Skip to main content

THE SEARCHERS

USA, 1956 (MIFF 1994, Retrospectives)

Director: John Ford

John Ford's timeless saga of revenge with John Wayne, Vera Miles and Natalie Wood, is unquestionably one of the greatest of all Westerns, and Ethan Edwards is arguably the performance of John Wayne's life. The Searchers completely transforms the notion of the 'revisionist' Western, for what exactly could Unforgiven, for example, be said to revise, when nearly forty years earlier you have in this masterful collaboration between Ford and Wayne, one of the harshest indictments of the Western hero imaginable. The film received a mixed reception upon its 1956 release - possibly a consequence of its challenge to the accepted idea of the 'hero' and its unflinching depiction of vengeful violence - but is now universally considered to be "a perennial American tragedy".

If you have never experienced The Searchers in the cinema, you have to see this magnificently restored Technicolor and VistaVision print. Up on the big screen, Ford's unfaltering sense of space mocks the 'white man's' ambition to carve out his place amongst the vast desolation. Distance makes strangers of relatives, a letter may take a year to arrive - this is a land where a man can get lost, and Ethan is a man who has lost more than his sense of belonging. For him the promise of the West has turned to bitterness and mania. The Civil War is over, but as we discover during his relentless five-year hunt for a young girl who has been abducted after a murderous Comanche raid, Ethan is a man who "don't believe in surrenders".

Shot in Ford's mythic Monument Valley, (a wilderness that threatens to swallow the characters whole) The Searchers is his most emotionally complex work, an exploration of the American values at the heart of the Western genre which can still make your blood run cold.

See also...

THE IRON HORSE

The “Iron Horse", about the transcontinental track-laying ... race between the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific, is one of the finest of the epic westerns, and greatly influenced ... More »

IN A LONELY PLACE

... ... The place is Hollywood, lonely for scriptwriter Dixon Steele (Bogart) who is suspected of murdering a young woman, until girl-next-door Laurel Gray (Grahame) supplies him with a false alibi ... More »

TABU

... ... It's hard to imagine a more unlikely pairing than that of F.W. Murnau and Robert Flaher­ty. Mumau was a mystic, theoretician and fatalist; Flaherty, an optimist, a dreamer, an authentic ... More »

IN COLD BLOOD

"It's not exactly my book but it's a hell of a movie." - Truman Capote ... Based on Truman Capote's controversial best-selling 'non-fiction' portrayal of two apparently unmotivated killers and their ... More »

REMEMBER THE NIGHT

As a bonus adjunct to our Festival highlight, Preston Sturges: Tlie Rise And Fall Of An American Dreamer, we are delighted to be screening a brand new 35mm print of the last film to be scripted by ... More »

ON THE TOWN

The ground-breaking, irresistible 1949 MGM musical On The Town brings song, and most especially dance, out from the ballroom and into the streets, fulfilling the creative vision of the film's ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director