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MissGoddess
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The Searchers Part Deux

Post by MissGoddess »

OK, I went back for a return visit to The Searchers on Friday and listened to the introduction speech by Kevin Stoehr. He gave what basically sounded like a summary of one of his essays, due to be published this Fall, about John Ford and this movie in particular. This Mr. Stoehr was introduced as a professor at the "John Ford Center" in Portland, Maine---which has some connection with Boston University. He did not, however, stay for questions which really disappointed me. :( I couldn't ask if there was any credence to the possibility of a blood relationship between Ethan and "Scar" or if Ethan might have been part Indian.

As for my own further thoughts on Ethan Edwards/Native American question, I think my conclusion can only be that there is no evidence to support it. A friend who read the book told me that is absolutely not in the original story and that Ethan's hatred for Scar and the whole Indian race is based purely on hatred for the "other"---not on anything more complicated. And it seems that everyone around him, his family and neighbors, would know if there were any blood tie because they knew his mother so well. How he came to know so much about their ways is a mystery, maybe based on nothing more than his loner experiences in Indian territory. What is even more intriguing is the mental relationship between him and these people: when he goes after "Scar" he almost seems to transform into "Scar" alter-ego. He tracks and pursues like one of their own. And when he shoots out the eyes of the dead Commanche, dooming its "spirit to wander between the winds alone, forever"---he is in fact dooming himself to exactly this same fate. The last scene of the film shows him wandering off alone into the wind-swept landscape.

One interesting point Stoehr hilighted and which I have always felt myself about Ford's films in general, is how he used comedy to break the tension. Stoehr quoted from other critical analyses to support his belief that Ford used humor, transitioning from drama immediately into a comic scene, the way Shakespeare did. Because both artists understood that is what life is like. He further quoted another critic, a French one I beleive, who said that if The Searchers had maintained a completely solemn tone throughout (as many still wish) it would have been "a less sublime film". That's how I feel, too.

So, that is basically what I got from this last viewing.

I have to mention that the audience this time was even more enthusiastic---they clapped at JW's name on the screen and what's even more surprising, they clapped at John Ford's name! :) I sat next to an old guy who had seen The Searchers when it was released---and he paid only 25 cents. He was really knowledgable about old movies in general, though he was simply a fan and no critic or historian at all. In fact, he was so enthusiastic he would sing along with Stan Jones and talk to the screen and generally drive some of the intolerant spectators around him crazy. I enjoyed his enjoyment, though. :)
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movieman1957
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Post by movieman1957 »

MissGoddess:

Glad you got to see the movie again. As far as the comedy is concerned a book I have mentions they thought the drama might be too strong. I think in the case of the fight at the wedding it does show a lighter side of Ethan.

When he pushes Mrs. Jorgenson back in the house and tells her to remember she's a lady and also responds to Laurie's request to stop the fight with "Why, you started it" it is a warmth that is not shown often and I think helps set up his change of heart about Debbie at the end. The opening scene and the one with Patrick Wayne later add to this side of Ethan.
Chris

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."
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MissGoddess
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Post by MissGoddess »

Good points, Chris. I think it's just hilarious to see how much Laurie and Mrs. Jorgenson are enjoying the fight. :wink:
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