The history of Steven Spielberg’s tribute to John Ford | Rare Techy


Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for The Fabelmans.

Steven Spielberg is one of the rare filmmakers who has dabbled in almost every genre. He has perfected action films, fantasy, comedies, biopics, sci-fi adventures, animated films, war epics, thrillers and as of last year, his first musical. This year, however, showed that Spielberg was dealing with a story that only he could tell. Fablemen is a semi-autobiographical narrative about the young filmmaker Sammy Falbelman (Gabriel LaBelle), who discovers his love for cinema at a young age. In a series of frenzied moves, Sammy must deal with the deterioration of his parents’ marriage to Mitz (Michelle Williams) and Burt (Paul Dano).


Spielberg is easily one of the most influential filmmakers of all time. In addition to highlighting many young directors and producing their work, contemporary filmmakers often cite Spielberg’s films as a reason for choosing their profession. Spielberg is also a notorious cinephile in his own right and frequents theaters. However, Spielberg is a product of his influences, just like any other director. One name he often mentions is the legendary American filmmaker John Ford.

Ford is one of the most outstanding directors in film history. During his long career, Ford drove such classics as The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Quiet Man, Stagecoach, The Reporter, The Grapes of Wrath, and How green was my valley. In the last moments FablemenSammy finally gets to meet his hero when he has an encounter with Ford, played by the same legendary filmmaker David Lynch. It’s a fun moment for Spielberg fans, but it’s hardly the first time Ford has been referenced.

Early impact

Paul Dano

The influence was there from the start; Spielberg emerged as an emerging talent Peter Bogdanavich1971 documentary, Directed by John Ford, where he cited Ford’s influence on his work. He continues to refer to Ford’s signature style when discussing his more recent projects. In 2011, Spielberg praised Ford for this during a press tour A war horsea historical epic with many similarities to the Ford segment How the West was won. In fact, Spielberg fans could see the end of it Fablemen coming up because it’s a story he’s enjoyed telling in various press interviews over the years.

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At the age of 15, young Spielberg met the notoriously flamboyant director on one of his first jobs in the industry. It was clearly a moment that resonated with him; Although everyone he has shown his films to seems amazed, Ford is teaching him something new. In addition to the advice of great-uncle Boris Schildkraut (Judd Hirsch), he never had an artistic mentor to look up to Fablemen. Sammy is taught a lesson in style; Ford tells him that camera placement is critical. It pays off in the perfect closing shot, as the camera pans upwards as Sammy happily strolls through the film production set.

Lynch’s casting has a bit of genius at work. Although Lynch often stars in his own films, he seems to act in other projects only when they come from personal friends; he last performed with a longtime collaborator Harry Dean Stanton in Happy. Having a director of Lynch’s reputation among the cast is just one possibility Fablemen to celebrate the history of cinema. At first glance, Lynch and Spielberg seem like polar opposites in terms of style. Lynch emphasizes vague, surreal imagery, while Spielberg creates spectacles of wide-ranging emotions. But Lynch has the same affinity for “Americana” as Spielberg and Ford. He often reflects on classic cinema in his work; The Wizard of Oz it is mentioned several times in Wild at heartand several early cinema devices appear Twin Peaks: The Return.

American authors

John Wayne and John Ford

The similarities between Ford and Spielberg’s styles don’t stop there. Although early cinematography was greatly influenced by international filmmakers such as Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock, Ingmar Bergman, Stanley Kubrick, and Fritz Lang, Ford told stories that focused squarely on the American point of view. It sounds an awful lot like Spielberg, who has told both real and fictional stories of American heroism throughout his career. Ford falls into a similar category to Spielberg because they proved that commercial art can be heartfelt, critically acclaimed and commercially viable. Ford was recognized for his success in his own lifetime, winning a record four Academy Awards for Best Director; Spielberg has won two himself, though he is widely predicted to win a third this awards cycle. Fablemen.

Ford and Spielberg are also notorious for their politically outspoken qualities. One of the greatest ironies of Ford’s career was his long association John Wayne, a leading figure in the Conservative Party. Ford couldn’t be more different than his favorite driver; he fought against and defended directorial mandates Joseph Maciewicz for accusations of having communist sympathies. Evidence of his activist spirit is woven into the texts of his films. Young Mr. Lincoln honors the famous president in his youth, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance shows the cyclicality of violence and Grapes of Wrath fights economic inequality.

Similarly, Spielberg has often addressed important social and political themes in his narratives. He has covered topics such as anti-Semitism, slavery, LGBT relations, journalistic integrity, political corruption, economic inequality and sexism. He is also an outspoken advocate in his own right and is often seen contributing to political causes and progressive candidates. There is an optimism in Spielberg’s work that Ford shares.

Reference history

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans
Image via Universal

One of the posters Sammy sees in Ford’s office is A quiet man, a film that clearly sticks to him. During a critical scene ET ExtraterrestrialElliot (Henry Thomas) watches Ford’s romantic classic with his alien friend. It wasn’t just a casual reference; Spielberg mentioned during the film’s production that Ford is “like a classical painter, he marks the frame, not just what’s in it.” The two scenes mirror each other; Elliot offers ET protection and security, similar to how Sean Thornton (John Wayne) protects Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara) of rain.

Spielberg has taken a keen interest in learning from Ford’s most famous classics. He had been toying with remaking Grapes of Wrath, but legal disputes prevented him from moving forward. Both Ford and Spielberg thoroughly researched Abraham Lincoln’s background for their biopics. If you want to see the impact of Ford’s World War II adventures as They were expendable and Wings of eaglesjust look Indiana Jones movies.

2022 was a year of cinematic reflection; sometimes Sam Mendesa tribute to theater workers Empire of the Sun, Damien Chazellea stylized account of 1930s Hollywood Babylonand Ethan Hawkea tribute to classic actors Latest movie stars, many great artists have paid homage to their influences. Spielberg’s personal anecdote about the legendary director does the same Fablemen a great homage for movie buffs to enjoy.


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