The American West of John Ford (1971)

Last week, I wrote about the John Wayne film Angel and the Badman, and about John Wayne’s status as a Hollywood legend.

Wayne made his big breakthrough in the classic western Stagecoach (1939). The director was John Ford, and if John Wayne is the leading western actor of all time, then Ford is the leading western director. Ford’s career and legacy are described in the documentary The American West of John Ford.

John Wayne in The American West of John Ford (1971)

Clips from many of Ford’s films are shown in the documentary, and some more are mentioned in passing. Of all those films, the only ones that I know to be at the Internet Archive are two wartime propaganda films, namely The Battle of Midway (1942) and December 7th (1943).

As a documentary, this is a fairly unique film, because some of Ford’s most respected leading actors, John Wayne, James Stewart and Henry Fonda, appear as cicerones, talking about Ford and also with him (Ford was still alive when the documentary was made, but died two years after its premiere). Thus, the film revolves around first-hand accounts of the legandary director, and also those of legandary actors, now gone.

The documentary is nice because it tells the story in a very personal way. John Ford’s own participation is not in the traditional interview situation, but in locations where he shot some of his best-known pictures. He seems relaxed, and this is perhaps the film’s greatest strength, because we feel like we get close to him.

This film is best enjoyed by western fans who want to see some of the actors and the director that were perhaps most responsible for shaping and popularising the genre in the decades following the 1930s.

James Stewart and John Ford in The American West of John Ford (1971)

The American West of John Ford
Download link
Year: 1971
Running time: 1 h 40 min
Director: Denis Sanders
Stars: John Wayne, James Stewart, Henry Fonda
Image quality: Acceptable
Resolution: Medium (720×406)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: DivX (698 M)

Angel and the Badman (1947)

John Wayne. The name alone sings of legend. Few, if any, actors have become so famous, neither during their lives nor after. John Wayne started making movies in the 1920s, and he had some lead roles in the 1930s, but it was in the 1940s that he made his big break-through. He then remained among the top Hollywood names until he stopped filming a few years before his death in 1979. According to IMDb, he acted in no less than 181 films.

There are quite a few Wayne films available at the Internet Archive, but unfortunately most are from his early career, before he was big enough to be given only the best in terms of scripts, directors and production values. One of the few that are really good (I would not hesitate to call it an underrated pearl of Wayne’s production) is Angel and the Badman.

John Wayne in Angel and the Badman (1947)

The film is about Quirt Evans, a tough guy with a bad reputation, who does not hesitate to use violence to achieve his ends. When he becomes wounded he is taken in by a family of quakers. The daughter, Penelope, nurses him to health and at the same time falls in love with him. But their lives are completely different. Is there any way they can find common ground?

Angel and the Badman has its share of clich├ęs. It would not be a western otherwise. But in many ways it is also original and thought-provoking. Not your standard western, by any means. The ending in particular is not your typical “rode into the sunset” variety, even though it is true it has been done a few times before and since.

This film is best enjoyed for its dramatic and romantic values. As an action, it falls somewhat short, in spite of a couple of nice stunts. Oh, and of course, without John Wayne it would have been completely forgotten today.

John Wayne and Gail Russell in Angel and the Badman (1947)

Angel and the Badman
Download link
Year: 1947
Running time: 1 h 40 min
Director: James Edward Grant
Stars: John Wayne
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Medium (720×540)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: MPEG2 (3.2 G)