The Searchers

The_SearchersThe Searchers is my all time favorite film and is director John Ford’s masterwork. It is one of those films that invite you into deeper levels of complexity and richness with repeated viewings. I have seen it probably close to 100 times and I still find things new. It is a Greek Tragedy in spurs, complete with a fool. The story centers on Ethan Edward’s five-year search for his niece who has been kidnapped by a Comanche war chief named Scar. Scar has also killed his brother, Aaron and his brother’s wife, Martha whom Ethan was in love with. He is torn by his commitment to family, his need for revenge and his hatred of Indians. John Wayne delivers his most compelling performance. There are those who feel Wayne was a limited actor with little range other than being “The Duke”. They will be surprised at how extremely nuanced his performance is here. Ford also tackles some of the more compelling social issues of the day, civil rights, miscegenation etc. and does it with the deftness of an old master. Nowhere does it give one the feeling of being a “message” picture. Still, if it were not for the not too subtle comic relief, The Searchers would be an unbearable tragedy. Ward Bond, Natalie Wood, and Jeffrey Hunter also star.

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