Tuesday, December 14, 2010

#130. The Searchers (1956)

DVD Synopsis: Working together for the 12th time, John Wayne and director John Ford forged The Searchers into a landmark Western offering an indelible image of the frontier and the men and women who challenged it. Wayne plays an ex-Confederate soldier seeking his niece, captured by Comanches who massacred his family. He won't surrender to hunger, thirst, the elements or loneliness. And in his five-year search, he encounters something unexpected: his own humanity.









John Wayne is remarkable in The Searchers, playing Ethan Edwards, a man with deep-rooted prejudices and a threatening personality who's driven on in his quest to find his kidnapped niece not by love, but hatred. 

Ethan and his adopted nephew, Martin (Jeffrey Hunter), spend several years tracking the Comanche tribe that took Debbie (played first by Lana Wood, then her elder sister, Natalie), all the while hoping to uncover some clue that the girl is still alive. But as time drags on, Ethan begins to accept the fact that his niece, if she has survived, will have been assimilated into the Comanche tribe, a fate Ethan believes is worse than death itself. In fact, the thought of Debbie becoming a Comanche squaw is so upsetting to him that, if he does find her alive, Ethan will more than likely kill the girl himself.  

Ethan is the quintessential anti-hero, a character who simultaneously invokes our sympathies, and our wrath.  The Searchers never fully explores all of the nuances of Ethan Edwards, and spends absolutely no time whatsoever on his back story (a veteran of the Confederate Army, there are some clues that he may have committed a robbery, and more than a few hints are dropped that Ethan and his sister-in-law, played by Dorothy Jordan, had been involved romantically at one point). But then, all we really need to know of Ethan Edwards can be found in Wayne’s magnificent performance, which single-handedly transforms The Searchers into one of the finest Westerns ever made.


Please leave a comment below... I'd love to hear from you









1 comment:

John DeBoer said...

I'm surprised no comments have been left yet for this masterpiece western. Ford's troupe of actors all shine, but especially the Duke. The closing scene is a killer.