THE SEARCHERS (John Ford, 1956)
Museum of the Moving Image
35th Ave. at 36th St., Astoria
Friday, July 17, $12, 7:00, and Saturday, July 18, $12, 4:30
Series runs through August 2
That’ll be the day when someone tries to claim there’s a better Western than John Ford’s ethnocentric look at the dying of the Old West and the birth of the modern era. Essentially about a gunfighter’s attempt to find and kill his young niece, who has been kidnapped and, ostensibly, ruined by Indians, The Searchers is laden with iconic imagery, inside messages, and not-so-subtle metaphors. Hence, it is no accident that John Wayne’s son, Patrick, plays an ambitious yet inept officer named Greenhill. The elder Wayne stars as Ethan Edwards, a tough-as-nails Confederate veteran seeking revenge for the murder of his brother’s family; he’s also out to save Debbie (Natalie Wood) from the Comanches, led by a chief known as Scar (Henry Brandon), by ending her life, because in his world view, it’s better to be dead than red. Joining him on his trek is Debbie’s adopted brother, Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter), who wants to save her from Edwards. The magnificent film balances its serious center with a large dose of humor, particularly in the relationships between Ethan and Martin and Ethan with his Indian companion, Look (Beulah Archuletta). And keep your eye on that blanket in front of the house. The Searchers is screening July 17 & 18 as part of the Museum of the Moving Image series “The Essential John Ford,” which continues through August 2 with such other Ford fare as The Long Gray Line, The Quiet Man, Sergeant Rutledge, Mogambo, and Stagecoach. Born in Maine in 1894, Ford made some of the most dazzling Westerns and literary adaptations ever put on celluloid; he passed away in 1973 at the age of seventy-nine, having won four Best Director Oscars among his nearly 140 pictures.