Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday Westerns: The Searchers

Welcome a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. In an effort to provide a look back at older films and a desire to highlight a specific genre, I will be spotlighting a Western film each week, combining films from a course I took while at NYU called Myth of the Last Western and other films I have seen and do see. If you have a Western you’d like to write about, please let me know and feel free to submit a guest spot for future weeks!

The Searchers
Directed by John Ford
Released March 13, 1956

It’s easy to start at one of two focal points when examining the classic westerns: John Wayne (or for that matter, John Ford) or Sergio Leone. Given that Leone’s influence (we’ll get to him in a few weeks) comes about a decade later than this film, which is hardly Wayne’s first rodeo. This is in many ways the prototypical Western, one of those films which was inexplicably ignored by awards bodies when it first released (despite the much inferior “Shane” receiving a Best Picture nomination only three years earlier), and now everyone has come to recognize it as an amazing achievement. There’s something about the way that Wayne staggers onto the screen and demands your attention but necessarily your respect that’s simply impossible to resist. Having him show up just as most of his family members are murdered leaves him left to avenge their deaths and track down the missing daughter (played by Natalie Wood), with Jeffrey Hunter, a.k.a. the future Captain Christopher Pike from the original “Star Trek” pilot, by his side. It’s also beyond intriguing to see this highly inaccurate portrait of interactions with Native Americans, and the fact that Wayne’s Ethan Edwards is fluent in their language represents an additional layer of drama and intensity ripe for analysis. The trailer above doesn’t quite do it justice. Even if you’re not a fan of Westerns, it’s hard not to appreciate this film.

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