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Westerns - John Ford - The Searchers

Buy The Searchers
John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, Natalie Wood
Director: John Ford
Warner Home Video

The Searchers is one of the giant movies in the history of western cinema. Only eight westerns made the American Film Institutes 100 greatest movies of all time and The Searchers was one of them. The reason for this is as simple as the departure from type for Duke Wayne in the portrayal of former Confederate cavalryman Ethan Edwards. Edwards is one of the darkest characters John Wayne ever portrayed. When Ethan Edwards decides to go find the Indians who killed his family, he is joined by his nephew, Martin Pawley. The problem is that Pawley is half-Indian, and there's nothing in the world that Edwards hate more than Indians. The journey to find the Indians and Edwards niece (and Pawley half-sister) lasts for years.

It would be easy to dismiss The Searchers as an old time western but despite the clean shaven cowboys and caricature Indians (Comanche in this case) the story is strong, well acted, the costumes are superb and the cinematography is stunning. Monument Valley is perfectly framed by John Ford in The Searchers.

The dichotomy between “civilized” and “uncivilized” behavior is at the forefront in The Searchers. Surprisingly it is not the Comanche who are the most “uncivilized”. Ethan whose return to his brother’s ranch is a surprise and a seemingly disconcerting one for his brother and sister-in-law reveals his own uncompromising approach to life in the statement “I figure a man's only good for one oath at a time. I took mine to the Confederate States of America.”. That unyielding attitude revealed at the very beginning of the movie defines Ethan Edwards to the core. There is no yielding when his brother’s family is murdered and his nieces kidnapped. He decides to find his niece and that is the end of the thought process for Ethan. He has made a decision and will see it through to the end.

he play back between the “civilized” environments of the homestead and the “uncivilized” on the trail tracking of the Comanche is a constant in this movie. Civilization - a place to call home – is the siren song being heard by everyone in the movie except Ethan Edwards. Ethan is only at home pursuing vengeance. This is a character portrayal that is worthy of the legend of The Duke and The Searchers is an absolute must see for any fan of the western.

n addition to the movie DVD there is a bonus DVD featuring – “The Searchers: An Appreciation”, “A Turning of the Earth: John Ford, John Wayne and The Searchers”, “Behind the Cameras” and “The Assassination of Jessie James by the coward Robert Ford Theatrical Trailer”. Also included is a small folio of black and white photos from the set of the movie and reproductions of The Searchers Dell comic book and another book of Warner Bros. advertising campaign material for the original movie.

Denis Bernicky

Other John Ford Reviews

They Were Expendable: Classic war movie by John Ford starring John Wayne

The Long Voyage Home: Classic sea-faring movie by John Ford with John Wayne

The Wings Of Eagles: Biography of Frank Spig Wead. John Wayne does comedy.

John Wayne - John Ford Film Collection: The ultimate collection of John Wayne and John Ford in one boxed set.

Stagecoach: A great western movie classic.

Fort Apache: A classic cavalry movie starring Henry Fonda

She Wore A Yellow Ribbon: Captain Nathan Brittles, on the eve of retirement, takes out a last patrol to stop an impending massive Indian attack.

3 Godfathers: Three outlaws on the run discover a dying woman and her baby. They swear to bring the infant to safety across the desert, even at the risk of their own lives.

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