Francis Ford (actor)
August 14, 1881
Portland, Maine, US
|Died||September 5, 1953
|Other names||J. Francis O'Fearna|
|Spouse(s)||Elsie Van Name (c. 1900–?) 2 children
Mary Armstrong (1935–1953) (his death)
Francis Joseph Ford Jr.
Francis Ford (born Francis Feeney, August 14, 1881 – September 5, 1953) was a prolific film actor, writer, and director. He was the mentor and elder brother of film director John Ford. He also appeared in many of John Ford's movies, including Young Mr. Lincoln and The Quiet Man.
Francis Ford was born in Portland, Maine. He was the son of John A. Feeney, who was born in the village of Spiddal, County Galway, Ireland, on June 15, 1854. By 1878, John had moved to Portland, Maine and opened a saloon, at 42 Center Street, that used a false front to pose as grocery store. John opened four others in following years.
After service in the infantry in the Spanish-American War, Francis left home. He drifted into the film business in New York City, working for David Horsley, Al Christie, and the Star Film Company's San Antonio operation under Gaston Méliès. He adopted the name Ford from the automobile. From San Antonio Francis began his Hollywood career working for Thomas H. Ince at Ince's Bison studio, directing and appearing in westerns.
Francis Ford's younger brother, John M. Feeney, was a successful fullback and defensive tackle on a Portland High state championship football team, nicknamed "Bull". In 1914 Bull followed Francis to Hollywood, changed his name to John Ford and would eventually surpass his elder brother's considerable reputation.
Francis Ford's son, Philip Ford, was also a film actor/director.
Ford acted in over 400 films altogether, with many of his early credits poorly-documented and likely lost.
Ambitious and prolific, in Ford's early work he cast himself as George Armstrong Custer, Sherlock Holmes (with his younger brother as Dr. Watson), and Abraham Lincoln, a role which he specialized in. By 1912 Ford was directing alongside Thomas Ince. It rapidly became clear that Ince was routinely taking credit for Ford's work, so Ford moved to Universal in early 1913. His 1913 Lucille Love, Girl of Mystery was Universal's first serial, and the first of a string of very popular serials starring Ford's collaborator and lover Grace Cunard. The 1915 serial The Broken Coin was expanded from 15 to 22 episodes by popular demand, probably the height of Ford's career.
In 1917 Ford founded a short-lived independent company, Fordart Films, which released the 1918 Berlin via America with Phil Kelly, and briefly opened his own studio at Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street. At the same time Ford mentored his younger brother, collaborating frequently as writers, directors, and actors in each other's projects; but as early as 1917, it was clear that John's star was on the rise. Frank's directorial style remained suitable for serials, but failed to evolve. Ford's final known directoral credit is for the 1928 The Call of the Heart, a 50-minute vehicle for "Dynamite the Devil Dog".
The Ford brothers were, at the best of times, critical of each other, and sometimes sharply antagonistic. Ford wrote an unpublished memoir in 1934 called "Up and Down the Ladder" which is "filled with bitter and sometimes heartrending complaints about how old-timers who had helped create the industry had been shunted aside by younger men."
From the late 1920s, and for the next two decades, Ford sustained a career as a grizzled character actor and bit player. He is often uncredited, as in his appearance in James Whale's 1931 Frankenstein. Among his most memorable roles was that of the demented old man in The Ox-Bow Incident (1943).
- The Immortal Alamo (actor; 1911)
- The Deserter (actor; 1912)
- Custer's Last Fight (actor and director; 1912)
- The Post Telegrapher (director; 1912)
- The Invaders (actor and director; 1912)
- When Lincoln Paid (actor and director; 1913)
- Lucille Love, Girl of Mystery (writer, director, and star; 15-episode serial, 1914)
- The Adventures of Shorty (director; 1914), and some of the subsequent "Shorty" two-reelers through 1917
- A Study in Scarlet (actor and director;1914)
- The Broken Coin (actor and director; 22-episode serial, 1915)
- The Adventures of Peg o' the Ring (actor and director; 15-episode serial, 1916)
- John Ermine of Yellowstone (director; 1917)
- The Tornado (writer; 1917)
- The Craving (writer, director, and star; 1918)
- The Silent Mystery (actor and director; 15-episode serial, 1918)
- The Mystery of 13 (actor and director; 15-episode serial, 1919)
- Thunderbolt Jack (director; 10-episode serial, 1920)
- The Great Reward (director, producer, star; 15-episode serial, 1921)
- Action (actor; 1921)
- The Village Blacksmith (actor; 1922)
- Three Jumps Ahead (actor; 1923)
- The Fighting Skipper (actor and director; 15-episode serial, 1923)
- Hearts of Oak (actor; 1924)
- Soft Shoes (actor; 1925)
- Perils of the Wild (director; 15-episode serial, 1925)
- The Fighting Heart (actor; 1925)
- The Winking Idol (director; 10-chapter serial, 1926)
- Officer 444 (writer and director; 10-episode serial, 1926)
- The Heart of Maryland (actor; 1927)
- Upstream (actor; 1927)
- The Trail of '98 (actor; 1928)
- The Black Watch (actor; 1929)
- The Jade Box (actor; 10-chapter serial, 1930)
- Heroes of the West (actor; 12-chapter serial, 1932)
- The Jungle Mystery (actor; 12-chapter serial, 1932)
- Destry Rides Again (actor; 1932)
- The Lost Special (actor; 12-chapter serial, 1932)
- Charlie Chan's Greatest Case (actor; 1933)
- Clancy of the Mounted (actor; 12-chapter serial, 1933)
- Gordon of Ghost City (actor; 12-chapter serial, 1933)
- The Man from Monterey (actor; 1933)
- Pilgrimage (actor; 1933)
- Judge Priest (actor; 1934)
- Murder in Trinidad (actor; 1934)
- Charlie Chan's Courage (actor; 1934)
- Paris in Spring (actor; 1935)
- The Informer (actor; 1935)
- Steamboat Round the Bend (actor; 1935)
- The Prisoner of Shark Island (actor; 1936)
- Charlie Chan at the Circus (actor; 1936)
- Slave Ship (actor; 1937)
- The Texans (actor; 1938)
- Drums Along the Mohawk (actor; 1939)
- Diamond Frontier (actor; 1940)
- The Ox-Bow Incident (actor; 1943)
- Jitterbugs (actor;1943)
- The Big Noise (actor:1944)
- Wildfire (actor; 1945)
- Eyes of Texas (actor; 1948)
- Wagon Master (actor: 1950)
- The Quiet Man (actor; 1952)
- The Sun Shines Bright (actor; 1953)
- Print the Legend, Scott Eyman, page 40
- Print the Legend, Scott Eyman, page 43
- Searching for John Ford, Joseph McBride, page 94
- Searching for John Ford, Joseph McBride, pages 94–95
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