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John Ford and Monument Valley


lzcutter
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The two are forever linked in our collective memory.

 

Last week I watched Electra Glide in Blue and parts of it were shot in Monument Valley and it got me thinking.

 

Monument Valley is a place of beauty and awe all on its own. However, whenever I see those magnificent spires of nature , it is as if the frames of all films shot there hold the ghosts of Ford's (and the writers) characters.

 

I can not see those beautiful mesa and spires and NOT see the Stage to Lordsburg with the Ringo Kid (and hear Andy Devine's froggy voice), Nathan Brittles, Ethan Edwards, the look on Martha's face when she realizes it is Ethan coming up the road, Lt. Col Owen Thursday and his ride into history, Mulcahy, Collingwood, O'Rourke, Sgt Tyree, Pony Who Walks, Old Iron Pants and the scene of the Army in the lightning and rain.

 

Few places in cinema hold so many memories in one location as Monument Valley.

 

Without Monument Valley, would Ford's westerns be as memorable or did the location help make the westerns so memorable?

 

"She said she wore it for her sweetheart who was in the Cavalry. Cavalry!"

 

"Lest we forget"

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For movie buffs going East or West, there are a couple of ways to get to Monument Valley.

 

On the L.A.-Chicago route, on I-15 and I-70, take the route South on 191 in the State of Utah. Monument Valley is about 150 miles South, just North of the Arizona border.

 

On the I-40 cross-country route (old Highway 66), go North out of Flagstaff, Arizona, on highway 89, then right on 160 near Tuba City, then left on 163 at Kayenta. This will take you through the Navajo Indian reservation. Monument Valley is just North into the state of Utah, about 165 miles from Flagstaff.

 

Once you pull over a big hill, from both directions, you will see the big sandstone mesas and buttes shown in the films. Most of the films were shot from the South, looking North, because the sunlight is better that way.

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I don't know if one made the other but the truth is they are inseparable. In Bogdanovich's documentary I think he mentions that anyone else filming there might be considered to be guilty of plagiarism (or words to that effect.)

 

I imagine one director has never made such grand use of a place in his body of work and been so obvious about it.

 

(Your post is beautifully and lovingly written.)

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At least 25 years ago, my husband and I went off course specifically to see Monument Valley, and seeing in person it is even better than seeing the movies. Actually, going through MV was more inspiring to me than the Grand Canyon because we were both John Wayne fans, and a desert scene has always been more exciting to me than a mountain scene. As I've said, you see one tree, you've seen them all, but the colors and rock formations are truly remarkable.

 

Anne

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Kyle,

 

Excellent question. I cannot watch a film that was shot in Monument Valley post-Ford and not see those images.

 

So, I would think it would be hard for any director to shoot in Monument Valley without asking for comparisons to the Master.

 

Yet, directors have shot there since Ford established it as his domain. Some have been succesful and others have not.

 

Sergio Leone went all the way to Spain to find a similar terrain when he began his spaghetti westerns.

 

So it makes me think there was a cosmic synergy between Ford and MV that expressed itself not only visually but through every frame as if by shooting in MV it added to each character and was a character of its own.

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Leone shot pieces of Once Upon a Time in the West (an epic rip-off of several Hollywood westerns if there ever was one) in Monument Valley. The hanging sequence shown in flashback frames the buttes in the background. Leone's use of Momument valley (or should I say desectration?) is one the major reasons I despise that overrated bloated cow of a film

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I just read a little essay on John Ford and Monument Valley. It appears that a few directors in the early Forties directed a couple of westerns there, but after the cavalry trilogy, Ford pretty much had the place to himself.

 

I think a few TV commercials have been filmed there, and wasn't part of "Back to the Future III" filmed there?

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lzcutter -

 

Funny to think a man could 'own' a place like that but it seems Mr. Ford owns Monument Valley. I bet, if directors bothered to make westerns anymore, one would fearlessly go to Monument Valley to shoot thinking they were being daring or reverential to shoot there (Quentin Tarantino pops to mind.) but probably end up being sacreligious in the end.

 

I finally saw the Bogdanovich doc and enjoyed it very much but have to say the John Ford / John Wayne -The Filmmaker and The Legend that played PBS this spring was much more resonant to a person like me that is indifferent to westerns. I enjoy hearing how popular culture influences social mores and attitudes. ("I learned what it means to be a man from John Wayne and John Ford").

 

Anyone think it is a big hole in the schedule that "The Searchers" isn't part of the schedule this month? (Still love ya tcmprogrammr!)

 

Kyle In Hollywood

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Anyone think it is a big hole in the schedule that "The Searchers" isn't part of the schedule this month? (Still love ya tcmprogrammr!)>>

 

Kyle,

 

CSJ posted in the Films and Filmmakers forum that "The Searchers" current restoration is getting a great deal of thumbs down and that it is slated for another makeover.

 

That may be a reason why the film isn't being shown this month.

 

I, too, loved the PBS doc on Wayne and Ford that aired earlier this summer (and is in the Wayne/Ford box set) and the two of them make good companion pieces.

 

Indifferent to westerns? YIKES!!! :)

 

What I learned from westerns:

 

Honor, that your word is your bond and doing the right thing is more important than being right.

 

Message was edited by:

lzcutter

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"Indifferent to westerns? YIKES!!!

 

Well, it's true and that is why (besides the personal reason) I am looking forward to the end of the month in the Ford tribute. I think The Long Voyage Home and The Informer are the films that I would select as my favorite Ford films. That's why I always think it strange that Ford said "My name is John Ford and I make westerns". Though I doubt it was his intention, the statement seems to discount his other work - especially the "Irish films". (That The Quiet Man is also missing from the month is almost as big a hole in the schedule as The Searchers.) But, from the Bogdanovich doc, one could easily come to the conclusion that Ford was generally indifferent to his body of work (or at least talking about it.)

 

Kyle In Hollywood

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The 'Quiet Man' is pretty much a staple for the week of St. Patricks Day, and Waynes birthday, and Maureen O'Hara's birthday, and Star of the Month and just about any other tribute to the roster of players in the movie. On another thread, someone mentioned the Searchers is being re-vitalized because of some problem with the first re-do.

 

Although Ford made other types of movies, the largest body of his work was westerns, and apparently he preferred them, therefore it's logical he would have considered himself a 'western' director.

 

Anne

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> The 50th Anniversary Edition is included in "The John

> Wayne - John Ford Collection ", with plenty of

> extra's, including commentary. It's picture quality

> is excellent.

 

Unfortunately, Ken, the picture quality is not excellent on the recent two-disc set of "The Searchers." When Warner attempted to restore it, they misregistered the colors and over-compensated for the day-for-night scenes. Thus most of the characters have too-red skin tones, and the day-for-night scenes (like the scene where Harry Carey Jr. is killed) is far too dark. In fact, if you compare the "restored" version to the clips provided on the documentaries on disc 2, you'll see a huge difference. The day-for-night scenes on the documentary are clear as a bell. That's the way the film should look.

 

Warner really dropped the ball on this one, and they really need to go back and re-do it properly. (By the way, I don't mean that as any disrespect to Warner's work overall. But with all the DVDs they release per year, you have to expect some quality-control lapses. Only, you'd also expect them to go back and do it right when they mess up.)

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movieman1957 wrote -

"Got to find a way to win you over."

 

Hi there movieman1957.

I will come clean and say that I do watch Red River everytime it pops up on television (It, too, was showing up on Encore Westerns a lot this year.) but I really liked the story when it was set at sea (Mutiny On The Bounty)- Laughton/Gable/Tone. Additionally, I also deeply admire The Ox-Bow Incident.

 

And I realized I overlooked two Ford films also not being shown this month - and have never been seen on TCM - The Grapes Of Wrath and Young Mr. Lincoln as being among my favorites. I was only referencing the films showing this month when I picked The Long Voyage Home and The Informer as the films of John Ford that I like best.

 

If it makes ya feel any better, movieman1957, I am indifferent to horror films too and not interested in Science Fiction at all. (Be glad we're not discussing Invasion Of The Body Snatchers!)

 

Kyle In Hollywood

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Kyle,

 

Your John Ford Unarmed in your first TCM Challenge was great and now for TCM to be running the films and your title for the evening has got to be doubly rewarding!!!

 

I love Grapes of Wrath (and thanks to MrCutter and the Fox store, I got the DVD last Christmas and the print they used was beautiful). The Alex Theatre here in Glendale ran a 35mm print of the film a few years back and had a panel of actors and crew that was hosted by Leonard Maltin. The scene where Tom lights his cigarette in the darkened house looked so gorgeous on the big screen (it took my breath away).

 

After seeing the clips from the Bogdanovich documentary two weeks ago, I may ask MrCutter for "Young Mr Lincoln" for Christmas.

 

Congrats again on your Challenge theme and films being chosen!

 

And a non-Western fan who will always watch Red River is a-okay in my book.

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lzcutter wrote -

"Your John Ford Unarmed in your first TCM Challenge was great and now for TCM to be running the films and your title for the evening has got to be doubly rewarding!!!

 

Well, let's not be too excited. TCM did use my title but only two of the films I selected for the evening are on that night (Arrowsmith & The Informer). I put The Long Voyage Home and The Hurricane on my "Unarmed" evening (with a bonus showing of The Iron Horse silent in the middle) but those are showing different nights this month.

 

So I got lucky again. As in July, when an TCM needed to build an evening around The Essential showing of Kiss Me Deadly and my "Pulp Fiction" idea showed up, it was serendipitous that TCM had a month-long tribute to John Ford planned for November when my "all-purpose" title "John Ford Unarmed" would come in handy. (Thanks again tcmprogrammr. And with "Harry Warren" coming in January, you are making me a very proud TCM viewer. You don't happen to need an intern in your Dept., do ya?)

 

The clips from Young Mr. Lincoln were a vast improvement in quality to the copy that I recorded a few years ago from Fox Movie Channel. I want to see it in its restored glory now myself.

 

Thanks for Best Wishes. I am certain you are going to be singled out by a Challenge theme soon.

 

Kyle In Hollywood

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Lovely tribute post to a mythical marriage between person and place. If I'm ever fortunate enough to visit this place, I won't be surprised if my veins throb to the echoes of those screen heroes you mentioned.

 

The Searchers is being screened at BAM (in Brooklyn) over Thanksgiving and I may go just because it's one movie I simply must experience on the big screen.

 

Has anyone here seen any of these movies in theaters?

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I agree that Ford's non-westerns are just as important and entertaining as his westerns. There are lots of gigantic achievements leaving "holes" in the tribute but I'm not complaining, since they are showing plenty of good stuff. My favorite of all his movies is the non-western HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY.

 

I bet the ever-canny Ford loved standing up and saying what he did in that room full of directors, who at that time looked down their noses at the whole genre of the western (some still do).

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May I go off-topic a bit and ask what the "Ford Un-Armed" and TCM Challenge is about? Does this mean there will be some John Ford films added to the schedule because of some kind of contest? I'm intrigued!

 

I just LOVE my Criterion 2-disc dvd of YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, so if you get it you won't be disappointed I assure you.

 

How wonderful you got to see that screening of THE GRAPES OF WRATH. I just posted that I am going to try to see THE SEARCHERS in Brookly on the big screen as part of BAM's "Give Thanks for John Ford" film festival. It will be my first Ford film seen in a theater.

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MissGodess:

 

I'm surprised you haven't stumbled on the TCM Programming Challenge before. It basically is a contest among board members to program a schedule for one week.

There is currently a contest underway. This will be the fourth one.

 

If you're interested go to "General Discussions" forum and look for "Revenge of The Programming Challenge." There are details about the current contest. The winner is decided by board members who vote for their favorite schedule. A couple of times the TCM programmer has used ideas from the contest. It does not involve TCM in any way, officially.

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