The Searchers film

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Template:Infobox Movie (3) The Searchers is a 1956 epic Western film directed by John Ford which tells the story of a man who spends years looking for his niece who was taken by Indians.

Plot

Template:Spoiler The Searchers centers on the character Ethan Edwards, a middle-aged, bitter loner played by John Wayne.

At the start of the film, Ethan arrives at his brother’s house in rural Texas. The year is 1868, and Ethan has been away since the Civil War, where he fought for the Confederacy. There are hints that he has been up to no good in recent years. Shortly after his arrival, a Comanche raid on the white settlements in the region leaves his brother and sister-in-law dead, his two nieces abducted by the Comanches, and the homestead destroyed by fire. With his brother’s adopted son Martin Pawley, who is part Indian, part white, Ethan pursues the Comanches to recover the girls.

They soon find the raped and murdered body of the older girl, Lucy. They continue to search for the other girl, Debbie, for years, during which time she grows into adolescence and is married to the chief of this branch of Comanches, who is named Scar. Scar is presented as the mirror image of Ethan on the other side of the cultural divide. It becomes apparent that Ethan doesn’t want to rescue Debbie; he wants to kill her as she has become a Comanche and is defiled in his eyes. Martin tags along to rescue Debbie and to stop Ethan from killing her. After years of searching, the searchers and the United States Cavalry find the Comanches with Debbie. Ethan has a change of heart and does not hurt the girl and instead rescues her. Scar is killed by Martin. Template:Endspoiler

Making of the film

The movie was adapted by Frank S. Nugent from the novel by Alan Le May. It was directed by John Ford, and much of it was filmed in Monument Valley, Arizona.

Influence

The Searchers has influenced films as diverse as Taxi Driver, Star Wars (the scene of the burning homestead is paralleled by Luke Skywalker's burning home near the start of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), Dances with Wolves and Saving Private Ryan.

John Wayne's catchphrase in the film, "That'll be the day]]", inspired Buddy Holly to write his hit song of the same name.

At the beginning of The Searchers, Ethan Edwards is introduced to the audience, as he returns from war. This is the same for High Noon, as Will Kane is introduced to us at his wedding. In both cases the storylines conform to the theory, with a pursuit, a combat between hero and villain and in The Searchers, Ethan Edwards returns home, and in High Noon, Will Kane moves away to start a new life with his new wife.

Critical response

Analysis

The Searchers can be viewed as a simplistic action story about two men’s hunt for Debbie and revenge for the death of their family. The film begins with a frontier cabin door opening to the wilderness, this scene presents the visual motif of the framed doorway and threshold between the two worlds. The interior represents civilised values and the settled family, where as the outside represents that of a man’s world. The black silhouette of a woman moves from the darkness, with a shot from a forward-tracking camera, through to the door to see the sunlit landscape. She notices a man approaching, in the centre of the frame, riding in from the desert. This type of shot is typical for a western. Furthermore, as Ethan Edwards arrives home the background soundtrack Lorena is playing. This song is rumoured to be a favourite of civil war soldiers and is also a reminder of the lost love they have left behind during the wartime. Its use in the film is symbolic, given the plot of the film, since it has a reference to the family members who have died during the Comanche raid.

Moreover The Searchers conforms to the codes and conventions of a western, with the desert landscape, small close-knit community and also the point that cowboys live in an age that, whether good or bad, you follow a strict code of honour in which you always tell the truth, never cheat an honest fellow and tip your hat to the ladies. This film deals with themes that include racism, individuality, the American character, and the opposition between civilisation and the untamed wilderness.

In The Searchers, the protagonist, Ethan Edwards has his own strong beliefs. ’Living with the Comanches ain’t being alive’ he insists and sees no moral dilemma in murdering the kidnapped girl once he finds her. The film's greatest virtue is the single-minded determination of Ethan (Wayne) in his quest for Debbie (Natalie Wood) who probably does not want to be rescued.

Certainly a contributing factor to The Searcher's popularity is the fact that Ford's trademark calm style and wide shots are almost thrown to the wind in this film: it contains perhaps Ford's most radical camera movements and setups. Peter Bogdanovich said of The Searchers that "the bold, vigorous strokes of The Searchers...require more artistry than the direction of The Informer." Another powerful factor is the famous depth of character, the best example being John Wayne's actions in the twist ending.

The film can be interpreted as a subtle critique of the sort of Westerns that Wayne normally appeared in (although Wayne himself would probably have disagreed). Wayne's character, Ethan Edwards, is shown as a brooding and disturbed character. The West is shown as a threatening, even slightly sinister place. However, unlike some revisionist Westerns of the 1950s (e.g. Broken Arrow) the Native Americans are shown in a negative light, massacring white settlers, sexually assaulting them and abducting their children. Wayne's character has been seen as racist, although Wayne himself was notably free of prejudice.

Primary Cast

External links

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de:Der Schwarze Falke fr:La Prisonnière du désert