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The Searchers

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So many good movies, so little time.
I watched The Searchers (1956) again tonight and like all great movies it only got better with another viewing.

**** warning - Plot described below ****************

The Searchers is set in 1868 Texas. It is the story of an Indian raid that results in a little girl, Debbie, being taken captive. The story then follows her uncle, Ethan Edwards, and her adapted brother, Martin, as they spend five years searching for her.
The movie can stand on its own as an exciting Western chase drama but it is so much more than that.
The movie is about unconsumated love, racial hatred, revenge and a deeply rooted fear of miscegenation. Ethan, whose own mother was killed by Comanches, harbors a deep racial hatred for Indians. When his brother's family is massacred he sets out to "rescue" his only surviving relative, his niece and avenge his true love, his sister in law Martha.
As the Search goes on and Debbie gets to be a "woman grown", Ethan's rescue mission turns into a mission to kill the damaged Debbie as well as avenging her and Martha. As a Martin's own girlfriend says to him (echoing the feelings of the community?), "Fetch what home? The leavings of a Comanche buck sold time and time again to the highest bidder, with savage brats of her own?".
One thing that fascinates me about The Searchers is that the hero (or anti-hero) is a crazed racist (from our milieu's point of view) and still manages to elicit sympathy from the movie audience. As the movie goes on I am still hoping that this exciting, dynamic character will
change and see the light. Martin is by far the better person and a hero in every way but it is for Ethan's character transformation that we cheer.
The Searchers was made a little more than a decade after the Holocaust. It was made when the civil rights movement was just beginning in the South. It was made 66 years after Wounded Knee.
I think the Searchers, as a movie that featured a "hero" who was consumed by racial prejudice and advocated genocide was a brave, daring movie. We can only learn from the mistakes of the past if we talk about them and The Searchers, which is getting better with age, provides us the opportunity to do that.

"Those are my principles. If you don't like them I have others."- Groucho Marx

a coworker of mine talks endlessly about this film...he loves westerns and thinks that this and she wore a yellow ribbon are two of the best westerns going...

thanks for the review...this one is on my must see list