HIDDEN GEMS: 26. THE SEARCHERS

Hidden Gems brings to light little known film gems which have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. You’re welcome.

An obscure Western, The Searchers brings together cult director John Ford with little known B-actor John Wayne. Wayne actually started his career as a full time squinter, but started appearing in films when it was discovered he could drawl as well. Wayne plays Ethan Edwards, who following a murderous attack on his brother’s ranch sets off to ‘seek’ his kidnapped niece, accompanied by young part Indian Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter).

Beginning as a revenger’s tale, The Searchers soon swells into something more epic – a road movie of sorts that traces a map of the American West, of racism, guilt and violence, driven by Ethan’s relentless obsession. The landscapes of Monument Valley are suitably ludicrous and low comedy mixes with the sublime. There’s a richness to life here that Ethan’s narrow frontier outlook can’t hope to comprehend. He is a man who is vanishing into his own hatreds. Useful to break a land – but a liability to civilization.

It is unclear why the film didn’t become a part of the Western canon. Perhaps it was due to the fact that Jeffrey Hunter became hugely famous as the captain of the Starship Enterprise, making his presence a distraction. Or maybe it was that by 1956 the Western had outstayed its welcome. Hundreds of westerns plagued the screens every week and almost every single one of them, directed by John Ford. As Ethan might have said, ‘Put an amen to it!’

Whatever the reason, The Searchers is actually a great film, a masterpiece even. So if you can dig up an copy somewhere, I highly recommend it.

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HIDDEN GEMS: 14. THE SEARCHERS

Hidden Gems brings to light little known film gems which have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. This week, The Searchers. You’re welcome.

If you think about cowboys the chances are you think about Clint Eastwood, or Kevin Costner, or maybe even Clint Eastwood. But before Eastwood donned a poncho there was another cowboy called John Wayne!

Never heard of him? I’m not surprised all his films but one were destroyed in a fire but fortunately the surviving film The Searchers is one of his best. Directed by little known Irish American car maker John Ford, The Searchers is an intense revenge drama which accurately portrays the Old West when the evil dark skinned savages all but exterminated the poor white settlers…. wait, but… never mind.

Ethan Edwards (Wayne) comes home from the wars to his brother’s homestead in Monument Valley, but a party of Indians destroys the house, murders his brother and his wife and kidnap the children  with them. With a posse of locals, Ethan goes after the war party, but the search proves long and he is left with Marty (Jeffrey Hunter – the first Captain of the Enterprise), an eighth part Cherokee and the vague hope of racial inclusive to set against Ethan’s seething hatred.

The magnificent scenery is set against the equally beautiful studio shots. The relentless mission of revenge and the way it consumes if not completely destroys lives is set against an almost Shakespearean world, a rich texture of domestic life going on, struggling but just about making it. A life from which Ethan will always be shut out.

For more Hidden Gems CLICK HERE.