Famous Ancestral Son Of Ireland: Film Producer Category:
John Ford, Anglo Irish Film Director, Did More For Irish Tourism Than All Irish Governments Since The Foundation Of the State
Many of the greatest and everlasting world famous songs are identified with the singer and the composer is most times secondary. In film folklore it is similar and “The Quiet Man” filmed near Cong, Co. Mayo, in 1952, is greatly remembered for the two famous actors in the film, Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne.
“The Quiet Man” was a major box office hit with cinema goers of the 1950’s around the globe and this spectacular film can be attributed to a love affair with Ireland by a Famous Ancestral Son Of Ireland.
John Ford was second generation Irish with foundation stones firmly rooted in Co. Galway. His parents surname was Feeney, his father John Augustine, a native of Spiddal and his mother, Barbara Curran, an Aran Islander. The parents came to America in May and June 1872 with Augustine first to arrive at Boston and followed by Barbara who arrived in Portland.
Just a mere three years after their emigration, the Galway couple married in 1875 and then decided to take out Amercian citizenship in 1880. Like many Irish families of the 19th century, they raised a squad of eleven children including John.
The father figure worked at farming, fishing, Gas Board employee, publican and he went into politics also, becoming an Alderman for Portland, Maine.
As a High School student, he was hugely successful at American Football and his tackles were so feared, he was known as “Bull Feeney”. In appreciation of his sporting greatness, a Portland pub named their hostelry “Bull Feeneys”.
John Ford, born on St. Brigid’s Day, 1st February 1894, at Cape Elizabeth, Maine, U.S.A. died at Palm Desert, California, on 31st August 1973 at age seventy six. Stated cause of death was Cancer of the stomach.
In incorporating John Ford into our Irish Heritage Website, we do so as a Famous Ancestral Son Of Ireland, an entrepreneur born in America of Irish parents and a man who became, in his own lifetime, one of the world’s most revered Film Directors.
Irish people associate “The Quiet Man” as a legacy to Ireland but that was only one of over 140 films directed by John and he was filming before sound and technicolour emerged. He made many silent films in his introductory years in the film trade and it’s possible it was his elder brother Francis, already in the film business, who can take the real credits for John Fords influence on the film world.
Francis Ford was an established Hollywood name and twelve years older than John. When Francis invited his brother John to Hollywood in July 1914, his sibling took the train out of Maine and set out to link up with his brother in the film industry. After a robust number of years under the influence of Francis, John learned the ropes rapidly and set his ambitions on becoming a Film Director.
For Irish people who relish in claiming famous and successful international people across many divides, John Ford sat neatly into the Anglo Irish category. Our F.A.I. soccer governing body endlessly and unashamedly, kept digging through the centuries to find players with a vein of Irish blood and Film Director John Ford had no doubts about his own parental ancestry.
In 1952 his decision to finally begin shooting The Quiet Man around Cong, Co. Mayo, had the Irish government on cloud nine. His new Irish film would escalate the profile of Ireland’s tourist potential in America to unprecedented heights.
John Ford did more for Irish tourism in a few months than could possibly be achieved by any Irish Tourist Board or government minister since the foundation of the Irish Free State.
People around the globe who had never before heard about The Isle Of Innisfree or Co. Mayo, Ireland, became fascinated with the notion of experiencing for themselves the countryside where John Ford chose as the setting for his new film.
In simple terms, John Ford should have been awarded ‘The Freedom Of Ireland’ such was the positive influence created for tourism and the legacy is still thriving in 21st century Ireland.
'The Quiet Man' was a 1952 Technicolour romantic thriller and starred Maureen O’Hara, John Wayne, Barry Fitzgerald (read Barry’s profile in our Actors/Actresses category) and of course that grumpy old character, Victor McLaglen (Maureen’s brother in the film), and many more professionals who made this historic film.
The idea for ‘The Quiet Man’ film came from a 1933 Saturday Evening Post editorial written by a Maurice Walsh and read by an acquaintance of John Ford who brought the article to Ford’s attention.
Smitten by the storyline, the Anglo Irishman put The Evening Post article into his ‘To Do Files’ and it stayed there for many years.
Prior to the making of ‘The Quiet Man’ Ford was renowned for films that included Stagecoach in 1939 and The Grapes Of Wrath in 1940. He had already won four Academy Awards in 1935/’40/’41 and ’52 and that established an unprecedented achievement.
“How Green Was My Valley” was a film that also won John Ford the accolade of Best Picture along with his Academy award for the film.
‘The Quiet Man’ maintained his prowess for claiming awards and he won the Academy Award for Best Director and also Best Cinematography. A further legendary appreciation of the ‘The Quiet Man’ came in 2013, when the United States National Film Registry at the Library Of Congress declared the ‘The Quiet Man’ as a film of cultural and historical importance.
Off the screen John Ford married Mary McBride Smith on 3rd July 1920 and they had two children. Ford’s daughter Barbara was married to singer and actor Ken Curtis from 1952 to 1964. The marriage between John Ford and Mary Smith lasted a lifetime despite various issues, including Mary was a divorcee and non catholic, whilst John was catholic.
In the Amercan emergency World War 2 years, John Ford served in the United States Navy as a Commander and was also in France when Adolf Hitler made his unsuccessful bid to rule France. Ford crossed the English channel and landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day and his main role was creating photographic archives of the battles raging all around him.
Coming from an Irish parented family of Galway origin, who brooded eleven off spring, the decision to claim John Ford’s Irish ancestry as a Famous Ancestral Son Of Ireland, was a simple and easy exercise.
John’s lifespan began on 1st February 1894 until 31st August 1973 and few, if any, Anglo Irish personality had such an illustrious career as the famous man steeped in Irish Heritage with his Tribesman veins rich with Irish blood.
Derry JF Doody