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Francis Ford (actor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Francis Ford
Ford in 1917
Francis Joseph Feeney

(1881-08-14)August 14, 1881
DiedSeptember 5, 1953(1953-09-05) (aged 72)
Other namesJ. Francis O'Fearna
  • Actor
  • film director
  • writer
Years active1909–1953
Spouse(s)Elsie Van Name (1909–1934) (2 children)
Mary Armstrong (1935–1953) (his death)
Children2, including Philip Ford

Francis Ford (born Francis Joseph Feeney; August 14, 1881 – September 5, 1953) was an American film actor, writer and director. He was the mentor and elder brother of film director John Ford.[1] As an actor, director and producer, he was one of the first filmmakers in Hollywood.

He also appeared in many of his brother John's movies as a character actor, including The Informer (1935), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) and The Quiet Man (1952). He gave a memorable performance as one of the men who are lynched in The Ox-Bow Incident.

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He was born Francis Joseph Feeney in Portland, Maine on August 14, 1881, the son of John Augustine Feeney and Barbara "Abbey" Curran. An Irish immigrant, John Feeney 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.

Francis Feeney served in the United States Army in the Spanish–American War but was sent home for being underage.[2] Leaving Portland, he drifted into the film business in New York City, working for David Horsley and Al Christie. Moving to Texas, he was part of the Star Film Company's San Antonio operation under Gaston Méliès.

Feeney adopted his stage name "Ford" from the automobile.[3] Moving to Los Angeles from San Antonio, Francis began his Hollywood career working for Thomas H. Ince at Ince's Bison studio, directing and appearing in westerns.


Production still of the cast and crew of the Universal silent serial The Broken Coin (1915). Grace Cunard and Francis Ford are in the center on the throne, the young actress Gertrude Short is seated on the floor in front of Miss Cunard, and John Ford is third from the left. A cameraman, likely Harry McGuire Stanley, is sitting (front right) with a Pathé film camera between his feet.

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 in which he specialized. By 1912, Ford was directing alongside Thomas Ince.

It rapidly became clear that Ince was routinely taking credit for Ford's work,[4] so in 1913, Ford moved over to the Universal Film Manufacturing Co., a movie studio founded by Carl Laemmle the previous year. 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, and likely represents the height of Ford's career.

Advertisement for A Study in Scarlet, directed by and starring Francis Ford, 1914

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.[5] Ford's final known directorial credit is for the 1928 The Call of the Heart, a 50-minute vehicle for "Dynamite the Devil Dog".

Ford may have acted in over 400 films, with many of his early credits poorly documented and probably lost.

Character Actor

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), for which he also was uncredited.

Relationship with John Ford

Ford's younger brother, John M. Feeney, nicknamed "Bull," was a successful fullback and defensive tackle on a Portland High state championship football team. In 1914, "Bull" followed Francis to Hollywood, changed his name to John Ford and eventually surpassed his elder brother's considerable reputation.

Universal post card, 1915

Ford's son, Philip Ford, was also a film actor/director. Ford died after being diagnosed with cancer.

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."[6]

When Jack Ford was first in Hollywood working for his brother, Francis had him perform a dangerous stunt where, as his elder brother's stunt double, he ran across a railroad station roof and jumped onto a moving train. At the time he was performing the stunt, the younger brother said to the older that he owed him for the stunt. Many years later, with the power relation reversed, Jack had Francis tied to a hay wagon that was set to be set afire by Native Americans in Drums Along the Mohawk. Before the scene was shot, Jack told his brother, "Now you're paying me, Frank." The hay wagon was set afire, and Jack Ford did not signal to his crew to put out the fire until it reached the leather tongs that bound Francis to the prop wagon.[7]

Selected filmography


  • The Lone Ranger – episode "Gold Fever" – Sam Dingle (1950)
  • The Living Bible – TV series – Samaritan Leper (1952)


  1. ^ Cross, Mary (2012). 100 People who Changed 20th-century America. ABC-CLIO. p. 145. ISBN 9781610690850. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  2. ^ Ford, Dan (1998). Pappy: The Life Of John Ford. Da Capo Press. p. 6. ISBN 0306808757. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  3. ^ Scott Eyman, Print the Legend, page 40
  4. ^ Scott Eyman, Print the Legend, page 43
  5. ^ Joseph McBride, Searching for John Ford, page 94
  6. ^ Joseph McBride, Searching for John Ford, pages 94–95
  7. ^ Harty, John P. (2016). The CInematic Challenge: Filming Colonial American (Volume 1) (Paperback ed.). Minneapolis, MN: Langdon Street Press. p. 262. ISBN 978-1635051469.

External links

This page was last edited on 2 April 2024, at 16:53
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