Catholics in the Movies: Francis Ford (1881-1953)

One of the lead figures of film during the 1910’s was Francis Ford. Born Francis Feeney in Portland, Maine, he served in the Spanish-American War before moving into stage and theater.  It was said he took the name Ford from a stage actor for whom he was an understudy. When the actor was too drunk to make the show, he went on stage as Francis Ford, a name he kept to the end of his life. Getting into the film industry in California, he would become an actor and a director. Besides appearing in over 400 films (silent and sound), he also directed some 176 films. In 1914, his younger brother John Feeney came to work in his set. He did bit film parts and worked behind the camera. Cashing in on his brother’s then-considerable fame, he renamed himself John Ford. In 1917, he started directing his own films. Critics suggested that one day the name John Ford might possibly outshine that of Francis. By the 1920’s, Francis’s star power had declined considerably, and he ended up working as a character actor in mnay films, mainly those of his younger brother. He appeared in many, if not most, of his brother’s greatest films until his death in 1953.


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