John Ford | USA | 1956
|Director: John Ford|
Producers: Merian C Cooper, Patrick Ford
Screenplay: Frank S Nugent,
from the novel by Alan LeMay
Cinematography: Winton C Hoch
Editor: Jack Murray
Music: Max Steiner
|John Wayne (Ethan Edwards)|
Jeffrey Hunter (Martin Pawley)
Vera Miles (Laurie Jorgensen)
Ward Bond (Rev Samuel Johnston Clayton)
Natalie Wood (Debbie Edwards)
John Qualen (Lars Jorgensen)
Henry Brandon (Scar / Cicatriz)
Rating: G Runtime: 119 minutes
Perhaps the most iconic and revered Western ever made, The Searchers, was named the 15th greatest film of all time in the once-a-decade Sight and Sound Critics Poll last year. Considered the first revisionist Western, the film’s formal beauty (through its photography of landscapes and people) sits in contrast with the racist ugliness at the heart of the colonial project central to the Western genre, made explicit in the character of Ethan Edwards (John Wayne).
Set shortly after the end of the American Civil War, Ethan Edwards is a veteran of the Confederate Army who begins a years long search for his niece who was kidnapped by a comanche tribe. This search reveals Ethan’s obsessive nature and the forces that are driving him.
The Searchers has been deeply influential to filmmakers since its release, including the team behind Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader and Martin Scorsese. Taxi Driver shows this influence through some plot and character details. We thought that screening them a week apart would allow us to consider how these films, made twenty years apart, speak to the themes of isolation, violence, revenge, and obsession.
“Like all great works of art, it’s uncomfortable. The core of the movie is deeply painful. Every time I watch it—and I’ve seen it many, many times since its first run in 1956—it haunts and troubles me. The character of Ethan Edwards is one of the most unsettling in American cinema. In a sense, he’s of a piece with Wayne’s persona and his body of work with Ford and other directors like Howard Hawks and Henry Hathaway. It’s the greatest performance of a great American actor.”