Archive for March 17th, 2009


by Allan Fish

(USA 1956 119m) DVD1/2

What makes a man to wander?

p  Merian C.Cooper, C.V.Whitney  d  John Ford  w  Frank S.Nugent  novel  Alan le May  ph  Winton C.Hoch  ed  Jack Murray  m  Max Steiner  art  Frank Hotaling, James Basevi  cos  Frank Beetson, Ann Peck

John Wayne (Ethan Edwards), Jeffrey Hunter (Martin Pawley), Vera Miles (Laurie Jorgensen), Ward Bond (Capt.Rev.Samuel Clayton), Natalie Wood (Debbie Edwards), John Qualen (Lars Jorgensen), Harry Brandon (Chief Scar), Ken Curtis (Charlie McCorry), Hank Worden (Mose Harper), Harry Carey Jnr (Brad Jorgensen), Olive Carey (Mrs Jorgensen), Antonio Moreno (Emilio Figueroa),

A common question in quizzes, which 1957 Buddy Holly hit took its title from a phrase oft-repeated by John Wayne in a film of the previous year?  Answer, of course, ‘That’ll be the Day’.  The Searchers has become, in the eyes of modern Hollywood, the prototype John Ford western and one of the great undoubted masterpieces of American cinema.  Though such adulation is well-deserved, it is perhaps slightly ironic.  It may be John Ford’s finest film, but it’s by no means my favourite and by no means representative of his earlier career.  My favourite Ford film is also his most representative, My Darling Clementine.  But as a final major statement in a genre and location he knew so well, as a moving and sharp reversal of the idealistic screen persona of John Wayne, and into the racism at the heart of modern America, it’s powerful stuff in anyone’s language.

            In 1868, three years after the Confederacy surrender, Ethan Edwards returns home for the first time to his brother and sister-in-law and their children.  While there he goes off with some Texas Rangers to check into some Comanche activity, only to realise that they have been tricked.  Returning home he finds the whole family massacred, aside from the two daughters, who are abducted.  He vows to get them back, but the family’s adopted half-breed son goes with him to make sure he doesn’t vent his racist fury on the girls, who he sees as contaminated.  Their quest takes them many years. (more…)

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