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The Searchers (1956)
As a Civil War veteran spends years searching for a young niece captured by Indians, his motivation becomes increasingly questionable.
You are watching: The Searchers
Also starring John Wayne
Also starring Jeffrey Hunter
Also starring Vera Miles
What makes a man to wander?Upon returning from a trip out to find cattle thieves, Ethan Edwards finds his brother and sister-in-law murdered by Comanches, and their two daughters missing. Driven by a hatred of Indians, and a motive of some determination, Edwards and his part Indian companion set off to find the missing girls, a perilous journey that will span many years.The Searchers is one of the greatest Westerns ever made, in fact it's one of the finest pictures all told ever made. It's reputation as such is most definitely warranted, directed and photographed with almost peerless precision, The Searchers stands tall as a triumph of cinematic achievement. Plot wise the piece is really very basic, based on a novel by Alan LeMay, its revenge/hatred driven pursuit theme is one that will forever be trundled out to gather easy Hollywood coin, but with director John Ford pulling the strings on this picture, The Searchers is cloaked with a beauty that belies the bleakness of the main protagonist's driving force. As a character driven picture it's something of a flag bearing lesson for all other directors to make note of, because the thematic heart of it lays with Ethan Edwards (superbly played by John Wayne), an embittered man that incredibly, in spite of his evident bile, manages to keep the viewer from hating him due to the complexities of his make up and the surrounding sprawl of the American West.The film is bookended by brilliant shots from open doorways, with both sequences impacting to almost steal the breath away, yet these are merely the crusts of an incredibly delicious sandwich. Many scenes here could be framed as pictures to define the classic Western, with Ford making the Monument Valley location one of the best Western characters to have ever graced the screen. Rolling hills and dusty odd shaped rocks are given impetus by scorching reds and oranges that themselves are aided by the everlasting fold of a vividly potent blue sky, all of it dwarfing the characters as Ford adroitly weaves the Civilization versus Wilderness thread. The Searchers is a film that positively begs repeat viewings, each subsequent viewing brings further insights into character dissections and a lyrical lesson in racial indifference, all played out with almost hauntingly poignancy by Max Steiner's memorable score.Back in the day the film never won any awards, presumably because the racist core of the film had many twitching in their beds, or maybe because the film doesn't rely on dialogue to make its points? (the body language and facial acting here is quite brilliant). Perhaps some just wanted a basic Western of shoot outs and shallow characters that barely have time to show some heart? Either way, what we do know now is that The Searchers is revered across the globe and often hits the best of lists formed by those with a very keen interest in cinema. Maybe it's only one for those willing to invest and observe it on numerous occasions? I am of course but a mere mortal film fan for sure, but really I feel this film is as good an experience as a film fan could have, technically and thematically the piece has few peers, it's a true American masterpiece. 10/10
Thoughtful Western about identity and (inner) conflict---"The Searchers" is more than a Western: it now is an essential classic. In the Sight & Sound poll 2012 (a reference worldwide survey issued every ten years), it is listed as #7 best movie ever and is the only Western in the top 50 (the following one is "Rio Bravo" as #68). For information the previous rankings are: #13 (2002), #5 (1992), #10 (1982), #18 (1972)? and 1962 was probably too early for the movie to gather sufficient recognition.*** WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS ***The movie revolves around identity and resulting conflicts. Apparently it is quite straightforward: Americans on one side, Indians on the other. But is it? Martin is eighth Cherokee, Americans use Indian items (blankets, clothes, sheathes), Scar speaks some English, Debbie becomes a Comanche.Even Ethan, who hates Indians from the start, uses Indian items and speaks some Comanche. In a revealing scene, when the posse discover a dead Comanche, Ethan shoots his eyes to have his blind soul wander forever: he hence believes in Indian mythology. When Ethan and Scar meet for the first time, the images of their faces are strikingly similar. Ultimately Ethan scalps Scar, another revealing act and an echo to Scar's scalp collection. Note he did not kill him (Martin did), because it would have been like killing the opposite part of him.This inner ambiguity is not limited to Americans versus Indians. Samuel is at the same time captain and reverend: he shoots and shouts "Hallelujah!" The Jorgensens have a Scandinavian name; "This country...", cries Mr Jorgensen after his son died as if he regretted Scandinavia. Ethan served in the Confederate army but joins the Rangers. Mose is considered a fool but is always right: he guesses who raided Mr Jorgensen's cattle; he introduces Ethan to Figueroa who will bring him to Debbie; eventually he discovers where Debbie is when all hope is lost.Hence the conflicts that cross the movie are also internal. This is notably illustrated by the famous shot on Ethan and Martin in the snow, with branches in front of their bodies that seem to cut them into pieces. In this context, "the search" of the title is a personal one: characters are searching for their identity and inner peace. To the questions of the song during the opening credits ("What makes a man to wander? etc.") answers the closing song: "A man will search for his heart and soul, etc."Ultimately everyone finds their "peace of mind": Debbie goes back to her origins, Martin evolves from "he-who-follows" to an independent grown-up, Laurie finds her love, Mose swings in his rocking-chair, the Jorgensens have a son-in-law, partly replacing their late son. Ethan, who is destructive and does not fit in this scheme (see below), will wander in the desert, just like the Indian's soul.To illustrate this inner search, the movie adopts a circular construction, partly abolishing space and time. It starts with a dark screen on which a door opens and ends the reversed way. This key shot (a dark opening on the outside) is repeated in different manners six other times. The side shot of the porch at the beginning (with the house on the right) is mirrored at the end (with the house on the left). Musical themes are replayed throughout the movie. We frequently turn around in circles in Monument Valley even though the action is supposed to take place across hundreds of miles. Eventually, we think Debbie is very far away but Mose reveals she is nearby. During the funeral, people sing "We will gather at the river": Ethan and Martin will meet Debbie near a stream. Ethan and Martin come back three times to the Jorgensens' during their search. Laurie reads Martin's letter again and again. Ethan says: "It is as sure as the turning of the earth". He describes the circle trick of Comanche: one thinks they are on one side, they are on the other. At the end, he lifts Debbie as he did seven years before. These years seem to fly.Ethan is a special character, one of the most prominent of Western genre. On the one hand he is direct and blunt, on the other there is a great deal of mystery around him. What did he do during the Civil War and the Mexican War? Is he a criminal as Samuel hints? Where did he get his newly minted money? What was his relationship with Martha (apparently they were in love)? Where will he go at the end? He is on the dark side, he casts death throughout the movie. His provocation leads to Brad's death. His belongings seem cursed: he previously gave a necklace to Lucy, she dies; he gives a medal to Debbie, she is kidnapped; he gives money to Aaron, he dies; he gives money to Futterman and kills him. Conversely, he gives money to Figueroa, but afterwards the latter returns the well-named "blood money" and symbolically rides back unharmed to the friendly cantina. Ethan's long search just to kill his niece, the last member of his family, is destructive and absurd.Martin is Ethan's balance, his bright side. He wants to save Debbie regardless. He increasingly opposes Ethan and prevents him from killing her. After Ethan is hit by a poisonous arrow, Martin extracts the venom from the wound and thus symbolically removes Ethan's rage to kill his niece.Two last notes. The first one regarding Indians: some critics have disapproved of their negative image in the movie. Granted, the Comanche are responsible for atrocities. However, the movie also shows Indian civilians (including the harmless Look) massacred by the cavalry and others held captive. And Ethan slaughters buffalos to starve them, a reference to the destruction of buffalos in the 19th century.Second, "The Searchers" is based on a novel by Alan Le May. In my opinion, the movie is very superior to the book although space lacks to demonstrate this.
He can't enter the spirit land. Has to wander forever between the winds.---It is 1868. A weary and battle-hardened Ethan has spend years at war. He has becomes jaded because of the things he has seen and done, and the atrocities he has suffered. These are never openly talked about, but John Wayne's tremendous performance creates subtext. Though rough around the edges, he harbours a great love for his brother's family. In one brief shot, the Reverend Clayton glances over at Martha, who is lovingly caressing and folding Ethan's coat, as if it were Ethan himself, and this adds an extra layer to the grief upon stumbling onto the burning home (a scene later mirrored in Star Wars) and prompts us to wonder of their history. The ending is etched within; the first and last shots echo each other, of that American homestead where some do not belong. Ethan's next step is to gently hoist up the young Debbie, and this brief memory, full to the brim with love and humanity, is exactly what is running through his mind in the climax. After all the settling in and the non-explanations of his long absence, upon finding a home for the first time in years, he goes outside and broods on the porch, and we again get a doorway shot, but this time from Ethan's POV from outside. This one is framed doubly, and we see how Aaron walks into the other room and closes its door, barring us entry. And so the beginning foreshadows the end. He is joined by the adopted Martin, who is 1/8 Native American, but it becomes ironic how the two roles reverse. Ethan has over the years harboured a great hatred for the Comanche, so much so that he has bothered to learn their customs and beliefs in order to commit sacrilege and violate a corpse. A cruel and unnecessary act that his own companions do not understand, because they have not experienced what he has experienced. You may catch a glimpse of a gravestone which further adds to his tragedy. Meanwhile Martin, who by his blood is predisposed and labelled with Ethan's own eyes, risks his life to potentially stray onto the same wandering and loveless life that his companion walks, but is able to recognise the humanity within Debbie much sooner than Ethan. And so Ethan comes to understanding and respect, and makes out his will to Martin. There is further irony where Scar and Ethan stare down each other, full of loathing, yet not so different from each other. Both have had loved ones snatched away in the endless violence, and both have become deeply and viciously prejudiced because of it. Many have noted of the film's age, of its outdated racial presentation of the Native Americans. But it is more complex than that (Henry Brandon in redface aside); we see the various atrocities of the Comanche that lead to the ambush (even hint at the demise of Lucy), but we also do not endorse them, and know of similar atrocities that are committed back in turn, and how lovingly and easily Martin has been accepted into the family. Still, it is problematic in other areas. Martin is a courageous and passionate character, but at times Hunter's portrayal can seem nonchalant, bored, slack-jawed in the heavy accent. The tone veers when we switch back to the Jorgensen ranch, where Ford opts to use countless dissolves and Laurie's voice-over and statements of time passing that don't particularly convey time that well. Comedy is inserted here, but perhaps it works, given how hilariously Miles delivers the line about her age, but it is less effective when Martin and Charlie fight in a rather slapstick manner. Another character that is treated with less dignity is Look, who could've been an enormous opportunity to subvert the Comanche persona. Martin however wraps her up and kicks her downhill, an unusually cruel and bizarre act that is played for laughs, as the sound effect of her crashing down is exaggerated cartoonishly for comedic effect, and Ethan lets out a cackle.Ford shoots in Monument Valley, and it was here first in Stagecoach he forged a lasting and enduring image of the American West that remains iconic in the Mittens and the Totem Pole. The landscape is dusty, brown and weary in VistaVision, and the buttes jut out of the parched dirt like aged monumental relics, without care in the harsh raw sunset as a homestead burns to the ground. As the Edwards residence comes under attack, the screen is bathed in this ominous reddish glow, and the score becomes sinister. The compositions are marvellous. The first signs of a Comanche ambush are visualised by having two groups ride abreast at a distance from one another, the Comanche in single file and silhouetted menacingly against the blue sky. Musical cues chime in to indicate little movements in the distance; a Comanche rider signalling the attack from afar, and later Debbie frantically rushing over the sand dunes. As Ethan brazenly proposes a nighttime raid for maximum casualties, a single rider perches atop the hill in the background, peering and keeping watch on the endless plains. And finally the iconic through the doorway shot, sharply contrasting the dark interior with the segment of intense exterior light. This visual motif is paraded throughout; in the opening where Martha has been waiting for years, later as Ethan peers into that same doorway, now destroyed in flames, as Mrs. Jorgensen greets the two weary travellers, and the final moment. We observe, this time not from behind a character, but omnisciently, as others enter; the happily reunited couple, the rescued girl, the relieved Jorgensens, but not Ethan. The door-frame and the intense lighting contrast highlights the stark features of a man redeemed, yet whose sins have ensured that he does not belong under that civilised roof. He is fated to wander the plains in solitude and in time, become one of the weathered rocky relics himself.
A Darker, Deeper John Wayne---This is not your typical western, especially for the period in which it was made. It may have John Ford at the helm and John Wayne in the lead, but hardly standard fare for either of them. There may still be hard working settlers, cowboys, Indians, a somewhat kooky supporting character for comic relief, and yes, a happy ending. But The Searchers is harder edged movie than either man usually made, with darker themes and a blurrier line between the good guys and the bad guys.The clearest indication that this is no Stagecoach or My Darling Clementine is Wayne's character, Ethan Edwards. He's ill tempered, quarrelsome , lacks any form of manners or tact, and harbors a very checkered past. The latter point is not unusual for a western, or a John Wayne character. From Ringo Kid to Rooster Cogburn, he's played plenty of men with skeletons in their closets. What is different here is that there's no attempt to distance Ethan from the more distasteful aspects of his past, or to explain or justify them. Nor is it ever stated exactly what misdeeds he's committed. Instead his past sort of hangs in the background, casting an aura of disrepute over him.And that's only the first impression. After the unseen Comanche raid that is the key to the entire story, we see more of who he really is. When he commits himself to a cause, he is all but unstoppable. He will do whatever he has to, for as long as he has to in order to bring back his niece, no matter how small his chances of success, and no matter what the cost to him or those with him. And though his cause is a righteous one, the same perhaps cannot be said for his reasons. For him his hatred of the Comanches and his all consuming thirst for revenge are motivations every bit as strong as his desire to rescue his niece.And as the film goes on, it becomes less clear whether rescue is really his goal. He keeps searching long past the point where even he expects Debbie to be alive, leading one to ask if his search has any real purpose or if he continues only because he is obsessed and can think of nothing else. And when it's learned that she is alive and well, this brings another question: What exactly does 'saving' her mean to him? Because all this time there's been the unspoken fear that Debbie may not be the same person who was taken away. Ethan knows well that many captives who have remained long with the Indians have themselves become Indians; what settlers called "the fate worse than death." With his burning hatred of all things Comanche, this possibility is entirely unthinkable and unacceptable. So the question on everyone's mind is this: Would he rather see her dead than be one of them? The first time I saw this movie, I couldn't believe that he would ever consider that. I mean come on, it's John Wayne we're talking about. But this time, even knowing the end, I had no trouble believing that he was capable of this. You can almost feel his hatred for all things Indian, and his disgust towards a group of 'white Indian' captives seen earlier is unsettling in its intensity. Ethan Edwards is exactly the kind of bitter, obsessed, habitually violent man who would shoot down his own blood for becoming one of 'them.' He would hate himself for it forever after, but he absolutely would be capable of doing it.Jeffrey Hunter delivers another standout performance as Ethan's adoptive nephew Martin. In the course of the film he goes from an excitable, woefully naive adolescent to a grizzled veteran of the trail. Throughout it all he holds a desire to rescue his sister every bit as strong as Ethan's, refusing every plea to go home and make a life for himself. But although he may be every bit as obsessed and stubborn as his uncle, his motives are much purer. Everything he does is for the purpose of bringing his little sister home safe. He does his best to be Ethan's conscience, and he will do whatever he must to protect Debbie- even from his uncle.Beyond the acting and the themes explored, The Searchers is highly impressive visually. The color is lavish by fifties standards, the scenery is breathtaking (even if it has little resemblance to central Texas) and the Indian battles are both excellently staged and historically accurate to a great degree. In fact for a film of the period, The Searchers is remarkably true to history, doing very well in portraying the plight of captives and their families, and the herculean efforts required to recover them. Plus its frank treatment of white attitudes towards Indians at the time, and its mere acknowledgment that white people- especially women- could become Indianized was groundbreaking, even scandalous at the time.I won't say this is a perfect movie. I felt that the comic relief, although effectively done, was more than the story called for. I liked old Mose, but I'm not sure that such a lovably eccentric character really had a place in this movie. Nor did I think the wedding scene really fit, especially the over the top hickishness of the groom. And seeing that most of the Comanche braves were played by actual Indians, I have to wonder why they chose a German born actor to play chief scar. Every time he was on screen I couldn't get past the fact that he was obviously white.These are relatively minor caveats however. The Searchers is a landmark of the western genre, and much deeper than its contemporaries. Although I still wouldn't consider it Ford's best work, it ranks high on any list of westerns, and I highly recommend it to all audiences.
Remarkable considering it still stands as one of the true classic films ever made.---For me the most disturbing scene is at the 1:13 marker - you see the 7th cavalry entering a snow bound fort on horseback and as 'Glengarry' plays there is a group of Indian women and small children in front of a group of horses with mounted cavalry bellowing at them to "Move along!" Any competent historian is struck with a 19th Century version of a Sonderkommando death squad in Podolia herding captured Jews.This film is briefly noted in the classic history "Empire Of The Summer Moon" by S.C. Gwynne - if you have never read the book you truly should to just get a true understanding of what makes Texas what it is.John Wayne-Ethan Edwards notes how he is different than the Indians by stating "....never met someone who wouldn't quit" This was true - until the Texicans, Rangers arrived the Comanche had successfully and completely defeated all the native-American tribes, Spaniards and Mexicans they'd encountered.I cannot recommend this film enough - it is the best performance in Wayne's career - he should have been nominated for the AA and given it hands down - his contempt for decorum, for niceties, for manners for respect and courtesy is throughout the film and his self-exclusion at the end of the movie is truly a self-assessment of where he belongs - anywhere but where reason and planning for the future is the expected norm.There is not one bad cast in the entire film -
Awesome and marvelous Western by the great John Ford and deemed by many to be his masterpiece---A true classic of the Western genre with powerful scenes and spectacular outdoors . The story that sweeps from the great Southwest to the Canadian border in VistaVision . This nice and well-paced Western contains adventure , interesting characters , romance , shootouts and spectacular fights . Action Western is pretty good , stylishly developed , a first-rate story and powerful told too ; including a solid main and support cast lead some eye-catching performances . It deals with a Civil War veteran , Ethan Edwards (John Wayne as an embittered Indian-hating , ex-Confederate soldier gives his best acting through a long career) along with Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter was nearly 29 at the time of filming, although his character was supposed to be a teenager , though Robert Wagner auditioned for the character) and Brad Jorgensen (Harry Carey Jr) embark on a relentless journey , spanning several years , to rescue his niece (Natalie Wood as a grown-up girl and his youngest sister Lana Wood as a child, the latter starred a bit later on a similar film titled Greyeagle) who was abducted years earlier from an Indian tribe . As desperate relatives spend years searching for their loved beings kidnapped by Indians in this lengthy Western . As time goes on , we begin to wonder whether Ethan is out to save his niece or kill her . This nice as well as superb Western contains thoughtful characters , full of wide open space and dramatic moments . Outdoors are pretty good and well photographed by Winton C. Hoch , story first-rate and powerful told too . Here John Ford and John Wayne reached the peak of their successful and long screen collaboration . Considering the part of Ethan Edwards to be the best character he ever portrayed on-screen and his favorite film role, John Wayne named a son Ethan Wayne in homage . Thought-provoking , insightful screenplay portraying in depth characters and brooding events with interesting issues running beneath script surface . Over-the-top Western with trigger-taut drama , perfectly written by Frank S. Nugent who brings the story of the day the West will never forget from the 1954 novel by Alan Le May of the same name that was first serialized as a short story and first titled, "The Avenging Texans" , acknowledged similarities existed between the film's script and an actual Comanche kidnapping of Cynthia Ann Parker, a young white girl in Texas in 1836 . Marvelously shot Ford film with a lively look at the complex reintegration of captives . Ford's subsequent film ¨Two rode together¨ has a similar plot to ¨The searchers¨ though the Ford's vision about West is pretty cynical and less idealist . This classic and moving picture ranks as one of the main of John Ford's works , including settings , interpretations , cinematography all extraordinary . It contains Ford's usual themes as familiar feeling , a little bit enjoyable humor, friendship and sense of comradeship but also some cynicism and full of wide open spaces with breathtaking landscapes exceptionally filmed from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada , Durango , Mexico , Aspen , Gunnison , Colorado, Goosenecks State Park , Utah, and , of course , Monument Valley, Arizona . Sensitive and thrilling musical score by the classic composer Max Steiner , including wonderful songs . Ford gets to ensemble a magnificent supporting cast , plenty of familiar faces such as John Qualen , Olive Carey , Henry Brandon , Ken Curtis , Harry Carey Jr., film debut of Pippa Scott , Antonio Moreno , the role of a young cavalry officer, Lt. Greenhill, is played by Patrick Wayne, John Wayne's son and great featured-role acting by veteran War Bond . Furthermore , Hank Worden, whose role is loosely based on an actual historical personage called Mad Mose, a legendary half-crazy Indian fighter of the American southwest with a fondness for rocking chairs .This picture is considered an American classic and is one of the greatest Western movies . This may be Ford's best Western , as many claim , but it's still head ad shoulders above most big-scale movies . In fact , it 's remade , copied and imitated many times since , such as Caravans , Greyeagle , Winterhawk .. . You'll find the final terrible or over-melodramatic according to your tastes , though it's lovingly realized by John Ford who really picks up the drama towards the ending . Rating : Essential and indispensable seeing ; being ranked #1 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Western" in June 2008 and as the #12 Greatest Movie of All Time.
Simply breathtaking.---A lone home amidst tranquil mesas. A family gathers on their front porch to watch a solitary man ride slowly up to their ranch on his horse in the waning sun. He stops, disembarks and walks up to the house, all in one single weary move. Note his stance, the rugged tiredness of life etched on his face. This lone drifter is Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) and is perhaps the most brilliant character devised by Wayne and director John Ford. As the film progresses, we learn of his military days, his contempt of Indians and, most importantly, his psyche. Compared to another John ford movie, "Stagecoach", we can see the massive differences in character psychology and within the genre itself. Gone are the days of the brave hero riding in to save the day with wistful smiles all around; instead we have a savage man on an odyssey of revenge, hatred and bloodshed.In one scene, Ethan and a search party comes across a dead Indian buried in the ground. Ethan's suppressed rage overcomes him, and he shoots the corpse's eyes out. "What good did that do ya?" asks the Reverend. Ethan coolly replies, "Ain't got no eyes so he can't enter the spirit land, has to wander forever between the winds". This is by far my favourite line in the movie, because of the resonance it has at the end, with Ethan walking away into the winds, doomed to forever drift the earth. This movie is a beautiful spectacle of sight and sound. Not only do we marvel at scenes in Ford's beloved Monument Valley, we also find ourselves amazed at the level of detail in set design. Each frame is as if it were from a painter's canvas. Colour coordination was certainly something John Ford and his cinematographers fit perfectly into. There are few vibrant colours in each frame, but those that exist pop out vividly amongst the bleak, sepia-stained walls of the houses, and the valley. John Ford again demonstrates his powerful storytelling technique by using several methods of progressing the narrative. While crosscutting between action is used sparingly, a quasi-flashback stemming from a letter of Luke's kept my attention firmly rooted to my screen. These different methods of narrative progression are important because it keeps the viewer continuously involved with the story. Not once did I feel as if a particular scene droned on and on for too long, instead I felt captivated not only by a gripping storyline, but also because of the brilliant dichotomy between Ethan Edwards and the other characters. The Searchers is a lesson on psychology, sociology and filmmaking all at once. I love it.
This film is one of the best western movie of cinema---This film is one of the best western movie history . Enjoying the first frame to last, which also helps to use VistaVision, a system which some did not succeed because of its high price and according to others because actresses vetoed it because they pulled every last flaw to have. But this movie is VistaVision as a other character, thanks to it we see Monument Valley as never seen. And mounted horse Wayne let traveling for a inhospitable places with characters to faint in their difficult task, which encourage you to continue to be able to rest with them in the house in the middle of nowhere where Ford gives us the plane of his life, a plane had already rehearsed in "Stagecoach" 1939 but now it rises to the maximum powerThis film is one of the biggest arguments against racism filmed . The script never attacks the Indians unless coming from the mouth of "Ethan" , which is obsessed with the inferiority of the Indian race . Hence it is one of the great details of this movie: his relationship with his nephew "Martin" , who rejected as mestizo. However, if they have to work to find the little "Debbie" , although both have very different reasons: one is his cousin, and the other to end his life after becoming an Indian .Throughout the film we become a third member more. Sorry what both protagonists feel. Across the desert, snow, over the years, we meet colourful characters, and great natural landscapes, which are mixed with stone decorated cardboard, overshadow some pictures. John Wayne made here one of the best performances ever made, although many people say that only puts tough guy face. His look is the eyes of someone who lives only to kill, a real lunatic. Vera Miles in his small role appears more radiant and beautiful than ever. I find it somewhat hard to believe that Natalie Wood interpret a teenager, even though it does superbly what little appears. Jeffrey Hunter at times seems incapable of being a tough guy, but ultimately resolves the role with confidence.The colour of photography of Winton C. Hoch's great. The Monument Valley is pictured as never done. These general plans are part of film history. When they discover the house after the killing, back lights show us what happened without showing violent images. The Ford VistaVision frames are extraordinary. The plane appears composed leaving nothing to chance. And Ford demonstrating sensitivity at all times is a wonderful thing. With a single detail, showing how her sister strokes his coat, shows the mutual feelings between them, or the beginning of the film. Simply opening a door, we know what genre we are. And that final is a tribute to Harry Carey with Wayne walking toward infinity, returning to show what it is: a wandering misfit...
Landmark Western.---John Ford and John Wayne re-team for their best and most famous western. Wayne plays returning Civil War veteran Ethan Edwards, who comes to the Texas ranch of his brother on hopes of settling down to a new life. Unfortunately, these plans are cruelly thwarted when the ranch(filled with the women and children) is raided by ruthless and renegade Indian chief Scar, who attacks and massacres the family, except for little Debbie Edwards(Natalie Wood) Ethan, enraged and distraught by this raid, vows to track down and kill the tribe, and rescue his niece, with the help from his nephew Martin(played by Jeffrey Hunter). This search takes several years of their lives, across the country and through all kinds of weather and obstacles, until one day they finally locate Debbie, who is now assimilated into the tribe Ethan hates, and he may not be able to spare her...Gorgeously filmed on location in Ford's beloved Monument Valley, with an intelligent and ambitious script and a superlative performance by Wayne, as a driven and vengeful man who is not always likable, but is still righteous and fascinating. Film does ramble a bit, and the outcome is not really in doubt, but excellent film is still worth watching, with an astonishing closing scene.
The ultimate western---John Ford's The Searchers is my favorite all-time western. To even further appreciate this masterpiece one must read Alan Le May's novel by the same name on which this movie is based. If you do, you will appreciate certain details which John Ford made sure to recreate on the screen, and most importantly you will get a better understanding of the time line. It is truly amazing how Ford managed to fit so many years into two hours without losing too much. John Ford use of scenery and character development was unsurpassed. It just has everything. The movie opens with a door framing shot on the Edwards homestead. The shot shows the loneliness and isolation of Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) returning home from the civil war. Over dinner, we learn that he'd always been a "loner" since his brother was married to the woman he loved, and the "cause" he fought for in the Civil War lost, but he refused to surrender. While out on patrol, the Edwards homestead was attack by Native Americans. The scene with Ethan Edward coming home to see the death and the burn ruins of the home is sheer brilliance and was the last straw he had with the Comanche tribe. He notice that his niece Debbie was capture by them, and force to be a wife to its leader, Scar. He wasn't going to allow that. He goes to rescue the girl, spending years searching for her, his motivation becomes increasingly questionable and dark. John Wayne as Ethan Edwards was the subtle darkest character he ever played. He had a serious hated for Indians, which the book made clear and the movie less so. If you pay very close attention when Debbie (Natalie Wood) is hiding out by the Tombstone, you can just make out the writing. It shows why Ethan is borderline racist. A lot of people might point that that the movie might be a bit racist due to Ethan's hatred of anything Native American. This is not a racist movie. In fact, Ford examines the extremity of racism by the whites against the Native Americans during this period. In fact, there was a lot of interracial hatred in Texas and the West. Still, nearly all of the violence and hatred in the film is by the whites. The film questions the racist attitude they had at the time towards the American natives, epitomized by Wayne's character, but still Ford had attempted to justify mass murder for revenge in the film. Hence the dry run at the Academy Awards. John Ford's purpose in making The Searchers wasn't to make a statement about the horrible treatment and oppression of Native Americans. It was to tell a good story. The Searchers, is in fact one of the biggest complex, multi-layered films to come out of the Hollywood studio system. The photography and film subtext is legendary. The Searchers was filmed in VistaVision, and movies made in VistaVision look so much better today when restored than other forms of film-making at the time. Watch it on Blu-ray which has breathtaking cinematography of Monument Valley in its best. The setting in Monument Valley was made for westerns. The ending of The Searchers is great, without a doubt. Arguably one of the greatest scenes in the history of movies. Ford says everything without words. This scene is simply perfect show and tell. There are so many analysis of what happen to Ethan Edward in the final minutes that raise questions. When Duke John Wayne holds his arm, it was tribute to his hero, Harry Carey, who was a star of silent western films. Harry Carey often did what Duke did in the last scene of The Searchers. Still there are a bit of silly, such in the case in the letters being read by Vera Miles in the cabin on the large wooden bench. Those parts dragged a little. I thought the fight scene at the end was a little hokey. The editing isn't that great and some of the props were obviously 70 years ahead of their time. The movie didn't get the critical acclaim when it came out. It wasn't until the 1970s that The Searchers came to serious critical acclaim, too late for Ford but not Wayne. Taxi Driver, Star Wars, and Godfather was inspired by the technique of this film. That's saying something.