61 episodes

Our fifth season is Decoding John Ford, a seven-episode series about cinema's most mysterious auteur. Using scores of never-before-heard archival interviews, host Ben Mankiewicz strips back John Ford's self-spun mythology to reveal his brilliance behind the camera – alongside the often ugly, uncomfortable truths about his life and movies, asking whether we can ever truly separate art from the artist. Decoding John Ford starts June 6.

The Plot Thickens TCM & Novel

    • TV & Film
    • 4.8 • 40 Ratings

Our fifth season is Decoding John Ford, a seven-episode series about cinema's most mysterious auteur. Using scores of never-before-heard archival interviews, host Ben Mankiewicz strips back John Ford's self-spun mythology to reveal his brilliance behind the camera – alongside the often ugly, uncomfortable truths about his life and movies, asking whether we can ever truly separate art from the artist. Decoding John Ford starts June 6.

    Go West, Young Man

    Go West, Young Man

    John Ford was born in Maine as Sean Aloysius O’Feeney… or so he says. His birth records say differently, and it would not be the last time he changes his name. As a child, he visits Ireland and falls in love with his heritage, and later fights at the University of Maine when confronted with an Irish slur. He rediscovers his long-lost brother Francis on the big screen and follows him to Hollywood, where he works as a stunt double until fibbing his way into directing. As silent movies transition to talkies, Ford befriends the man who would become his friend, his muse, and his enabler, a young football player named John Wayne.
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    • 52 min
    The Araner

    The Araner

    John Ford buys a yacht, where he cavorts, drinks and vacations. But he also keeps an eye on the looming threat in Europe, and uses his new vessel to enlist in the Naval Reserve. He rises through Hollywood and turns his friends into stars, including John Wayne – though he's increasingly abusive towards them on the set. As the ‘30s dissolve into the ‘40s, Ford directs a remarkable string of movies, winning back-to-back Oscars (though he doesn’t show up to the ceremonies). Then war breaks out, and he’s shipped overseas to cover the front.
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    • 55 min
    The Commander

    The Commander

    Ford is finally in the military and his first assignment is… to make a sex ed film for soldiers! Soon he sees real combat and is injured while filming the battle of Midway. He’s nursed back to health with the help of John Wayne, while his Midway movie wins an Oscar and becomes a favorite of President Roosevelt. Ford then recuts December 7th, a movie directed by his friend and colleague Gregg Toland, to make it less racist. It wins him yet another Oscar. The brass recruit Ford for the assignment of his career: to cover the largest invasion in history. Ford goes to Normandy Beach to film D-Day, but his film detailing the invasion goes missing.
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    • 43 min
    The Search

    The Search

    This week, Ben traces the mystery of John Ford's missing D-Day documentary. The one time Ford talked about it, he claimed it was buried in a government film vault, too disturbing for public view. This sends Ben on a globe-trotting journey, following clues in the US, England and Russia. He encounters fellow seekers, as well as skeptics who question whether the footage was lost in battle… or if Ford made the whole thing up. But when new evidence comes to light, Ben's quest takes him to an unexpected final stop, where new revelations await.
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    • 51 min
    Monument Valley

    Monument Valley

    After D-Day, Ford goes on a historic bender then heads home... not to Hollywood but to Monument Valley, a secluded land with incredible scenery. There, he creates his own kingdom, a place he can work and create art without being under the thumb of studio executives. His stock company follows him from film to film, and Ford rewards his loyal subjects, but he’s not a kind ruler. He mercilessly picks on actors and pits them against each other, sometimes in the cruelest ways possible.
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    • 52 min
    The Mythmaker

    The Mythmaker

    At the height of his powers, John Ford directs his masterpiece, an anti-racist Western called The Searchers. It’s a movie of contradictions: John Wayne plays the hero, but he's driven by hate and revenge. He’s searching for his niece, with the intent to kill her. Behind the scenes, Ford continues to use Monument Valley as a generic backdrop for the West without once acknowledging that it’s sacred Navajo land. And while Ford considered himself a friend to the Navajos, his portrayal of Native Americans is fraught with stereotypes. But these damaging images were used in service of creating a complex, fascinating film that dared to condemn bigotry and has mesmerized generations of film fans.
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    • 50 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
40 Ratings

40 Ratings

shock_er ,

Great podcast!

Loved hearing about Pam Grier and her fascinating career

kinwoo1979 ,

Fascinating behind the scenes of the making of ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’

Treasure trove of insights and vintage interviews done with the stars of the Ill-fated movie

Stottc ,

Superb cinema history

An absolute must for anyone with even a passing interest in movies. In depth interviews and fascinating anecdotes about one of cinema’s iconic directors. More of the same please Warner!

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