The Searchers (Ford, 1956)
The Searchers (1956) is now considered by many to be an American masterpiece. Ten to fifteen years after the film’s debut, and after reassessing it as a cinematic milestone, a generation of “New Hollywood” film directors, French film critics and others, including Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Jean-Luc Godard, and Wim Wenders, have all praised the film. Director John Ford, considered by many as the greatest director of Westerns, shaped Western conventions into an anthropology of archetypal frontier America, a setting for the confrontation between civilization and wilderness. Critics have bewailed the Anglo “civilizing mission” imposed on the West in his films, often incarnated by the Ford hero par excellence, John Wayne. In The Searchers, Wayne is a racist without apology. Less clear, perhaps, is the position of the film.