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Quentin Tarantino Says He Hates John Ford

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by Matt Singer
December 27, 2012 1:55 PM
9 Comments
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"Django Unchained."

No sooner do I praise Quentin Tarantino for his civil approach to debating the plot of "Django Unchained" with film critics than I find this on The Root: a full-scale assault on master Western director John Ford by none other than Quentin Tarantino. He's a regular Dr. Jekyll and Mister Wolf!

Here's what happened: in the first part of what will ultimately be an epic interview with Henry Louis Gates Jr., Tarantino explains how D.W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation" inspired "Django Unchained." Tarantino cites the hilarious scene -- maybe the best in the film -- where an early version of the Klu Klux Klan assemble a posse and ride against Django (Jamie Foxx) and Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) to get revenge for their killing of two white men on a slave owner's land. Their plan for a terrifying raid hits a snag when their makeshift Klan hoods are poorly made and impossible to see out of.

Tarantino says the scene was inspired by the story -- which you can read on Wikipedia, IMDb, and even the Central Intelligence Agency's website -- told by Ford himself, that he played one of the Klansmen in "The Birth of a Nation," specifically one seen holding his hood so he can see more clearly out of its eyeholes. Tarantino went on:

"Yeah, it's actually funny. One of my American Western heroes is not John Ford, obviously. To say the least, I hate him. Forget about faceless Indians he killed like zombies. It really is people like that that kept alive this idea of Anglo-Saxon humanity compared to everybody else's humanity -- and the idea that that's hogwash is a very new idea in relative terms. And you can see it in the cinema in the '30s and '40s -- it's still there. And even in the '50s."

Essaying the full depiction of race in John Ford's filmography is not something that can be fairly or adequately covered in a brief blog post -- maybe not even in a whole series of lengthy blog posts. Are there troubling depictions of Native Americans in some early John Ford films? Yes. Do later John Ford films reconsider and recontextualize those depictions? Absolutely. And I imagine some people might say similar things about the films of Quentin Tarantino. There are an awful lot of n-words in "Pulp Fiction."

I'm sure I speak for a lot of film nerds when I say: why are mommy and daddy fighting? Can't I love John Ford and Quentin Tarantino? Is that so wrong?

(And now you'll leave me a comment explaining why that's so wrong.)

Read more of "Tarantino Unchained."

[H/T Movie City News]

9 Comments

  • bigboyscanplaynice | January 8, 2013 3:02 PMReply

    While I agree with him to an extent about Ford, Tarantino's films have created the same sins whether it be to grossly devalue the lives of black men in Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, or to show violent retributions toward homosexual acts in Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained. I'm still a fan though.

  • Sim | January 7, 2013 9:29 AMReply

    I actually agree with him. Yes, Tarantino has the word "nigger" in his films several dozen times but that's just reality. You can't blame him for depicting something that actually happens. He's just telling the truth. It's not like he's condoning or promoting racism. Ford, on the other hand, was. Great films or not, he was absolutely promoting White supremacy in some of his work. This is a fact. If you can't see that, you have your head up your ass. Let's not rewrite the past here guys.

  • Jacob | December 28, 2012 4:11 AMReply

    I am completely confused by Tarantino's comment. I am not saying there isn't any substance to his criticism, but it just seems wrong coming from Tarantino. I can say little about Tarantino for I have chosen to not look into him as a filmmaker or watch most of his films. What I can say is he is a brilliant filmmaker. He knows his shit and I have found his enthusiasm for the history of film to be invigorating. However, the movies I have watched of his I believe are morally wrong and sort of goes in line with his criticism against Ford. You can't say he did a good job representing the true spirit of the Jews in "Inglorious Bastards". To have the movie end with a Jew laughing historically while burning alive hundreds of Germans, including Hitler, sort of spits in the face of how the Jews conducted themselves during World War II (whether you agree with how they conducted themselves or not). You also have many blacks, including Spike Lee, criticizing the way Tarantino represents slavery and the time period in "Django Unchained". The lack of moral value in Tarantino's films is what stops me from researching him. I can handle the cynical view of Fincher, the dark studies of Cronenberg, but not the mindless violence and language of most of Tarantino's films. He uses the fact that violence and language are entertaining as justification of why they are okay. Well Ford's movies, even the most racial, were widely considered entertaining. Ford did resist relying on mindless violence and extreme language to create entertainment. You could say he only held back because the studios wouldn't let him. However, listening and reading interviews of him I have found that he had genuine conviction against those things. Ford was in many ways a product of his time. Unlike most Hollywood Western directors of his time, Ford had a good relationship with Native Americans. He brought in a great amount of work for them through out his career and, as already was pointed out, one of Ford's last films "Cheyenne Autumn" was a story about how badly we treated the Indians during the new frontier days.

    Sorry this has become a rant. I understand why people would like Tarantino and his films. I however have found John Ford much more inspiring and meaningful. Maybe this comment he made hits at the heart of what makes Tarantino not worth looking into. His comments, like his movies, seem to grab my attention but they don't leave me with much substance. :/

  • sergio | December 27, 2012 9:55 PMReply

    Can I say that I've always found John Ford incredibly boring. With that always singing 'Gather by the River' B.S.

  • Matt | December 27, 2012 7:35 PMReply

    Tarantino is just as much as a judgmental prick as anyone else is. He has a world view and hates anyone who he finds objectionable to it. That being said I had no problem with the simplistic cowboys and indians warplay caught in Ford's movie. He was just one of thousands in Hollywood capturing on the flavor of the month villain. As the years pass on, the focus would move onto Mexican banditos, military officers with English accents or the English gentleman, Ruskies, w.a.s.p.s., the catholic church and islamic terrorists. In truth, if we were to be honest, most of these stereotypes have given reason why American audiences distrust them (scalping, arrogance, communism, false piety, terrorism). However I agree with Tarantino on the donning of the white sheet. Indeed Ford knew what he was doing when he was putting on that white sheet. Either he had no objection to it or ignored his own conscience to work in Hollywood. However in a Hollywood where Tarantino is allowed to make the exploitative films he makes and where stars have crawled through the gutters to secure success Tarantino's statement wreaks of hypocrisy and more so it show his utter lack of tact to attack someone in his profession who no longer is around to defend himself or his work. Certainly he is entitled to his opinion but his own work does not grant him the pulpit that he thinks it does. In the end, like Ford, like John Wayne, like all other Hollywood egos before him Tarantino is someone who likes the smell of his own stink too much.

  • BrianZ | December 27, 2012 3:19 PMReply

    It's also interesting considering some of the morally questionable elements of many of QT's favorite films. I am a fan of his work and understand his opinion, but it has some flaws.

  • Jake | December 27, 2012 3:12 PMReply

    Shocking considering the visual quote of "The Searchers" in the opening chapter of "Inglourious Basterds." Ah, well. The man is entitled to his opinion, but I'd be shocked if a more specific argument against Ford held any water. At the very least, he is one of the best visual stylists American cinema has seen.

  • Julien Faddoul | December 27, 2012 2:15 PMReply

    That's not wrong. Not wrong at all.

  • Hank W | December 27, 2012 2:30 PM

    It is since "The Searchers" directly goes against the anglo-saxon superiority idea. The whole message of that movie is that that idea belongs in the past and cannot push America ahead in the future. It's why John Wayne's character can't join the family at the end an has to walk out into the frontier, he represents the old belief structure and he has no place in the future.

    The sad part about this is that John Ford westerns, especially post "Stagecoach", where VERY liberal in their views on race relations and what they mean to America.

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