Tag Archives: John Ford

500 Best Movies of All Time?

3 Feb

A while back, I fell to the temptation of the grocery store magazine stand and bought 500 Best Movies of All Time, a money-grabber put out by Us Weekly. I thought it would be a ranking of 500 movies, and I would be able to list the ones that I have seen. Instead, they broke it down by category and added a bunch that almost made the list.

That means that the movies are in no particular order. With that being said, here are the ones that I have seen with a short description of each.

AvatarDances With Wolves in space

Black Panther – A great hero and a great villain

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

Casablanca – Great first name for the main character

Citizen Kane – A jigsaw puzzle and a sled

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial – No cell phones in those days

The Godfather – Still cannot believe that Fish was the traitor

Harry Potter (The Whole Series) – Great faculty reviews

Gone With the Wind – Looks different from a modern point of view

Inception – Do not dream of spinning tops

Pulp Fiction – John Travolta is everywhere

Raiders of the Lost Ark – It will melt your face

Rocky – The greatest fighter who never lived

Star Wars – A lot of people wear hoodies

The Wizard of Oz – Where does the Red Brick Road go

Titanic – Move over and let him up there

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Where is the truant officer

There’s Something About Mary – Brett Favre

The 40-Year Old Virgin – Sacrifice for the role

National Lampoon’s Vacation – I have been on that trip

Beverly Hills Cop – Great theme song

Chicago – Song and dance

Reservoir Dogs – Colors are the key

All the President’s Men – Deep Throat should still be a mystery

The Departed – Where is Whitey Bulger when you need him

Sin City – Great animation

L.A. Confidential – Great actors but thin plot

The Wolf of Wall Street – Not the only wolf

The Manchurian Candidate – Foreign meddling in an election

The Untouchables – Bring in the IRS

Rudy – Ugh

A Few Good Men – Lawyer v. Witness

Scent of a Woman – Pacino should have won for something else

Boogie Nights – The return of Burt

Million Dollar Baby – Not a happy ending

The Help – Watch out for the pie

Stand By Me – Best Stephen King adaptation

Lady and the Tramp – Spaghetti

Bambi – Thumper is a great sidekick

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – I still look for a Golden Ticket

The Searchers – John Ford, John Wayne and Ward Bond

Tombstone – Who set the building on fire

True Grit – Eyepatch

Unforgiven – They should never have killed Morgan Freeman

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Ecstasy of Gold

Superman – Strings attached

The Last of the Mohicans – Daniel Day-Lewis as a superhero

Guardians of the Galaxy – A talking tree and a talking raccoon.

True Lies – Arnold and Jamie Lee

Enter the Dragon – A Bruce Lee classic

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Best friends collide

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – He returns to Oscar glory

Back to the Future – 88 mph

Skyfall – One of the best non-Sean Connery Bond films

Argo – Harrowing escape

The Bourne Identity – Matt Damon as the toughest man alive

Taken – And rescued

Zombieland – Twinkies

The Dark Knight – When the villain steals the show

Die Hard – Is is a Christmas movie

Doctor Strange – Superheroes are strange

The Hunger Games – Reality television gone over the edge

Wonder Woman – A superhero for the ages

Silver Linings Playbook – Still not an Eagles fan

2001: A Space Odyssey – The monolith is trouble

Apollo 13 – Lost in space

The Matrix – Red pill or blue pill

The Fifth Element – Excellent science fiction

Predator – Hunters are hunted

Minority Report – Philip K. Dick

Star Trek – A truly new generation

Blade Runner – Deckard

Men in Black – Nice shades

Close Encounters of the Third Kind – Devil’s Tower

Good Morning, Vietnam – Perfect for Robin Williams

Caddyshack – Best golf ever

Ghostbusters – Who you gonna call

Braveheart – Blue face paint

Full Metal Jacket – Gomer Pyle and Joker

Top Gun – Definition of the 80s

Schindler’s List – Spielberg’s masterpiece

Apocalypse Now – Going in country to find Marlon Brando

The Bridge on the River Kwai – Blow it up

The Patriot – Not really accurate

Cast Away – Yes, Nashville got an NFL team

Dallas Buyers Club – McConaughey at his best

The Big Chill – Great soundtrack

Fast Times at Ridgemont High – Teenagers in the 80s

Network – The future of television

It’s a Wonderful Life – He got the wings

Rain Man – Charlie and Raymond

The Exorcist – Captain Howdy

The Lost Boys – Another great soundtrack

Jaws – Iconic poster

The Birds – What about all the poop

Rear Window – The perils of being a Peeping Tom

Gremlins – Watch out for midnight

The Silence of the Lambs – Fava beans and a nice Chianti

The Green Mile – Filmed nearby

The Sixth Sense – Not hard to figure out

Wow, that is an even 100 of what Us Weekly thinks are the 500 best movies of all time. I need to get to the theater more often.

Oh, here are some of the alternates I have seen.

Airplane! 

American Pie

Beetlejuice

City Slickers

Coming to America

The Hangover

Happy Gilmore

La La Land

Mary Poppins

Nashville

Walk the Line

American Gangster

Dirty Harry

The Fugitive

Goodfellas

Heat

Leon: The Professional

Ocean’s Eleven

Shutter Island

Training Day

The Usual Suspects

12 Angry Men

All the King’s Men

Almost Famous

Big

Casino

The Deer Hunter

Driving Miss Daisy

Fight Club

Forrest Gump

Gladiator

Good Will Hunting

The Breakfast Club

Frozen

Jumanji

The Jungle Book

The Karate Kid

Pinocchio

The Pirates of the Caribbean

Shrek

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

300

Armageddon

The Avengers

Blood Diamond

Casino Royale

Con Air

Deliverance

First Blood

The Game

Goldfinger

I Am Legend

Iron Man

Lethal Weapon

Mission: Impossible

The Road Warrior

Speed

Spider-Man

The Revenant

Thor: Ragnarok

Watchmen

X-Men

Zero Dark Thirty

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Ghost

The Graduate

Jerry Maguire

Out of Africa

Pretty Woman

District 9

Independence Day

Interstellar

Planet of the Apes

Starship Troopers

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Total Recall

Office Space

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Spaceballs

Stripes

Tootsie

Trading Places

Wedding Crashers

A Beautiful Mind

Catch Me If You Can

Chariots of Fire

Glory

JFK

Lincoln

The Social Network

Black Hawk Down

The Dirty Dozen

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Dunkirk

Patton

Platoon

Saving Private Ryan

Hoosiers

The Hustler

The King’s Speech

The Natural

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Remember the Titans

The Truman Show

Big Fish

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

The Crow

The Devil’s Advocate

From Dusk Till Dawn

Misery

Mulholland Drive

Mystic River

A Nightmare on Elm Street

No Country for Old Men

North by Northwest

The Prestige

Se7en

Unbreakable

V for Vendetta

Zodiac

So, that is 121 of the also-ran’s that I have seen. Wait, do the also-ran’s also count as part of the 500? Instead of counting, let us just say that I have seen 221 of the movies listed in a magazine that was a complete waste of money.

The Many Names of John Wayne

24 Jan

The other day, I wrote about a John Wayne movie, and Andrew over at Have Bag, Will Travel had an interesting question. Of all the roles that John Wayne played, which character had the best name? With that in mind, I went in search for the answer.

John Wayne is credited with over 180 roles, and that means some limitations had to be placed on the experiment.3 Godfathers

First, I kicked out the movies that I have not seen. Honestly, I did not feel qualified to determine the strength of a character’s name if I did not know the strengths of the character.

Next, I threw out the times that the Duke played a real person. The purpose of this exercise was to find the best name created by some writer. Counting the given name of a real person is not that interesting or challenging.

On top of that, I decided not to count the times when he played someone named John. It is a total lack of creativity to have someone play a character and use their own name.

With the parameters set, the search commenced, and I was immediately met with disappointment. You would be surprised at how many times John Wayne played someone named Mike. Now, I am not trying to disparage all of the Mike’s in the world, but John Wayne does not strike me as a Mike. This list has to consist of names that fit the actor.

Oh yeah, there is one more thing. I stayed away from names that sound like the alter egos of superheroes. Joe January is interesting but also corny. Matt Masters is not much better. Unfortunately, I had to be consistent and not count Ethan Edwards.

The following names stuck out for several reasons. They fit the actor; they sound original and unique; and they are cool.

10. Tom Doniphon is a great name for a great character in a great movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. However, it loses points for not being the best name in the movie. How can you beat a name like Liberty Valance? For that matter, Ransom Stoddard is also a better name.

9. Taw Jackson wanted to get revenge by hijacking The War Wagon. The name is unique, but I cannot get around the fact that a taw is connected to the game of marbles. I never understood the fascination with marbles.

8. Rockwell Torrey got In Harm’s Way and turned the Pacific tide in World War II. He won the battle but lost a leg. The name is good, but there is a weakness. When I hear it, the Saturday Evening Post pops into my mind.

7. Cole Thornton is one of my favorite John Wayne character names. It also comes from a script that was turned into several movies. In my mind, El Dorado was the best of the bunch. It ranks seventh because it has less syllables than some of those ranked higher.

6. Chance Buckman fought oil fires, flew airplanes and was based on a real person. Hellfighters is one of my favorite non-western John Wayne movies. The name ranks sixth because I like Chance better than Cole.

5. Cord McNally was a Union officer who ended up at Old Tucson Studios. Rio Lobo is one of those movies that were all made from the same script. It is the worst of the bunch, but the character name has four syllables.

4. Jacob McCandles was also known as Big Jake. He was rich. He was tough. He had a town named after him. Also, everyone thought he was dead.

3. Nathan Cutting Brittles ranks this high because a character that has three names should rank higher than characters that have two names. Besides, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is one of the John Ford cavalry pictures.

2. George Washington McLintock is a historical name and provides the title for the movie, McLintock. The town is also named for this character. Heck, the name dominates the entire movie.

1. Robert Marmaduke Hightower was one of the 3 Godfathers. Honestly, how can you beat a name like that? That is a five dollar name if I ever saw one.

Well, there is my list. I am sure there are other John Wayne fans who have their own ideas of what this list should look like. Let me know what you think.

 

 

From Cynthia Ann Parker to Don McLean

29 Sep

Last week, the students in History of American Music discussed All Shook Up: How Rock n’ Roll Changed America, a book by Glenn Altschuler about the early days of Rock n’ Roll. It was a great discussion about music, society and all kinds of stuff. We even threw a little religion in there. I guided as they talked, but I was also thinking about a book that several of those students read for another class.

Last year, I taught Expansion of the United States and had them read The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend, a book by Glenn Frankel about the difficulties caused by the mixing of history and myth. On the surface, this book has nothing to do with the other one. However, there is one connection that ties them together, and it is not the fact that both writers are named Glenn. It is a chain of events that links a tragic episode in the American West to a tragic episode in Rock n’ Roll.

On May 19, 1836, Cynthia Ann Parker was abducted from her home by a Comanche raiding party. Her family had settled on the Texas frontier and faced the dangers of that decision. Her uncle searched for her but, after several years, gave up. Cynthia Ann grew to adulthood as a Comanche and raised a family. Years later, she was recaptured and brought back to the Parker family. She never recovered from being ripped twice from the world that she knew.Cynthia Ann Parker

In 1954, a novel by Alan Le May was published. It was called The Searchers and told the story of a man on an epic search to find his abducted niece. Although he studied many abductions, Le May’s story is similar to the Parker saga. However, the book ends differently than real life. The uncle does not give up. Instead, he is killed by a Comanche woman.Alan Lemay

In 1956, John Ford and his stock company traveled to Monument Valley make The Searchers, a film based on the book. John Wayne starred as the uncle looking for his abducted niece, played by Natalie Wood. It is considered by many to be the greatest of all Westerns and Wayne’s best performance. The audience does not know what will happen when he finds her, but, in the end, he takes her home.images-5

On February 25, 1957, Buddy Holly, a Texan, recorded “That’ll Be the Day“, a song inspired by Wayne’s catchphrase in The Searchers. The song reached Number One and was the first song recorded by The Quarrymen, who are better known as The Beatles. On January 23, 1959, Holly died in a plane crash with Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson.Buddy Holly

On March 14, 1971, Don McLean debuted a new song at a concert in Philadelphia. “American Pie” is believed to be about the changing musical and cultural landscape of the 1960s. It begins with “the day the music died”, which most people think is a reference to Holly’s plane crash. After all, “them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye singing this’ll be the day that I die.”Don McLean

Yeah, that is where my mind went. I connected two books from two different classes. It probably looks weird, but there are some things that cannot be denied. One of those is a direct historical line from Cynthia Ann Parker to Don McLean.

 

 

Reading, Writing But No Arithmetic

30 Jul

I have been struggling for something to write about. Everything that comes to mind seems like a stretch. In other words, it would not flow naturally, and I would be forcing the issue. This morning I read a post by Garry about his disappointment with Three Bad Men, a book about John Ford, John Wayne and Ward Bond. I read that book and was disappointed, as well. Garry’s complaint is more serious than mine. I just thought it was a badly written book.

The post brought to mind the reading that is going on in our house. My stepdaughter is constantly reading a book, and I could not be more proud. Right now, she is in the middle of the Pretty Little Liars series. I have no idea if they are any good, but I know that a kid who loves to read will probably take that love with them throughout their life.

I love reading and am constantly in the middle of a book. Usually, it is something that I do while on the treadmill. I know a book is good when I miss the times when I am supposed to increase the speed. I know that a book is not as good when I am constantly glancing at the timer for my cue. However, it does not matter the quality of the book. When I start one, I have to finish it. I finished Three Bad Men, and I promise that it was a chore.

At the moment, I am reading The Quick, a novel about the mysteries of Victorian London. It started slow but is starting to get better. Before that, I read Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History. You know it is a history book when it has a title that long.Empire

Speaking of history books, I recently submitted a book review of Tennessee Women in the Progressive Era: Toward the Public Sphere in the New South. Any day now, I expect to receive an email explaining revisions that need to be made.image-26

A few days ago, my wife started book that has been in the drawer of her bedside table for a while. She is really into it and tells me all about it when she puts it down. She has been reading this blog and thinks that I should try my hand at fiction. I may dabble in it a little, but there are other important things to do. It is almost syllabus time, and I have also spent several weeks putting together a new course for the fall semester. Who knows? I may give it a quick shot during my spare time.

Anyway, there is always a book being read at our house. There is always some writing going on, too. It could be a blog, which my wife is started to do for her business. It could be a review. It could be something fun. Whatever the case, we are always reading or writing.

Things I Think While Kayaking

22 Jun

Several weeks ago, my wife and I hiked some trails around the Harpeth River. As we walked, we saw people kayaking, and she has been wanting to kayak ever since. Yesterday, we decided to spend some family time on the water, so my wife, my stepdaughter and I headed out for a day of outdoor adventure. Unfortunately, there are no pictures for this post because we were afraid out phones would get wet. I only have this emblem from the kayak company to break the monotony of words.Foggy Bottom

Luckily, we called ahead to Foggy Bottom, the kayak renting place, because it was packed with people on a waiting list. Within a few minutes of arriving, we were on a van filled with anticipation. When we arrived at the put in spot, I helped the driver take kayaks to the water while my wife and stepdaughter stood on the bank arguing over who was going to get the cool one that they saw. That is when a guy told them that they could stop arguing because it was his personal kayak.

The driver told us that we would get out at the bridge, and, with that information, we shoved off into the great unknown with a ton of other people. We paddled for a while. We floating for a while. It was all very relaxing, and, when I get relaxed, I start to think. That is why I do my best thinking when I first get into bed.

The first thing to hit me was a song.

“Rock the Boat” by The Hues Corporation

When that one came to mind, they started flooding in.

“Proud Mary” by Ike and Tina Turner. It is better than the CCR version.

“Big River” by Johnny Cash

“Old Man River” by Paul Robeson

Somewhere Down the Crazy River” by Robbie Robertson. I wrote a terrible post about it.

“Take Me to the River” by Al Green but made famous by that mounted fish.

“We Shall Gather at the River” by various people in almost every John Ford movie.

I was having so much fun that I started to sing a few of them. My wife looked at me warily. When I wondered aloud about how many songs are about rivers, she looked at me like I was crazy.

My thoughts were interrupted when we hit our first rapids. Well, they were not really rapids. It was more like water running over some rocks. Embarrassingly, I got spun around. More embarrassingly, it happened each time we hit a little rapids. My wife and stepdaughter were a lot better with the wild and raging waters.

It was during one of these spins that I started thinking about Native Americans. I teach about how many of the tribes lived along the rivers and how those waterways were their interstates. In all of those lectures, I never realized how hard that would have been. I am sure they used the Harpeth, but they also used rivers a lot bigger and wilder than this one.

Then, it happened. The clouds began to build up, and we heard thunder. Not long after, we saw lightning in the distance. Around the same time, we hit another small rapids, and I got stuck. My wife and stepdaughter, in an attempt to outrun the storm, took off. Once I got myself unstuck, I was paddling alone as the clouds darkened.

There I was. Clouds darkening overhead. Lightning flashing all around. Me sitting on a little boat in the middle of the water. I decided not to worry about it because there was nowhere to go. Lightning would probably strike the tallest thing around, and that would be some tree. If I stayed in the middle, then a falling tree would not hit me. Certainly, this is the plan that a Native American in a canoe would have followed.

It started to rain, but I was already wet. I made the decision to paddle until I caught up with the rest of my family. That took a while.

Eventually, the rain went away; I caught up; and I began to ponder some of the things that we had seen.

Along the way, there were several places where people could stop their boats and get out. We did not do that because my stepdaughter was focused on getting to that bridge. However, I watched the people as we floated by.

They skipped rocks.

They fished.

They drank beer. Actually, it must have been a lot of beer by the looks of some of the bellies on the guys.

There was one couple making out on a log where they thought they could not be seen.

Where there was a road access, people pulled up in their pickup trucks.

That is when it hit me. We had been floating through one of those Country songs that you hear on the radio all of the time. It was almost like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World, where you ride a boat and watch the animatronic pirates attack a town. The pirate song plays as you go from spot to spot.

This was the Country song version of that with real people on the banks. When those guys get in their tight jeans and jump around on stage, this is what they are singing about. However, it looked different from I imagine when I hear one of the songs on the radio.

When the guy sings about riding to the river in his pickup truck and the girl has her bare feet on the dashboard, I picture a good-looking girl that you might see in the video. Yesterday, I did not see her.

It brought to mind a story I once heard. This guy was telling his friend about when he first got married. His wife had a butterfly tattoo on her butt. He asked his friend if he would like to see it. Then, he yelled to his wife, “Come here and show us that Screamin’ Eagle on your ass!”

‘Merica

To the relief of my stepdaughter, we made it to the bridge and a throng of people trying to get on vans. We thought it was going to be a struggle, but we made it out rather quickly. My wife and stepdaughter crammed into a space for one, and I hopped in with the coolers in back.

We made it back home but were worn out and sore. I picked up a pizza, and we spent the rest of the night trying not to move. I cannot wait to go back again. Kayaking was really fun. Next time, I want to stop at one of those spots and see what it is like to take part in a Country song. That good-looking girl I imagine will be with me because I married her.

 

 

The Makers of Legend

11 Mar

This semester, I am teaching Expansion of the United States and had my students read The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend by Glenn Frankel, an excellent study of how a historical event can get turned into a movie.

The book is chronological, and the reader can see how the story continues to evolve as different people use it for different reasons. I will not go into great detail, but, as the story gets passed on, those who tell it do so with various reasons. In the end, the story barely resembles the reality, and the reality, to many, would be more interesting.

I chose this book because I want my students to know that there is more to history than what happened in the past. History is also about who interprets it and when they do that. I believe it is as much about the people looking into the past as it is about people who lived in the past.

One of my favorite movie lines comes from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. When Senator Ransom Stoddard finished telling reporters about his life and what happened in the town of Shinbone, Maxwell Scott, the newspaper editor, rips up the notes and throws them into the fire.Print the Legend

Ransom Stoddard: You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?

Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

That line conveys the difficulty that historians of the American West, or any other history, faces when trying to find out what happened way back then. Dime novels. Newspapers. Journals. Diaries. Inaccuracies and embellishments can be found everywhere.

However, it is not just those who record history who cause problems. Those who took part in history do the same. In the book I mentioned, the story was being told incorrectly from almost the beginning, and those incorrect accounts were coming from people who were there.

This brings me to a video I stumbled upon while scanning through YouTube. It is called The American West of John Ford and should be watched by anyone who likes the Western genre. John Wayne, James Stewart and Henry Fonda reminisce about working with Ford and take turns interviewing him.

During those interviews, all of them freely admit that Ford was not interested in depicting historical accuracy. He was interested in telling stories within a Western backdrop. He used the genre to study the human condition. However, there was one part of the documentary that got my attention.

While talking about My Darling Clementine, about the actions at the OK Corral, Ford said that Wyatt Earp had personally told him what happened at the gunfight and drew a map for him. In the movie, Ford depicted the gunfight just as Earp had described. According to Earp, a stagecoach came by, and he used it for cover to get closer to those he was after.

I have read a ton about Wyatt Earp and the OK Corral. I have been to Tombstone, Arizona and stood where the gunfight took place. At no point have I ever heard about a stagecoach being used as cover. It could have happened, but that would be a new take on it for me. Hopefully, a historian can tell me that I am wrong, but I do not think a stagecoach had anything to do with it.

So, who are the makers of legend? Was it John Ford, a director who admitted to not caring about historical accuracy? Was it Wyatt Earp who could have embellished a story to impress his Hollywood friends? Was it the director of the documentary who included that story in his movie? Is it me for writing about it?

Movie Wisdom – Lee Marvin Edition

11 Feb

The other day, my dad and I watched a Western that I had never seen before. Seven Men From Now starred Randolph Scott as the hero and Lee Marvin as one of the various villains. After watching the film, I read that John Wayne produced the film and planned on starring in it. However, John Ford wanted him to be in The Searchers.

As it turns out, this was a good move for everyone. John Wayne played one of films most iconic characters in a movie that many feel is the greatest Western ever made. Randolph Scott credited Seven Men From Now as the movie that revitalized his career.

That is a lot of information to throw out without writing about what is really on my mind. Lee Marvin was great in the movie and watching it brought to mind the other great films he was in. That means that we are now going to explore the movies of Lee Marvin to see what words of wisdom we can glean from them.Lee Marvin 2

From The Caine Mutiny

Ninety-nine percent of everything we do is strict routine. Only one percent requires creative intelligence.

From Bad Day at Black Rock

I believe a man is as big as what he’s seeking.

Somebody’s always looking for something in this part of the West. To the historian it’s the Old West, to the book writer it’s the Wild West, to the businessman it’s the Undeveloped West.

It’s gonna take an awful lot of whiskey to wash out your guts.

From Seven Men From Now

A man oughta be able to take care of his woman.

From Raintree County

Greatness? Ha! If that great philosopher, Socrates, were living today, he’d be reduced to sitting on a cracker barrel, chewing tobacco. That’s what America does for greatness.

War is the most monstrous of man’s illusions. Any idea worth anything is worth not fighting for.

The home-grown tomatoes are always best.

From The Comancheros

I got one rule: never go to bed without makin’ a profit.

From The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

Credit is cheap.

Courage can be purchased at yon’ tavern!

As for you, Old Man: go West and grow young with the country!

From The Dirty Dozen

I never went in for embroidery, just results.

From The Big Red One

Surviving is the only glory in war.

From Death Hunt

Well, I just figure any man who risks his neck to save a dog’s life isn’t going to kill someone for gold teeth.

All of that and more can be learned by watching more Lee Marvin movies.