10 Best Stars From John Ford’s Stock Company, Ranked


John Ford was a legendary filmmaker and Hollywood icon who directed some of the greatest movies of all time including The Searchers, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. He was known for his on-location productions, natural backdrop, and wide camera shots that made him one of the most influential filmmakers of his generation. Born John Martin Feeny in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, Ford started out in show business appearing in his older brother, Francis’, films and eventually realized that he had a talent behind the camera.

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While Ford is universally recognized for his signature Westerns and genre-hopping, he was also known for having a stock company of stellar stars such as Ward Bond, Henry Fonda, and Maureen O’Hara who were frequently cast in his films. From Harry Carey Jr. to John Wayne, these are the 10 best stars from John Ford’s stock company, ranked!

10 Harry Carey Jr.

‘The Searchers,’ ‘3 Godfathers,’ ‘Rio Grande’

Image via Warner Bros. 

Harry Carey Jr. was the son of major silent film star, Harry Carey, who appeared in several of Ford’s early Western films including the director’s first feature film, Straight Shooting. According to The Independent, Carey Jr. served in the Navy during World War II, but he was transferred back to the States from the Pacific to assist Ford with filming training videos for the Office of Strategic Services.

After the war, Carey Jr. initially pursued a career as a singer and had no intention of following in his father’s famous footsteps, but when his career was unsuccessful, he eventually joined Ford’s Stock Company.

Harry Carey Jr.’s Roles

Movie

Character

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

Lt. Ross Pennell

Two Rode Together

Ortho Clegg

Tombstone

Marshal Fred White

9 Vera Miles

‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,’ ‘The Searchers,’ ‘Rookie of the Year’

Vera Miles in The Searchers
Image via Warner Bros.

Vera Miles is an underrated actress born in Oklahoma and raised in Kansas who competed in beauty pageants to earn extra money. In 1948, she was crowned Miss Kansas, but she never considered show business until an agent suggested that she move to Los Angeles. She appeared in her first Ford film, When Willie Comes Marching Home in 1950 and signed a contract with Warner Bros. Studio. In 1955, Miles reunited with Ford and was cast alongside John Wayne in the director’s baseball drama, Rookie of the Year.

Miles appeared with Wayne the following year in one of Ford’s greatest films, The Searchers, and soon became one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood. That same year, Miles starred in Alfred Hitchcock‘s movie, The Wrong Man,and after signing a contract with Hitchcock in 1957, she appeared in his signature movie, Psycho, which is considered to be one of her most memorable performances.

Vera Miles’ Roles

Movie

Character

The Wrong Man

Rose Balestrero

Wichita

Laurie

Follow Me, Boys!

Vida Downey

8 Ward Bond

‘The Quiet Man,’ ‘The Fugitive,’ ‘My Darling Clementine’

Ward Bond looking off into the distance in The Searchers (1956)
Image via Warner Bros. 

Ward Bond was an essential character actor who appeared in over 200 movies and starred in NBC’s Western series, Wagon Train, until his death in 1960. Born in 1903 in Nebraska, Bond grew up in Denver, Colorado, and attended the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. Bond went on to play football at the University of Southern California where he met his future co-star and Hollywood legend, John Wayne.

In 1929, Ford cast the entire USC football in his film, Salute, and during filming, Bond and Wayne both befriended the director who would go on to direct them in several of his films. Throughout his extensive career, Bond appeared in a total of twenty Ford films including The Searchers, Fort Apache, They Were Expendable, and Young Mr. Lincoln.

Ward Bond’s Roles

Movie

Character

It’s a Wonderful Life

Bert

The Maltese Falcon

Detective Tom Polhaus

Mister Roberts

Dowdy

7 John Carradine

‘Stagecoach,’ ‘The Grapes of Wrath,’ ‘The Hurricane’

John Carradine hanging out the window of a stagecoach holding a pistol in Stagecoach (1939)
Image via United Artists

John Carradine was one of the greatest character actors of all time who appeared in over three hundred movies and television shows and was the father of actor, David Carradine. Born in 1906 in New York City, Carradine set out to establish himself as an artist, but according to his son’s autobiography, Endless Highway, he had always had a desire to be on the stage. By 1936, he had joined Ford’s Stock company and made eleven films with the director.

Carradine delivered one of his most memorable performances as Preacher Casey in Ford’s adaptation of John Steinbeck‘s novel, The Grapes of Wrath. According to Hollywood’s Hellfire Club by Gregory William Mank, when Carradine first arrived in Hollywood, he used to sneak into the Hollywood Bowl at night and recite various monologues, but one night, someone called the police on him. Years later, Carradine shared the story and learned that Ford was the one who had called the authorities on him.

John Carradine’s Roles

Movie

Character

Mary of Scotland

David Rizzio

Dimples

Richards

Les Misérables

Enjolras

6 Maureen O’Hara

‘The Quiet Man,’ ‘McLintock!,’ ‘How Green Was My Valley’

Maureen O'Hara in The Redhead from Wyoming
Image via Universal Pictures

Maureen O’Hara was a one of the most prolific actresses in Ford’s Stock Company and is best known for her frequent on-screen pairing with John Wayne. Born in Dublin, Ireland, O’Hara started performing at the age of 10 years old and appeared in several British films including Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn. Soon after, she made her American screen debut in The Hunchback of Notre Dame starring Charles Laughton.

In 1941, O’Hara worked with Ford for the first time and appeared in his Oscar-winning film, How Green Was My Valley. Ford cast O’Hara opposite Wayne in the 1950 Western, Rio Grande, and unknowingly created one of Hollywood’s favorite on-screen couples who starred in a total of five films together. Out of O’Hara and Waynes’ movies together, four were directed by Ford including McLintock!, The Quiet Man and The Wings of the Eagle.

Maureen O’Hara’s Roles

Movie

Character

The Parent Trap

Maggie McKendrick

Miracle on 34th Street

Doris Walker

Rio Grande

Mrs. Kathleen Yorke

5 Thomas Mitchell

‘My Darling Clementine,’ ‘Stagecoach,’ ‘The Long Voyage Home’

Thomas Mitchell sitting alone at a table with a bottle of whiskey in Stagecoach (1939)
Image via United Artists

New Jersey-born actor, Thomas Mitchell was working as a newspaper reporter when he realized that he enjoyed writing theater skits and in 1913, he joined and toured with Charles Coburn‘s Shakespeare Company. By the 1920s, Mitchell had become a prominent name on Broadway and eventually transitioned to film. He first worked with Ford on the 1937 romantic drama, The Hurricane, but his breakthrough performance came in Frank Capra‘s Lost Horizon.

In 1939, Mitchell had key roles in several notable films including Stagecoach, which earned the actor his first Academy Award win for Best Supporting Actor. Mitchell went on to appear in dozens of classic movies such as It’s a Wonderful Life and High Noon, and became the first male star to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting.

Thomas Mitchell’s Roles

Movie

Character

Gone With the Wind

Gerald O’Hara

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Diz Moore

Only Angels Have Wings

Kid Dabb

4 Henry Fonda

‘The Grapes of Wrath,’ ‘My Darling Clementine,’ ‘Young Mr. Lincoln’

Henry Fonda in My Darling Clementine
Image via 20th Century Studios

Oscar-winning actor, Henry Fonda, reigns as one of the greatest stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age who starred in countless classic movies. Fonda was born in Nebraska and started his acting career at the age of 20 at the Omaha Community Playhouse. He made his feature film debut in the 1935 film, The Farmer Takes a Wife and gained recognition when he reprised the role on Broadway. In 1939, he was cast in his first Ford film, Young Mr. Lincoln, and that same year, starred in the director’s film, Drums Along the Mohawk.

Fonda’s overgrowing success led to Ford casting him in The Grapes of Wrath, which is considered to be one of Fonda’s finest performances. The movie earned seven Oscar nominations including Fonda for Best Actor and won for both Best Director and Best Supporting Actress. Fonda went on to work with Ford on several more films including My Darling Clementine, The Fugitive, Fort Apache, How the West Was Won, and Mister Roberts.

Henry Fonda’s Roles

Movie

Character

12 Angry Men

Juror #8

The Wrong Man

Manny Balestrero

Once Upon a Time in the West

Frank

3 Spencer Tracy

‘Up the River,’ ‘The Last Hurrah,’ ‘How the West was Won’

Spencer Tracy staring at someone in The Last Hurrah
Image via Columbia Pictures

Spencer Tracy is another essential Golden Age star who was best known for his natural talent and range of versatile roles. The Milwaukee-born actor started his career on the stage and gained prominence on Broadway before making his feature film debut in Ford’s 1930 pre-code comedy, Up the River. The movie was a surprising success and resulted in Tracy signing a long-term contract with Fox.

Tracy went on to become one of Hollywood’s most popular stars and in 1958, he reunited with Ford for the director’s political comedy, The Last Hurrah. While the film was a flop at the box office, it still earned Academy Award nominations for both Best Actor and Best Director. Several years later, Tracy narrated Ford’s epic 1962 Western, How the West Was Won, marking their final film together.

Spencer Tracy’s Roles

Movie

Character

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Matt Drayton

Inherit the Wind

Henry Drummond

Judgment at Nuremberg

Chief Judge Dan Haywood

2 James Stewart

‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,’ ‘Two Rode Together,’ ‘Cheyenne Autumn’

Jimmy Stewart holding his forearm in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Image via Paramount Pictures

Jimmy Stewart was a classic leading man and Hollywood icon who was known for his good ole boy roles and distinctive drawl. Born in Pennsylvania, Stewart attended Princeton University and after graduation, he began his acting career appearing on Broadway and summer stock productions. Stewart delivered his breakthrough performance in Frank Capra’s comedy, You Can’t Take It With You, and won his first and only Oscar for the 1940 film, The Philadelphia Story.

By the 1960s, Stewart started taking on the Western genre and in 1961, he appeared in his first Ford film, Two Rode Together. The following year, the two collaborated again on one of the greatest Westerns of all time, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance with John Wayne and Lee Marvin. Stewart continued his track record with Ford and starred in the director’s epic-ensemble Western, How the West Was Won, and Cheyenne Autumn starring Richard Widmark and Karl Malden.

Jimmy Stewart’s Roles

Movie

Character

It’s a Wonderful Life

George Bailey

Rear Window

L.B. Jefferies

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Jefferson Smith

1 John Wayne

‘The Searchers,’ ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,’ ‘The Quiet Man’

John Wayne as Ethan Edwards in The Searchers
Image via Warner Bros.

Western star and Hollywood icon, John Wayne, was one of the most prominent stars in Ford’s stock company. Wayne was born in Iowa and attended the University of Southern California, but when a football injury cost him his scholarship, he had to drop out. According to John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman, Wayne’s former coach, Howard Jones, pulled a few strings and was hired by Ford as a prop boy and extra before moving into bit parts.

Wayne landed his first starring role in The Big Trail directed by Raoul Walsh, but his performance in Ford’s 1939 Western, Stagecoach, established The Duke as a promising star. With a friendship spanning over several decades, Wayne and Ford collaborated on a total of fourteen films together including Fort Apache, McLintock!, Donovan’s Reef and The Long Voyage Home.

John Wayne’s Roles

Movie

Character

True Grit

Rooster Cogburn

Red River

Thomas Dunson

Rio Bravo

Sheriff John T. Chance

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