Together, John Wayne and John Carpenter are two unrelated ‘Johns’ who had a staggering effect on the industry of Hollywood decades apart. Whilst Wayne thrived in early Hollywood alongside the likes of James Stewart and Gary Cooper, filmmaker Carpenter revolutionised 1980s filmmaking with a number of innovative movies that would set the remainder of the 20th century up for success.
Starring in such classic movies as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, True Grit and The Searchers, Wayne was known as a staple of early Hollywood, representing the patriotic American hero in countless western flicks. But, Wayne wasn’t totally adored, with contemporary filmmakers like Spike Lee stating: “I’ve never been a fan of John Wayne and John Ford and that cowboy bullshit. I hate them: Native Americans depicted as savages and animals…Fuck John Wayne and John Ford”.
Lee clearly isn’t the only one who dislikes Wayne, with John Carpenter also having a problem with one of the actor’s movies in particular, 1952’s The Quiet Man.
“When I saw it as a kid I loved The Quiet Man,” he stated in an interview, “but revisiting that just makes me want to tear it up. God, it’s so sentimental…[John] Ford was sentimentalising the West and women, especially mothers, behind the scenes of course it was not like that but that’s what showed up. He made one great film that was tremendous, The Grapes of Wrath, oh it was just terrific”.
The comedy-drama, which tells the story of a retired American boxer who returns to his Irish birthplace and finds the love of his life, is certainly one of Ford’s more forgettable movies, veering far from the director’s usual action-packed tales.
Yet, away from The Quiet Man, Carpenter is critical of Ford’s directorial style in general, stating, “This guy could not direct stage lines. Look at the interior of the stagecoach in Stagecoach, it’s a mess you can’t tell who’s talking to who”.
Instead, Carpenter is far more of a fan of Howard Hawks, who was a western rival of Ford’s throughout the early 20th century, making such classic movies as Rio Bravo, Red River and El Dorado. “I became a big Howard Hawks fan in film school,” the filmmaker stated, “He was a director that’s not really well known and really isn’t well known today outside of film buffs but I just fell in love with his work”.
Speaking in more depth about some of his other favourite filmmakers, Carpenter added: “Hitchcock, I think for his technique, Polanski, but the same directors that everybody at the time revered as classic American directors: Orson Welles, John Ford…The Searchers is such a great movie but it’s ruined in the middle, ruined by the return where they’re getting married, knocked the firewood off my shoulder”.
Take a look at Carpenter’s full thoughts towards 20th-century filmmaking below.