John Ford‘s sentimentality has always been his aesthetic Achilles Heel. I’ve mentioned the permutations before but here goes again. The “gallery of supporting players bristling with tedious eccentricity” as critic David Thomson put it in his Biographical Dictionary of Film. The old-school chauvinism and racism, the thinly sketched women, the Irish affection for loutish boozy behavior. I’m especially irked by Ford’s fondness for sappy-sounding ballads sung by male choral groups like Stan Jones and the Sons of the Pioneers. Ever time I watch (or try to watch) Ford’s The Searchers Jones’ music devalues it just a little bit more. I remember watching a laser disc of The Searchers with Guillermo del Toro in ’96 or thereabouts and flinching when Jones’ music began playing during the opening credits. Imagine if Ford had decided to avoid Jones’ balladeering and just let Max Steiner‘s score stand alone. This 1956 classic would seem a lot less problematic by 2014 standards.
“Ford’s films are always what they seem to be…until you watch them again and re-reflect, and then they always seem to be about something more. But the phoniness and jacked-up sentiment in just about every one of them can be oppressive, and the older Ford got the more he ladled it on.” — from “Friendly Pushback on Scorsese’s Searchers Piece,” posted in March 2013.