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  • Carrie Specht

Ford at Fox at the Egyptian, LA


The American Cinematheque film society will present a brief look at the most popular works of John Ford. The filmmaker made over fifty films at Fox, starting in the Silent Era. The series boasts some new 35mm prints, as well as a rare pre-release version of My Darling Clementine. Preservationists have been busy for years polishing these cinematic jewels that deserves to be seen on the big screen. Don't miss your chance.

The Thursday, February 7th program includes a 7:30 PM screening of the restored version of The Iron Horse (1924). This screening is part of the Egyptian Theatre 85th Anniversary Series featuring films that originally played at the Egyptian upon first release. In this film George O’Brien is a surveyor who dreams of constructing a transcontinental railroad, and joins a gigantic cast of both real (Abraham Lincoln, Buffalo Bill) and fictional characters in this epic saga of western expansion. The Iron Horse became the biggest film the studio had yet produced as Ford and his crew traveled to shoot on authentic locations in Mexico, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. Historian and author Robert Birchard who provided the commentary for the DVD release of the film will present an introduction.

The Friday, February 8th program is a 7:30 PM Double Feature. First up is Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), screening in a new 35 mm print. John Ford and Henry Fonda’s first collaboration produced a poignant, fascinating chronicle of Abraham Lincoln’s early life. The emphasis is on the simple joys and hardships that shaped the future president’s youthful years, and the events that molded a shy, country lawyer into one of the most distinguished of American leaders.

Next on the same bill is a screening of a new 35 mm print of Prisoner of Shark Island (1936). Warner Baxter is Dr. Samuel Mudd, the man who unintentionally aided John Wilkes Booth when he set the assassin’s broken leg. Dr. Mudd was tried and convicted as a co-conspirator and sentenced to life in the infamous Shark Island prison colony. Gloria Stuart (Titanic) is Mudd’s longsuffering wife and John Carradine gives perhaps his most unforgettable early performance as Mudd’s cruel jailer. This, one of John Ford’s least-known films, is also one of his finest in large part due to his ability to elicit an excellent performance from the underrated Baxter.

The Saturday, February 9th program is also a Double Feature. First up is The Grapes of Wrath (1940). Henry Fonda plays Tom Joad, a young man who returns from prison to find his family evicted from their dust-blown, Midwestern farm and packing for the promise of California prosperity. Ford brings Steinbeck’s classic novel about Depression-era poverty to vivid life with an incredible supporting cast that includes Jane Darwell, John Carradine, and Charley Grapewin. Nominated for seven Oscars the film received two: one for Ford as Best Director and another for Darwell for Best Supporting Actress.

Next on the same bill is a screening of a new 35 mm Print of Tobacco Road (1941). John Ford’s rarely screened adaptation of the Erskine Caldwell novel. In some ways the flipside of The Grapes of Wrath, Ford takes a more humorous look at the travails of fate. The once prosperous, Lester’s ancestors have fallen on hard times. A circumstance owing as much to his relatives’ foolhardiness as the fallowness of the land. Co-starring Dana Andrews and a very young, gorgeous Gene Tierney (three years before the pair would team up in Otto Preminger’s Laura).

The Sunday, February 10th program includes a screening of a restored, Pre-Release Print of My Darling Clementine (1946). John Ford directs one of the most beautiful, melancholic, lyrical westerns ever made, painting an atmospheric interpretation of Wyatt Earp. Henry Fonda stars as the famous sheriff and Victor Mature his ailing friend, Doc Holliday. Venerable character actor Walter Brennan, who is better known for his more honorable roles, leads the shady Clanton family. The gorgeous black and white cinematography heightens Ford’s poetic vision of an overly mythologized age when larger than life personalities walked the earth as real, flesh-and-blood people. This restored pre-release print is approximately 8 minutes longer than the original theatrical release, and comes courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Next on the same bill is John Ford’s first film in color, Drums Along the Mohawk (1939). A young pioneer couple (Henry Fonda, Claudette Colbert) struggle to hold onto their farm in the Mohawk Valley during the Revolutionary War. Beset by Indian raids and British and Tory pillagers, the settlers and their compatriots weather a bitter struggle to survive against overwhelming odds. The film also stars John Carradine, Edna May Oliver, and Ward Bond.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Thursday, February 14th program is a screening of The Quiet Man (1952). John Wayne is a former boxer who returns to his Irish birthplace where he meets and falls in love with feisty Maureen O’Hara who has an obstinate older brother (Victor McLaglen). Ireland has never looked so emerald green as in this rowdy story that’s filled with brawling and romance. The film also features the adorable Barry Fitzgerald and Ford stock player Ward Bond. Nominated for many Academy Awards the film received Oscars for Best Director and Best Cinematography.

Screenings are at the Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre at the historic Egyptian (6712 Hollywood Boulevard between Highland and Las Palmas) in Hollywood. Tickets are available on Fandango.com. All scheduled special guests are subject to availability. Check for updates at www.americancinematheque.com

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