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THE SEARCHERS (1956)

John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, Natalie Wood, Harry Carey Jr, Antonio Moreno, Lana Wood; Patrick Wayne, Pippa Scott, Walter Coy, Dorothy Jordan. 

Directed: John Ford

John Wayne plays a Confederate soldier with a shady past who returns home to see his brother’s family massacred by Comanches with the exception of his kidnapped niece; his years-long obsession with her safe return (and his personal revenge) forms the basis of John Ford’s stylized anti-Western which has its own peculiar rhythms, not all of them very comfortable. Wayne is convincing as the surly, embittered Ethan Edwards and his rages and racism have their shocking moments; but there are times where it seems his grasp of the character eludes him, as if he doesn’t fully comprehend what he’s playing and his momentary lapses bring the film to a halt. Naturally, there’s a lot to enjoy in Ford’s breathtaking Monument Valley vistas (presented here in almost three-dimensional relief by longtime Ford cinematographer Winton C. Hoch) but Max Steiner’s intrusive score hurts the narrative and seems as oblivious as Wayne. The supporting cast includes Ward Bond, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles and a young Natalie Wood; but it’s Olive Carey, as a persevering yet vulnerable pioneer wife, who turns in perhaps the film’s most natural and meaningful performance.

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    Saw last night on TCM. Timeless.
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    [/I have a distant uncle who had his family slaughtered by the rent side during the civil war. But since I had family on...
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