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A blog for poetry, prose, and pop culture.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Movie Time: Rewind: The Searchers

Hey all,

Quick Note, I tried to spellcheck this in another program and I don't think it worked. Hopefully I will be posting from my own PC soon to get my terrible spelling in check. Thanks for reading.

I thought I was well overdue for another featured column, Movie Time: Rewind. Highlighting films made before the year of my birth, 1976. I've talked about Cary Grant, Steve McQueen, and the Marx Bros., so I thought I should highlight my other favorite actor from Hollywood's Golden Age, John Wayne. Now Wayne made a lot of movies, with more than his fair share of turkeys, especially once he got into the 1960's and 70's, where his style of film making and acting were fading. The 60's was a tough time for the studios as most of the old Hollywood guard were passing on and losing box office relevance, except the Duke. He continued making westerns and war films that would turn a profit, but the films he was making weren't challenging him or breaking any new ground. People just wanted to see John Wayne be John Wayne, Other than a few exceptions post 1965, most of the films I like from Wayne were made in the 40's and 50's. He made many great films, Stagecoach, Red River, The Quiet Man are all great choices I might highlight later, but by far my favorite Wayne film is 1956's The Searchers.

Directed by the great John Ford, I really feel like this was both his and Wayne's best film. Ford's cinematography is so influential in this movie it continues to inspire many directors today, including Spielberg, Coppola, and Scorese. His use of negative space in film making as well as his choice of shooting locations, Utah's Monument Valley, create an incredible atmosphere. This wasn't the first time he had shot in Monument Valley, but the film's technicolor enhancements really create a vibrant scene unlike anything that had come before.

The storyline is that Wayne is a former officer in the civil war who swears revenge on the Indians who have kidnapped his niece. His niece is played by a young Natalie Wood. There is a lot of subtle plot that many may miss on the first take, such as Wayne's character's mother's name on a tombstone being killed by Indians earlier, the basis for Wayne's hatred of Indians. Many critics have a problem with how Indians were depicted in the movie, but I really believe that both Indians and the white man show good and bad traits throughout. This is one of the few films were Wayne doesn't play the straight hero, there is alot about Wayne that is unlikable in the film, shooting people in the back and his treatment of others. It's one of the few films he made where he doesn't play John Wayne, he plays the character. Both Wayne and his Indian nemesis are driven by revenge, and though one dies in the end, the other isn't truly alive either.

The final scene featuring Wayne looking out into the horizons, holding his arm, is so iconic. The color and sound, Wayne is alone and always isolated. It's a great scene, and it doesn't need words to impart the meaning, it speaks solely through the motions.

It's a beautiful film with a clever and subtle plot, it's got action and acting, and I really feel it's one of the all time great films. Just like Wayne says in this film, that marked the birth of one of his signature phrases, "That'll be the day" when they manage to to top this film.

End of Line.

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