Steven Wechsler Edits PBS’ American Masters Documentary

Editor Steven Wechsler of The Wechsler Group (New York, NY) recently completed the editorial assignment for the 90-minute season premiere of PBS American Masters documentary John Ford/John Wayne: The Filmmaker and the Legend, scheduled to air May 10, 2006.

The documentary, narrated by acclaimed film director Sydney Pollack, includes archival footage and new interviews with a range of experts including Martin Scorsese, John Milius, Mark Rydell, Peter Bogdonavich, Richard Schickel, Partick Wayne (the star son), Dan Ford (grandson of the director) and Harry Carey, Jr., among others, who offer fresh insights into the relationship of these two film giants.

John Ford is considered by many to be America’s greatest director – winner of six Academy Awards, more than any director before or since. John Wayne is the actor whom he transformed from a B-western cowboy into a larger-than-life national icon. Their friendship and professional collaboration spanned 50 years, changed each other’s lives, changed the movies and, in the process, changed how America saw itself. Their remarkable body of work – including Stagecoach, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Rio Grande, The Searchers, The Horse Soldiers, The Quite Man, They Were Expendable and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – is heroic and nostalgic, reflecting all the elements and all the paradoxes in 20th-century America.

A vast body of work was made available to Wechsler who wove interviews and clips into a 90-minute tribute to the two film giants. The documentary traces the arc of the careers of both men separately and together and features rarely seen home movies and back lot footage and family photos,’ explained Wechsler. The film explores their lives as seen through the filter of the dramatic historical events of World War II, McCarthyism, the civil rights movement and Vietnam. The two men frequently found themselves at opposite ends of the political spectrum. Their contentious relationship, which lasted almost a half-century, produced a collaboration which created a body of cinematic work which has stood the test of time.

‘To illustrate the evolution of Ford/Wayne relationship we talked to biographers, critics, directors and actors who were able to illuminate the film with great personal insight. I also had access to the Indiana University Lilly Archives, and was able to use the recordings of Wayne interviews to provide further insight into his personality and his relationship with Ford. My goal in editing this film was to seamlessly interweave the story and show seminal highlights from some of the most iconic films in Hollywood history. Ultimately, it was to inspire the viewer to want to see these films in their entirety. If I have achieved this goal then the film has succeeded,’ continued Wechsler.

The John Ford/John Wayne: The Filmmaker and the Legend production team included executive producer Susan Lacy, writer/producer Ken Bowser, director Sam Pollard, co-producer Brian McDonald and editor Steven Wechsler.

The hi-def online and color correction were completed at WNET (New York, NY) by David Noling; Graphics were created by WNET Brian T. Whitehill; the score was composed by Thomas Wagner of Turtlerock Productions (New York, NY) and audio post was completed at WNET by mixer Ed Campbell. The film is a co-production of American Masters and Warner Home Video.

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