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Celebrating Ford and Wayne's Classic Western 'The Searchers'

Photo of Ryan Lattanzio By Ryan Lattanzio | TOH! March 14, 2013 at 4:23PM

This week marks the 57th birthday of John Ford's seminal western "The Searchers" (1956). In recognition, director Martin Scorsese reviews the classic film in THR:
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John Wayne in John Ford's classic western 'The Searchers'
John Wayne in John Ford's classic western 'The Searchers'

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.


This article is related to: Western, Martin Scorsese


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.