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The Searchers

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rohanaka
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Re: The Searchers

Postby rohanaka » October 27th, 2012, 9:59 am

MissGoddess wrote:I didn't take his criticisms too seriously. :D


Welllllll... I guess I will put my big stick away, then. HA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :lol:

Oh me.. now I am feeling silly. You know.. after re-reading my original post today.. woowee.. between me jumping on this guy.. and giving poor Miss Maven all that grief over James Bond.. I guess I did sound a bit like a little "foot stomper" ha. SUCH manners.. I should be ashamed. :oops: ha.

(PS... Sorry to give you grief, Miss Maven, over that whole "leaving the Searchers to go watch James Bond thing.. .. but I was just so SHOCKED!! Ha!) :lol:

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Re: The Searchers

Postby Lzcutter » October 27th, 2012, 12:58 pm

I think Ethan had five years of hate in him. I think that when he confronted Debbie and picked her up and touched her that his hatred evaporated just like that. That his touching her dissipated all the venom from him. That she was his kin, she was his Debbie. And he had to take her home."


Maven,

The man definitely has some interesting thoughts on The Searchers but (especially given the ending he would have preferred-YIKES- can we say shallow?) he certainly had a shallow understanding of the film and its characters.

As we discover Ethan's back story in the beginning of the film, he already despises Indians likely due to the massacre of his mother years later. (Little Debbie hides at her grave when the family is attacked). He fought in the Civil War and as we learn from his talks with the Reverend Clayton, he has no love for Yankees. He killed during the war and based on what he says about his past after the war, he was a gun for hire likely down in Mexico.

Ethan's racism and his dislike of Indians (and possibly other minorities) is already part of his make-up when we meet him at the beginning of the film and he is already a dark character. The killing of his family, especially Martha, feeds into that darkness and drives him deeper into that darkness.

That hatred doesn't evaporate when he picks up Debbie. It's the sound of her voice that likely saves her as he realizes that whatever she has been through, she is still his niece and more importantly, she is Martha's daughter, part of the family he could have had if his life had been different and he hadn't gone off to fight in the War.

In that moment, he snaps out of the darkness that has been driving him and his humanity resurfaces and he takes her home.

"Oh he couldn't go in there. He was damaged goods."


Ethan is many things (I was going to say a lot but didn't want to risk the wrath of Suex2) but damaged goods???? That implies that Ethan isn't responsible for his behavior over the past five years, that the tragedy that befell him was what caused his racism and his desire to kill Scar.

Ethan already hated Indians and his attitude about Debbie the longer she was in captivity was fueled more by that embedded hatred than anything else.

He can't go in the house at the end of the film because he is already an anachronism, the myth of the west that is dying, the man who takes the law into his hands (whether right or wrong, he did kill Futterman instead of letting the law handle it), the man who can't adjust to the civilization that the Jorgensen's, Laurie and Marty and the Rangers represent.

Ethan is responsible for his dark side, he fed that dark side over many years dating back to when his mother was killed to the moment he scalped Scar. He can't just turn on a dime and now act like none of that happened, that he never had those feelings, that he never turned into a cold-blooded killer fueled by his own demons and beliefs.

In the end, even as he realizes how much those demons have cost him, that realization cannot change the man he is.

Ethan is like the Indian he killed and buried, shooting his eyes out- he is doomed to travel between two worlds, never able to be a part of either, always wandering.


PS- I understand your dilemma- Bond, James Bond as personified by Sean Connery in his prime- glad I didn't have to make that choice as I likely would have made the same decision as you!
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Re: The Searchers

Postby CineMaven » October 28th, 2012, 1:37 pm

rohanaka wrote:You know.. after re-reading my original post today.. woowee.. between me jumping on this guy.. and giving poor Miss Maven all that grief over James Bond.. I guess I did sound a bit like a little "foot stomper" ha. SUCH manners.. I should be ashamed. :oops: ha.

( PS... Sorry to give you grief, Miss Maven, over that whole "leaving the Searchers to go watch James Bond thing.. .. but I was just so SHOCKED!! Ha! )
:lol:

Ro-Ro...don't fret in the least. Your post tickled me. Stomp all you want!! I know you're joshin' me. It's all good! And I know you are a Fordie girl allllllllllll the way!

* * * *
lzcutter wrote:...Ethan is responsible for his dark side, he fed that dark side over many years dating back to when his mother was killed to the moment he scalped Scar. He can't just turn on a dime and now act like none of that happened, that he never had those feelings, that he never turned into a cold-blooded killer fueled by his own demons and beliefs. In the end, even as he realizes how much those demons have cost him, that realization cannot change the man he is...

Love what you wrote Madame Cutter. A clear and cogent understanding of what "The Searchers" is all about. That's why you're one of the "go to" people where Ford is concerned. Thanx for weighing in. Makes me want to watch the movie again ( which I own ) - watching a man burned with hatred...how he comes out the other side. A little changed.

Hmm...you and Rohanaka got me thinkin', maybe the Duke could have played 007 in his lean and agile years. Thank you both! Kickin' my butt and rattlin' my brain, imagination & understanding. :D
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tinker
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Re: The Searchers

Postby tinker » July 14th, 2013, 3:02 am

I watched this again for about the hundredth time. A very wet Saturday afternoon and it was on TV and the alternative was rewriting along chapter onautodidactic learning and identity and well it was an easy choice to choose to watch it.

I don't think I can ever see this film without seeing something else in it, no matter how many times I watch it.

One of the things that struck me was how on earth could the critics have missed the relationship between Martha and Ethan when it first came out. From the way she looks at him when he first gets off the horse, the way she leads him backwards into the house. Both Ethan and Martha's reaction when Aaron asked Ethan why he stayed on before the war when he wanted to go is so almost guilty. I wonder what the critics were watching when they did not see that.

Another thing that struck me this time was how close Marty and Lucy were. When Marty first comes to the table and Ethan is glaring him down its Lucy who hands Marty the bread and welcomes himn to the table. And in the background of the breakfast scene, Marty and Lucy are playing. She pulls him back into the small side room. Marty had good reason to view the girls as his sisters.

I wondered too, this time around, if Ford was not giving us a pretty good account of what went wrong between Ethan and Martha in the way he tells Laurie and Marty's story. Only when Ethan went away he did not make it back in time to stop Martha's wedding to Aaron.

Also do you wonder perhaps if Ethan had some similiar relationship with a Commanche woman as Marty did with Look, only Ethan stayed with her. The way Ethan reacts when Scar says " You speak pretty good Commanch. Someone teach you?" makes me wonder if Scar knows something. After all Ethan had implied Debbie taught Scar English with many other things.

And have you ever noticed just how much that rocking chair turns up. Ethan sits on it the first night, and again at Jorgenson's. Mose sits on it as he holds Marty back from the smokehouse. Even Look's father is sitting on a rocking chair. Then Mose sits on it both times at Jorgenson's.


dee
But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. (William Butler Yeats )
How did I get to Hollywood? By train. (John Ford)

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Re: The Searchers

Postby MissGoddess » July 14th, 2013, 10:19 am

i know what you mean...it's such a layered movie that we can never really touch bottom on all it contains. :)

I wondered too, this time around, if Ford was not giving us a pretty good account of what went wrong between Ethan and Martha in the way he tells Laurie and Marty's story. Only when Ethan went away he did not make it back in time to stop Martha's wedding to Aaron.


i certainly do think that there is a parallel between Ethan-Martha and Marty-Laurie. History was in danger of repeating itself, and in a way, I even think Ethan wanted to prevent that when he tried to offer Marty his share of his brother's ranch inheritance. though he couldn't bring himself to show it, he cared about Martin almost as a son, and would have preferred he stayed behind and made a home instead of gone out "wandering"...as he had done.
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Re: The Searchers

Postby JackFavell » July 14th, 2013, 10:41 am

I always see something a little different and layered in the story, tinker, you are so right.

I think there are pretty concrete connections between Marty and Ethan, right from the first scene. I can't remember who is first to escape to the porch, but directly after the movie starts, either Ethan or Marty goes to sit there, brooding, and then later, we see the other, in the same spot, with the same intent, to get out of the house because of an upset. They are alike, and I think Miss G is right, that despite his comments, Ethan is fond of Marty. He may start out riding him, but he's the one who found Marty. His emotions are complex.

What I find really interesting is how Ethan and John Ford are alike. Ford is accused always of being insensitive or racist, and also of being harsh with his 'company'. I think it's far from the truth, though with Ethan there is some shove to the darker side, his hatred of the Indians. Ford and Ethan could not express feeling without a kind of jocular cruelty, and this is actually a form of love.... in order to strengthen their protegees they ride them like the devil. If they can take it, they are kith and kin. A man wants his 'sons' to be able to take the hard knocks of life (or Hollywood).

One thing I hadn't noticed before was that rocking chair motif - great eye, tinker! I'll be watching next time for those rocking chairs.

I find the porch is also an indicator - Martha stands on the porch looking out, then there is another shot of Martha Lucy and Mrs. Jorgensen (I think it's these three, not positive) looking out across that 'other' landscape. At the end, Laurie is the first of the women to run off the porch, into the desert and go TO her man, suggesting the future is a true understanding of the need to wander, and a willingness to wander with him. The homestead is where you make it, not a fixed place that one is hesitant to leave. Perhaps Ethan had asked Martha to go with him, perhaps he didn't, but the homestead almost seemed to come between them. It's a refuge from that violence and scary emptiness 'out there' in that beautiful wasteland that Ethan so loved. Laurie understands a bit better than Marty might need to set his sights "out there".

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Re: The Searchers

Postby MissGoddess » July 14th, 2013, 11:45 am

I find the porch is also an indicator - Martha stands on the porch looking out, then there is another shot of Martha Lucy and Mrs. Jorgensen (I think it's these three, not positive) looking out across that 'other' landscape. At the end, Laurie is the first of the women to run off the porch, into the desert and go TO her man, suggesting the future is a true understanding of the need to wander, and a willingness to wander with him. The homestead is where you make it, not a fixed place that one is hesitant to leave. Perhaps Ethan had asked Martha to go with him, perhaps he didn't, but the homestead almost seemed to come between them. It's a refuge from that violence and scary emptiness 'out there' in that beautiful wasteland that Ethan so loved. Laurie understands a bit better than Marty might need to set his sights "out there".


that makes beautiful sense. though the home is a fixed place, the people in it have to be able to meet the world around them half-way. any kind of rigidness means trouble in Ford's movies. Marty and Laurie are more flexible, more willing to run out and meet life. it's also a part of being young, i expect. Ethan ran too far for too long.
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Re: The Searchers

Postby JackFavell » July 14th, 2013, 12:33 pm

Absolutely! That's great, MissG. We see youth and age hit right smack up against each other in The Searchers, flicker and fire, and then finally reconcile. You've given me a whole other way to watch the movie. Again. :D

I'm not surprised that this movie came back as such an influence during the 1970's, with the generation gap, and young directors like Bogdanovich and Scorsese holding it up as a masterpiece.

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Re: The Searchers

Postby RedRiver » July 14th, 2013, 2:47 pm

how on earth could the critics have missed the relationship between Martha and Ethan when it first came out

That surprises me too. Had the movie come out ten years later, even five, it might have been dismissed as "just a western." LIBERTY VALANCE may have sufferred from that line of thinking. Maybe even TRUE GRIT. But THE SEARCHERS landed solidly in The Golden Age, the work of our most acclaimed director. How anything could have been overlooked is baffling.

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Re: The Searchers

Postby JackFavell » July 14th, 2013, 4:46 pm

It's quite clear to me and I just watched it again about a month or two ago, and I looked for it on purpose to see how obvious it was. I wanted to make sure in my mind that it was really there. And it was very very obviously done. But I think Red is right, because it was a western, an in depth discussion of the film probably never occurred to any critics.

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Re: The Searchers

Postby Lzcutter » July 14th, 2013, 11:31 pm

how on earth could the critics have missed the relationship between Martha and Ethan when it first came out


Upon its initial release, most critics missed the depth of the story that drives The Searchers. I don't think there was much awareness of the back story of Martha and Ethan, until the late 1960s, when the next generation of movie goers (and many who went on to become the film makers we love today), realized that the movie was more than just one of the usual oaters released in a decade full of westerns of all calibers.

John Wayne even then suffered from the criticism that he was just playing himself on the screen and I think that kept many of the critics of the 1950s from not only realizing how much great acting Wayne does in the film but the depth of the story.

Ford has always been a filmmaker with deeply layered stories (if he wasn't, this film and Liberty Valance followed probably by They Were Expendable and How Green Was My Valley wouldn't be the most popular topics here), but he had peaked with critics in the 1940s and was on the downward swing with them by the time he made The Searchers.

Anthony Mann and Jimmy Stewart (and critics rarely questioned Stewart's acting they way they did Wayne's) and Budd Boetticher and Randolph (cue chorus) Scott and the stories they were putting on the screen were considered adult themed westerns. The Searchers too many critics and audience members was just another John Ford/John Wayne western like all the ones before it and they didn't consider it to be as good as the previous westerns or as good as Red River.

About ten to twelve years later, that all changed when a new generation of critics and movie goers looked at the film and saw a classic.

Not every great film is considered a great film on its initial release and many of the films we consider part of the great films of cinema, only got that recognition due to the renaissance and re-evaluation that occurred in the mid-1960s to mid-1970s when a new generation discovered them.
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Re: The Searchers

Postby tinker » July 15th, 2013, 7:52 am

Ford has always been a filmmaker with deeply layered stories (if he wasn't, this film and Liberty Valance followed probably by They Were Expendable and How Green Was My Valley wouldn't be the most popular topics here), but he had peaked with critics in the 1940s and was on the downward swing with them by the time he made The Searchers.


Its amazing isn't it that good as those forties films were, the critics were not capable of recognising the artistic work that really could only come out well having lived. It isn't just film makers that don't get there later work valued. There's is a Pieta (Mary with Christ's body)of Michaelangelo's in St Peter's behind glass. He did it when he was a young man. Its the one everybody knows. It is stunningly beautiful.In a corner in a small museum behind the Duomo in Florence just sitting there with no protection is one he did as an old man. Its not beautiful, it is painful, it hurts to look at it. Its nowhere near as famous as the early one. Yet it so much more powerful.

What I find really interesting is how Ethan and John Ford are alike. Ford is accused always of being insensitive or racist, and also of being harsh with his 'company'. I think it's far from the truth, though with Ethan there is some shove to the darker side, his hatred of the Indians. Ford and Ethan could not express feeling without a kind of jocular cruelty, and this is actually a form of love.... in order to strengthen their protegees they ride them like the devil. If they can take it, they are kith and kin. A man wants his 'sons' to be able to take the hard knocks of life (or Hollywood).


In one of those interviews John Wayne did for Directed by John Ford he lets slip that the character of Ringo kid was Ford. Then he sort of shuts up and slides away from it. I wish Peter Bogdonavich had pushed him to talk about it because it makes you wonder if so many of the characters he played for Ford were Ford. If Ethan was part of him, it shows he much must have been a VERY conflicted man but its also a little like an artist doing self portraits, something incredibly revealing as well. It would be an interesting analysis to go through from Ringo to Tom Donophon and relate it to Ford's life.

I never thought of the porch and the running out from it as meaning so much but it really is when you think about it highly symbolic. All those inside looking out images and the porch is between both places.

Every time I read your thougts about these films here, it send my imagination into over drive, thinking of new ways of looking at the films

Thank you


dee
But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. (William Butler Yeats )
How did I get to Hollywood? By train. (John Ford)

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Re: The Searchers

Postby movieman1957 » July 15th, 2013, 8:00 am

The beauty of westerns, for me, is that on the surface they have such a simple story line but it is what lies underneath that gives them so much more than expected. I think people can enjoy them on either level. That is not to say that doesn't work with other genres. I think they are often dismissed or that all westerns are categorized similarly.

Two examples from last week I saw were "Along The Great Divide" which is just taking a prisoner to a town for trial. Like "3:10 To Yuma" it is what happens on the trip is the interesting thing. "Ulzana's Raid" is an army troop chasing a group of Indians raiding and murdering homesteaders. It is the conflict in the troop leaders mind of good and evil and what humans really are.
Chris

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Re: The Searchers

Postby JackFavell » July 15th, 2013, 8:27 am

dee, I've seen both of the Pieta's and I spent far more time with the one hidden in the little corner in the small church than with the more poetic and beautiful one that is on display for everyone to see. You are right, the second is excruciatingly painful, and I would say, in my very un-knowledgeable opinion, that it is the more artistic and complex piece of artwork. Then again, they are both superb, just in completely different ways. One is a young man's romanticized view and the other is an old man's view with all it's layers of pain and deeper understanding (just as we have talked in the WHAT ARE YOU READING thread about how certain stories like Anna Karenina and The Great Gatsby can have widely varying meaning to the same person depending on their age and time in life.) I think you have made a remarkable comparison with the second Pieta and The Searchers. Definitely The Searchers is Ford's second Pieta.

Chris, when you were younger, did you see westerns the same way you do now? DId you simply like them for what they were, or as a time passer, rather than as a deeper artistic achievement, or did you mull over the problems they dealt with? I am new to westerns, so I never really had the opportunity to change my opinion. Anyone else want to weigh in on this?

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Re: The Searchers

Postby movieman1957 » July 15th, 2013, 8:37 am

Early on (and maybe later too) I looked at westerns as action pictures and maybe simple morality stories. In "The Searchers" it was nothing more than Ethan greeting his sister-in-law. An angry man looking for his niece. Nothing like what we talk about.

Realization came with maturity but real depth came when I got on the boards. Talking to people who know a great deal more than me has really opened things up. I watch them differently now. I see more. I notice more. I understand more.

Now much of the fun comes in watching films I've seen before to look for new things. In the other thread Mr. Arkadin talks about "The Wild Bunch." That's much deeper than I realized. I wasn't clueless but I wasn't digging that far either.
Chris

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