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Films of Sergio Leone => Other Films => Topic started by: Nobody on April 17, 2005, 12:10:36 PM



Title: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Nobody on April 17, 2005, 12:10:36 PM
Saw this years ago, and finally decided I had to see it again, so I picked up the dvd. I don't know if Monument Valley has ever looked better on film, but I'm not sure I think this film deserves to be considered one of the all time greats. It might have to do with the fact that I've never been too fond of John Wayne. Apart from him, there was a supporting cast which varied in quality, to say the least. Spielberg once said that this was one of the greatest films ever made due to the depths of the characters. Don't know if I'd agree on that. I'm not saying that the characters are shallow, but I've seen countless of films were the characters have infinetly more depth, including several by good old Sergio.

Don't get me wrong. I don't dislike this film. It is a great piece of work, and I'll certainly see it again. But John Ford and John Wayne made an easily superior film with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Anything thoughts on this film? Am I the only who doesn't consider one of the all time greats?


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Groggy on April 17, 2005, 04:10:27 PM
Saw this years ago, and finally decided I had to see it again, so I picked up the dvd. I don't know if Monument Valley has ever looked better on film, but I'm not sure I think this film deserves to be considered one of the all time greats. It might have to do with the fact that I've never been too fond of John Wayne. Apart from him, there was a supporting cast which varied in quality, to say the least. Spielberg once said that this was one of the greatest films ever made due to the depths of the characters. Don't know if I'd agree on that. I'm not saying that the characters are shallow, but I've seen countless of films were the characters have infinetly more depth, including several by good old Sergio.

Don't get me wrong. I don't dislike this film. It is a great piece of work, and I'll certainly see it again. But John Ford and John Wayne made an easily superior film with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Anything thoughts on this film? Am I the only who doesn't consider one of the all time greats?


I agree for the most part.  The film had some great moments, but I don't think it's in a league with "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", "Rio Bravo", or other of Wayne's classic films.  I will say this, though: this was probably Wayne's best performance (with the possible exception of "Red River" and "The Shootist"), and he deserved an Oscar for this, rather than "True Grit".


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on April 17, 2005, 05:26:23 PM
The Searchers is the most over-rated Western of all time. I can think of 50 that are better. Monument Valley looks nice, but the plot is dumb, dumb, dumb (why are the homesteaders living in MV, again? Good grazing land there? Great place to plant crops? Huhhhhhh???)

Groggy, don't sell the Duke short on his True Grit performance. He DID deserve an Oscar for it.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Two Kinds of ... on April 17, 2005, 07:51:23 PM
It's a great looking color film, but not one of my favorites.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Nobody on April 18, 2005, 06:00:03 AM
Nice to see that my fellow Leone fans agree on this.

Congratulations on becoming a Memeber Extraordinaire, Groggy. You're one the old timers now.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Christopher on April 18, 2005, 08:23:18 AM
I haven't seen a lot of John Wayne movies, but I think The Searchers is the best of what I have seen, and I've always felt comfortable saying it's his best performance. I like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance a lot as well. I wouldn't rank The Searchers as being really high on my list of favorite westerns, but I've always enjoyed it (it might still be on the list, but not really high ;)). What I like most about it is that Wayne's performance is believable. He really is an "anti-hero" in this movie. I've mentioned before on this board that he doesn't always pull those roles off convincingly.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: DJIMBO on April 18, 2005, 10:50:23 AM
i think the searchers is great saw some of it on sunday itv in uk, but i think Liberty Valance is better. theyre both pretty profound tho.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: redyred on April 18, 2005, 12:47:50 PM
I set the video for it yesterday, and I'm probly going to watch it to night. I'm quite looking forward to it - I was interested in getting in to Ford anyway.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Half Soldier on April 18, 2005, 03:15:54 PM
I fell asleep watching it but only because I was really tired - I was quite enjoying it.  A little old fashioned in places but very brutal in others (eg the vandalising of the Indian grave and mutilation of the body).

Must get  to see the end at some point


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Groggy on April 18, 2005, 04:06:42 PM
Nice to see that my fellow Leone fans agree on this.

Congratulations on becoming a Memeber Extraordinaire, Groggy. You're one the old timers now.

I just finished reading Michael Munn's biography of the Duke (great book, BTW, I'd recommend it to anyone who has an interest in him, though for some reason he trashes "Liberty Valance"  :P), and apparently Wayne considered this his best role (I believe his son Ethan was named after his character in the movie).  It's up in the air, to be sure.  I know not everyone here agrees, but I think the Duke was a good actor who was typecast very early on, and only rarely got to really show his talent.

I also found interesting how Wayne, during the making of the film, saved a two-year old Apache girl who was dying from pneumonia by flying her in his private plane to a local hospital.  That's something worth admiring about JW.

And thanks for your congratulations, Nobody.  I hadn't noticed it.  Not bad for a sixteen year old.  ;D


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on April 18, 2005, 05:24:12 PM
I don't buy the idea that Wayne's performance in The Searchers somehow stands apart from his other work. I think the Duke was remarkably consistent throughout his career. The character he plays in The Searchers is written differently than the ones he usually played, but Wayne's playing really isn't different. It's kind of a trick (a similar trick was done with Bogart in In a Lonely Place). If The Searchers is in anyway special, then, it's not because of a special performance by Wayne.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Christopher on April 19, 2005, 09:08:24 AM
The character he plays in The Searchers is written differently than the ones he usually played, but Wayne's playing really isn't different. It's kind of a trick (a similar trick was done with Bogart in In a Lonely Place).
I'll buy that. The character is written well, and that's why it's a stand out performance. It's still the best performance I've seen from him. I don't doubt that Wayne could act, he just didn't always get the opportunity to do anything differently. I would still say his performance is what makes the film special (that right along with the writing ;)). Had he not played the role convincingly as a racist, bitter man, the film wouldn't be that great.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Cusser on April 19, 2005, 01:09:30 PM
I'd say Wayne's best performances were Searchers and Red River.  For best film overall I'd include Liberty Valance, but Wayne and Stewart were both too old for their parts.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: DJIMBO on April 19, 2005, 02:27:55 PM
i agree cusser, stewarts is sposed to be early 20s and hes about 50!! but i never really notice it!!

Great early sighting of Lee Van Cleef as Liberty Valances henchman as well !


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Groggy on April 19, 2005, 04:17:38 PM
i agree cusser, stewarts is sposed to be early 20s and hes about 50!! but i never really notice it!!

Great early sighting of Lee Van Cleef as Liberty Valances henchman as well !

Lee Van Cleef and Strother Martin.  Now where's L.Q. Jones? :P

Again, in the John Wayne bio I read what I thought was an amusing story.  LVC recalled that while working on the film, they were filming the scene where Wayne kicks the crap out of Lee in the bar after Lee Marvin gets shot.  He drew too fast for Wayne to grab his gun, and he said "I'll slow it down for you if, you'd like".  And Wayne said to Lee, "Thanks for helping an old actor out!"  Even back then, Lee was quite the fast draw, apparently . . .  ;D

I like "Liberty Valance" for some of the reasons that many people don't.  I love how all these very talented character actors (Marvin, LVC, Martin, Miles, O'Brien, Devine, and of course John Carradine ;) ) were given a chance to showcase their talents.  I'm going to try to persuade our school to do this movie for the school play next year.  (Only half kidding . . .)

Quote
I don't buy the idea that Wayne's performance in The Searchers somehow stands apart from his other work. I think the Duke was remarkably consistent throughout his career. The character he plays in The Searchers is written differently than the ones he usually played, but Wayne's playing really isn't different. It's kind of a trick (a similar trick was done with Bogart in In a Lonely Place). If The Searchers is in anyway special, then, it's not because of a special performance by Wayne.

Dave, I respectfully disagree.  I think the reason that his role as Rooster Cogburn got him the Oscar is because he played the role in a more hammy, acting-for-the-sake-of-acting way than in most of his performances.  While I enjoyed "True Grit" (though it's certainly not one of Wayne's best films), to say that it was Wayne's best doesn't cut it for me.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: KERMIT on April 19, 2005, 07:25:35 PM
i'm sentimental about "the shootist". the duke seams to be walking alone dealing with his cancer{in the film}

 also,  the way he handled  valance in the steak dropping scene.  he also knows when to back down in order to fight another day. 

also, good going groggy.  ;D


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: grandpa_chum on April 19, 2005, 09:16:03 PM
i agree with all of you on different things... I do think the story of the searchers sucks.... and i do love the man who shot liberty valance, but the searchers is the only movie john ford really showcased his directorial talents, aside from being simple that is... he really let go, and it looks great, great enough for me to think it's his best film and better than valance, mostly because i tend to be bias towards great directing than anything else.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Belkin on April 20, 2005, 03:54:47 PM
For a terrific read and in-depth look at JOHN FORD and indeed Mr. WAYNE and his approach to the character of ETHAN EDWARDS (the searchers), check out JOSEPH McBRIDES jaw droppingly detailed book SEARCHING FOR JOHN FORD. And as a companion but shorter read you won't beat WOODY STRODES book GOAL DUST. You won't be sorry!


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Belkin on April 20, 2005, 04:20:17 PM
Forgot to mention in above. A must read in regards to FORD, WAYNE and the entire FORD COMPANY is an incredibly detailed book by one who was there, HARRY CAREY JR.
A short review I came across say's more than I ever could about this western movie fan's must have. (below)
Company Of Heroes is the story of the making of this film (3 Godfathers), as well as the eight subsequent Ford classics. In it, Harry Carey, Jr. casts a remarkably observant eye on the process of filming Westerns by one of the true masters of the form. From She Wore A Yellow Ribbon and Wagon Master to The Searchers and Cheyenne Autumn, he shows the care, tedium, challenge, and exhilaration of movie-making at its highest level.
Ah, perfect summer's day read. Enjoy!   ;)


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on April 20, 2005, 05:23:52 PM
i agree with all of you on different things... I do think the story of the searchers sucks.... and i do love the man who shot liberty valance, but the searchers is the only movie john ford really showcased his directorial talents, aside from being simple that is... he really let go, and it looks great, great enough for me to think it's his best film and better than valance, mostly because i tend to be bias towards great directing than anything else.
True, The Searchers does look good, but that's not enough for me. More and more, I've come to think that My Darling Clemintine is Ford's best film: a rock solid plot , great performances, and photography that makes me think of film noir. That is one great piece of directing. Of course, it's not a film with Wayne..........

Groggy, I didn't mean that the Duke deserved an Oscar *only* for True Grit. The fact that he never earned one previous to that wasn't his fault.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: DJIMBO on April 21, 2005, 03:55:17 PM
see i think that My Darling Clementine and many other Ford films are soppy and i must admit i agree with leone to an extent, they are too triumphalist. Its the ones that question the 'American Way', The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Sergeant Rutledge, theyre his best films IMO.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: The Smoker on April 21, 2005, 04:24:56 PM
Last Saturday I switched on the radio in the car. A very familiar voice just finishing a dicussion on Radio 4 about The Searchers.. it was Christopher Frayling.

You can listen to it again on the BBC website here BBC Radio 4 16/04/06  (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/arts/filmprogramme/filmprogramme_20050416.shtml)
but you will need a real audio player handy.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on April 21, 2005, 08:18:01 PM
see i think that My Darling Clementine and many other Ford films are soppy and i must admit i agree with leone to an extent, they are too triumphalist. Its the ones that question the 'American Way', The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Sergeant Rutledge, theyre his best films IMO.
Some Ford films *are* soppy: but My Darling Clementine? I suggest you see it again. I'd say it has a much harder edge than TMWSLV.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Sackett on May 06, 2005, 09:02:52 PM
The Searchers, Liberty Valence, and Red River, stand out because JW did not play himself.  Playing John Wayne I mean.  The characters were either obsessive or losers, both touch the soul.
I think of these 3 as being his best.  The Searchers touched some kind of nerve in the 50s.  Of course, Holly's song, "That'll  Be the Day" was inspired by the movie, or so I've heard.  Seems that many young men were affected by it , including Robert Wagner, who did not get the part of Jeffrey Hunter.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Groggy on May 08, 2005, 05:14:03 AM
Djimbo, nice job bringing up "Sergeant Rutledge".  I've always liked that film and thought it was unjustly underrated, with great performances by Jeffrey Hunter and Woody Strode.  I think the only reason it isn't more popular is because John Wayne wasn't in it.

Another good Wayne performance is "The Wake of the Red Witch".  The movie's kinda weird, but it's a very good acting job at least.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Leone Admirer on July 15, 2005, 02:53:01 PM
I've put this in this forum due to the fact that Ford's film had a bit of an effect on Sergio.

Next year, WB's have confirmed that they are releasing a Special Edition DVD of John Ford's the Searchers. This will include a brand new restored digital transfer and soundtrack to coincide with the films 50th Aniversary. Also, supposedly a Ford and Wayne will also be released by WB perhaps including this film along with a new version of Ford's Stagecoach. I'll keep you posted for any more info.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: grandpa_chum on July 15, 2005, 11:46:38 PM
shit I wish they would just get on the ball and release some unreleased classics rather than just pump out special editions... the searchers dvd I have now is pretty damn good... but hey thats how the business works.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: boardwalk_angel on August 19, 2006, 07:08:40 PM
Djimbo, nice job bringing up "Sergeant Rutledge".  I've always liked that film and thought it was unjustly underrated, with great performances by Jeffrey Hunter and Woody Strode.  I think the only reason it isn't more popular is because John Wayne wasn't in it.

I liked "Sergeant Rutledge"........perhaps it didn't receive proper acclaim because it really wasn't an 'action-adventure'....although the 'action' scenes were done well...& it's use of flashbacks & courtroom scenes might have contributed to a bit of choppiness in the flow of the movie.
Some of the acting bordered on the histrionic...but a good script...some of the good old John Ford visuals that could still produce a chill..& some fine moments...Rutledge's "I'm a man" speech a particularly terrific scene.
Yes..very underrated..undeservedly so.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Groggy on August 19, 2006, 08:00:22 PM
My God this is an old topic you dredged up Angel. . .  ;D

I've seen "The Searchers" about three times since and I renige on my position, it's one of my favorites now.  Wayne is great and Ward Bond and Jeffrey Hunter are excellent supporting characters.  Unlike most people I actually like the Swedes and Hank Worden, they add a lot of color to the film.  And I like the "polite" fistfight between Hunter and Ken Curtis - dunno why but that made me bust a gut.

I'd love to "Sergeant Rutledge" again, Woody Strode's the man. 


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: The Firecracker on August 19, 2006, 11:11:36 PM


I'd love to "Sergeant Rutledge" again, Woody Strode's the man. 

If you like Strode you should probably catch "Keoma" sometime. That is probably his best performance.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Tim on August 20, 2006, 11:24:55 AM
Quote
I'd love to "Sergeant Rutledge" again, Woody Strode's the man.

  It was included in the John Ford Boxed Set, released in June, if you're dying to see it.  Personally, I'd like to buy the set, but I've only seen SR and heard good things about the others.  Guess I'll wait till that price keeps dropping.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: The Peacemaker on August 20, 2006, 11:44:53 AM
If you like Strode you should probably catch "Keoma" sometime. That is probably his best performance.

He was cool in Keoma. I think that might be Nero's best performance as well.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Leone Admirer on August 20, 2006, 11:53:21 AM
  It was included in the John Ford Boxed Set, released in June, if you're dying to see it.  Personally, I'd like to buy the set, but I've only seen SR and heard good things about the others.  Guess I'll wait till that price keeps dropping.

Tim Definatly recomend it, The Lost Patrol is a very tense film, The Informer is an incredibly beautiful and haunting film (IMO Ford's best non-Western), Mary Of Scotland is OK, Hepburn gives a good performance, story is kind of interesting but my least fave film in the box, Rutledge is great and Cheyanne Autumn is brillaint  :)


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Groggy on August 20, 2006, 04:12:28 PM
Strode was also quite good in "Spartacus", though I was kind of PO'ed that he died, what, forty minutes into the film? 


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: The Peacemaker on August 20, 2006, 04:25:24 PM
I'm getting The Searchers special edition box set DVD for my birthday!

I'm also getting the Sam Peckinpah collection.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: cigar joe on August 20, 2006, 07:48:43 PM
Strode is great in The Professionals too.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Tim on August 21, 2006, 11:20:40 AM
Quote
Tim Definatly recomend it,

  Thank ya, Leone Admirer.  As soon as I can round up $50.... ::)

 
Quote
Strode was also quite good in "Spartacus", though I was kind of PO'ed that he died, what, forty minutes into the film?

  That sounds about right, but Draba HAD to die early.  His death is the one that sets off Spartacus and the other gladiators.  But this role definitely shows off Strode's physical presence.  He's got maybe 5 lines, but everyone always remembers his Draba.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Groggy on August 21, 2006, 04:40:20 PM
And what a death scene it is to, I was really hoping what I knew was going to happen to him, wasn't going to happen.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Tim on August 22, 2006, 11:36:18 AM
Quote
And what a death scene it is to, I was really hoping what I knew was going to happen to him, wasn't going to happen.

  Yeah, you knew somehow that Spartacus was gonna live, cause otherwise it's a really short movie!   ;D  I love that moment when Strode has Douglas down with the trident, and you can just see him deciding what to do; kill him or let him live?  Great fight scene overall.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: KevinJCBJK on July 11, 2007, 11:46:24 PM
I am hoping to see this film someday.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Silenzio on July 11, 2007, 11:51:48 PM
It is a must!  My absolute favorite American Western, though sticklers like Dave Jenkins and Titoli will surely disagree with me.  I had mixed reactions the first time, but with multiple viewings I've appreciated it more and more to the point where I now consider it one of my top 20 films.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: KevinJCBJK on July 11, 2007, 11:53:24 PM
I was hoping to watch it before I watch Once Upon a Time in the West. That didn't work out as planned.

If I ever get a chance to see it I will.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on July 12, 2007, 02:26:07 AM
My absolute favorite American Western, though sticklers like Dave Jenkins and Titoli will surely disagree with me.
I can't speak for titoli, but I certainly don't like the film. I can't find where I posted this originally, so here it is again. Well, this IS The Searchers thread, so I suppose it should go in here.

The Searchers is a terrible film. Yes, the cinematography is wonderful. Monument Valley and Vistavision were made for each other, and the DP (Hoch) had the experience (he’d already photographed Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon) to put the two together. And Ford, for his part, stages some very impressive set pieces (the massacre, the run to the river, the reunion scene).

No, the film is not bad for any technical fault. Its badness, rather, is foundational: at the level of plot and character. The screenwriter must bear some of the blame, but the man with the director’s title is most responsible for what is essentially an exercise in bad faith. That bad faith is everywhere in evidence, first frame to last.

The film begins, for example, with a patent fraud: a title announces a Texas setting but we are immediately shown Monument Valley, which looks nothing like Texas. Of course, filmmakers do this sort of thing all the time, substituting location for setting, but here the discrepancy is egregious and calls attention to itself. Even more troubling is what the location does to the logic of the story. The Edwardses and Jorgensens are farmers; why then, are they homesteading a desolate wasteland? There’s a reason Monument Valley was never developed, why it sat pristine until it could be filmed by Ford and others in the mid 20th Century: it is incapable of sustaining life. To suggest that farming families would actually try to settle there shows more than contempt for the audience’s credulity; it shows contempt for the film’s characters themselves. They must either be idiots . . . or puppets.

And so, we are left not with what John Ford may have intended us to view but what we actually see before us: a family that exists only to fulfill its plot function, a family that lives only to be massacred. This being obvious, my sympathies are restrained. I don’t really feel bad when the Edwards family is murdered because that’s what they’re there for. (Shame that the Jorgensens aren’t also massacred, as they are the most annoying family this side of a TV sitcom.)

Regardless, we expect, at the very least, that the characters within the drama respond appropriately. Ford does a very good job of intimating an emotional bond between Ethan and his brother’s wife. After she is killed, Ethan should be in full-on vengeance mode. He shouldn’t exactly be sanguine about the death of the others, either.  Yet the vengeance angle just seems to evaporate in the hunt for Debbie. Okay, finding Debbie may be Martin’s focus, but that shouldn’t be Ethan’s primary concern, especially after he comes to believe she’s irredeemable. Why isn’t he desperate to score some payback? And why isn’t the pursuit given a greater sense of urgency? You’d think in a film called The Searchers, a lot of attention would be devoted to the details of The Search.

As it happens, we get any number of occasions to delay the search. One of the worst excuses comes in the scene where Ethan decides to go home because it's winter, as if that season somehow made searching more difficult. Of course, winter is the easiest time to search, because nomadic peoples stop moving about then. Later we learn that the tribe they're looking for has been wintering up around Ft. Whatever. No surprise, as the plains Indians would move about in the warm weather, then head back to their reservations to sit out the colder months (and maybe score some handouts from the Whites). The point is, winter is probably the easiest time to search for someone among the tribes, but the film falsifies reality for the sake of plot convenience.

Okay, the plot is a bust; what about the characters? Here also the viewer is let down, beginning with the film’s central character. For all the talk by critics of Wayne’s performance in The Searchers (which is indeed good), we don’t really get much from Ethan Edwards. Is there any more to the guy than doggedness and prejudice? We’d like to think so, but we’re shy on data. Not surprising, really, considering that Ford shortchanges just about every character in the piece (the exceptions being the Ward Bond character, Mose Harper, and the Mexican go-between). Martin, as played by Jeffrey Hunter, is less a person than a mass of reactive tissue, and Vera Miles, who is never very good, plays the single-minded Laurie exactly as written. Even Debbie is little more than the film’s MacGuffin. Young Debbie starts the film strong, but thereafter she is more talked about than seen, and when we finally do catch up with her at the end, she is essentially a totem for Ethan to carry away.

Look, Martin’s Indian bride, is an atrocious character. She could have been effective if she were an attractive Indian princess (a la Barbara Carerra in the TV mini-series Centenial). Why not provide a worthy rival for Martin’s affections, someone who could have given Vera Miles a run for her money? But Look was invented only for comedy relief, and what comedy relief. Ford asks us to laugh at an ugly fat woman because she’s ugly and fat. Oh, that witty Mr. Ford. And once her usefulness has ended, she’s killed, off screen. Martin finds her corpse, wonders about her visit to the Indian camp, and then never thinks about her again. She was, after all, only a plot device, one of many in this terrible film, easily forgotten.

Scar certainly gets short shrift. Early on he is established as the nemesis: time and again he is shown to be formidable, ruthless, elusive. There is even a moment, when Ethan meets him in his camp, that a glimmer of humanity shines through via a sarcastic comment (“You speak good Comanche. Someone teach you?”) But there is no follow-up: Scar defaults to plot-device cog. And even here he’s a disappointment. The film is structured to create the expectation of a showdown between Scar and Ethan. But what happens? Scar is dispatched by Martin, almost casually, and the Duke isn’t even around to witness it. So Scar, never a fully imagined character, ends up deflating before our very eyes.

TO BE CONTINUED



Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on July 12, 2007, 02:26:55 AM
Good scenes, when they occur, rather than redeem the picture, serve to point up, by way of contrast, all that is wrong with the film. An example is the wonderful reunion scene, which begins with an amazing take. After the visit to Scar’s camp, Ethan and Martin are discussing their options, framing a distant sand dune between them. Suddenly a figure crests the dune, begins descending, moving from background to foreground, toward the two men. The men don’t notice this at first, continue talking as the figure—an Indian: an Indian woman: Debbie?—draws closer. The audience wonders, Why is she coming? What will Ethan and Martin do when they see her. Some exquisite suspense is created in this single shot. Then Martin sees Debbie and rushes over. Will she remember him? Can she still speak English? Is she capable of civilized discourse? The answer to all three is yes, but Ford heightens the drama by making us wait for the discovery. Then we get Debbie’s wonderfully economical account of her last ten years: “I remember. From always. At first I prayed to you: Come and get me, take me home. You didn’t come. . . . These are my people. Go.”

This brief speech (Natalie Wood’s only lines in the film) raises an interesting problem: what if Debbie doesn’t want to be rescued? This plot complication is the fulcrum on which Act 3 should turn. Instead, dramatic tension is allowed to dissipate during the long digression about Laurie’s wedding (which includes yet another of Ford’s tiresome donnybrooks). By the time Martin goes to Scar’s camp to rescue Debbie she’s perfectly happy to cooperate. What, then, was all that palaver about her staying with her people? Had to be dropped for time, I guess, the film was running long. We need to hurry to the scene where Ethan guns down Debbie.

This, of course, is the film’s greatest cheat. We know it can never happen—the Duke shooting little Natalie Woodski? In a 1956 film?—so when the film pretends it is a possibility, it is playing us false. And the film is guilty of an even more egregious bait-and-switch tactic concerning the nature of Ethan’s “racism.”

Of course, “racism” is a bad thing, as everyone knows, but in the world of the film this “racism” is something of a moving target. The Comanche are never presented positively, and we see early on that falling into their hands is a bad thing (if one objects to being killed and scalped, that is). This is not the only negative consequence associated with the Indians, however.

The scene with the three rescued captives, artfully constructed and highly dramatic, is a case in point. We see what Ethan sees and what he sees are white girls who have become mentally unhinged as a result of their Indian captivity. Note that at no time does the picture suggest that Comanche culture is equal to that of the white man’s. Rather, Comanche culture has a debilitating effect on its white female captives. This is not a subjective view, not something that Ethan alone or even the white society as a whole believes contrary to fact. The truth of the matter is established objectively in this frightening scene of mental aberration. It is almost as if the Indians were plague carrying vampires, infecting the whites who live among them with a terrible malady (one thinks of Anthony Zerbe and his tribe in The Omega Man). A vexing question then presents itself. If Ethan and Martin find Debbie and she’s damaged goods, should they put her out of her misery or try against the odds to reclaim her soul? Dr. Ethan apparently wants to operate with extreme prejudice, but Doc Martin thinks the patient can be saved. Hey, these opposing approaches could generate some very juicy conflict. Yet when we meet Debbie in the reunion scene she turns out to be perfectly fine. Somehow she failed to contract grinning-idiots disease, so there’s no reason why she can’t be restored to white society. Had the plot not intervened to delay the final resolution, the film could have ended there.

But on we go. Because the threat of Indian-induced mental illness doesn’t pan out, the film later has this speech from Vera Miles: “Fetch what home? The leavings of Comanche bucks, sold to the highest bidder, with savage brats of her own? Do you know what Ethan will do if he has a chance? He’ll put a bullet in her brain. I tell you, Martha would want him to.” Uh, yeah, thanks Laurie, better hurry upstairs now, I think Norman Bates is waiting for his milk and sandwiches.

But notice how the terms of the problem have changed: a health issue no longer, now the specter of miscegenation has been raised. But this turns out to be illusory also. Debbie may be one of Scar’s wives, but she is an amazingly chaste one and apparently child-free. So by the end of the film, Debbie, in her right mind and without any dependants, is guilty only of wearing too much makeup and looking cute in an Indian costume. Hmmm, should Ethan gun a girl down just for a lifestyle choice? John Ford, stalwart of our contemporary mores, answers with a resounding “Hell no!” Ford could have taken a swing at the mental health issue, could have met the challenge posed by a white woman with Indian children in white society, two problems documented in the historical record. Instead he let those pass and waited to connect with the softest pitch the screenwriter could deliver.

Without a satisfying armature to comfort me, hundreds of niggling details rise to annoy me. I’ll just mention a couple. On two separate occasions the “community” sings a hymn, and both times it’s “Shall We Gather at the River?” A little bit of research to find out what 19th century American Protestants actually sang would have helped. It’s conceivable that such a hymn could have been used at a funeral, but at a wedding? I guess these hicks only know one hymn.

Then there’s the matter of anachronistic language. One of the Duke’s most dramatic readings, concerning rape and murder, is marred by the following dialogue:  “What do you want me to do? Draw you a picture? Spell it out?” Contrast these howlers with a line taken from, say, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, made eight years earlier: “Mr. Cohill, it is a bitter thing indeed to learn an officer who’s had nine years’ experience . . . should have so little grasp of leadership as to allow himself to be chivvied into a go at fisticuffs while taps still sounds over a brave man’s grave.” One can argue that this language is also anachronistic. It is, nonetheless, appropriate for its subject. In SWAYR, soldiers talk like soldiers, albeit soldiers from 1948 (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon has more in common with war films than Westerns anyway). This is a far cry from what happens in The Searchers, however: pioneer family members sound like they’ve spent their lives growing up in the ‘burbs. (“Laurie…maybe it’s about time you and me started going steady, huh?”) The problem isn’t lack of fidelity, it is blatant lack of fidelity.

Yes the film has great cinematography, great set-pieces, a riveting performance from the Duke. But craftsmanship is not the issue. Even some black velvet paintings and pink flamingos are executed with great craft; technical excellence, however, does not raise such things to the level of art. Kitsch remains kitsch, no matter how well it’s made, and The Searchers is Western kitsch.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Groggy on July 12, 2007, 06:01:38 AM
Dave's just a hyper-critical grouch, but we already know that. . .  ::)

My reaction is roughly the same as Silenzio's. I didn't really think much of "The Searchers" upon my first viewing, but I've seen it three times since then and I've enjoyed it more each time.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: KevinJCBJK on July 12, 2007, 10:04:34 AM
I wonder what Dave Jenkins thinks of other movies?


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: tucumcari bound on July 12, 2007, 10:14:09 AM
The Searchers is a bonafied masterpiece. While watching, can't you see why Leone loved it so much?! It's brilliant.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: KevinJCBJK on July 12, 2007, 10:16:35 AM
I say John Ford is one of the greatest American directors of all time, just because of his influence on great directors like Leone. Also influenced Kurosawa, Scorsese, Speilberg, and countless others.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: tucumcari bound on July 12, 2007, 10:22:04 AM
I say John Ford is one of the greatest American directors of all time, just because of his influence on great directors like Leone. Also influenced Kurosawa, Scorsese, Speilberg, and countless others.

John Ford is definitely one of the most influential directors of all time. He's in my top five favorite.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: KevinJCBJK on July 12, 2007, 10:22:36 AM
what's the other three?


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: tucumcari bound on July 12, 2007, 10:31:14 AM
what's the other three?


Top five:

Sergio Leone
Sam Peckinpah
Martin Scorsese
John Ford
Howard Hawks

Honorable Mentions:

Steven Spielberg
Akira Kurosowa
Clint Eastwood
Mel Gibson
Tim Burton
Michael Mann


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: KevinJCBJK on July 12, 2007, 10:35:57 AM

Top five:

Sergio Leone
Martin Scorsese
John Ford
Howard Hawks
Steven Spielberg

Honorable Mentions:

Akira Kurosowa
Clint Eastwood
Mel Gibson
Tim Burton
Michael Mann

Nice list! I've only seen one Kurosowa film (Ran), and I grew up watching Tim Burton and Steven Sielberg. A lot of people say Spielberg is overrated but he really has a way of showing one disturbing scene that will give you nightmares  in all of his films.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: tucumcari bound on July 12, 2007, 10:43:40 AM
Nice list! I've only seen one Kurosowa film (Ran), and I grew up watching Tim Burton and Steven Sielberg. A lot of people say Spielberg is overrated but he really has a way of showing one disturbing scene that will give you nightmares  in all of his films.

I hate it when people say Spielberg is overrated. I'm sorry, this is a guy who's gave us such great films as Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, Jaws, Indiana Jones Trilogy, and Empire of the Sun to name a few. He is not overrated.

There's also a number of other director's I love. But, I didn't want to make it boring going on and on. haha


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: KevinJCBJK on July 12, 2007, 10:46:32 AM
I hate it when people say Spielberg is overrated. I'm sorry, this is a guy who's gave us such great films as Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, Jaws, Indiana Jones Trilogy, and Empire of the Sun to name a few. He is not overrated.

There's also a number of other director's I love. But, I didn't want to make it boring going on and on. haha

Don't forget E.T! And I loved Munich.

Yeah there are too many directors for me to list too. But Leone is definitely in my top 50  ;)


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: tucumcari bound on July 12, 2007, 10:53:57 AM
Don't forget E.T! And I loved Munich.

Yeah there are too many directors for me to list too. But Leone is definitely in my top 50  ;)

Oh, no doubt. ET is a masterpiece, and one of my favorite films. Mucich was great as well. I was just stating, the man has made great films. It seems you make one bad film, everyone crusifies you. It's ridiculous!


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: KevinJCBJK on July 12, 2007, 11:26:27 AM
Yeah, though I can't imagine what bad film he ever made.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: tucumcari bound on July 12, 2007, 11:29:16 AM
Yeah, though I can't imagine what bad film he ever made.

Well you know how some people rip Hook, Amistad, The Terminal, A.I. and War of the Worlds. I'm not saying I hate those films but I've come across a lot of bad talk about them.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on July 12, 2007, 12:20:50 PM
I wonder what Dave Jenkins thinks of other movies?
Trying to bait me, eh?


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: moviesceleton on July 12, 2007, 12:42:18 PM
Well you know how some people rip Hook, Amistad, The Terminal, A.I. and War of the Worlds. I'm not saying I hate those films but I've come across a lot of bad talk about them.
I gotta agree with the common opinion on Hook. Amistad was pretty good, but A.I. is so underrated, it's one of my favorite sci-fis ever. As much as I am a huge Kubrick fan, I can't understand how he would've made A.I. a better film; the story is nothing like Kubrick would do, it's too light and fairy tale. Some people say that Jurasic Park would have been better if Kubrick never gave the script to Spielberg but made the film himself (besides, that story is not true to my understanding), that it would have been deeper and so on... The same with A.I.: he saw what that movie was and probably understood that it's not his kind of story.

I haven't seen The Searchers yet.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: KevinJCBJK on July 12, 2007, 12:46:35 PM
I didn't know Kubrick was offered Jurassic Park?



Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: tucumcari bound on July 12, 2007, 01:13:41 PM
I didn't know Kubrick was offered Jurassic Park?



Jurassic Park is brilliant in my opinion.

Oh, Kevin. I messed up with my favorite director list. Well, top five that is. Sam Peckinpah is in my five. I dunno what the hell I was thinking.   ???


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: moviesceleton on July 13, 2007, 03:57:15 AM
I didn't know Kubrick was offered Jurassic Park?


I think I read that on IMDb, or somewhere else. But Spielberg himself said that he knew about the book long before anyone else and wanted to do it. So I think the Kubrick story is incorrect.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on July 20, 2007, 10:41:42 AM
Beaver review of the BR disc (and some good criticism of the film itself): http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film2/DVDReviews32/the_searchers_blu-ray.htm


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on August 07, 2007, 05:56:56 PM
Interesting discussion of color problems with the R1 SD disc: http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htf/showthread.php?p=3210072#post3210072


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: tucumcari bound on September 15, 2007, 09:25:14 PM
I've read through this thread quite a bit and have found that jenkins has completely lost his mind.  ;D


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: moviesceleton on September 23, 2007, 09:49:58 AM
I haven't seen The Searchers yet.
Problem solved!

I loved the movie.  O0


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: tucumcari bound on September 23, 2007, 11:07:17 AM
Problem solved!

I loved the movie.  O0

Beautiful film isn't it moviesceleton. The only negative about the film is Jeffrey Hunter's performance as Martin. His acting was wayyy over the top in some scenes and he almost ruined the film all by himself. But what saved the film is the great performances by the rest of the cast, and obviously because of JOHN WAYNE, who was magnificent as Ethan.

John Ford's direction is also amazing here, and The Searchers is up there with the best American films ever made. It's just a beautifully shot film.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Groggy on September 23, 2007, 11:44:53 AM
Really? I never had a problem with Jeff Hunter. My problem was with John Quailen, Olive Carrey, and Vera Miles.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: tucumcari bound on September 23, 2007, 11:58:05 AM
Really? I never had a problem with Jeff Hunter. My problem was with John Quailen, Olive Carrey, and Vera Miles.

Oh I had no problem with them Groggy. Jeffrey Hunter is the one who always annoyed me in certain scenes. It's all personal preference.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: moviesceleton on September 23, 2007, 12:06:50 PM
Oh I had no problem with them Groggy. Jeffrey Hunter is the one who always annoyed me in certain scenes. It's all personal preference.
I recall two scenes where his acting was maybe a little bit too over the top. 1)When they're shooting the Indians over the river. 2)When he reads Ethan's will. But I don't see his acting as a big problem.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Mw/NNrules on October 15, 2007, 05:42:07 PM
One of the moments which I thought was really overdone was when Ethan's brother in law, and his family lock themselves in their house. When their older daughter screams, it is so overdone. You see the rest of the family trying to stay calm, then *AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH*, just annoys me, but as TB says, it's all a matter of personal preference.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Ben Tyreen on October 15, 2007, 08:14:29 PM
Quote
One of the moments which I thought was really overdone was when Ethan's brother in law, and his family lock themselves in their house. When their older daughter screams, it is so overdone. You see the rest of the family trying to stay calm, then *AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH*, just annoys me, but as TB says, it's all a matter of personal preference.

  I've never thought of that as overdone, but think about the situation they're in.  She seems to be the only one who is oblivious to what's going on and in that brief second, it all comes together for her.  Imagine the stories she's heard about what Comanches do to female white captives.  Rape, torture, and most likely a bullet in her brain.

  I'm a guy, but I'd scream like that too if that's what was coming.  O0


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Mw/NNrules on October 16, 2007, 12:52:19 PM
  I've never thought of that as overdone, but think about the situation they're in.  She seems to be the only one who is oblivious to what's going on and in that brief second, it all comes together for her.  Imagine the stories she's heard about what Comanches do to female white captives.  Rape, torture, and most likely a bullet in her brain.

  I'm a guy, but I'd scream like that too if that's what was coming.  O0
I do sympathise with her character, just seemed annoying to me.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Ben Tyreen on October 16, 2007, 07:48:33 PM
Quote
I do sympathise with her character, just seemed annoying to me.

  Haha, fair enough.   ;D


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Groggy on October 16, 2007, 09:51:43 PM
I recall two scenes where his acting was maybe a little bit too over the top. 1)When they're shooting the Indians over the river. 2)When he reads Ethan's will. But I don't see his acting as a big problem.

Actually I like Jeffrey Hunter. He's not one of my favorite actors but I think he was perfect for this particular role. He does seem a bit goofy at times but he still has some dramatic weight.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Ben Tyreen on October 17, 2007, 11:38:49 AM
Quote
Actually I like Jeffrey Hunter. He's not one of my favorite actors but I think he was perfect for this particular role. He does seem a bit goofy at times but he still has some dramatic weight.

  Me too.  He obviously didn't have the same presence as the Duke in The Searchers, but in the dramatic scenes, I've always felt he matches him pretty well.  When Debbie shows up toward the end, the will talk, just the way he draws his gun and yells "No you don't, Ethan!" 

  I always liked him as an actor.  I haven't seen a ton of his movies, but he did die too early. :'(


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Mw/NNrules on October 17, 2007, 11:46:12 AM
  I always liked him as an actor.  I haven't seen a ton of his movies, but he did die too early. :'(
I liked his role. Some of the scenes did have a "good amount" of drama from him.
  Me too.  He obviously didn't have the same presence as the Duke in The Searchers, but in the dramatic scenes, I've always felt he matches him pretty well.  When Debbie shows up toward the end, the will talk, just the way he draws his gun and yells "No you don't, Ethan!" 

  I always liked him as an actor.  I haven't seen a ton of his movies, but he did die too early. :'(
Agreed. Wayne's performance was better, but they more or less equaled out in the end.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Atlas2112 on November 07, 2007, 10:06:02 AM
The Searchers: 10/10


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: KevinJCBJK on November 26, 2007, 06:10:18 PM
Did anyone laugh when Marty kicked Look? Ethan's comment was hilarious.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Ben Tyreen on November 27, 2007, 11:47:53 AM
Quote
Did anyone laugh when Marty kicked Look? Ethan's comment was hilarious.

  All the scenes with Look after she is given to Marty really make me cringe.  Ford was obviously a very talented director, one of the best, but these scenes are so wrong and prejudiced, whatever you want to call them.  And then he just kills her off and Marty feels bad for her.   In an otherwise great movie, these scenes are really bad.

  No offense though, coffee, just my opinion.  :)


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: KevinJCBJK on November 27, 2007, 02:50:41 PM
I agree, the poltical incorrectness (is that a word?) made me laugh really hard.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Ben Tyreen on November 27, 2007, 04:08:33 PM
Quote
I agree, the poltical incorrectness (is that a word?) made me laugh really hard.

  Eh, it sounds like a word so let's just run with it.  That was the word I was looking for, the scenes with Look are politically incorrect.  But I like incorrectness. ;D


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: cigar joe on November 27, 2007, 06:00:47 PM
There are a lot of old westerns that are like that with Native Americans & Blacks.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: tucumcari bound on August 12, 2008, 04:24:37 PM

Has anybody here ever seen this on the big screen?


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Silenzio on August 12, 2008, 04:59:25 PM
Peacemaker has.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: tucumcari bound on August 12, 2008, 05:01:13 PM
Peacemaker has.

Lucky for him. I need to experience it. Share your thoughts about that experience Peacemaker.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on August 12, 2008, 06:17:22 PM
Yeah, what color are the bricks in the opening credits supposed to be?


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Groggy on December 28, 2009, 12:11:52 PM
So sayeth the Grog Blog:

Quote
One of the most influential and acclaimed films (let alone Westerns) of all time, John Ford's The Searchers (1956) is, like Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind and The Godfather, one of the untouchable Hollywood classics whose appeal and acclaim protects it from criticism and analysis. Despite flaws in story structure and its obnoxious supporting cast, Ford's magnum opus holds up well as a work of cinematic art. Technically it's without peer, and its thematic and moral ambiguities rank it far above most any other Western, American or otherwise. In many ways, the film's flaws enhance its stature: if nothing else, it epitomizes John Ford, for better or worse, with a conflicted, layered and thoughtful view of America's Westward expansion, mixing progressivism and hope with bloodshed and racism.

Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) returns to his brother Aaron (Martin Coy)'s Texas homestead three years after the Civil War. When Ethan joins a posse of Texas Rangers led by the Reverend Captain Clayton (Ward Bond) tracking cattle rustlers, Aaron and his family are slaughtered by a tribe of Comanches led by Chief Scar (Henry Brandon), who take daughters Lucy (Pippa Scott) and Debbie (Natalie Wood) hostage. Accompanied by adoptive "half-breed" nephew Martin (Jeffrey Hunter) and Lucy's fiancee Brad Jorgenson (Harry Carey Jr.), Ethan obsessively tracks Scar across Texas, even as changes in season and climate delay his pursuit. Even though his marriage to Laurie (Vera Miles) is jeopardized by his absence, Marty keeps along with Ethan, increasingly convinced that Ethan's intent is not to rescue his nieces, but to kill them.

The Searchers is usually taken as a mediation on racism, and that's fair on one level. Perhaps more importantly, however, it's a depiction of Manifest Destiny and the American character. The film's sympathies obviously lie with the white settlers, who for all their foibles represent Ford's hopeful progressivism about America's future, but Ethan is depicted as a violent, anti-social loner, outcast from this rough-hewn but friendly community. Ford approaches the subject matter with great care and ambiguity, his poetic subtlety more effective than the obvious, noble posturing in Sergeant Rutledge and Cheyenne Autumn. Essentially the question posed by the film is: Is Ethan's violent racism an aberration, or the very core of the American character? Ford seems to hope the former, but on the basis of evidence persented, it seems the latter is more likely.

Ethan Edwards is one of the most fascinating, complex protagonists in Hollywood cinema, representing the dark side of Manifest Destiny. At first glance, he's simply another Fordian "dark horse" like Doc Holiday in My Darling Clementine or Tom Doniphon in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a rough hewn frontiersman necessary for the settling of the West. However, Ford and Wayne portray him in a much darker light than those romantic heroes. He's a veteran of the Confederate army, who apparently fought for Maximillian's army in Mexico, and the Reverend Clayton implies engaged in outlaw behavior on the side. He's not only a racist, but a murderer too, shooting wounded Indians in the back, massacring buffalo, and shooting out the eyes of a dead Comanche, dooming him to Purgatory. Given this, it's not at all surprising when he tries to kill Debbie later in the film. Many critics have read further subtleties into the character - his probable affair with his brother's wife (Dorothy Jordan), the possibility that he is Martin or even Debbie's father. Motivated by a twisted combination of racism, revenge, and other assorted neuroses, Ethan is a destructive character; even his redemptive act at the climax leaves him excluded from society, without the acknowledgment or heroic death afforded to most such characters, the door irrevocably shut on him.

The portrayal of Native Americans is strictly from a white point-of-view, from Scar's savages to the passive reservation Cheyenne, but this is hardly a flaw excusive to this film. Whatever their justification, frontier warfare between whites and Indians - especially tribes like the Comanche - was bloody and brutal, with both sides guilty of atrocity, and denying this for reasons of political correctness is badly misguided. Ford takes care to balance the ledger (if imperfectly), with his sympathetic (if broad) portrayal of Martin's Indian bride Look (Beulah Archuletta), a massacre of an Indian village, Indians being force-morched through an icey landscape by cavalry (presaging a key scene in Cheyenne Autumn). Even the final battle is less-than-heroic, showing Texas Rangers charging, guns blazing, through a camp made up mostly of women, children and old men. If he isn't entirely fair in depicting Indians, Ford at least acknowledges that frontier violence and mayhem weren't one-sided.

Ford is much less successful with his supporting cast, far-too-often stopping the film cold for awkward, obnoxious bits of broad comic relief. The travails of the crack-brained Mose Harper (Hank Worden), the dopey guitar-playing Charley McCory (Ken Curtis) and the bumptious Jorgensons inevitable draw groans and eye-rollings from modern audiences (especially my Film Analysis class). These scenes slow the film to a crawl, particularly the wedding sequence, and except as a very broad depiction of frontier life and the more positive, hopeful side of Western settlement, it's hard to justify their inclusion. The film is Ford at his most schizophrenic: as beautiful as the images as are, as insightful the message and well-drawn the protagonist, we still have to sit through a great deal of bumptious Ford comedy which only weakens the film.

The film is unquestionably a work of art, with directors from David Lean and Sergio Leone to Steven Spielberg and George Lucas finding inspiration from Ford's use of landscape and filming of action scenes. Monument Valley has never been better used, with Ford using the landscape with remarkable results; rarely has there been a more visually striking, beautiful film, with the massive butes and canyons setting a truly epic stage. The quick-edited, exciting action scenes - especially the first skirmish with the Comanche and the final attack on Scar's village - directly inspired the exciting horse charges of Lawrence of Arabia and have provided inspiration for many more, while the tense build-up to the opening massacre, with fluttering sage hens, barking dogs and menacing bird calls, inspired a key scene in Once Upon a Time in the West. Most of the violence occurs offscreen, with words, gestures and facial expressions adequate to infer the horror of an Indian massacre or rape. Max Steiner contributes a violent, rousing score perfectly appropriate to the film, heightening the tension and emotion.

John Wayne has never been better than Ethan Edwards. Perhaps delving into his own psyche, Wayne perfectly conveys Ethan's conflicted nature, driven by demons even he can't fully understand. There's no difficulty in channelling his usual persona into this borderline evil character. Wayne uses his familiar voice and figure to make an impression, but also engages in subtle uses of body language and facial gestures: his horrified reaction to seeing his brother's burning homestead is perhaps the finest moment in his career, as is the scene where he disgustedly stares at a group of rescued Cheyenne captives: "They ain't white - anymore!" Anyone who thinks Wayne can't act after seeing this film or Red River is just plain ignorant.

The supporting cast is more hit-and-miss. Jeffrey Hunter (Sergeant Rutledge) gives a fine star-making turn as Martin, serving as a perfect foil to Ethan's unspooling madness. The reliable Ward Bond acquits himself well as the Reverend Captain, Olive Carrey brings dignity and grace to her part, and Natalie Wood does well with her brief screen time. Henry Brandon (Vera Cruz) is an imposing presence as Scar but lacks the screen time to become a truly menacing villain. The rest of Ford's stock company is generally obnoxious, with John Qualen (sporting the same Swedish chef accent as in Liberty Valance), Vera Miles and Hank Worden being the worst offenders. Ken Curtis at least has the amusing moment where he switches from addle-brained cowpoke to skilled singer, but the others are just a nuisance.

For all its flaws, The Searchers is a wonderfully rich, textured and fascinating film. It is not a flawless film, nor is it Ford's best, but it remains a masterpiece whose depths and complexities can only be revealed by repeat viewings.

http://nothingiswrittenfilm.blogspot.com/2009/12/searchers.html (http://nothingiswrittenfilm.blogspot.com/2009/12/searchers.html)


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on January 17, 2010, 11:25:42 AM
John Ford's images of Monument Valley are stunning.
Surely you mean Winton C. Hoch's?


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Dust Devil on January 17, 2010, 01:44:28 PM
It's Ford's movie. Understandable conceit.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on January 17, 2010, 02:42:29 PM
It's Ford's movie.
Only if you subscribe to the auteur fallacy.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Groggy on January 17, 2010, 02:44:58 PM
Don't start this again guys. Please.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Amaze on September 24, 2010, 01:17:23 PM
The searchers(1956)
John Ford's best? It's certainly the only one I've seen of his that I've really enjoyed. Monument Valley never looked better.
Only thing that bothered me was some of the acting, very overly dramatic. Guess that was normal back then.
I watched the collector's edition and the image quality was amazing for such an old movie.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on September 24, 2010, 01:20:17 PM
Only thing that bothered me was some of the acting, very overly dramatic. Guess that was normal back then.
Uh, no.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Amaze on September 24, 2010, 01:43:03 PM
Just something Ford fancied then?   :P


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on September 24, 2010, 02:00:11 PM
Not only Ford, but there was plenty of naturalistic acting in 50s films.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: drinkanddestroy on September 05, 2011, 04:37:07 AM
Actually I like Jeffrey Hunter. He's not one of my favorite actors but I think he was perfect for this particular role. He does seem a bit goofy at times but he still has some dramatic weight.

Hunter annoyed me in The Searchers (which I have seen twice, and have always believed to be a very overrated film). But I thought Hunter was terrific in Sergeant Rutledge. I could hardly believe it was the same guy


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: drinkanddestroy on April 19, 2012, 12:07:46 AM
I read that in some European countries this movie had the name Prisoner of the Desert. IMO that is a much better name for this movie.

Waddaya think?


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: stanton on April 19, 2012, 04:43:20 AM
The Searchers is a great title.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Dust Devil on April 19, 2012, 09:32:54 AM
The Searchers is a great title.

Ditto.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: drinkanddestroy on May 14, 2012, 10:56:10 AM
I see that Prisoner of the Desert was the title used in Belgian, French, and French Canadian title  (all titles at the bottom of this page  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049730/releaseinfo
If anyone understands any of the various titles listed here, can you tell me whether they all translate to The Searchers or Prisoner of the Desert, or whether are there any other titles besides those two? Thanks  O0 )

I think the title "Prisoner of the Desert" is really cool because while on the simple level it refers to the girl who was captured by the Indians, on a deeper level it of course refers to Edwards, as the closing song alludes to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woahas_W35A Edwards is a man of the west, who has to wander and ride away; as soon as he find Debbie and brings her home -- after spending most of 5 years in the saddle, wandering the desert, he walks right back out the door.

Can you make the same point about the title "The Searchers"? I suppose you can. (Here is the FULL version of the song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20jAtWu4CxM the lyrics are in the "description" at this link; I believe the movie only uses the first stanza [for the opening] and the last stanza [for the closing].

As the song says, he is searching for his heart and soul or sumthin. So the deeper meaning is present there, but IMO doesn't come off as well. I mean, I don't really think he is searching for his heart and soul, as if he expects to find it. he knows full well he is meant to wander and ride away, and he ain't searching for anything, and he sure won't find it. Besides, that deeper meaning only refers to Ethan, not Martin, so it shouldn't be The SearcherS, plural. Prisoner of the Desert has the singular.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on May 14, 2012, 01:02:48 PM
Looks like the original German title was "The Black Falcon"! :o


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Groggy on May 14, 2012, 01:05:29 PM
I read that in some European countries this movie had the name Prisoner of the Desert. IMO that is a much better name for this movie.

Waddaya think?

Too on the nose.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: stanton on May 14, 2012, 02:19:58 PM
Looks like the original German title was "The Black Falcon"! :o

Unfortunately, yes. Chief Scar is no longer Chief Scar


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Groggy on May 17, 2013, 10:34:14 PM
I've seen this at a few of my local bookstores. Not sure if it's been posted here yet:

http://www.amazon.com/Searchers-Making-American-Legend/dp/1608191052/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1368851497&sr=1-1&keywords=the+searchers+the+making+of+an+american+legend (http://www.amazon.com/Searchers-Making-American-Legend/dp/1608191052/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1368851497&sr=1-1&keywords=the+searchers+the+making+of+an+american+legend)


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: cigar joe on May 18, 2013, 03:52:50 AM
Looks interesting


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on May 18, 2013, 06:18:00 PM
I've seen this at a few of my local bookstores. Not sure if it's been posted here yet:

http://www.amazon.com/Searchers-Making-American-Legend/dp/1608191052/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1368851497&sr=1-1&keywords=the+searchers+the+making+of+an+american+legend (http://www.amazon.com/Searchers-Making-American-Legend/dp/1608191052/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1368851497&sr=1-1&keywords=the+searchers+the+making+of+an+american+legend)
Went looking, but didn't find it. I did come across this, though: http://www.amazon.com/Making-Patton-Classic-Journey-Silver/dp/0700618627/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1368922600&sr=1-1&keywords=making+patton


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Groggy on May 18, 2013, 06:59:42 PM
*And* my local library has it! :o Nice find Jenkins.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Novecento on May 19, 2013, 09:04:30 AM
http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/17/showbiz/the-searchers/index.html?hpt=en_c2


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: titoli on December 31, 2016, 02:13:24 AM
Thought I had marked it, but was wrong. Probably with LV the best Ford. Or at least my fav. Sure, the plot hangs on a spit: but how many westerns do? I don't care. Each shot is a picture, Wayne is Oscar-deserving, (and so is Worden) and the plot is engrossing from start to finish. The Fordisms are kept to a minimum, I actually enjoy, even because there's no Mac Laglen around. If I don't give it 10/10 is because of minor imperfections, or at least what I consider such as the fist-fight of the two beau's or the inept soldier's gag . 


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Cusser on December 31, 2016, 07:21:58 AM
Vera Miles is great in this.

John Wayne is pretty good here, felt he was best in Red River.

Overall, very good film.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: titoli on December 31, 2016, 08:48:40 AM
Vera Miles is great in this.

John Wayne is pretty good here, felt he was best in Red River.



Yeah, VM is great, but nothing I haven't seen before by other actresses. About RR, long time no see. But there Wayne wasn't as bad, politically incorrect  as in here.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: noodles_leone on January 02, 2017, 04:36:00 PM
Saw it for the first time in years yesterday.

It may very well be one of the very best looking westerns ever. Probably the one that features the most genuine admiration for the wild west mythology, right up there with OUATITW. Also, I'm not sure why, but the opening has always made me think to the one from Breakfast at Tiffany's: they both share a similar kind of poetry.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: drinkanddestroy on January 02, 2017, 06:29:17 PM
Saw it for the first time in years yesterday.

It may very well be one of the very best looking westerns ever. Probably the one that features the most genuine admiration for the wild west mythology, right up there with OUATITW. Also, I'm not sure why, but the opening has always made me think to the one from Breakfast at Tiffany's: they both share a similar kind of poetry.

IMO, OUATITW cares about the WESTERN MOVIE more than it cares about the actual WILD WEST.

The Searchers may care about the Wild West but I don't see where it cares about the Western. John Ford didn't do homage; after all, if he did he would be homaging himself! When people speak of Western mythology, it's often synonymous with Fordian mythology. OUATITW is all about Leone's memories of watching Westerns. The end of the Wild West is the prism through which he tells his story, which is the end of the Western film.

The Searchers indeed looks beautiful, incredible cinematography. But far from a great film IMO.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: noodles_leone on January 03, 2017, 12:53:51 AM
I see your points but still, Ford isn't filming the actual Wild West. He's working with archetypes, building icons on the top of what people at the time though was the Wild West. I cannot count the shots in this movie that made me think to the way painters throughout centuries did their own version of a particular scene from the Bible or the Greek mythology.

The woman waiting for her man to come back from his dangerous journey, the campfire ambush, the fight by the river, the fustfight for a lady and so many scenes in this movie weren't invented by Ford. He's giving us his take on scenes that were already in the mythology and he's treating them with the respect and admiration only Leone showed for the very same subject matter.

Of course, Leone is way more postmodern and quotes previous films (including the searchers) more directly but that doesn't fundamentally change the close nature of both films in my book.

About the quality of the film: it's highly flawed, the plot and characters haven't aged well. Still, the premise, the length of the hunt, the ambiguity of Wayne's character and the work on the mythology make that movie very special. It's far from being a great movie but it truly deserves its ranking among the most famous and importants western movies.





Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Cusser on January 03, 2017, 07:18:52 AM
IMO, OUATITW cares about the WESTERN MOVIE more than it cares about the actual WILD WEST.

I remember Leone always said he was making films about western films, not about the actual WILD WEST.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Novecento on January 03, 2017, 08:16:37 AM
Also, I'm not sure why, but the opening has always made me think to the one from Breakfast at Tiffany's: they both share a similar kind of poetry.

Ha ha - I think I see what you mean.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: stanton on January 03, 2017, 01:01:08 PM
I remember Leone always said he was making films about western films, not about the actual WILD WEST.

But in fact that is also true for most US westerns. They rely mostly on former westerns not on the real west (whatever one views as the real west).

They use the western as a vessel to transport ideas and/or style.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: titoli on January 03, 2017, 02:38:13 PM
Just finished the novel. The movie follows it quite tightly for a good 3/4 with some few differences. The Wayne's return home is completely made up for the movie. The massacre is descripted (the brother's wife has an arm amputated). The first fight with the Comanches is different from that seen in the movie. Ethan is the name given to the late Martin Pawley's father. In the novel Wayne's character is named Amos. There is no a great controversy between Ethan and Martin, as in the movie: the "bastard" reproach is completely invented for the movie. The Indian wife is not as ugly and is not mistreated as in the movie and ends up differently from the movie, being picked up presumably by her prior lover. But the most interesting part is in the finale. Ethan/Amos is killed during the raid by a squaw he believes to be Debbie. Laurie ends up marrying Charly McCorry, who here becomes a Ranger. And Martin after the raid where Debbie can't be found, goes after her, finds her dying and gives her the Jane Russell treatment and presumably the two end up together.
N.B. The clown Jinx is not only proven a buffoon in the movie but also in the book.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: titoli on January 03, 2017, 02:51:17 PM
I forgot. Debbie is not Scar's wife but adopted daughter, promised bride to some chief.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: T.H. on January 03, 2017, 08:05:18 PM
I wholly reject the notion that The Searchers is a flawed film. It may be dated (the fistfight scene, Mose, the Indian wife), but being dated isn't automatically a negative, especially in this case. I'd argue that the Fordisms of this movie add to the mystique because this is a legitimately dark movie. The comedic banjo music from The Last House on the Left would be the horror version of this effect, intended or not in The Searchers case.

The Searchers has more subtext, poetry, mystique, power, etc than OUATITW. It's also not nearly as calculated, which only adds to its greatness. Leone would be the first one to admit that.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on January 03, 2017, 08:18:19 PM
Saw it for the first time in years yesterday.

It may very well be one of the very best looking westerns ever.
Shot in VistaVision, no? That always helps.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: titoli on January 04, 2017, 01:07:04 AM
I wholly reject the notion that The Searchers is a flawed film. It may be dated (the fistfight scene, Mose, the Indian wife),


All of the three elements are taken from the novel.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: stanton on January 04, 2017, 02:29:51 AM
Just finished the novel. The movie follows it quite tightly for a good 3/4 with some few differences. The Wayne's return home is completely made up for the movie. The massacre is descripted (the brother's wife has an arm amputated). The first fight with the Comanches is different from that seen in the movie. Ethan is the name given to the late Martin Pawley's father. In the novel Wayne's character is named Amos. There is no a great controversy between Ethan and Martin, as in the movie: the "bastard" reproach is completely invented for the movie. The Indian wife is not as ugly and is not mistreated as in the movie and ends up differently from the movie, being picked up presumably by her prior lover. But the most interesting part is in the finale. Ethan/Amos is killed during the raid by a squaw he believes to be Debbie. Laurie ends up marrying Charly McCorry, who here becomes a Ranger. And Martin after the raid where Debbie can't be found, goes after her, finds her dying and gives her the Jane Russell treatment and presumably the two end up together.
N.B. The clown Jinx is not only proven a buffoon in the movie but also in the book.

The ending in the novel is the expected one, too conventional for my taste. But at least the Ethan character stays true to his motivation.
The ending in the movie looks like one that was altered by the producer too soften the film. But then something strange happens, cause as idiotic this end is on the paper, Ford's directing is so strong that it works, well nearly works ...
The perfect ending would have been of course that Ethan kills Debbie, but that could never have been shot in the 50s.

Yes The Searchers is, like every Ford film, a flawed film, and here his stupid humour bugs me more that in others of his westerns. I prefer My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache and Wagonmaster to The Searchers.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: noodles_leone on January 04, 2017, 02:37:15 AM
Shot in VistaVision, no? That always helps.

Yes and yes.

I wholly reject the notion that The Searchers is a flawed film. It may be dated (the fistfight scene, Mose, the Indian wife), but being dated isn't automatically a negative, especially in this case. I'd argue that the Fordisms of this movie add to the mystique because this is a legitimately dark movie. The comedic banjo music from The Last House on the Left would be the horror version of this effect, intended or not in The Searchers case.

The Searchers has more subtext, poetry, mystique, power, etc than OUATITW. It's also not nearly as calculated, which only adds to its greatness. Leone would be the first one to admit that.


I can see that. Still, it feels far more calculated than many other Ford movies.
Also, "The Searchers has more subtext, poetry, mystique, power, etc than OUATITW." => you're way out of line, Sir.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: noodles_leone on January 04, 2017, 02:40:15 AM
The ending in the novel is the expected one, too conventional for my taste. But at least the Ethan character stays true to his motivation.
The ending in the movie looks like one that was altered by the producer too soften the film. But then something strange happens, cause as idiotic this end is on the paper, Ford's directing is so strong that it works, well nearly works ...
The perfect ending would have been of course that Ethan kills Debbie, but that could never have been shot in the 50s.

The movie as it is is already very tough and dark. It gets a lot of its power from there.
To me, the ending works perfectly on an emotional level (I was moved this time as I was last time I saw it) even if like many actions/change of minds of the characters my brain doesn't by it for a second.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: stanton on January 04, 2017, 02:47:44 AM

To me, the ending works perfectly on an emotional level

It does, otherwise it would turn the film into a joke. But the emotion is more important than the mind for a film's quality, so it saves the compromise.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: noodles_leone on January 04, 2017, 03:27:24 AM
The emotion counts for exactly 51%, according to Master Walter's famous rule of 6:

http://www.aotg.com/index.php?page=murchrules


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: titoli on January 04, 2017, 04:31:15 AM
The ending in the novel is the expected one, too conventional for my taste.
The perfect ending would have been of course that Ethan kills Debbie, but that could never have been shot in the 50s.

Yes The Searchers is, like every Ford film, a flawed film, and here his stupid humour bugs me more that in others of his westerns. I prefer My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache and Wagonmaster to The Searchers.

 Ethan being killed by a squaw "conventional"? Where? How? And Martin doing it with her adopted, still a minor "sister", conventional too? Actually, the movie softens this quite rough ending and makes it conventional, that's for sure, though it makes not Debbie a virgin.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: stanton on January 04, 2017, 06:14:46 AM
Ethan being killed by a squaw "conventional"? Where? How? And Martin doing it with her adopted, still a minor "sister", conventional too?

It doesn't matter by whom he is killed, but him getting killed before he can kill Debbie is the expected end for such a stuff.

And Martin isn't related to Debbie, so where's the problem? Is she still a minor in the novel?


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: titoli on January 04, 2017, 07:00:25 AM
It doesn't matter by whom he is killed, but him getting killed before he can kill Debbie is the expected end for such a stuff.

And Martin isn't related to Debbie, so where's the problem? Is she still a minor in the novel?
Yes, she his. But the point is they grew as brother and sister, though she had a yen for him as a child.
 So having Wayne killed by a squaw he thinks is Debbie would have been an "Expected end"? Where else?


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: dave jenkins on January 04, 2017, 08:28:26 AM
I prefer My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache and Wagonmaster to The Searchers.
You are not wrong.


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: drinkanddestroy on January 08, 2017, 08:22:37 PM
Saturday January 14, TCM will be showing THE SEARCHERS at 4:15 p.m. EST.

Then in the evening, it's Warren Oates night.

http://www.tcm.com/schedule/index.html?tz=est&sdate=2017-01-14


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: cigar joe on January 09, 2017, 03:57:55 AM
oh good i can watch Private Property then!


Title: Re: The Searchers (1956)
Post by: Novecento on January 09, 2017, 07:22:29 AM
Then in the evening, it's Warren Oates night...

Thanks for the heads-up!