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I am taking a blogging break for a little while. I am in the process of getting all of my challenges for 2011 picked out so you'll see a bunch of those posts.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Searchers

The Searchers Movie Poster

I am a HUGE fan of John Wayne and John Ford movies. First, I’d like to say if you haven’t seen this movie, The Searchers, I highly recommend it. You get the chance to see John Wayne play his most complex character yet…. Ethan Edwards. Though I must warn you that there are a LOT of complex racial and sexual issues dealt with in the content of this movie.

The Searchers Trailer

“In ”The Searchers” I think Ford was trying, imperfectly, even nervously, to depict racism that justified genocide; the comic relief may be an unconscious attempt to soften the message. Many members of the original audience probably missed his purpose; Ethan’s racism was invisible to them, because they bought into his view of Indians. Eight years later, in ”Cheyenne Autumn,” his last film, Ford was more clear. But in the flawed vision of ”The Searchers” we can see Ford, Wayne and the Western itself, awkwardly learning that a man who hates Indians can no longer be an uncomplicated hero.” Robert Epert

John Wayne as Ethan Edwards

Ethan Edwards is an ex-Confederate soldier who never really surrendered after the end of the war between the states. For a couple of years he just wondered around the country, he may have even been an outlaw, nobody really seems to know. Then he decides to head for his brothers ranch in Texas. Ethan has a HUGE problem with indians and his adopted nephew Martin Pauley is 1/8 Cherokee, which causes some problems along the way. Then comes the massacre at his brothers ranch, where his brother’s family is slaughtered and his two nieces are taken captive (one of which is later killed also.) Which brings us to the 5 year quest to find his youngest niece that was captured by the Comanche’s who massacred his family. At first it was a mission to rescue her and bring her home but as time wore on it became more a mission to find her and kill her because “Livin’ with Comanche’s ain’t being alive.”

One of the most famous scenes from the movie….this photo really doesn’t do it justice though…you’ll have to see the movie to truly appreciate why it’s so famous.

“Ethan Edwards, fierce, alone, a defeated soldier with no role in peacetime, is one of the most compelling characters Ford and Wayne ever created (they worked together on 14 films). Did they know how vile Ethan’s attitudes were? I would argue that they did, because Wayne was in his personal life notably free of racial prejudice, and because Ford made films with more sympathetic views of Indians. This is not the instinctive, oblivious racism of Griffith’s ”Birth of a Nation.” Countless Westerns have had racism as the unspoken premise; this one consciously focuses on it. I think it took a certain amount of courage to cast Wayne as a character whose heroism was tainted. Ethan’s redemption is intended to be shown in that dramatic shot of reunion with Debbie, where he takes her in his broad hands, lifts her up to the sky, drops her down into his arms, and says, ”Let’s go home, Debbie.” The shot is famous and beloved, but small counterbalance to his views throughout the film–and indeed, there is no indication be thinks any differently about Indians.” Robert Epert

If you listen and watch closely you will also see that John Ford was a VERY crafty man. Though there are A LOT of racial and sexual issues dealt with in the content of this movie, there are also A LOT of “religious” and “faith symbols” used in this movie as well. I don’t want to say too much but in the end this is a story of redemption against almost “impossible” odds.

The shot at the end of the movie

John Wayne: Ethan Edwards
Jeffrey Hunter: Martin Pawley
Vera Miles: Laurie Jorgensen
Ward Bond: Capt. Rev. Samuel Clayton
Natalie Wood: Debbie Edwards
John Qualen: Lars Jorgensen
Olive Carey: Mrs. Jorgensen
Henry Brandon: Chief Scar
Ken Curtis: Charlie McCorry
Harry Carey Jr.: Brad Jorgensen
Antonio Moreno: Emilio Figueroa
Hank Worden: Mose Harper
Lana Wood: Debbie as a Child
Walter Coy: Aaron Edwards
Dorothy Jordan: Martha Edwards
Pippa Scott: Lucy Edwards
Robert Leyden: Ben
Patrick Wayne: Lt. Greenhill
Beulah Archuletta: Look
Jack Pennick: Sergeant
Peter Mamakos: Futterman
William Steele: Nesby
Cliff Lyons: Col. Greenhill
Chuck Roberson: Man at Wedding
Ruth Clifford: Deranged Woman at Fort
Mae Marsh: Woman at Fort
Dan Borzage: Accordionist at Funeral
Away Luna: Comanche
Billy Yellow: Comanche
Bob Many Mules: Comanche
Exactly Sonnie Betsuie: Comanche
Feather Hat Jr.: Comanche
Harry Black Horse: Comanche
Jack Tin Horn: Comanche
Many Mules Son: Comanche
Shooting Star: Comanche
Pete Grey Eyes: Comanche
Pipe Line Begishe: Comanche
Smile White Sheep: Comanche

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