I need help with writing a 1 and a half page single spaced academic review of the movie "The Searchers" directed by John Ford in 1956. I need to touch on film's artistic, technical, and acting quality in the review.
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John Ford’s The Searchers is considered – justifiably, in the view of this educator – one of the finest Westerns, and one of the finest films ever made. The story of a Civil War veteran with a checkered past and his five-year search for his niece, Debbie, who has been kidnapped by Comanches while Ethan and a posse are distracted by a Comanche raiding party that stole cattle as a ruse to draw these men away from their families, The Searchers combines brilliant cinematography, wonderful acting, particularly by John Wayne, as Ethan, and a plot that spoke to the heart of issues of racism during a period when racial issues in the United States were on the verge of exploding.
The Searchers takes place during the Texas-Indian Wars during the late-1860s. Ford’s use of his favorite locale for Westerns, Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border, while clearly not representative of Texas, nevertheless gives his scenes an added physical beauty that often plays against the bitterness and sense of vengeance fueling Ethan’s search. Accompanied by his nephew, Debbie’s adopted brother Martin, Ethan is a man driven by rage and prejudice to rescue his niece from the Comanches who stole her. It is no accident that Ethan fought for the South during the Civil War, and his determination to avenge the death of his family while recovering Debbie is steeped in the racism endemic to the American South during the period depicted. Only Ethan knows that there’s more to his search than a rescue. That’s why his anger at the posse that initially accompanies him results in his decision to continue the search on his own. As he declares to Reverend Clayton, whose leadership has failed to achieve the objective, “Well, Reverend, that tears it! From now on, you stay out of this. All of ya. I don’t want you with me. I don’t need ya for what I got to do.”
What Ethan has to do wouldn’t be revealed in a film review, but for purposes of discussion, it has to be discussed here. Ethan fully intends to kill Debbie. To a man of his convictions, a white girl or woman taken by Indians and raised as one of their own is not fit to live. That he changes his mind at the end speaks to whatever humanity he has managed to retain.
Ford’s direction of Frank Nugent’s screenplay, and Winton Hoch’s photography resulted in a visually stunning film. The actors, most of whom, especially Ward Bond (Reverend Clayton) and Harry Carey, Jr., appeared in many Westerns during their careers, are all appropriately cast and add to the drama. It is Hoch’s cinematography, though, that stands out among the film’s technical attributes. Hoch’s photography of the scene early in The Searchers when Ethan first appears through the doorway of a cabin, the camera shooting from inside a darkened enclosure to illuminate Wayne’s frame through the doorway, remains one of the most beautiful and poignant ever filmed.
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