If he had lived, John Wayne would be 93 years old this weekend. He is one of my favorite actors and a true legend of the silver screen. I was reminded of this recently during a trip to Florida.
While I was in DisneyWorld, I went to the MGM studios. It is a great experience for anyone who enjoys movies. One of my favorite attractions was The Great Movie Ride. It takes you into the legendary films of Hollywood. While waiting in line, the visitors get to see trailers of great movies from history. Then, you get to be in the scenes that we all remember from those movies - the moment in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy meets the Wicked Witch of the West, an invasion during Alien, and riding through a western town in The Searchers.
This is one of the greatest westerns of all time, and one of the first times John Wayne was able to show off some acting skills. Set in 1868, he plays Ethan, a former confederate soldier who disappeared for three years after the war. Ill-tempered and surprisingly rich, Ethan resurfaces and decides to visit his bother in Texas.
It is a dangerous time to be in the Wild West. A group of Comanche Indians steal some cattle from one of the townspeople, but it turns out to be a ruse to get all the men out of town on a wild goose chase. When Ethan and the men return, they find his brother's home burned to the ground and his two nieces missing. The men head out on a mission to find the two girls.
Will they find them? Will it be too late?
Director John Ford once said about Wayne's performance, "I never knew the son of a bitch could act." It is one of the finest performances The Duke ever had. Ethan is a lonely man driven mad by his hatred of Indians, and he continues to hunt for his nieces, even though he believes they are dead. What is he searching for - the nieces or revenge?
Although many view Wayne as a caricature, this movie shows he can swing between madness, stoic wisdom and sadness throughout a movie. I wish I could tell you about one of my favorite scenes, but it would give away too much of the plot. What I will tell you is that you should pay close attention to the scene where Ethan splits from Martin (Jeffrey Hunter) and Jorgenson (Harry Carey, Jr.).
John Ford would often employ a stable of actors and crewmembers that he liked to work with. In the early 1900's, Ford would often team with actor Harry Carey, who passed away in 1947. After that, Ford would often employ Harry Carey, Jr. in smaller, supporting roles like the one he plays in The Searchers.
Carey, Sr. was a legend of the screen and John Wayne decided to pay tribute to him in this movie. At one critical scene in the film, Wayne grabs his right elbow with his left hand, a gesture often made by Carey, Sr.
Celebrate The Duke's birthday by renting The Searchers.
Directed by John Ford
Written by Frank Nugent
Based on a Novel by Alan LeMay
John Wayne Ethan
Jeffrey Hunter . Martin
Vera Miles .. Lorie
Ward Bond ..... Reverend Clayton
Natalie Wood .. ??? (I don't want to give it away)
Harry Carey, Jr. . Jorgenson
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