- Acting of Lead Performers
- Acting of Supporting Cast
- Music Score
- Title Sequence
- Historical Importance
- Would You Recommend?
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Superb Western - One of the Best
Growing up, I was never a fan of Westerns or of John Wayne. However, over the years, the American Western and my appreciation of the actor, Mr. John Wayne has changed considerably. I have to say without a doubt, The Searchers, is one of the great Westerns (with the other great Western, Shane, at a tie or close second). John Wayne's performance is just superb - much more so than his Academy Award winning performance in True Grit. Everything about this film is just spectacular from the cinematography, the direction by the iconic director, John Ford, and of the central character, Ethan Edwards, played magnificently by John Wayne. It was one of my Dad's favorite films and one I enjoyed watching with him. I was so surprised to learn that this film, when first released, did not do well at theatres. However, I am so glad that now it is being shown without commercials and in its beautiful full screen format on TCM.
The American Movie
- Cindy Lange
Literary folk are always in search of that elusive "great American novel", wondering if it will ever be written or even can be..... In film, they already have their version of that particular 'white whale' in John Ford's classic "The Searchers". Starring John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Ward Bond and a cast of Hollywood's best, John Ford took the American western experience-- with all of it's grandeur, pathos and prejudices-- and produced a work that allows you to experience the gamut of emotions from laughter to hatred to abject sorrow. "The Searchers" is an honest story-telling event that allows us a glimpse at who we once were as a young nation, expanding our borders into a wild and unforgiving land. We see ordinary human beings, warts and all, experiencing extraordinary circumstances that test not only their physical endurance but their moral make-up as well. We see that life is not always fair, nor is it always pretty or easy.... We see that compassion and caring can occur in the midst of terrible tragedy..... We also see that a life lived in hatred is a life that is lived in loneliness..... John Ford pulled no punches with this movie. He allows us to see within the life of Ethan Edwards the ugliness that we are all capable of unless we are careful. But he also gives us a glimpse of the hope of restoration within the steadfastness of the Jorgensen family as they minister to 'Old Mose' and await the longed for reunion with Deborah Edwards, the young girl captured by a vengeance filled Indian Chief. Their is great poignancy in the last shot of Ethan Edwards and a sad finality as the door closes and he is left outside, a prisoner of his own design. "The Searchers" will stay with you long after you shut off the DVD player and snap shut the DVD case because the lasting truth of this film is that we are all capable of being Ethan Edwards.... The true challenge for us all is NOT to be....
OK but not the best
I don't share the same high opinion of this film as some others do. John Ford's shots of Monument Valley were indeed iconic. John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter did give good performances. Perhaps this was a very realistic portrayal of the old west; I'll take everyone's word for that. It's worth at least a look for these reasons. But best western ever? In my opinion, all the positive elements of this film were misspent on an overly drawn out sermon of a story.
"That'll be the day"
I had always heard that the final scene, where the Duke stops in the doorway and grabs his arm, is a tribute to his long-time friend and silent movie cowboy star Harry Carey. Whose widow, Olive Carey played Mrs. Jorgensen and his son, Harry Carey Jr., played Brad Jorgensen. Ward Bond and Hank Worden, add some comic relief, as does the Duke's real-life son Patrick who plays Lt. Greenhill, a sabre happy greenhorn Army officer. The best performance, I believe, is that of Jeffrey Hunter. He was thoroughly convincing in the complex role of Martin Pauley. Those who only remember Mr. Hunter as Jesus in "King of Kings" (1961), or as Captain Pike in the Star Trek television pilot, will be amazed that this is the same person. He's a versatile actor and his character was the only one willing to stand up to crazy Ethan. Remember this is a John Ford Western and Monument Valley deserves credit as a major part of this picture. Those looking for a Natalie Wood vehicle will be very disappointed, I didn't count, but I think little sister Lana had more lines. Also, Chief Scar is played by Henry Brandon who stared as Silas Barnaby, in the Laurel and Hardy movie, "Babes in Toyland" (March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934)) under the name Henry Kleinbach. In a bit of irony, Brandon portrayed Chief Quanah Parker in Ford's "Two Rode Together" (1961).
One of My Favorite Westerns
To me, this is one of John Wayne's best performances. When he is talking to Carey, Jr. about what happened to Lucy and to never ask him again - that scene is the best John Wayne scene for me ever. Secondly, when Wayne tells Hunter "That'll be the day" when Hunter says he's going to shoot him - very funny. Of course, then he says it again and again and so it loses some of its punch. It's a good mix of humor and hatred in some beautiful scenery.
To fully understand this movie, one needs to read the book, The Searchers, by Alan Lemay. This book is based partly upon the true story of the abduction of Cynthia Ann Parker and the lengthy search for her. Also, one needs to understand the times that the event took place, in early Texas. The Comanche were considered the finest light cavalry in the world in the 1830's-1840's, raiding, burning, enslaving, stealing, massacring, all the way from Mexico City to the central plains. The latter led such a violent existence, looting, burning, murdering, and kidnapping as far south as Mexico City and especially destroying and capturing so many Texans that Comanche became a by-word for terrorism. Thus, when he recovered Cynthia Ann Parker at Pease River, Sul Ross observed that her recovery would be felt in every family in Texas, as every one of them had lost someone in the Indian Wars. For example, Lockhart, a sixteen-year-old white girl who had been captured with her sister in 1838, had been physically and sexually assaulted and tortured and disfigured. Burn scars, the mutilation of her nose by successive burnings of cigars, torches, and knives, bore out her stories.
The Closing Scene
To see this larger than life man, pigeon-toed and all, sway to the left, to the point of stumbling, as he steps off the porch is CLASSIC! The best western of all time! The Searchers, Outlaw of Josey Wales, Shane, and believe it or not, Open Range are my all time favorite but The Searchers is number one.
The use of Racism.
One of the things that sets "The Searchers" apart is the use of racism in the development of Ethan Edwards as a character. To accuse the movie itself of being racist is to miss the point. The character Ethan is indeed a racist at the start of the film but finds a sort of redemption at it's conclusion, but only a sort. It clearly shows the that racism is wrong, not only by the violence it produces, but by the reaction of the other characters to Ethan's racist acts.
Search to you find "Home"
- Oliver Cutshaw
This movie is one of the most respected classics of the Western genre and deservedly so. However, what sets it apart from many Westerns is there are themes presented here that are deeper than most Westerns. The struggles to define race, family, right and wrong. The struggle to find forgiveness and understanding. Yes it is an action western, lots of great scenes; but when I think of this film it is the moving struggle of a tragic and flawed man to find some sense of peace within himself and his world that comes back to me. This is one of John Wayne's very best performances. His character is that of an angry hate-filled (and let's be honest racist man) who eventually finds the strength to show some compassion and bring his niece home. His relationship with Martin (Jeffrey Hunter) are also fascinating. He grows from dismissive to respectful to at the end appreciative towards his mixed-raced nephew. Though he changes he cannot fully forget or forgive or accept, that is his tragedy. "Home" and family have no meaning or no place for him. He will drift forever like the wind as the magnificent and moving last scene shows. The Chief Scar and John Wayne's character are damaged goods. Men who are not able to accept the changing times they live in. Their tournament of wills and final battle would be enough for the makings of good Western, but here the director and writers and actors have added so much more. It is not a perfect film: too much comedy in parts and some awkward switches from natural scenery to studio sets. But it is a fine and enduring film.
Man is fallible, as is the Academy
- Jeff Boston
I like Rick's 8/26/08 review. "The Searchers" was released in theaters 56 years ago, and the story takes place somewhere between 130-145 years ago. However, the outstanding cinematography, direction, acting, score, and production values are timeless, as is its main message: prejudice is real, and always wrong, whether arrived at by inductive or deductive reasoning, or no reasoning at all. All of us should be treated as individuals, not as a member of a group. Such a goal has yet to be accomplished on a wide scale in all of human history. The hate that consumes and drives the character of Ethan has been portrayed by many actors playing all types of people from all over the world, and such will continue to be done in the future, for Man is fallible. The Academy is fallible as well. The Oscar for Best Picture of 1956 went to "Around The World In 80 Days." Such is analagous to what happened 42 years later, when "Shakespeare in Love" beat "Saving Private Ryan." In both years, the Academy picked the pageantry and prissiness of a particular British production (long forgotten) over the relative authenticity of the actuality of our American ancestors, presented in an AFI Top 100 Film of All Time [10th Anniversary (2007) list]. At least "Saving Private Ryan" was nominated.
Excellent, Would be Perfect But For Racism
"The Searchers" is always at or near the top of everyone's list for best western. Excellent cast, story and themes--those being love, persistence and faith. John Ford gives us outstanding panoramas of Monument Valley. My only criticism is the overt racism against native Americans. Attitudes about native Americans have changed substantiallly since 1956. Not to spoil the picture, but at the end, after about 10 years of searching, the 2 lead characters do find Debbie, who was abducted at age 5 by a native American named Chief Scar, who killed the rest of her family, but spared her. However, she has "been with a buck", meaning she has had sexual relations with a native American, so her uncle Ethan, played by Wayne, wants to kill her because to him, this is a capital offense. The author makes clear his abject hatred of native Americans. Examples include white women who are rendered insane after being raped by a native American, so they are no longer considered "white". Also, Jeffrey Hunter's character accidentally becomes bethothed to a native American woman due to a misunderstanding while trading for goods with her father, and this is treated like a big joke. Today we realize that European settlers wrongfully stole the lands occupied native American tribes and abused and murdered them, nearly annihialiting their cultures entirely. Today we would view that that fighting off the Europeans was appropriate. We no longer dehumanize native Americans by calling the males "bucks", like animals, nor do we mock their customs. That said, the film is still worth seeing; nevertheless, the cultural bias that existed in 1956 should be explained to children.
- Dashiell Barnes
John Wayne & John Ford once again combine forces to create a compelling western. Wayne is fantastic as an Indian-hating man who intends on killing her now reformed niece from Native Americans. Scenery is also great in Monument Valley. A great, must-see western. I give it a 4/5.
I agree with most of the other posts, this is one of Duke's best performance. Vera Miles and Natalie Wood make this movie completely worth while as well as the fantastic outdoor panoramas. I have not seen this film for some time, but I am looking forward to seeing it today.
I don't get it
I know how fond people are of this movie, but I don't get it. While the theme of a search for a white girl kidnapped by the Indians is compelling and has an historical basis, the film itself is unrealistic, hyperbolic, uninteresting. Wayne swaggers around and throws things about and acts the hackneyed role of a man's man, without any depth of character. The physical environment is beautiful...but the film is set in Texas and the views are of California and Arizona, making the film even more unrealistic. The Indian protagonist Scar is so obviously a white man in makeup that its almost a parody of itself. Like I said, I dont get it.
The Duke at his best
This is one of my favorite John Wayne films and one of if not the best westerns ever made.
Simply The Best
- Dan Grissom
I'm a John Wayne fan; I think he's a highly under rated actor, but 'The Searchers' is where I think he turns in his best performance of his many great acting stints. His character, Ethan Edwards, is complex and an unusual one for Wayne. I don't want to spoil the film for those who have not yet viewed it, but there is a scene at the end of the film which had my wife totally upset when she thought John Wayne's character was going to commit a horrible act...great movie making by John Ford and John Wayne; and the supporting cast is top notch, too. Some reviewers state this is the best western movie ever made...hard to argue that opinion!
That'll be the day
After production ended on THE QUIET MAN, people wondered if John Wayne and John Ford had one more good movie left in them.THE SEARCHERS along with THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE 6 years later answered that question. Watching this film, you can't help but be on a emotional rollercoaster watching The Duke as Ethan Edwards, his best role ever. John Ford obviously knew exactly what he wanted while filming and it shows. Ford's"Rolling Stock Company" has never been better. Too many "Must See" scenes to mention. Deserving of it's status as an American Film Institute "TOP 100" Film. Of Note: After filming ended, John Wayne made a hilarious guest appearance on I LOVE LUCY. Also, Wayne's catchphrase "That'll be the day" was the inspiration for the Buddy Holly song of the same name.
- Clay L Robinson
To reiterate what all the other reviewers have said: yes, it is definitely Wayne's best performance; but let's not overlook what also makes a great film performance: great supporting acting. All supporting characters are well drawn and very well acted. Most are members of Ford's company: Olive Carey and John Qualen as the Jorgensons- a delightful couple who provide a context for Ethan's search and bring out hidden aspects in Ethan's character; Ward Bond plays his duel role to the hilt as part Ranger Captain - preacher, representing law and order in a land where there isn't any, legally or morally. Ken Curtis, Laurie's would be suitor as an young "Festus Haggis"; Jeffery Hunter and Vera Miles provide comedy relief within their romantic conflict. Hunter as Ethan's conscience and nemesis- keeps the tension of the "search" out front throughout. Wayne had a lot of help in making this his best role and this the premier adult western.
Now THAT was the real west.
How can you even hope to duplicate a movie of this caliber? Excellent cinematography. perfect casting, and some of the best western scenery ever shot. What seems very prejudicial dialogue by today's standards was actually quite commonplace back in the old west, and thankfully it was true to form. The only drawback to this film is that John Wayne didn't get an Oscar for it, much better character study and portrayal than True Grit, although I don't wish to demean that role or his Oscar. I watch it every time it comes on, which is not often enough.
Best western ever made!
- kathy williams
The Searchers is without a doubt the best western ever made. John Wayne gives a performance of a lifetime, not to metion the cast and the complexity of the character he plays. The story is complex as well as the characters in it. John Ford's direction is powerful. I have seen alot of westerns and say what you will this is the best. John Wayne should have won the oscar for this one. What I love most is his struggle to find the humanity in himself.
- Eric Nelson
Wayne's acting and Ford's directing once again are at the top. Don't miss this film!!!
One of the best
This is among John Wayne's best and that's saying a lot. Timeless example of great film making.
The Greatest Western Every Made
John Wayne's greatest acting performance, and John Ford's greatest direction. It doesn't get any better than this. However, be forewarned...this movie is intense. It is not for the gentlehearted. Wayne portrays a racist individual, -- a man of hatred-inspired past experiences, and as a returning Texan of 1865 just after the Civil War ... he finds himself cast in an unexpected role, perhaps justifiably (as only the viewer can decide)...as a man searching for deep retribution and revenge against the Comanche. John Ford somehow brought out the best in John Wayne in this performance. At the end, Wayne (Ethan)is a changed man...because of his 5-year search for his kidnapped niece (Natalie Wood)...and a very sympathetic figure. Somehow at the end.....we all become changed as well. It is one of the only movies where I actually hated this man Ethan at the beginning, and mostly throughout the movie...only to be so moved by Wayne's performance of Ethan...that I felt I had witnessed something I had never seen in a Western movie before. A tranformation of great depth and meaning. The cast is excellent, with a very moving musical score of Max Steiner. Yes, the cinematography is unbelievable, and John Ford's direction is never better. This movie should have been the best picture of the year for 1956....but an intense realistic Western genre in that year was sadly-- just not what Hollywood (or the public) was ready for. Be prepared to sit back and watch in awe.
The Legend at His Best.
One of John Wayne's best performances. He shows such raw emotion in his hate for Indians. My favorite scene is when he physically picks up Natalie Wood-brings tears to my eyes!
WAYNES BEST EFFORT
THIS IS JOHN WAYNES BEST EFFORT.IT SHOWS HIM AT EVERY LEVEL OF EMOTION.IT HAS A GOOD STORYLINE.IT IS SIMPLY WAY AHEAD OF OTHER WESTERNS IN ITS TIME FRAME.IT IS AN EPIC WITH KNOW COMPARE.
The Best Western Ever!!
- Ernie Read
If you wish to truly experience life in the West, the clash of cultures, you must watch "The Searchers." The performance of John Wayne is easily his best along with that of Jeffery Hunter who form a unique partnership. The acting of Ward Bond is not to be missed!