John Ford

The son of Irish immigrants, famously prickly director John Ford was born Feb. 1, 1895, in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. After briefly attending the University of Maine, he followed his actor-director brother Francis to Hollywood.

Though Ford began his Tinseltown career as a prop man and stunt double, he graduated to the director's chair in 1917. Many of his early movies were Westerns -- the genre he would come to define. The Iron Horse (1924) marked him as a director of significance, but it took until the mid-1930s for Ford to cement his reputation: In 1935, he earned the first of four Best Director Oscars (oddly, all for non-Westerns) with The Informer.

Ford also won Oscars for The Grapes of Wrath (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941) and The Quiet Man (1952), while his notable later works include The Searchers (1956) and Cheyenne Autumn (1964). He succumbed to stomach cancer Aug. 31, 1973.