John Ford – American Film Institute

John Ford

1st AFI Life Achievement Award Honoree

John Ford

On February 26, 1973, the Board of Trustees of the American Film Institute voted to initiate an annual award to honor a single individual for his or her lifetime contribution to the enrichment of American culture through motion pictures and television.

The Trustees specified that the yearly recipient must be one whose talent has, in a fundamental way, advance the film art, and whose accomplishments have been acknowledged by scholars, critics, professional peers and the general public. The Trustees specified that the recipient must be one whose work has stood the test of time.

The Trustees voted unanimously that the first award would go to a man who clearly stands preeminent in the history of motion pictures — John Ford.

Altogether, John Ford’s films are a creative tapestry representing over 50 years of work. No individual has more fully explored on film the American experience. What Ma Joad says of her life in THE GRAPES OF WRATH is true of Ford’s work, “…it’s all one flow, like a stream, little eddies, little waterfalls, but the river, it goes right on.”

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THE HISTORY OF THE AFI LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

The AFI Life Achievement Award — the highest honor for a career in film — was established by the AFI Board of Trustees on February 23, 1973 to celebrate an individual whose career in motion pictures or television has greatly contributed to the enrichment of American culture.

The award is given to a “recipient whose talent has in a fundamental way advanced the film art; whose accomplishment has been acknowledged by scholars, critics, professional peers and the general public; and whose work has stood the test of time.”

In 1993, the AFI Board of Trustees extended the criteria to encompass individuals with active careers and work of significance yet to be accomplished.