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Lilly Library
Indiana University
Bloomington, Indiana
rev. 1995, 2002

The Ford, J. mss., 1906-1976, consist of the correspondence, papers, and memorabilia of motion picture director John Ford, 1895-1973. Ford was christened Sean Aloysius Feeney but changed his name after joining his older brother Francis, who had taken the name Ford, in Hollywood in 1913. John Ford began his motion picture career as an actor, stunt man, and prop man. In 1917 he became a director on the film The Tornado and directed over 130 films during his lifetime. Ford married Mary McBryde Smith in 1920 and they had two children: Patrick Roper born in 1921 and Barbara Nugent born in 1922.

Ford's first great success, The Iron Horse in 1924, came after directing about fifty other films, chiefly Westerns. From 1927 to 1939 Ford directed more than thirty films, only one of which was a Western. He won his first Academy Award during this period for The Informer (1935), a film about the 1922 Irish rebellion. His next Academy Awards were for The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and How Green Was My Valley (1941). Two documentaries that he directed during World War II, The Battle of Midway and December 7th, also received Oscars. His last Academy Award was for another of his Irish films The Quiet Man (1952).

An enthusiastic member of the Naval Reserve, Ford formed the Naval Field Photographic Reserve in early 1940. This unit was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services and Ford was ordered to report to Washington on September 11, 1941, just after completing How Green Was My Valley. He spent the war years doing documentary work in the Pacific, North Africa, Europe and India.

In February 1945 Ford took a leave of absence from the Navy to film They Were Expendable. He used his salary received from that picture to create the Field Photo Home, a club for the veterans of the Field Photographic Unit. He ended his naval duties on September 28, 1945.

The following March Ford and producer Merian C. Cooper formed Argosy Productions. This company produced eight pictures, seven of which were directed by Ford. Among these were three of Ford's most famous and commercially successful films--the trilogy of Cavalry stories: Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and Rio Grande. Ford continued making films throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. His last film was 7 Women in 1966. Two documentaries about Ford and his work were made in 1971: The American West of John Ford and Peter Bogdanovich's Directed by John Ford. The former was co-produced by Ford's grandson Daniel Sargent Ford. A few months before his death Ford received the American Film Institute's First Annual Life Achievement Award. He died on August 31, 1973.

There are ca. 2500 items in the correspondence files, 1906-1976, which are arranged chronologically. Most of the material dates from the late 1930s through the 1960s. The correspondence is chiefly to or from Ford and concerns both his personal and his professional lives.

The scripts and production materials, 1915-1971, include items from the early silent movies, television programs, virtually all of Ford's films since 1940, and the documentary The American West of John Ford. Typical of the materials found in these files are scripts and script changes, cast and staff lists, production reports, shooting schedules, background materials, budgets, statements of accounting, publicity, etc.

The legal materials, 1917-1974, are divided into two categories. First are the general materials, filed chronologically, which include studio contracts, materials about the formation and operation of production companies, and non-film matters. Second are files relating to individual films, arranged chronologically by production date rather than by the date of the item.

The miscellaneous section contains materials concerning the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences; addresses; the Bel Air Association; the Field Photo Home; financial materials, both corporate and personal; membership cards and awards; Navy materials; passport information; clippings and articles; sheet music; transcripts and summaries of interviews conducted by Dan Ford in preparation for his biography of John Ford, Pappy: The Life of John Ford (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1979); writings by other people; the Young Men's Temperance and Social Purity Association and Emerald Bay Yacht Club correspondence, 1936-1957; and an index to the collection prepared by Dan Ford and the notebook pages from which manuscripts were removed. The latter frequently contain notes by Dan Ford.

There are about 3,500 photographs and movie stills in the collection. Over forty-five of Ford's films are represented by photographs, including several silents. There are also stills from other people's movies; photographs of family membersand friends; Ford's 1932 trip to Asia; military photographs; photos from World War II; portraits of John Ford and of other people; pictures of boats, the Field Photo Home and of Ward Bond's funeral at the Home; and other miscellaneous photographs.

Tape recordings in the collection are of interviews conducted by Dan Ford with John Ford, as well as family, friends, and associates of John Ford.

The films in the collection are The Lost Patrol (1934), The Informer (1935), Stagecoach (1939), The Long Voyage Home(1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941), The Battle of Midway (1942), In Memoriam: Manuel Quezon (ca. 1945), The Fugitive (1947), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Wagon Master (1950), The Sun Shines Bright (1953), and an undated home movie.*

  • Purchase. John Ford estate. Hollywood, California. 1982
  • ca. 7,000 items

Additions to the collection, include:

Condolences and printed materials relating to John Ford, stills from Fort Apache and two video tapes of home movies. Academy Award statuettes for The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and How Green Was My Valley (1941), D.W. Griffith Award (1954). Two citations, two video tapes, and hundreds of stereo transparencies* of or related to John Ford, ca. 1940-1989, and two video tapes: "John Ford's America" and "Omnibus: John Ford."

  • Gift. Dan Ford. Northridge, California. 1983, 1986, 1989, 1994

The Lilly Library holds other collections related to John Ford. The largest of these is the Killanin mss. containing 358 items. These are photocopies of materials relating mostly to Ford's The Rising of the Moon which was produced by Four Provinces Productions. The Film mss. contains stills and publicity poses for Stagecoach and posters for The Long Gray Line, The Rising of the Moon, Sergeant Rutledge, Two Rode Together, Cheyenne Autumn and 7 Women. There is a separate collection pertaining to Four Men and a Prayer. In addition, the Lilly Library houses books pertaining to the life and work of John Ford.

*May not be used in present format.


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Last updated: 04 November 2011

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