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JOHN FORD AT THE OBSERVER IN 1999

Peter Bogdanovich By Peter Bogdanovich | Peter Bogdanovich December 7, 2010 at 3:47AM

In 1999, AMC was still honoring its original name and intention by running actual American Movie Classics on their channel---what TCM does now--- and that year they programmed an amazing 35-film retrospective of John Ford’s extraordinary opus. I was living in Manhattan then, doing a weekly column for Peter Kaplan’s The New York Observer (its heyday, in other words), and Peter and I agreed we should do a big spread about the AMC Ford tribute. I would write it and he would use many illustrations and give it a lot of prominence. It was also Kaplan’s idea to include in the illustrations several of my original movie card-file cards themselves. As I’ve written before, I kept a card file of every movie I saw---of whatever length---from January 1952 to December 1970; from when I was 12 and a half to when I was 31 and a half, and had just finished shooting “The Last Picture Show”. I stopped keeping the file because I guess I felt my apprenticeship had definitely come to end.
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In 1999, AMC was still honoring its original name and intention by running actual American Movie Classics on their channel---what TCM does now--- and that year they programmed an amazing 35-film retrospective of John Ford’s extraordinary opus. I was living in Manhattan then, doing a weekly column for Peter Kaplan’s The New York Observer (its heyday, in other words), and Peter and I agreed we should do a big spread about the AMC Ford tribute. I would write it and he would use many illustrations and give it a lot of prominence. It was also Kaplan’s idea to include in the illustrations several of my original movie card-file cards themselves. As I’ve written before, I kept a card file of every movie I saw---of whatever length---from January 1952 to December 1970; from when I was 12 and a half to when I was 31 and a half, and had just finished shooting “The Last Picture Show”. I stopped keeping the file because I guess I felt my apprenticeship had definitely come to end.

Part of what I learned about the movies came from my religiously keeping track of every picture I saw, who directed it, where I’d seen it, and what I thought of it. If I saw it again, I would note a change in opinion or a further observation. I had a rating system: Poor; Fair; Good; Very Good; Excellent; Exceptional; and each could have a plus (*) or minus (-), so the bottom would be Poor- and the top was Exceptional*. Over the years, films could radically get their rating and opinion diminished or increased as I learned and aged.

Peter Kaplan had seen the actual file of typed 6x4 lined index cards and thought, since I referred to their comments in my piece, that people would want to see what the originals looked like. When The Observer uploaded the piece on their site, these cards did not get scanned, they are just indicated and quoted in the regular typeface. (Also the dates of the AMC Ford series are still there, and a bit distracting. ) We are soon going to start a new category here at Blogdanovich called The Movie Card File, and we’ll scan in the originals of a number of these cards and post them for you. In the meantime, here is the link to The New York Observer piece I did on John Ford at AMC eleven years ago. Shortly we will also give you links to other Observer film-related articles I did for Kaplan in the 2000s, before he left the paper.

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