Print the Legend: The Life & Times of John Ford

Scott Eyman

Published by Simon & Schuster.
ISBN 10: 1476797722 / ISBN 13: 9781476797724
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Synopsis: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” This line from director John Ford’s film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance serves as an epigraph for the life of the legendary filmmaker.

Through a career that spanned decades and included dozens of films—among them such American masterpieces as The Searchers, The Grapes of Wrath, The Quiet Man, Stagecoach, and How Green Was My Valley—John Ford managed to leave as his legacy a body of work that few filmmakers will ever equal. Yet as bold as the stamp of his personality was on each film, he was reticent about his personal life. Basically shy, and intensely private, he was known to enjoy making up stories about himself, some of them based loosely on fact but many of them pure fabrications. Ford preferred instead to let his films speak for him. What mattered to Ford was always what was up there on the screen.

Now, in this definitive look at the life and career of one of America's true cinematic giants, noted biographer and critic Scott Eyman, working with the full participation of the Ford estate, has managed to document and delineate both aspects of John Ford’s life—the human and the legend.

Review: Borrowing his title from dialogue in John Ford's classic Western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ("When the legend becomes fact, print the legend"), Scott Eyman heeds this advice in his splendid study of Ford, finding a convincing balance between the gruff image Ford cultivated and the sensitive artist that Ford truly was. The result is a to-date definitive biography, occasionally prone to indelicate critical assessment while benefiting greatly from Eyman's full access to the Ford family archives. Arguably the greatest American filmmaker of the 20th century, Ford protected himself with a façade of belligerence yet engendered more loyalty among his crew and stock players (notably John Wayne and Ward Bond) than any other director. Eyman illuminates the Ford legend while focusing on fact--on a complex genius who would berate even the most vulnerable actor and then "apologize without apologizing," a binge drinker who never let alcohol interfere with his closely-guarded artistry, and a stalwart Navy captain whose service in World War II became his primary source of pride.

Print the Legend essentially confirms Ford's brief affair with Katharine Hepburn, but Eyman emphasizes Ford's deep, abiding affection for his wife, Mary, who valiantly tolerated his absolute devotion to filmmaking. While hundreds of interviews yield a comprehensive account of Ford's working methods (which the director was loathe to discuss), Eyman expertly navigates around Ford's own penchant for autobiographical embellishment. What emerges is likely to remain the most thorough portrait of a cinematic master who recognized his own greatness without parading it, and whose human flaws were ultimately forgivable by those--and they were many--who loved him. Readers should look elsewhere for more astute studies of Ford's films, but Eyman has captured Ford the man with lasting authority. -- Jeff Shannon

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Title: Print the Legend: The Life & Times of John ...
Publisher: Simon & Schuster.
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