Three Bad Men John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond by Scott Allen Nollen

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Growing up all three of these men were an integral part of my childhood. Specifically John “Pappy” Ford in the cinemas and of course John Wayne ‘Duke’ and Ward Bond as well, but Mr Bond had the added distinction of being in my folks’ living rooms each week as Major Seth Adams, in Wagon Train.

Of course, I saw all the films and television shows long after they were initially made. The films, I saw on Saturday night at the movies (usually accompanied by a huge bowl of popcorn and a tall ice filled glass of Coca-Cola) and the Wagon Train episodes I watched were the newer ones with John McIntire with the occasional re-run with Ward Bond in. Come to think of it, the McIntire ones were probably re-runs as well.

I do remember with perfect clarity that my family adored the John Wayne film Rio Bravo and we watched it every single time it came on the telly. The Searchers was another family favourite because it was a John Ford film with both Duke and Bond in it; not to mention Hank Worden as good ole Mose Harper. Another John Ford favourite was The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

John "Pappy" Ford.
John “Pappy” Ford.

This book, lovingly crafted by Mr Nollen, tells the warts and all story of this triangular “bro-mance” long before that phrase came into vogue. These three remarkably talented men had a love affair with one another that abided until death. Not in a sexual sense, although rumours persisted that Pappy might just have an inclination “that way.” But in a father and two sons sense. Ford often spent more time with his two adopted sons than he did his own children.

Besides taking an in-depth look at all three men, Nollen gives one of the best breakdowns of Wardell Edwin Bond’s career than any other book I’ve read. I never realised that on top of the television shows he made, Bond had over 271 screen credits in films alone. Besides this all-encompassing career breakdown, we learn more of Ward himself, what made the man tick and why, perhaps, he did some of the more unpopular things that he did.

I have long been a fan of all three men and it was delightful to see such an honest telling of these men’s relationship with one another and the myths that they built and embellished over the years. It is disappointing to lose that childlike reverence for great artists, but it is more important to have an adult’s respect for what they accomplished on-screen and off; good and bad.

Wayne, for all his American for all seasons hero, personally stood for political things that hurt his personal image. These same political stances also hurt others in the same industry. Bond had similar feelings and he too practised a very biased type of politics that, like Wayne’s, could be vengeful. It was surprising, to me, to find that John Ford didn’t agree with either of his “two boys” in the area of politics, for I’d assumed (wrongly) that politically all three were peas in the same pod.

John Fords The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
John Fords The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Nollen has given us a personal look at three legends of the silver screen, big and small, and talked to some of the people who worked right along side of them. For a fan of these three talented men, this is a gold mine of a book. I only wish I could have afforded the hardback version instead of having to buy the eBook version.

Not because the eBook is less readable, but for a book about such old Hollywood legends, it would be nice to have an old-fashioned book to hold and look at.

I cannot end this review without giving thanks to Colin over at Riding the High Country blog for making me aware of this book through his excellent review of it.

If you are into books about the entertainment business this will be a 5 out of 5 stars. Only the rules of math keep me from giving it a 6 out of 5.

Wardell Edwin Bond.
Wardell Edwin Bond.

Ip Man (2008): Donnie Yen’s Masterful Performance

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It is not often that a film benefits from having not just one legend, but two associated with it. Ip Man has two. Starring the legendary Donnie Yen in what is quite possibly his best role ever and featuring choreography by the legendary Sammo Hung. (Who when asked how he was going to work with Yen to direct the action scenes, Hung replied matter-of-factly, “With my mouth.”) *Wikipedia* 

Both men are well-known for their fight choreography with Sammo nudging Donnie out by sheer number of years that he’s been practising his craft.

Directed with past Yen collaborator  Wilson Yip, Ip Man is the “true story” of Yip Man grandmaster of Wing Chun and master of film legend Bruce Lee. Touted as being semi-biographcal, the film is pretty liberal with the “truth” as things of this nature tend to be. While the rudimentary facts may be correct a lot of things were added to make the film more entertaining.

Despite this frugality with the real facts, the film is a powerful one. The recreation of Foshan in Shanghai looks so authentic you feel as if the film company had really gone back in time to shoot the scenes.

Some complaints were raised about Ip Man’s house being incorrect and that he never shovelled coal during the occupation and the facts of his move to Hong Kong are misleading. But as the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance says, “print the legend.” Or in this case, make it up.

Yen is stunning as the placid, peace-loving martial artist who won’t give lessons and spars with the local masters privately in order to save them the public embarrassment of being beaten.

At one point, he has to take on a usurper from outside the town. This ruffian fights his way through all the Foshan martial art instructors until only Ip Man is left. Going to his home, the outsider brings what looks like the members of every school in the town to watch him beat Ip Man.

Everyone in Foshan knows that Ip Man will be victorious and he is.

Everything changes in 1937 when the Japanese invade China and this is where majority of the drama and tension come into the film.

The legendary Sammo Hung.
The legendary Sammo Hung.

The fight scenes are exciting, original, and furious. The Wing Chun style is breathtaking to watch and the other martial arts battles are impressive as well.

The entire cadre of actors in the film sold their characters and I spotted quite a few familiar faces in it.

My only complaint was that in some instances parts of the story were a bit “over the top” so that it almost felt like a “kitchen sink” drama instead of a biopic. But theatricality aside the film looks, overall, fantastic and I got caught up with the characters and the “true” story completely.

A real 5 out of 5 stars for a film that had me munching my popcorn furiously throughout. I’m now going to “watch’ my way through the rest of the films in this four film series.

Even if you don’t love martial arts films the story of Yip Man could turn you into a fan.

The real Ip Man (Yip Man) and a young Bruce Lee.
The real Ip Man (Yip Man) and a young Bruce Lee.