The Searchers asks one main question: What makes a man to wander?
Steve Pick: We come to the first Western in our series, the John Ford masterpiece The Searchers. I say “masterpiece” because there are few films so tightly focused, so beautifully filmed, and so aware of ambiguities. From that wonderful opening shot through the door of the small home out on the Texas prairie on through the final shot through another door, as John Wayne saunters away from family, friends, and purpose, this is a movie which takes away breath so often it should come with an inhaler. Yet, there are issues to discuss, not the least of which include the treatment of Native Americans, questions of cultural identity, the meaning of the word “family”, and the general concept of the “hero” in American films. The Searchers exists in the context of hundreds of other western films, not to mention thousands of dime novels, pulps, and paperbacks. While delivering the thrills inherent in the genre, it seems to me that The Searchers does not take its tropes for granted, but digs deeper into their meaning than we are used to seeing.
So, Steve, I’ll let you start by asking your take on The Searchers in general, and more specifically your opinion of John Wayne’s character in the context of the film.