The Searchers (1956)

The Searchers (1956)

GENRESAdventure,Drama,Western
LANGEnglish,Navajo,Spanish
ACTOR
John WayneJeffrey HunterVera MilesWard Bond
DIRECTOR
John Ford

SYNOPSICS

The Searchers (1956) is a English,Navajo,Spanish movie. John Ford has directed this movie. John Wayne,Jeffrey Hunter,Vera Miles,Ward Bond are the starring of this movie. It was released in 1956. The Searchers (1956) is considered one of the best Adventure,Drama,Western movie in India and around the world.

After a long three-year absence, the battle-scarred Confederate veteran of the American Civil War, Ethan Edwards turns up on the remote and dusty Texan homestead of his brother, Aaron. In high hopes of finding peace, instead, the taciturn former soldier will embark on a treacherous five-year odyssey of retribution, when the ruthless Chief Scar's murderous Comanche raiding party massacres his family, burns the ranch to the ground, and abducts his nine-year-old niece, Debbie. Driven by hatred of Indians, Ethan and his young companion, Martin Pawley, ride through the unforgiving desert to track down their lost Debbie; however, is the woman they lost and the prisoner in Scar's teepee still the same woman the searchers seek?

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The Searchers (1956) Reviews

  • Steiner's Ignored Contribution!

    jpdoherty2011-05-31

    The best western ever made is how many regard this 1956 John Ford classic. Its star John Wayne gave his most winning performance and it is reputed to have been his favourite movie even to the extent of his naming his last born son Ethan after the character he played. Ford's beloved Monument Valley in Arizona never looked more spectacular in Vista Vision and colour and over the years the picture has gained cult status. An integral part of the combined elements that makes THE SEARCHERS great is Max Steiner's outstanding score. It is the picture's driving force - its backbone. Steiner's music propels the film forward, unifies the narrative and gives greater density to its key scenes. In fact without his music much of the picture's impact would be considerably diminished. Yet I am consistently amazed and at a total loss to see here on these pages - where the best part of 400 reviews appear - that Steiner's music is hardly referred to at all by any of the writers. Not only that but even on the extras of the last DVD release three well established film directors, Martin Scorsese, John Milius and Peter Bogdanovitch each speak glowingly of Ford's masterpiece but fail to mention Steiner's exceptional contribution. Bogdanovitch, at one stage, briefly mentions the music and how good it is but never puts a name on its composer. I find this not only doctrinaire but quite bizarre that these three men, who you would imagine should know better, would have such a detached attitude concerning one of the most perfectly conceived scores for a motion picture. Therefore I will attempt here to amend this anomaly and the afore mentioned omissions and give some deserving credence to Max Steiner's exceptional music for THE SEARCHERS which has well earned its place in the history of cinema. A veritable orchestral explosion opens the picture in the form of a fanfare over the Warner Bros. logo. As the credits roll we hear the haunting Stan Jones ballad "Song Of The Searchers" wonderfully rendered by Ford favourites The Sons Of the Pioneers. The composer later interpolates this song into his score as the theme for the racist protagonist Ethan Edwards (Wayne). Then a lovely version - scored for guitar, solo trumpet and strings - of the traditional ballad "Lorena" plays under Ford's evocative 'frame within a frame' opening scene as the door of a remote homestead opens to reveal an approaching rider. It then skillfully segues into "Bonnie Blue Flag" to point up the rider's confederate allegiance. The "Lorena" ballad later becomes the family theme and is especially effective on solo violin for the scene where Ethan gives the young Debbie his wartime medal as her "gold locket" ("Oh, let her have it - it doesn't amount to much" declares Ethan somberly). And later it is arrestingly heard on spinet as Ethan bids farewell to the family and rides out with the posse to begin what effectively will be his great search. But where the score really shines is in the powerful music for the Indian sequences. Here there is a palpable authenticity in the scoring. Aided by the clever orchestrations of Murrey Cutter and some virtuoso playing by the Warner Bros. orchestra (particularly in the percussion section) Steiner fires on all cylinders adding realism, pathos and a sense of foreboding. There are echoes of the composer's "King Kong" (1933) in the cue for the scene where the Indians surround the posse and the music becomes rhythmically savage for the charge at the river and for the attack on the Indian camp near the finale. The composer's celebrated "Indian Idyll" (which he originally wrote five years earlier for the Burt Lancaster picture "Jim Thorpe-All American") comes into play and can be heard to splendid effect in the Indian camp sequences and as the motif for Look, Martin's (Jeffrey Hunter) new Indian "wife". Hearing these cues one can't help but wonder how remarkable it is that this most romantic of film composers - steeped in the musical tradition of late 19th century Vienna - his birthplace - should be so ethnically proficient at musically depicting the native American. More akin to what we have come to expect from this composer are lovely cues such as the sprightly theme for Martin and the lush and sweeping music for Martin and Laurie (Vere Miles). The score - and the movie - ends just like it began with "The Song Of The Searchers" playing as Ethan and Martin finally bring Debbie home and conclusively the door of a homestead closes on Ethan where a brief fortissimo quotation from that explosive fanfare closes the picture. Alongside the great film music works of Miklos Rozsa, Alfred Newman, Dimitri Tiomkin and others Max Steiner's music for THE SEARCHERS stands head high as one the finest scores ever written for one the finest films ever made and as such should, and must, be alluded to in any dissertation or essay on the film.

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  • Wayne's Finest Performance, in Ford Masterpiece...

    cariart2004-05-24

    Even if you've never seen John Ford's THE SEARCHERS, you will have, undoubtedly, seen a film that owes it's 'style' to the film. DANCES WITH WOLVES, THE OUTLAW JOSIE WALES, UNFORGIVEN, JEREMIAH JOHNSON, and OPEN RANGE are just a few westerns that have 'borrowed' from it, but THE SEARCHERS' impact transcends the genre, itself; STAR WARS, THE English PATIENT, THE LAST SAMURAI, even THE LORD OF THE RINGS have elements that can be traced back to Ford's 1956 'intimate' epic. When you add the fact that THE SEARCHERS also contains John Wayne's greatest performance to the film's merits, it becomes easy to see why it is on the short list of the greatest motion pictures ever made. The plot is deceptively simple; after a Comanche raiding party massacres a family, taking the youngest daughter prisoner, her uncle, Ethan Edwards (Wayne), and adopted brother, Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter), begin a long quest to try and rescue her. Over the course of years, a rich tapestry of characters and events unfold, as the nature of the pair's motives are revealed, and bigoted, bitter Edwards emerges as a twisted man bent on killing the 'tainted' white girl. Only Pawley's love of his 'sister' and determination to protect her stands in his way, making the film's climax, and Wayne's portrayal of Edwards, an unforgettable experience. With all of Ford's unique 'touches' clearly in evidence (the doorways 'framing' the film's opening and conclusion, with a cave opening serving the same function at the film's climax; the extensive use of Monument Valley; and the nearly lurid palette of color highlighting key moments) and his reliance on his 'stock' company of players (Wayne, Ward Bond, John Qualen, Olive Carey, Harry Carey, Jr, Hank Worden, and Ken Curtis), the film marks the emergence of the 'mature' Ford, no longer deifying the innocence of the era, but dealing with it in human terms, where 'white men' were as capable of savagery as Indians, frequently with less justification. Featuring 18-year old Natalie Wood in one of her first 'adult' roles, the sparkling Vera Miles as Pawley's love interest, Wayne's son Patrick in comic relief, and the harmonies of the Sons of the Pioneers accenting Max Steiner's rich score, THE SEARCHERS is a timeless movie experience that becomes richer with each viewing. It is truly a masterpiece!

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  • John Ford shows us how to make a Western

    dover2002-06-17

    John Ford is a classic Western filmmaker (though certainly not the only genre in which he excelled), employing the classic Western film star, John Wayne, in perhaps one of the most underappreciated films of our time. Ford builds a thoroughly entertaining movie which explores classic Western themes without necessarily relying on these themes to drive the plot. Like any good Western, we are inorexably drawn to a kind of Cowboys vs. Indians saga, but Ford manages to draw us into the conflict in such a way that the mere "Cowboys good, Indians bad" aesthetic isn't really applicable here. While relying on the archetypical roles of the two groups to set up a conflict, Ford is ahead of his time in managing to characterize the Indians as more than "noble savages". Wayne's character's (Ethan Edwards) hatred of "the Commanch" is called into question a number of times, especially in his stormy relationship with adopted nephew and fellow searcher Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter), who we are told is a quarter-Indian himself, and cannot bring himself to find the same sort of hatred for the Indians that Ethan holds. Ethan was a Confederate soldier in the Civil War, returning to his brother's Texas homestead after the war. A group of Commanches, led by the ominous Chief Scar, route and kill his brother's family while Ethan and Martin are investigating a cattle rustling, the Commaches' diversionary tactic. The Indians took the family's youngest daughter, and the majority of the film has us following Ethan and Martin in their attempts to track down Scar and take back the girl, Debbie (played by Lorna and Natalie Wood, at different times). Such a situation sets up one of the many moral ambiguities that make this more than an ordinary Western: the Commanches slaughtered Ethan's brother and his family - he seemingly has reason to hate them with the almost crazy passion that he does. Yet the more naive Martin cannot bring himself to hate them in such a way, and the split between them becomes a major point of contention when it becomes clear that Debbie has more or less been adopted as a Commanche (the two "Searchers" chase after her for about five years in film time). Furthermore, when the two "Searchers" actually meet Scar, who they've been chasing for years, he is presented as a rather intelligent character, although certainly one filled with vengance - he, too, has his reasons for waging war with the likes of Ethan and Martin, and cannot merely be written off a the type of bloodthirsty savage that is typical of the portrayal of most Indians within the genre. The film relies on enough classic Western material to imbue with the feel with the sense of such pictures. Aside from the question of Ethan's morality, Wayne plays him with classic John Wayne freewheeling confidence and swagger that made the actor such an icon, and it comes off quite well. We are also given a side story involving Martin's romance with the hard-as-nails Laurie Jurgensen (played by Vera Miles, best known for playing Janet Leigh's sister in "Psycho"). The relationship is from a classic, archetypical Western mold - the two have been in love since they were kids, but Martin has responsibilites to his family that stop him from making the proper time for his beau, and his rough frontier-uprbringing leave him seemingly lacking the proper sensitivity for dealing with Laura (though he does, of course, have a heart of gold). As a side note, this film should prove immensely interesting to any serious fan of the "Star Wars" trilogy (the original one). While those films undoubtably draw a great deal of inspiration from Kurosawa's samurai films, there is most certainly a great deal (especially in the film subtitled "A New Hope") drawn from here. One scene in particular (when Luke returns to his farm after stormtroopers have blasted in pieces) is virtually ripped straight from "The Searchers". Ford's film is also full of the sort of gallows humor present throughout the trilogy, and even incorporates some rather goofy characters, the half-cracked Mose Harper (Hank Warden) and the incredibly over-the-top rival for Laura's hand Charlie McCorry (Ken Curtis), without ruining the overall serious feel of the film, but managing to squeeze laughs out of absurd situations (such as a fight between Martin and Charlie) without compromising the ability to quickly return to a solemn tone. Such deft touch, as well as the addition of wise-cracking dialogue (provided largely by Wayne and Ward Bond here) are a large part of what made the original trilogy so successful, and it's strikingly similar to the type of paradigm on display between various characters here. Regardless of ranting and raving about Star Wars, however, this is an excellent film on it's own merit.

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  • "We Be Texicans"

    bkoganbing2006-01-11

    If John Wayne was ever cornered about what his favorite movie role was he'd be answering Ethan Edwards in The Searchers. Proof of that is obvious, he named his son by his third marriage John Ethan Wayne. Ethan Edwards takes his time in returning home to Texas from the Civil War to the home of his brother and his family. But soon after he does the family is massacred in an Indian raid. The two young daughters are taken prisoner and Wayne with Jeffrey Hunter and Harry Carey, Jr. go off in search of them. Carey is killed early on, but Wayne and Hunter go on for years, both driven men for different reasons. Ethan Edwards is probably the most racist man Wayne ever portrayed on the screen, yet we feel sympathy for him at the same time. It's been a hard and bitter life on the frontier for him. Just as it's been for the Indians as well. Chief Scar, played by Henry Brandon, is Wayne's opposite number and he makes clear what he thinks of whites. Two of his sons were killed and he's going to take many white scalps in reprisal. My guess is that Ethan Edwards war service involved him seeing the war of desolation waged by William T. Sherman in the deep South. Small wonder he goes out and starts killing buffalo with a maniacal intensity that Wayne never showed before or since in film. Not an aspect that is normally brought out by reviewers. Wayne's relationship with Jeffrey Hunter is a strange one. He found Hunter as a toddler during a raid on a wagon train. Hunter is a distant cousin of the Edwards family and one eighth Cherokee. But to Wayne he's an Indian. He gains a grudging respect for him on the trail though. But Hunter's there to stop him. The oldest Edwards daughter is discovered dead early on. That by the way is an intense scene where Wayne's facial expressions register more than pages of dialog. Wayne had one of the great faces for close-ups and John Ford well knew it. The younger daughter has grown up and is played grown up by Natalie Wood. Wayne feels he has to avenge some family code of honor because Wood's been taken as a bride by Henry Brandon. Hunter just wants his cousin back on any terms. John Ford as he always does, gets some good comedy relief of the broad kind in the film. Jeffrey Hunter and Vera Miles who is Harry Carey's sister have a thing going, but when she doesn't hear from him she almost ups and marries Ken Curtis. Hunter and Curtis's confrontation is pretty funny. Ford also probably made his best use of Monument Valley in this film. Though Stagecoach and Fort Apache are also among his best photographed films, The Searchers being in color is in a class by itself. Proof of that is the scene at the Edwards home at twilight just before the Indian raid. Beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Ward Bond has a great role as Reverend/Captain Samuel Clayton, parson and Texas Ranger at the same time. A difficult job for some to reconcile, but I'm sure Bond believes that conversion of the Indians is not uppermost on his mind. Bond also has some great blustering comic moments with Patrick Wayne who plays an earnest young army lieutenant. The Searchers is usually found on just about every top ten list of best westerns ever made and it surely belongs there.

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  • No one understands this movie

    rejj23692004-07-13

    The Searchers is perhaps John Ford's greatest film. The character studies are rich and complex and never too revealing, adding mystery and depth. The location in Utah's Monument Valley is magnificent. The Technicolor is simply stunning. And of course, the story set a standard for all action movies to come. The plot is simple and engaging and the subplot allows us to take a break from the relentless search. John Wayne's portrayal of Ethan Edwards is memorable. The dark, anti-hero persona gives the movie an edge not seen in those days. Jeffrey Hunter (Martin Pauly) and the rest of the cast give solid performances that are very natural and spirited. All of this is credited to the brilliant directing of John Ford. It is a great movie to watch. It is a great outdoor movie that should be seen on a big screen. People say that this movie is very racist and stereotype Indians. I disagree. I think this movie is about racism, period. Both races are ruthless and barbaric in this movie. Let's take a look: 1. The calvary massacres an Indian village. 2. Ethan's hatred of Indians consumes him. But his hatred has a reason. And he is not naturally racist. 3. Ethan is a loner, hated and feared by his own people. 4. When Ethan and Marty are hiding out in the canyons, they shoot the Indians in the back as they retreat. Not very noble, is it? 5. Ethan shoots three white men in the back during a shootout. I guess Ethan can do it to his own people as well! 6. When Ethan sees a group of tortured white women who were rescued from the hands of "savage" Indians, he fears for the worst. But when Lucy is found, she looks well and cared for. Ethan, upset with this unexpected result, decides to kill Lucy because she has turned 'injun.' 7. Marty accidentally marries an Indian woman. Although ridiculed by Ethan, the Indian woman is portrayed favorably throughout the film. 8. Marty and a friend fight for Laurie's love (Marty's fiancée). It is a civilized fight among gentlemen. Ethan and Marty meet with Scar, the Indian chief who abducted Lucy. Scar realizes who they are but does not kill them on the spot. Why? It is a Commanche code of honor not to kill someone when he is at a disadvantage. 9. Both races are good and evil in this movie. Ethan and Scar are both driven by revenge. One dies in the end, the other continues to live a life of a loner, dead in the eye of society. There are many reasons why I love The Searchers. It is a very simple story, yet says a lot. It is very entertaining and never boring. Unless you are a meat-head who cannot handle anything except mindless action sequences, this is the movie that stands the test of time, up there with Citizen Kane, Vertigo and The Godfather. Enjoy! Watch it on the big screen if possible. The special edition 2-Disc DVD set from Warner Brothers is an absolute must. If you are a fan, you will not believe your eyes when you see the new transfer. The film has been restored to its original VistaVision widescreen, color by Technicolor! On a final note, the last scene is pure poetry. Truly one of the greatest moment in film's history. John Ford really struck gold with this one.

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