Monday, January 6, 2014

The Searchers (1956)

John Wayne: The Searchers is one of the finest westerns ever made.

Credit one of John Wayne's best performances and stunning cinematography - in VistaVision - by Winton Hoch (The Quiet Man, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon) for making this a must-see film.

The film opens in Texas in 1868. Ethan Edwards (Wayne) arrives at his brother's home. Numerous questions surround his past. What has he been doing in the three years since the Civil War ended? Why does he have so much money? Is he suggesting he was involved in illegal activities?

Edwards barely has time to settle in when he joins a search for missing cattle. That theft of livestock proves a ruse so Comanche Indians can wipe out his brother's family. The two daughters, Debbie (played by sisters Lana and Natalie Wood) and Lucy (Pippa Scott), are taken captive. Edwards and his nephew, Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter), launch a years-long quest to find Chief Scar (Henry Brandon) and rescue Debbie. Lucy is found - dead.

Edwards loathes Indians, is happy to kill as many as he can - and their sources of food. He welcomes a chance to gum up their chances in the afterlife too. That hatred begins to seep over into his feelings towards Debbie. He appears willing to gun her down rather than take her back to live with her surviving family.

There's a nice romance with Laurie Jorgensen (Vera Miles) waiting, and waiting some more, for Martin to come home. Comic relief largely comes courtesy of Charlie McCorry (Ken Curtis). He's sweet on Laurie, but is about as bright as a burned out light bulb. Keep an ear open for his pronunciation of fiancee. It's the best laugh in this nearly two-hour film. Ward Bond is very fine as part-time reverend, part-time leader of the Texas Rangers, Rev. Samuel Johnston Clayton. Hunter stands up very well next to Wayne.

The film's ending is powerful, recreating the opening scene in reverse with no words spoken.

Watch John Wayne: The Searchers.

RATING: 10/10

FUN FACTS: Jeffrey Hunter also appeared in The Longest Day, with John Wayne.

John Qualen, who appears as Lars Jorgensen, was Berger in Casablanca.

Olive Carey, who plays Mrs. Jorgensen, made her last film appearance in Billy the Kid vs. Dracula.

Hank Worden, appearing as Mose Harper, earned his last credits with David Lynch's Twin Peaks.

Beaulah Archuletta, who ends up as Martin Powley's wife at one point, made her debut in Key Largo.

The Searchers marked Pippa Scott's first movie role.

1 comment:

James The Movie Reviewer said...

I agree, The Searchers is a fantastic film, and one of John Wayne's best. Great review!