qualen ... actor 'The Searchers'
Mickey Simpson ... acror 'My Darling Clementine'

Pedro Armendáriz ... actor 'Fort Apache' (archive footage) (uncredited)

George Bancroft ... Marshal Curley Wilcox (archive footage) (uncredited)
Paul Birch ... actor 'Fort Apache' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Ward Bond ... actor 'Fort Apache' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Henry Brandon ... actor 'The Sarchers' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Walter Brennan ... actor 'My Darling Clementine' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Yakima Canutt ... actor 'Stagecoach' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Harry Carey Jr. ... Sandy (archive footage) (uncredited)

John Carradine ... Actor 'Stagecoach' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Ken Curtis ... actor 'Rio Grande' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Linda Darnell ... actress 'My Darling Clementine' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Jane Darwell ... Actress 'Wagon Master' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Dolores del Rio ... actress 'Cheyenne Autumn (archive footage) (uncredited)
Cathy Downes ... actress 'My Darling Clementine' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Frank Ferguson ... actor 'Fort Apache' (archive footage) (uncredited)
Frances Ford ... actor 'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon' (archive footage) (uncredited)
Chuck Hayward ... Himself (uncredited)

Ben Johnson ... Trooper Travis Tyree (archive footage) (uncredited)

Arthur Kennedy ... actor 'Cheyenne Autumn' (archive footage) (uncredited)
Fred Libby ... actor 'My Darling Clementine' (archive footage) (uncredited)
J. Farrell MacDonald ... actor 'The Iron Horse' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Lee Marvin ... actor 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Victor Mature ... actor 'My Darling Clementine (archive footage) (uncredited)

Victor McLaglen ... actor 'Rio Grande' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Vera Miles ... actress 'The Searchers' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Thomas Mitchell ... Actor 'Stagecoach' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Antonio Moreno ... actor 'The Searchers' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Alan Mowbray ... Actor 'Wagon Master' (archive footage) (uncredited)
Ken Murray ... actor 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Mildred Natwick ... Abby Allshard (archive footage) (uncredited)

George O'Brien ... actor 'Fort Apache' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Maureen O'Hara ... Mrs. Kathleen Yorke (archive footage) (uncredited)
Judson Pratt ... actor 'Cheyenne Autumn' (archive footage) (uncredited)
Arthur Shields ... actor 'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Woody Strode ... actor 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Claire Trevor ... Actress 'Stagecoach' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Chill Wills ... actor 'Rio Grande' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Grant Withers ... actor 'My Darling Clementine' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Natalie Wood ... Actress 'The Searchers' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Carleton Young ... actor 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' (archive footage) (uncredited)

Directed by
Denis Sanders 
Writing credits
David H. Vowell (written by)

Dan Ford (format) (as Daniel Sargent Ford)

Produced by
Bob Banner .... executive producer
Tom Egan .... producer
Dan Ford .... producer (as Daniel Sargent Ford)
Britt Lomond .... producer
Suzy O'Connell .... associate producer
Cinematography by
Robert E. Collins (director of photography) (as Bob Collins)
Film Editing by
Keith Olson  (as Keith M. Olson)
Sound Department
Bruce Bisenz .... audio
Camera and Electrical Department
Keith Olson .... cameraman (as Keith M. Olson)
Glenn Roland .... cameraman (as Rusty Roland)
Music Department
Jack Marshall .... musical director
Other crew
David Gorton .... production associate
Crew believed to be complete

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
52 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

John Ford:When I pass on, I want to be remembered as John Ford, a man who made Westerns.See more »
Movie Connections:
Features My Darling Clementine (1946)See more »
The Wifffenpoof SongSee more »


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Elegy In A Rosy Desert., 8 February 2014
Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA

John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and Jimmy Stewart reminisce with John "Pappy" Ford about the old days of 1930 to 1964, when Westerns were being churned out wholesale, an art (if that's what it was) so American that it can be compared to jazz.

In 1973, all the participants were past their prime. Ford had made his last movie, the disastrous "Seven Women", in 1966. Everybody gets old, and when they do, their resources are depleted. Inspiration flags, long-time friends die or drift away, the deserts are turned not into gardens but into housing developments. The wonder of it is that directors last as long as they do.

That's depressing, but it's not the focus of these jovial conversations and tales. What emerges is vital and often funny, without carrying any particular degree of insight. ("The Western was founded on a dream", etc.) There are numerous clips from Ford's films and a great deal of action and comedy.

The comic scenes include one I've always admired for all of the constituents that are left unspoken. In the post Civil War Western, "Rio Grande", trooper Victor McLaglen, a bit drunk, is schmoozing with the company's doctor, Chill Wills, who is whittling on a sizable wooden stick. Throughout the film, Maureen O'Hara, a Southern lady has been harassing McLaglen for burning her plantation in the Shenandoah Valley, repeatedly shaming him by accusing him of being an "arsonist." Finally, McLaglen asks the doc exactly what an "arsonist" is. Chill Wills explains and McLaglen laughs with relief -- "Oh, is THAT all!" But the scene doesn't end there. McLaglen, now pretty drunk, begins to loathe himself for having burned the plantation. "And there's the hand that did the dirty deed!", he exclaims, staring at the offending appendage. He spits on it and says, "I wish you'd take that stick and whack it off!" Chills immediately raises the heavy stick and whacks the hand with all his might, breaking the stick in two. Silence. Wills returns placidly to his whittling. McLaglen, with tears of genuine pain, shakes his stricken hand and blows on it.

It loses in the telling because the performances and direction in the scene are as good as they are.

But, then, not everything is explored anyway. This is supposed to be a satisfying look back at the wraith of former pleasantries, not a penetrating discourse. Ford is described as a prankster but he was rather more than that. He reveled in humiliating his casts. He clearly enjoyed their anguish, both emotional and physical. James Cagney wrote that Ford was a "sadist". There is no reference to an incident in which Ford punched Fonda in the face. And the narrative has been cleaned up a bit for television. The "arsonist" joke I described was deleted. And when Wayne tells us "No stunt man was ever hurt on a Ford picture," he's not entirely accurate. An old friend of Ford's, a stunt man named Kennedy, broke his neck during a saddle fall in "The Horse Soldiers."

None of that detracts from Ford's professional curriculum vitae. He directed some of the best American Westerns ever made, and some of American cinema's most moving moments. But aside from the sentiment, the action, and the comedy, Ford's work at times was almost poetic, although he would never admit it. ("Just a job of work.") And this documentary is warm and generous with its subject. Just as well. The elegy befits a master craftsman.

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