Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Four seconds of John Ford.
Chances are, unless you are something of a cineaste, you know little if anything about John Ford. To confess, I've never put Ford up there in my own personal Pantheon of directors because he shot so many movies with Marion Morrison and I hate Marion Morrison. (Maron Morrison was John Wayne's real name. I always found Wayne to be the worst kind of hypocrite, a war-monger who refused to serve, see Dick Cheney, George Walker Bush, Donald Rumsfeld.)
That aside, Ford directed The Informer, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley--great movies all. So when the New York Film Festival rolled around last October, I got tickets to see Ford's 1924 silent movie The Iron Horse. For whatever reason, that showing was canceled and I never got to see the picture. Fortunately for me, there is a Ford renaissance happening now, and two nights ago I finally watched the flick I missed last October.
In a word, "wow."
What I noticed watching this 84-year-old movie was an incredible economy. So much was done so quickly, and of course, it was all done with no words. Here's my titular four-second example. A young boy is leaving Springfield, IL and his girl-friend to go West. Each of their parents are there so they can't say a proper goodbye, ie. they can't kiss. At that moment, Abe Lincoln walks by. Honest Abe immediately senses the affection between the kids, and spreads open his great-coat so the two can sneak a kiss.
It's beautiful. So much was communicated in those few seconds. The greatness and magnanimity and humor of Lincoln (to whom the film is dedicated), the pain of puppy love, the austerity and lack of understanding of parents.
Sometimes I think we can learn more about shooting commercials and how to communicate from the old guys. But I'm crazy.
Posted by George Tannenbaum at 9:30 PM