Francis Ford (originally Frank Feeney) was a pioneering actor and director in the silent era of cinema. His younger brother John would go on to become one of the world’s greatest filmmakers (and some have ranked him as the greatest). In the sound era, Francis acted in small roles in many of his brother’s movies. John Ford earned six Academy Awards including four Best Director Oscars, a record that has never been broken. He influenced other top directors such as Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg. When Orson Welles, creator of the masterpiece Citizen Kane, was once asked which filmmakers had the most influence on him, he replied: “I prefer the old masters, by which I mean John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford.”

Francis (1881-1953) was born in Portland and John (1894-1973) was born in Cape Elizabeth. Their parents had immigrated to southern Maine from Spiddal, a village on the shore of Galway Bay in Ireland. Their father owned a saloon, a hub of political conversation, at Gorham’s Corner. The family worshipped at nearby St. Dominic’s church, now the magnificent home of the Maine Irish Heritage Center. The Feeneys lived in several places in Portland including a large apartment on Munjoy Hill’s Sheridan Street.

Francis was the first to head for Hollywood, where he quickly found success as an actor and director. His brother John joined him once he graduated from Portland High School where he was a star on the football team and nicknamed “Bull Feeney”. Mentored at first by his older brother, John went on to direct such Hollywood classics as The Informer, Stagecoach, Young Mr. Lincoln, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Quiet Man, The Searchers, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

The Maine Irish Heritage Center’s John and Francis Ford Collection is a project and archive that aims at honoring the lives and artistic achievements of our native sons, the Feeney brothers

 

Francis is second from right and John is far-right. The brothers are sitting on the front steps of their boyhood home at 21-23 Sheridan Street in Portland, Maine.  

Donate Ford Memorabilia

We are gratefully accepting donations of Ford family artifacts, memorabilia, photos, films, and documents to expand our collections. Items will be curated for public display in the Ford Exhibit at the Maine Irish Heritage Center. Email fordcollection@maineirish.com.

Make a Gift

As we expand the Ford Collection, we’ll be conducting interviews with distinguished experts, creating videos, designing physical exhibits, and launching events. As a volunteer organization, the Maine Irish Heritage Center appreciates all donations, gifts, and grants to support this effort.