Conclusion – John Ford: An Auteur Theorist of the Western Genre.

Over the past several weeks, I have been looking in depth at the Western Genre as a whole, with particular focus on director John Ford.

During this time, I have become more aware of the certain directing style of John Ford, and his relationships with certain actors which led him to become so successful. This has led me to believe, that John Ford can be considered an Auteur, according Andrew Sarris and François Truffaut, who explained that directors who differ greatly from others and show evidence of having their own, unique directing styles are known as Auteur Theorists.

Bert Glennon (left) and John Ford (right) on the set of "Stagecoach" (1939)

 After investigating Ford in more depth, it became clear that he was unique from other directors, because of many things. For example, he frequently used the beautiful ‘Monument Valley’, Utah, USA as a backdrop and location for numerous films which he directed; the popular Stagecoach (1939) being one of many. He has been frequently recalled as a domineering director, who showed little friendship towards his actors, as well as using a ‘stock company’ for his actors; with many of his films often featuring the same actors, including: Henry Fonda, Maureen O’Hara, Vera Miles and of course, John Wayne. I have explored Ford’s special relationship with Wayne, and how the two first came about meeting and working together. Over the years, Ford decided to frequently cast Wayne in over 17 of his Western films; clearly indicating that he had faith in Wayne to portray characters as he had originally intended.

 As I explored in my last blog entry, there were many factors which I believe made John Ford an Auteur. But is it accurate and acceptable to class him as an Auteur Theorist?

I believe it is; simply because he was so unique in everything he did and with every film that he made, so much so that each of his films were almost similar to previous ones and ones to follow. Whether this be because of the actors he used, the locations or the types of directing styles, it is clear that John Ford had his own unique ways of directing which made him different from previous Western directors and directors to follow. John Ford’s individual styles of directing meant that he was able to stand out more from the other directors around him, yet manage to positively influence their work, for example Italian director, Sergio Leone. Ford’s ability to stand alone from the rest, may have also contributed to his successful career which spanned from 1917 to 1966, and resulted in him winning 4 Oscar awards, alongside another 27 wins and 13 nominations for other various awards.

John Ford (in chair on left) on the set of "Stagecoach" (1939)

 When I first began writing this blog, I was interested in the changes of the Western genre over time, and how John Wayne had influenced the Western Genre. When researching this however, it became clear to me that it wasn’t necessarily John Wayne alone who influenced the Western genre and made it highly popular; but it was also John Ford, who was an iconic directing figure of the Western genre at the time. Ford’s own ability to create unique and highly successful films, revitalised the Western genre and film industry, especially in the United States, where Ford was able to reflect the true meaning of the ‘Wild West’ in his films.

I have also looked at John Ford’s ability to conform to what is expected from a Western genre, from the audience’s own perspective, and his ability to put his own twist on this was, again, something which influenced his career greatly and made him highly successful.   

 To conclude, I believe that from widely looking at John Ford, his films, John Wayne, the Western genre and taking into account Andrew Sarris and François Truffaut’s ‘Auteur Theory’, I believe that I am able to conclude that John Ford can be considered an Auteur Theorist of the Western Genre.


Online References

Feeney. J. M ‘John Ford’. Accessed: May 2010. Available from:

Ford. J. ‘John Ford’. Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Accessed: May 2010. Available from:

Leone. S. ‘Sergio Leone.’ Accessed: May 2010. Available from:


Stagecoach (1939). Directed by John Ford. United States. United Artists.

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