This week marks the 57th birthday of John Ford’s seminal western “The Searchers” (1956), which came in 7th in Sight and Sound’s most recent critics’ poll. In recognition, director Martin Scorsese reviews the classic film in THR:
“First, apart from being an American epic, ‘The Searchers’ also is a John Wayne Western; for many, even at this late date in film history, that’s still an excuse to ignore it. Secondly, it doesn’t go down quite as easily as the pictures mentioned above. Like all great works of art, it’s uncomfortable. The core of the movie is deeply painful.”
The American Film Institute has also posted an enlightening clip from the archives on its YouTube page (below) in which Scorsese recounts seeing the Civil War-set film for the first time as a boy: “This lonely character comes out of the desert,” Scorsese says of John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards, who searches for his young niece (Natalie Wood) after she is abducted by Native Americans. “He acts out the worst aspects of racism in our country. You could see the hate. You could also understand how he could go that way.”
Last month, film historian and Texas-based journalism professor Glenn Frankel published his critical book “The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend” (Bloomsbury Publishing), yet another celebration of John Ford’s epic film. He talks to NPR about the difference between the historical true story, the book on which “The Searchers” was based, and the movie.