Spielberg has always been a big fan of John Ford: in several interviews, he has talked fondly (and with a bit of awe) about the time he, as a 15-year-old aspiring filmmaker, met the legendary director of such Hollywood classics as The Informer, The Grapes of Wrath and The Searchers. He recently stated that “Ford’s in my mind when I make a lot of my pictures”; many critics found Spielberg’s latest movie, The War Horse, very Fordian in its look and themes.
The kissing scene E.T. watches — and makes Elliott re-enact — is from Ford’s The Quiet Man, a wonderful bit of rom-com blarney in which an American (John Wayne) returns to Ireland and falls in love with a fiery spinster (Maureen O’Hara). The young blond girl Elliott kisses is Erika Eleniak, who would go on to find TV stardom playing lifeguard Shauni McClain in Baywatch.(MORE: Cinema 1982: Spielberg’s E.T. and Poltergeist)