Sunday, October 27, 2019

CONSENSUS #56 - The Searchers

SYNOPSIS: "The Searchers" is a John Wayne Western that is a quest film. Wayne plays Uncle Ethan who spends years tracking his niece who was taken by Comanche raiders. Ethan is a racist and it is unclear what he will do when he finds the Indianized girl.

BACK-STORY: “The Searchers” is a “war” movie based on the eponymous novel by Alan LeMay. It was released in 1956 toward the end of the great period of black and white Westerns and is considered by many to be the best movie of that genre. It is marked by peak performances by director John Ford and his perennial star, John Wayne. Shockingly, although the film did well at the box office, it did not get a single Academy Award nomination.

TRIVIA:  Wikipedia, imdb

1.  In 2007, AFI declared it to be the greatest Western ever made.  It was voted #12 overall.

2.  Director Henry Ford wanted Fess Parker to play Jeffrey Hunter’s role.  The Disney Company told him Parker was not available and did not tell Parker that he was being considered for the role.  Parker later said his loss of the role was his biggest disappointment.  Parker later starred with Hunter in Disney’s “The Great Locomotive Race”.

 3.  It has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

4.  David Lean watched it lots of times to prepare for the vistas in “Lawrence of Arabia”.

5.  John Wayne considered Ethan Edwards to be his best performance and the movie was his favorite.

6.  Natalie Wood was still in high school and Wayne and/or Hunter would come pick her up to go to the set.  This created quite a stir among her classmates.

7.  When a Navajo child got sick with pneumonia, Wayne offered his private jet to take her to the hospital.  After this the Navajo actors called Wayne “The Man With the Big Eagle”.

8.  The Comanche were played by Navajo.

9.  Natalie’s younger sister Lana played the younger Debbie in the early scenes.

10.  Temperatures during shooting sometimes reached over 120 degrees.

11.  The story was loosely based on the abduction of Cynthia Parker who became the mother of the famous Comanche war chief Quanah Parker.

12.  Hunter was a 29 year old playing a teenager.

13.  The movie was the subject of the first “making of” documentary.

14.  Steven Spielberg, John Milius, Paul Schrader, William Wenders, Jean-Luc Goddard, and George Lucas are among the directors who were influenced by and paid homage to the film.

15.  Buddy Holly got the idea for the title of his hit “That’ll Be the Day” from the oft used line in the movie.

Belle and Blade  =  N/A
Brassey’s              =  5.0
Video Hound       =  N/A
War Movies         =  N/A
Military History  =  #49
Channel 4             =  no
Film Site                =  yes
101 War Movies  =  no
Rotten Tomatoes  =  no 

OPINION: While certainly a great movie and possibly the best Western ever made,
The Searchers is not even close to being a war movie.  The Searchers is a great Western. It has all the ingredients of a classic. The music fits the movie well. So do the typical Ford touches of humor.  The vistas of Monument Valley have never been more awesome. The directing is robust with Ford at the top of his game. The acting is strong across the board and is anchored by what most consider to be Waynes greatest performance (and his personal favorite).  The best thing about the movie is it is not the usual white hat/horse hero versus either bad guys or Indians.  The main character is a racist and a fascinating character. 


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  2. One thing that The Searchers has that SHOULD be in more war movies is attention to logistics. Early in the movie a character chooses not to rest his horse and pays for it later. The armed settlers chasing the war band attempt to scare off the ponies to maximize their chance of recovering the captives. And the "search" is characterized an exercise in endurance as much as anything else.

    I'm sure that it is hard to make logistics dramatic but when it does work it adds a feeling of weight to a situation. I'd love, for instance, to see one of the several documented battles in the Roman or the American Civil Wars where one side has taken control of the local water supply.

    1. I agree with you but I don't think I would invest in your movie because its box office would not be good.


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