Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Searchers (movie)
The Searchers is a 1956 epic Western film which tells the story of a man who spends years looking for his niece who was taken by Indians. It stars John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond and Natalie Wood.
The movie was adapted by Frank S. Nugent from the novel by Alan Le May . It was directed by John Ford, and much of it was filmed in Monument Valley, Arizona. The film has been deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
This is an interesting film, since it could be interpreted as a subtle critique of the sort of Westerns that Wayne normally appeared in (although Wayne himself would probably have disagreed). Wayne's character, Ethan Edwards, is shown as a brooding and disturbed character. The West is shown as a threatening, even slightly sinister place. However, unlike some revisionist Westerns of the 1950s (e.g. Broken Arrow) the Native Americans are shown in a negative light, rather disturbed characters themselves, massacring white settlers, and even sexually assaulting them and abducting their children.
The Searchers is an often cited candidate for the greatest film of all time. It is a favorite of the film school 'Movie Brats' generation including Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg. Director John Ford's reputation was incredible: Ingmar Bergman, Orson Welles, Howard Hawks, Akira Kurosawa, Frank Capra, Elia Kazan, Samuel Fuller and many others described Ford as the greatest living director. Certainly a contributing factor to The Searcher's popularity is the fact that Ford's trademark calm style and wide shots are almost thrown to the wind in this film: it contains perhaps Ford's most radical camera movements and setups. Peter Bogdanovich said of The Searchers that "the bold, vigorous strokes of The Searchers...require more artistry than the direction of The Informer." Another powerful factor is the famous depth of character, the best example being John Wayne's actions in the twist ending.
In 1972, The Searchers made its first appearance on the Sight and Sound poll of the greatest films ever made. At eighteenth place in 1972, it climbed to fifth place in 1992. However, in the latest 2002 poll it fell back to eleventh place.
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