Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"The Searchers" A new idea?

As I said, I just watched John Wayne's "The Searchers" last night. It occurred to me - the odd way that Ethan looked at Marty for the first time and the over-reaction he had to the significance of their relationship: "It just happened to be me that found you - could've been someone else! No need to make anymore of it." This always seemed strangely rude and with all of the puzzled glances around I wondered if there was something more to this. When Ethan recognized Marty's mothers scalp on Scar's lance - some 20+ years later - I was again reminded of this strange reaction. Also, this suggests for the first time that he knew Marty's mother very well. It makes me wonder if it was being suggested that Marty was his (illegitimate) son and he had abandoned him after Marty's mother was killed. Presumably because he couldn't raise a baby by himself or because this was an opportunity to be labeled something other than illegitimate for Marty.

If this seems too tawdry for a 1956 film, consider this:
According to John Wayne in a 1974 interview, John Ford hinted throughout the movie that Ethan had had an affair with his brother's wife, and was possibly the father of Lucy and Debbie. This meant Ethan's thirst for vengeance stemmed not from the murder of his brother, but of the woman Ethan had loved. This was so subtle that many viewers at the time missed it altogether.
-- [from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049730/trivia]
There is a constant mention of the significance of "blood kin" made by Ethan and his comparison of Marty vs. Debbie's relationship to him. Despite his strong feelings on the subject, he makes a point to draw up a his will and leave it to Marty (still stating they have no blood relationship).

Still, the reaction to Marty's mother's scalp must be telling. I'm just not sure why I've never heard this before. The Wikipedia entry for this film says "The Searchers is one of those rare films that reveals something new with every viewing". How true. I've seen this film probably a dozen times and never thought this before. Amazing film!


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