Golden Oldies On the Big Screen Golden Oldies On the Big Screen




For, Friday, July 31, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Film historians and critics often cite ‘The Searchers’ as the best of both movie star John Wayne and producer-director John Ford’s lengthy, storied careers. And it really is one of those pictures that plays so much better on a theater screen that it’s hard to describe. And a big part of that is the location filming in southern Utah, gorgeously photographed in vivid color. I never gave the film a full review for the Deseret News, of course — even I’m not THAT old! — but I did write about it several times as it was revived over the years in local theaters and when it received DVD, then Blu-ray, and various box-set releases. It’s playing now at the Megaplex Jordan Commons multiplex and I highly recommend it, if the socially distancing measures work for you. If not, find it online or borrow a friend’s disc. It’s still a great film. Here are some of my remarks about the film from short write-ups in 2006 and 2016.

“The Searchers” (1956) is considered by many critics to be John Ford and John Wayne’s finest western — and when you look at their respective filmographies, that’s saying something.

Many others have taken it a step further, calling “The Searchers” one of the greatest films ever made in any genre.


Monument Valley is practically a character in 'The Searchers' (1956).

Wayne plays an uncharacteristic anti-hero here, a harsh, racist Civil War veteran who becomes more and more obsessed as he searches the desert landscapes for five years, trying to find his niece, who was kidnapped by Comanches after they wiped out most of the family.

With him is the girl’s adopted brother, who begins to wonder if Wayne is planning to rescue the girl or kill her after she has spent years as a wife of a Comanche chief.

This is an exciting, thrilling adventure, and it utilizes a terrific cast — which includes Jeffery Hunter, who would play Jesus in “King of Kings” five years later; Vera Miles, an Alfred Hitchcock regular who would again team up with Ford and Wayne for “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”; and Natalie Wood, a child star (“Miracle on 34th Street”) who managed to cross over into adult stardom (“Rebel Without a Cause,” “West Side Story”).


From left, Harry Carey Jr., Jeffrey Hunter, John Wayne, 'The Searchers' (1956)

Plus, a number of Ford’s stock company of regulars are here — Ward Bond, Harry Carey Jr., Hank Worden, Ken Curtis and Wayne’s son Patrick, among others.

There is a lot to recommend in “The Searchers,” and something to look for is the unforgettable, iconic opening shot, one of the most famous in film history, as the camera is inside a dark cabin and approaches the front door as it is opened to reveal the gorgeous Monument Valley scenery that will dominate much of the picture.

It also doubles as a nice commercial for southern Utah.