Anyone who is familiar with the filmography of Quentin Tarantino knows that he is a cinephile. The director behind cult classics such as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction has openly claimed that he borrows from multiple sources of inspiration while making films which results in his characteristic pastiche style.
Over the years, Tarantino has expressed heartfelt admiration for many directors such as Mario Bava and Sergio Leone. While he has learnt a lot from American directors such as Howard Hawks and Brian De Palma, Tarantino has also championed foreign films and has helped popularise the works of directors like Bong Joon-ho and Wong Kar-wai.
However, there was one beloved American director whose works failed to impress Tarantino. That filmmaker was none other than John Ford, the man whose westerns are still revered by film fans around the world even though many younger generations of cinephiles are also viewing his works through the lenses of race.
“One of my American Western heroes is not John Ford, obviously,” Tarantino famously declared in an interview with Henry Louis Gates. “To say the least, I hate him. Forget about faceless Indians he killed like zombies. It really is people like that who kept alive this idea of Anglo-Saxon humanity compared to everybody else’s humanity. And you can see it in the cinema in the thirties and forties—it’s still there. And even in the fifties. The idea that that’s hogwash is a very new idea in relative terms.”
One of the reasons why Tarantino hates Ford so much is the fact that the director appeared as an extra in D. W. Griffith’s infamous film The Birth of a Nation where he appeared as a member of the Ku Klux Klan. While Tarantino loves westerns, he feels that Ford is not representative of the genre at all.
“One of my Western heroes is a director named William Witney, who started doing the serials,” Tarantino admitted. “He did Zorro’s Fighting Legion , about twenty-two Roy Rogers movies; he did a whole bunch of Westerns. Great action director for Republic Pictures. And he worked all the way into the seventies.”
Tarantino hates the subject matter and the subtext of John Ford films but he is also unimpressed by Ford’s technical abilities as a filmmaker. When one interviewer pointed out that a scene in Inglourious Basterds is influenced by Ford, Tarantino replied: “It’s safe to say that if John Ford’s mother had never met John Ford’s father, I’d still have figured out that shooting through a doorway like that would make for a cool shot.”