Becoming John Ford

Nick Redman's uneven documentary about the great American filmmaker from his silent days through My Darling Clementine in 1946—almost all of it in black and white and devoted to Ford's films at Fox—often feels like a rough cut. Talking heads are identified belatedly or not at all while sometimes echoing one another, backtracking, and offering alternately solid scholarship (from Joseph McBride and Janet Bergstrom, among others), lazy misinformation (such as the claim that Pinky didn't show anywhere in the south, or Ford's own absurd boast that he eliminated farce from his films), and odd mixtures of the two. We hear both real and alleged statements by Ford (read by Walter Hill) and Darryl F. Zanuck (read by Ron Shelton), whose sources are never cited. With many glaring omissions en route (including Judge Priest at Fox and Stagecoach at RKO), this patchy survey does, however, have many incidental pleasures: Peter Fonda offers a great John Wayne imitation, and some of the clips are fabulous even when they aren't identified. 94 min.

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