John Ford was over a hundred films deep in a directing career that had begun in the silent era when he set out to create a “psychological epic.” The resulting film, “The Searchers,” was a Western set against the bloody conflict between the native Comanche and Texas settlers after the Civil War.
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It showcased John Wayne, turning his archetypal strength and stoicism into viciousness as a returned soldier hell-bent on revenge against the Comanche who killed his family in a raid. The figure of an honorable man demented by violence and revenge took its place as a new type of American anti-hero.
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This latest installment of our American Icons series looks at “The Searchers” and its complicated legacy.
American Icons is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.