The Searchers

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed
Is this the greatest American film ever made? And furthermore, is there any other work of art that can tell us more about American identity, or, perhaps more accurately, the ambiguity at the heart of American identity? Does anything else so beautifully portray the power of the American utopian dream but also present the full cost and horror of that illusion?

Tell me what you think of this movie. It stars John Wayne.

ryan (ryan), Monday, 3 November 2003 17:40 (twenty years ago) link

no, probably, dunno

amateur!st (amateurist), Monday, 3 November 2003 17:43 (twenty years ago) link

it is beautiful but just one feather in the caps of its star, screenwriter, director

amateur!st (amateurist), Monday, 3 November 2003 17:43 (twenty years ago) link

what is the american utopian dream and how does it relate to this film btw?

amateur!st (amateurist), Monday, 3 November 2003 17:44 (twenty years ago) link

what else did Frank Nugent write?

as far as the american utopian dream i think it goes back to the puritans - the "fine good place to be" as it is called in the film. creating a new eden out in the frontier.

ryan (ryan), Monday, 3 November 2003 17:46 (twenty years ago) link

in other words, his quest to find debbie is a quest to rebuild the home that is destroyed at the beginning. when he picks her up like a little girl again at the end its almost as if no time has passed for him (also related to the obscure timeframe of the film)

ryan (ryan), Monday, 3 November 2003 17:48 (twenty years ago) link

among others...

Donovan's Reef (1963) (as Frank Nugent)
Two Rode Together (1961) (as Frank Nugent)
Last Hurrah, The (1958) (as Frank Nugent)
Rising of the Moon, The (1957)
Searchers, The (1956) (screenplay)
Mister Roberts (1955) (as Frank Nugent)
Angel Face (1952) (as Frank Nugent)
Quiet Man, The (1952)
Wagon Master (1950)
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) (as Frank Nugent)
Tulsa (1949) (as Frank Nugent)
3 Godfathers (1948)
Fort Apache (1948)

amateur!st (amateurist), Monday, 3 November 2003 17:49 (twenty years ago) link

Is this the greatest American film ever made? And furthermore, is there any other work of art that can tell us more about American identity, or, perhaps more accurately, the ambiguity at the heart of American identity? Does anything else so beautifully portray the power of the American utopian dream but also present the full cost and horror of that illusion?

Well, 'Rio Bravo' 'Kiss Me Deadly' and 'Bigger Than Life' are at least as good. 'Rio Bravo' is particularly topical.

Enrique (Enrique), Monday, 3 November 2003 18:07 (twenty years ago) link

thanks Enrique that's what i'm looking for.

ryan (ryan), Monday, 3 November 2003 18:22 (twenty years ago) link

I was a bit underwhelmed with this one - having read so much about it before hand. I watched it sandwiched between 'Red River' and 'Rio Bravo' though, in that context, I think I missed the Hawksian goofiness (and eg strong female characters).

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Monday, 3 November 2003 18:32 (twenty years ago) link

one major flaw = the slightly ridiculous comic sub-plots. though i am sure someone, somewhere has written an elaborate defense of them.

ryan (ryan), Monday, 3 November 2003 18:36 (twenty years ago) link

david thomson IMO has written beautifully about Hawks.

he ranks "high noon" above "rio bravo" (if am reading him right) and quite correctly, i think.

vahid (vahid), Monday, 3 November 2003 19:05 (twenty years ago) link

Haha - the screwball brawl scene in 'The Searchers' may be my favourite thing about it!

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Monday, 3 November 2003 19:10 (twenty years ago) link

it is actually pretty funny to me now. the more i see the film the less those scenes bother me.

ryan (ryan), Monday, 3 November 2003 19:14 (twenty years ago) link

the screwball comedy is very deft and funny in it's own right, but i agree that it's not as well integrated into the film as "best of all time" plaudits might suggest.

people who know me know i think how green was my valley is the greatest film ever. i think the mix of tones in that film is even more seamless and beguiling and moving.

amateur!st (amateurist), Monday, 3 November 2003 20:51 (twenty years ago) link

i think this film has had to shoulder the burden, in film survey courses and big BFI polls and such, of being not only the representative ford film but the representative western and sometimes even the representative classical hollywood film (bar "citizen kane" which is an anomaly anyhow).... i don't think any film should really have to shoulder such a burden and this film's flaws seem all the more apparent to people who have been introduced to it in a wash of hushed reverent tones.

amateur!st (amateurist), Monday, 3 November 2003 20:53 (twenty years ago) link

all this said it is a thing of wonder, for the choreography in the opening scenes alone.... and of course the dreaded indian attack.

the mexican scene i could do without.

amateur!st (amateurist), Monday, 3 November 2003 20:54 (twenty years ago) link

he [David Thomson] ranks "high noon" above "rio bravo" (if am reading him right) and quite correctly, i think.

No he doesn't, not by a trillion miles!
'High Noon' has no human emotion anyone can relate to. It's puffed up tosh.

Enrique (Enrique), Wednesday, 5 November 2003 10:33 (twenty years ago) link

interesting then that humans have, in fact, related to it...

amateur!st (amateurist), Wednesday, 5 November 2003 10:37 (twenty years ago) link

They're kidding themselves.

Enrique (Enrique), Wednesday, 5 November 2003 10:51 (twenty years ago) link

oh ok

amateur!st (amateurist), Wednesday, 5 November 2003 10:52 (twenty years ago) link

btw i meant to say slapstick above, not screwball

amateur!st (amateurist), Wednesday, 5 November 2003 10:52 (twenty years ago) link

We were discussing this film on Monday, because it's being shown in the local arty cinema in a "Ten best American films", and no-one had seen it. We speculated that the film never existed, they just had someone in the art department mock up that framed-in-the-doorway shot and slipped a couple of twenties to Pauline Kale etc.

Andrew Farrell (afarrell), Wednesday, 5 November 2003 11:03 (twenty years ago) link

lindsay anderson, who worshipped ford and wrote a book on him (which i shd probably read, hmmm), never liked the searchers and argued that ford was reluctantly pressured into making it the way it is!!

(he disapproved of its bleakness!)

mark s (mark s), Wednesday, 5 November 2003 11:10 (twenty years ago) link

It was a big film you know, a hit, but not that big. Marty Scorsese evidently liked it ('Taxi Driver') and 1982 it made the Sight and Sound 10 best list for the first time. Maybe it made more sense after Nam, but I go with 'Red River' or for any Anthony Mann (or Aldrich) every time.

LA wuvved 'My Darling Clementine' didn't he? Cf Peter Wollen: 'Ford > Hawks' because Ford chaged his position over course of career. Cue Busta-style 'Hmmm'.

Enrique (Enrique), Wednesday, 5 November 2003 11:12 (twenty years ago) link

haha apparently LA liked to sing "the man who shot liberty valance" at parties!

mark s (mark s), Wednesday, 5 November 2003 11:15 (twenty years ago) link

From the Gavin Lambert book it sounds to me like LA made himself love these films. Did he really see any similarity between Vigo and Ford?

Enrique (Enrique), Wednesday, 5 November 2003 11:20 (twenty years ago) link

possibly unfair guess: he actually really genuinely loved them but needed to find political-aesthetic "radical" (or anyway quasi-"socially committed") justification for what wd otherwise be guilty/sentimental pleasure

mark s (mark s), Wednesday, 5 November 2003 11:25 (twenty years ago) link

it's not like he had problems saying he disliked stuff which others liked!!

mark s (mark s), Wednesday, 5 November 2003 11:25 (twenty years ago) link

i don't kael was fond of ford at all.

the film was "rehabilitated" in the '70s largely as part of the first big wave of american auterism. taking the cue of the cahiers critics (for whom this was an important film, but one among many).

the fims that built ford's rep before this new wave were things like "the grapes of wrath" and "how green was my valley" and "the long voyage home"...which might be a little underappreciated today in fact.

the "progression" in ford's work is rough and hard to trace and full of contradictions, although it routinely gets a an auterist gloss.

the song "man who shot..." doesn't appear in the film, ford hated it.

amateur!st (amateurist), Wednesday, 5 November 2003 11:28 (twenty years ago) link

mark -- did you see the Alan Bennet thing the NFT reshowed recently. It sounds like the work of the Dziga Vertov gp -- 'anti-television' says he. This was pre-Wham, I think.

Enrique (Enrique), Wednesday, 5 November 2003 11:33 (twenty years ago) link

no i missed it unfortunately (lambert's description made it sound fairly ghastly i have to say)

mark s (mark s), Wednesday, 5 November 2003 12:21 (twenty years ago) link

Yeah, a bit car-crash. LA's politics are... ???

Enrique (Enrique), Wednesday, 5 November 2003 12:25 (twenty years ago) link

haha complicated

mark s (mark s), Wednesday, 5 November 2003 12:28 (twenty years ago) link

eight years pass...

The comedy felt like a necessary element. You'd think it would be out of place in a revenge story w/a v dark central performance at the heart of it but I thought it worked well because it would be come in and out of the action, quite smartly placed, no sngle bit of comedy overstayed its welcome.

otoh, couldn't make up my mind whether the untidy chronology was bad scriptwriting or what.

Then there is the v excellent photography and the melodramatic music is effective. With all the other themes bandied around this is a film that does a lot of work.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 19 November 2011 20:43 (twelve years ago) link

three months pass...

i finally saw this on the big screen and it ruined my weekend, i seriously hated every second of this piece of shit.

desk calendar white out (Matt P), Monday, 12 March 2012 22:12 (twelve years ago) link

Let's go home, Matt.

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 12 March 2012 22:14 (twelve years ago) link

haha i should really just stop posting for the rest of the day.

desk calendar white out (Matt P), Monday, 12 March 2012 22:17 (twelve years ago) link

damn mat. why u hate it

these pretzels are makeing me horney (Hungry4Ass), Monday, 12 March 2012 22:21 (twelve years ago) link

i can think of a couple of scenes that looked cool and obviously the locations and photography are great. but it was completely up its own ass in a thematically-minded way and then didn't even deliver with histrionics but just sort of got lazy and fell flat, like, you know, john wayne. it's basically a morality play that might as well be set in glendale in 1954. every single American settlement myth/theme it "treats" is wildly offensive and the treatment itself is about as complex or ambiguous as saying "it's a small world after all."

desk calendar white out (Matt P), Monday, 12 March 2012 22:38 (twelve years ago) link

nice

these pretzels are makeing me horney (Hungry4Ass), Monday, 12 March 2012 22:40 (twelve years ago) link

It's okay -- I don't like it either.

I can watch My Darling Clementine anytime though.

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 12 March 2012 22:40 (twelve years ago) link

there's a lot of ford films better than this one, yeah.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Monday, 12 March 2012 22:54 (twelve years ago) link

OH and the scene where john wayne and the kid are SHOOTING AT A HERD OF BISON made me cry anger tears! xp

i think i saw a bit of my darling clementine in college and didn't hate it but i gotta be honest i'm not rushing out to see any of his other movies any time soon.

desk calendar white out (Matt P), Monday, 12 March 2012 23:00 (twelve years ago) link

OH and the scene where john wayne and the kid are SHOOTING AT A HERD OF BISON made me cry anger tears! xp

it is supposed to. wayne's character is picking off bison because he wants indians to starve.

flesh, the devil, and a wolf (wolf) (amateurist), Tuesday, 13 March 2012 03:01 (twelve years ago) link

eleven months pass...

A book review by Hoberman somewhat undermines the idea that this was ignored, or at least shrugged off as just another western, upon release (which was my own understanding):

However misunderstood, “The Searchers” was hardly unappreciated. The New York Herald Tribune termed the movie “distinguished”; Newsweek deemed it “remarkable.” Look described “The Searchers” as a “Homeric odyssey.” The New York Times praised Wayne’s performance as “uncommonly commanding,” and The Los Angeles Times would note the actor’s unusually favorable reviews in the Eastern press. The movie was a hit, tied with “Rebel Without a Cause” as the year’s 11th top box-office attraction.

clemenza, Sunday, 3 March 2013 21:43 (eleven years ago) link

two years pass...

Scorsese:

"First, apart from being an American epic, The Searchers also is a John Wayne Western; for many, even at this late date in film history, that's still an excuse to ignore it. Secondly, it doesn't go down quite as easily as the pictures mentioned above. Like all great works of art, it's uncomfortable. The core of the movie is deeply painful. Every time I watch it—and I've seen it many, many times since its first run in 1956—it haunts and troubles me. The character of Ethan Edwards is one of the most unsettling in American cinema. In a sense, he's of a piece with Wayne's persona and his body of work with Ford and other directors like Howard Hawks and Henry Hathaway. It's the greatest performance of a great American actor. (Not everyone shares this opinion. For me, Wayne has only become more impressive over time.)"

"(Glenn Frankel's book) starts with Ford, who was in many ways as complex and, apparently, as lonely as Ethan, but then it takes us much further back to early America and the original events that led to the film. The story of Cynthia Ann Parker, who was abducted at the age of 9 by Comanches after watching the massacre of her family, once held the nation spellbound -- it was the classic captivity story. Her uncle James, a fascinating character, spent years searching for her. She was raised by a Comanche couple, married a chief, Peta Nocono, and bore him three children. When she was found by Texas Rangers 24 years later, she looked, spoke and behaved like a Comanche and had forgotten all of her English.

Interestingly, Frankel doesn't stop there. He takes us through her return to her white family, her inability to readjust and her early death. Then he tells the story of her son Quanah Parker, who had been a fearsome warrior but went on to become a peacemaker with Washington and with the ranchers, a land baron living in a conventional house, a co-founder of the early Native American Church (where peyote was the sacrament) and a living legend. As the relationships between indigenous and nonindigenous peoples and ways of life shift, Frankel recounts the transformation over time from fact to legend, leading to Alan Le May's novel."

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/review-martin-scorsese-searchers-426059

touch of a love-starved cobra (Dr Morbius), Monday, 16 March 2015 18:06 (nine years ago) link

nine years pass...

A 1956 display ad of #JohnFord's 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙎𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙘𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙨 includes names of a dozen #Navajo actors. @oxley264 @chrisyogerst @WesternScholar @WesternLegends @CI_Magazine#Westerns #TCMParty #TCMFF pic.twitter.com/MZhDITxG1n

— Angela Aleiss "Native Americans in the Media" (@ReelNatives) March 27, 2024

Rich E. (Eric H.), Wednesday, 27 March 2024 23:39 (two months ago) link

one month passes...

this is one of those movies where i wish i watched it pre-social-media-era internet. visually, it's a great watch. but fact i keep hitting the pause button so i can check some dumb baseball score or "hey" make this post doesn't help the film's longevity.

Western® with Bacon Flavor, Monday, 13 May 2024 06:30 (two weeks ago) link

Go see it in a theater - perfect time to do so because it just got a jaw-dropping restoration.

https://www.in70mm.com/presents/1954_vistavision/1956_searchers/restoration/index.htm

birdistheword, Monday, 13 May 2024 17:08 (two weeks ago) link

Per one of the last questions in that interview:

Q: Will 70mm prints be available for exhibition at 70mm cinemas in Europe?

A: We will be making the 70mm available to exhibition in North America, with plans to roll out to International markets.

birdistheword, Monday, 13 May 2024 17:10 (two weeks ago) link

They're showing the new 70mm print at the Paramount in Austin for a single screening at the end of August: https://tickets.austintheatre.org/11259?_ga=2.67467857.1192276522.1715620398-2037814962.1713111611

IIRC, the Paramount is the only theatre in Texas with a proper 70mm setup.

just watched this for the first time and i don't really get it. there's so much goofy shit dragging down the plot and i am not convinced that audiences of the time (or john wayne) saw ethan as an antihero (as opposed to a straight-up hero). it does look nice. but why is it canonized as one of the best movies of all time?

na (NA), Tuesday, 21 May 2024 20:45 (one week ago) link

I don't think most people viewed Wayne as an antihero either, and it's possible far more people at the time thought The Searchers was a boilerplate Western. That's partly a reflection of why I think it's not just a great film but one of the richest and most complicated films ever made. It always struck me as a racist film that very much reflects its time, but it also comes off as being completely aware of that by interrogating itself in a way that's brutally honest - I would even argue the film says a lot more about racism in America than possibly any other Hollywood film at that time. I don't doubt the most disturbing parts played very differently back then - the nation's history with Native Americans was viewed too differently within the culture - but Ford recognizes the inherent racism against Native Americans that was accepted by virtually everyone in the film. Departing from the source novel and making one of the central characters part Native American (Cherokee) makes a world of a difference in that regard, and I'll even say it's a brilliant way of addressing these issues without seeming anachronistic - you don't see any character stepping out of the 19th century to question what's wrongly part of the moral fabric back then, especially when a lot of those notions were still very much part of American in 1956, but when you're seeing things through Martin's eyes, it becomes impossible for those things not to be questioned by the film's audience, especially now.

And John Wayne's performance as Ethan Edwards is magnificent - I think he's one of the most fascinating and complex characters in cinematic history, and it's possible only John Wayne could've delivered given how much he represented the myth of the American West as it was originally codified in Hollywood movies. It's reportedly Wayne's favorite as well, but it's possible he didn't even realize what he accomplished here. He embodies all the romantic elements of that myth and of manifest destiny that appealed to so many moviegoers across generations, but he also embodies all the ugliness and the horrendous truths about it too.

As for the goofy elements, I know what you mean - that's part of John Ford's cinema, and it's not unique to him either. The guy loved his Shakespeare and I think he was inspired by the jarring comic relief that would come up in even Shakespeare's darkest work. (As many have pointed out, the most powerful moment in The Searchers is immediately followed by someone getting something taken out of his ass.) It's not really to my taste and such broad moments can understandably be viewed as flaws, but I don't think Ford was ever a clean and tidy filmmaker - it's just part of his personality as an artist and I'll take idiosyncrasy over "perfect" any day.

Joseph McBride has written to excellent books on Ford (including one co-written with Michael Wilmington) but at minimum I would read Searching for John Ford, probably the definitive biography, and the chapter on The Searchers is essential if anyone wants to know how Ford made it.

birdistheword, Tuesday, 21 May 2024 23:44 (one week ago) link

*only John Wayne could've realized it so completely given how much he represented the myth of the American West

*written two excellent books

birdistheword, Tuesday, 21 May 2024 23:47 (one week ago) link

*part of America in 1956

I really need to proofread before I post

birdistheword, Tuesday, 21 May 2024 23:49 (one week ago) link

As chance would have it I’ve been recently watching some “classic” (read: pre-Sergio Leone) Westerns - all of which I’d never seen before- and the Searchers was the first one I watched. It was followed by Rio Bravo and Red River. At some point I do intend to see some not starring John Wayne. In terms purely of Wayne’s role and screen presence I thought Red River was quite interesting. In terms of the structure of the film his character’s moral standing is more conflicted than in Searchers - at some point he clearly becomes the villain. Also he is noticeably younger and wears a not completely un-mulletlike hairdo. His magnetic screen presence is already there in spades, even an excellent Montgomery Clift is careful not to try to upstage him. But back to the Searchers. It clearly has many fine qualities. I actually thought the digressions and diversions from the main plot actually were one of the stronger aspects that set it apart. They may seem tonally jarring at first - more suitable for romantic comedy- but they added a unique richness to the mise en scene and a distinct sense of time and place.

o. nate, Wednesday, 22 May 2024 01:22 (one week ago) link

just watched this for the first time and i don't really get it. there's so much goofy shit dragging down the plot and i am not convinced that audiences of the time (or john wayne) saw ethan as an antihero (as opposed to a straight-up hero). it does look nice. but why is it canonized as one of the best movies of all time?

― na (NA

hear hear

the talented mr pimply (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 22 May 2024 01:22 (one week ago) link

Ford made at least four more complex westerns

the talented mr pimply (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 22 May 2024 01:22 (one week ago) link

Also: The Searchers is straight-up boring for stretches.

the talented mr pimply (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 22 May 2024 01:24 (one week ago) link

For pure entertainment value I think it’s hard to beat Rio Bravo.

o. nate, Wednesday, 22 May 2024 01:27 (one week ago) link

Great films, but I've always had a preference for Red River (which matches up well with Hud, too) over The Searchers.

clemenza, Wednesday, 22 May 2024 01:31 (one week ago) link

great post bird

visiting, Wednesday, 22 May 2024 01:37 (one week ago) link

Thanks visiting!

I agree with nate about the digressions - I'd have to look through a list of Ford's work to confirm, but I think that happened more and more towards the back end of his career where he broke more and more from Hollywood convention when it came to plot, especially if it meant depicting a larger sense of community as in Wagon Master, The Sun Shines Bright, etc...none of these have a really clean or rigid plot structure (Wagon Master has the barest of plot threads and the latter has a pretty busy and free-flowing plot that goes all over the place). But it does result in richer films - in memory, my sense of Ford's movies involve a wide range of experiences within a vast community, whereas most Westerns I've seen feel very compact in comparison.

I've never found any part of The Searchers boring - even when there's a strange and unexpected digression, I find it interesting in some way. It does have long stretches that I find incredibly moving, which is kind of unexpected given what the film's about. The famous climax/ending is obvious - Godard famously wrote about how he was moved to tears despite being repulsed by Wayne's politics (not just as Ethan Edwards but in real life). McBride often cites one of the opening shots as his favorite in the film. One of the most unexpected for me is "the donut" - I won't give it away if you haven't seen it, but it's always been a beautiful and heartbreaking scene for me. It's astonishing how a guy as brusque and crude as Ford can have such a great sense of poetry in composing a scene, especially when it comes to blocking his actors, and this is a great example of that. One of the choices he makes is pretty mundane when you take it out of context, but it's incredibly brilliant in how organic and unpretentious it plays out on-screen - just have a third character stand there, look blankly in that direction and have him finish his donut. I doubt it's something that usually comes to mind when anyone tries to craft a scene like that, but take that element away and that scene wouldn't have worked nearly as well.

(To be fair, if you break it down, it follows some basic reliable rules that a lot of old school directors know like the back of their hand. For example, there can be a lot more dramatic tension when you simply introduce a third character, usually an observer, into some momentous interaction between two people. It makes a huge impact in how that dynamic works - how it does that depends on the scene, but there's almost endless possibilities there. The other part is that it's just someone who is more or less witnessing something he doesn't want to witness - it's brilliant how Ford plays with that, because in this case the character clearly knows what he's not actually seeing, and we're seeing what he knows.)

birdistheword, Wednesday, 22 May 2024 04:02 (one week ago) link

I think it's a pendulum swing thing - it's not a totally unexamined goodies vs baddies western, but I think in ppl's eagerness to point this out its supposed sophistication has been a bit overstated, both within Ford's work and the genre in general.

One thing is that Scar being a pretty unambigiously villainous presence kinda pushes it into Heart Of Darkness territory; some of Edward's behaviour is undoubtedly disturbing but there's an implication that this is also the effects of witnessing the atrocities commited by natives rendering him hateful and psychotic. There are other aspects that complicate this, yes, but I think it's still there.

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 22 May 2024 08:22 (one week ago) link

One thing about classic westerns is very few of the highly regarded ones actually portray native americans as the unambigious baddies that popular imagination thinks the genre treated them as - Stagecoach (otherwise a v interesting and enjoyable film!) pretty much does, but mostly it seems the territory of Poverty Row westerns more than of the acclaimed stuff. A much more popular framing I think is the mealy mouthed "naive tribes misled by evil white guys" bit.

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 22 May 2024 08:25 (one week ago) link

Ford can have such a great sense of poetry in composing a scene, especially when it comes to blocking his actors

I agree with this. This is what elevates the scenes of mundane domestic business and light romantic comedy. There is always a lot going on in terms of choreography , almost reminds me of musicals like Meet Me in St Louis.

o. nate, Wednesday, 22 May 2024 15:50 (one week ago) link

some of Edward's behaviour is undoubtedly disturbing but there's an implication that this is also the effects of witnessing the atrocities commited by natives rendering him hateful and psychotic. There are other aspects that complicate this, yes, but I think it's still there

I don't think Edwards is really transformed by the atrocities of the first act. It catalyzed or prompted him on his search, but I don't think it made any dramatic changes in his worldview. When he first appears, we find out he's a former Confederate soldier that still remains loyal even though the Civil War has been over for years. (Complicating matters is how shady his recent past turned out to be - it's likely those warrants for arrest were indeed for Edwards.) And his hateful relationship with Native Americans plays out like something that's been developed over a lifetime of experience, which is probably the most frightening aspect about him. In the days after 9/11, back before I really got into this film, this guy who was like an uncle to me was telling us how much it disturbed him that the terrorists could live like Americans - learning and becoming very familiar with the people and the culture as they immersed themselves here over an extended amount of time - and apparently not develop any doubts or any hesitations about doing what they did that day. Basically, he got the sense that any understanding of different people or a different culture failed to produce any empathy, and that they were warped by prejudices so deep, any knowledge of familiarity gained merely facilitated a horrendous deed in more convincing fashion. That's pretty much a description of Edwards, and I don't think it's a coincidence that it flips around Wayne's character, Captain York, in Ford's 1948 film Fort Apache.

re: how very few of the highly regarded Westerns actually portray Native Americans as unambiguously evil, that's no accident - most film critics who first championed what are now considered masterpieces (in France, later here in the States) were a bit more progressive minded in that regard. By contrast, it wasn't unusual to see them criticize lesser films for their more xenophobic views. It extends beyond Westerns as well - even The Birth of a Nation's historical importance didn't keep critics (at least the important ones) of the latter half of the 20th century from lamenting its politics.

birdistheword, Wednesday, 22 May 2024 16:49 (one week ago) link

*or familiarity gained

birdistheword, Wednesday, 22 May 2024 16:51 (one week ago) link

thanks all for discussing! i mostly feel like i don't have the cinematic or sociopolitical context to fully understand/appreciate the movie. i'm reasonably well-versed in movies of the '50s and later westerns but this first big run of westerns from the '40s/'50s is a big blind spot for me.

na (NA), Wednesday, 22 May 2024 19:00 (one week ago) link

n/a, if you haven't yet, watch Fort Apache and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.

Good posts, birdistheword.

the talented mr pimply (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 22 May 2024 19:05 (one week ago) link

Thanks Alfred!

birdistheword, Wednesday, 22 May 2024 21:33 (one week ago) link

Ford made at least four more complex westerns

Welles made at least four more formally dazzling train sets than Kane, also, but what're ya gonna do?

Rich E. (Eric H.), Thursday, 23 May 2024 16:12 (one week ago) link

‘my darling clementine’ is also great. very moody and low-key

flopson, Thursday, 23 May 2024 18:14 (one week ago) link

fort apache and wagon master are the ford westerns i liked the most on my recent run through them

ciderpress, Thursday, 23 May 2024 18:42 (one week ago) link

Ford movies I def rate above The Searchers:

7 Women
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
My Darling Clementine
How Green Was My Valley
The Grapes of Wrath

He's still among my bigger blind spots tho tbqh

Rich E. (Eric H.), Thursday, 23 May 2024 18:59 (one week ago) link

same

the talented mr pimply (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 23 May 2024 19:00 (one week ago) link

Great posts here! All are making me want to rewatch “The Searchers” for the umpteenth time.
I’m in the “It’s great yet very flawed camp” and will ride (sorry) for “…Clementine” as my favorite of his Westerns.

completely suited to the horny decadence (Capitaine Jay Vee), Thursday, 23 May 2024 19:07 (one week ago) link

That all being said, I think The Searchers is pretty underrated by American cinephiles at this point

Rich E. (Eric H.), Thursday, 23 May 2024 19:27 (one week ago) link

Eric, dear, this is Alfred.

the talented mr pimply (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 23 May 2024 19:44 (one week ago) link

It won't play!

Rich E. (Eric H.), Thursday, 23 May 2024 19:50 (one week ago) link

They’re screening a 70mm print of this in Portland in late June. Thinking about attending

Glower, Disruption & Pies (kingfish), Thursday, 23 May 2024 21:28 (one week ago) link

I think it's important to mention Buddy Holly at least once in this thread.

clemenza, Friday, 24 May 2024 01:54 (six days ago) link

That’ll be the day, pilgrim

Billion Year Polyphonic Spree (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 24 May 2024 11:30 (six days ago) link

here is lindsay anderson's sourpuss review: https://www.bfi.org.uk/sight-and-sound/reviews/lindsay-anderson-reviews-searchers-1956

tl;dr it's no my darling clementine!!

mark s, Friday, 24 May 2024 13:51 (six days ago) link

lol

Billion Year Polyphonic Spree (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 24 May 2024 17:39 (six days ago) link


You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.