5 comments on “The Searchers

  1. Why did you soften your review at the end? You were right the first time, its not a very strong story. Yes, the cinematography is pretty good, but I don’t know if that’s enough to recommend it, despite its classic status.

    • Though I noticed a few issues in the story, it doesn’t mean it’s not an overall good movie. If it wasn’t a good movie, the issues probably wouldn’t have bothered me. Besides, everything else went above and beyond my expectations. I admit to not liking many westerns, but this had me more than interested and entertained the whole time. Gotta recommend it.

  2. I refer you to my comment on “My Movie Year”–1956–in which I listed THE SEARCHERS as one of my best of that year. I never tire of watching it. You are absolutely right in pointing out story-line flaws; but, somehow, the cleverness of the script, the sub-plots, The great performances by Wayne and Hunter, and the cinematography overshadow any faults. And some great moments…Old Mose and his rocking chair, the sequence with “Look”, the scenes with Wayne’s son Patrick as the young officer, the wedding fight, shooting the eyes out of the Indian so his spirit would wander without rest (“you get it, Reverand”)…and John Wayne has never been more John Wayne than in this film. One of the absolutely great Westerns of all times!

    • You said it, Ken! I knew you were a fan, but wondered if you also noticed the flaws. Thanks so much for suggesting I review The Searchers, got a lot more from the ’50s and ’60s to go.

  3. Not a perfect film (I know people who are really bothered by the fact that there is the occasional scene obviously shot on a sound stage in the middle of all the location shots), but I find it to be so powerful that I don’t really care.

    I’m not sure Ethan Edwards’ hatred for Indians needs explanation. As Peter Bogdanovich pointed out in the DVD commentary, all of the things we see in the picture (white settlers shooting buffalo just because it will mean the Indians have less food, cavalry wiping out entire Indian villages including women and children) really happened. It is almost more surprising that Ethan, over the years, softens enough in his view of Martin to make the “half-breed” his heir. The more interesting question is how Ethan knows so much about the Indians that he hates so much.

    Ford tended to avoid the “Indians = savages” dynamic of many Western films (Fort Apache, for one example, is very much about how wrong that view is), but this was the film where he really lays out that there was brutal savagery on both sides (it is Ethan Edwards who takes a scalp at the end, after all).

    My interpretation of Debby’s original claim that the Comanche are now her people and she wants to stay with them is that it could be she’s just saying that to get Ethan and Martin to leave (so that they won’t be killed). But it’s not clear, and maybe it’s more than one thing. (Also, in that scene I tend to get distracted by the incredible amount of eye makeup Natalie Wood is wearing 🙂 ).

    And, yes, Debby could be Ethan’s daughter, and maybe he doesn’t even know, but I think the main point is that she is the daughter of the woman he loved, and one of the great pleasures of the movie is the way the love between Ethan and Martha is shown, always in silence with small gestures, and the great scene where they say their tender goodbyes as Ward Bond earnestly looks in the other direction, not wanting to see what he shouldn’t.

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