One definition of a classic movie might be that it is still discussed fifty years after its release.
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here at the old stand. Recently one of Joe’s favorite columnists, The New York Times writer David Brooks, began his column with, As every discerning person knows, “The Searchers” is the greatest movie ever made.
Notice he didn’t say every discerning moviegoer, he said every discerning person. That implies that every person has been exposed to that film. As a hardcore Citizen Kane devotee, Frank says, ok, let him explain himself.
Brooks had recently read “The Searchers,” Glenn Frankel’s book about the John Wayne/John Ford 1956 film. He interprets the film to be about men caught on the wrong side of an historic transition.
Brooks then used this theory to support his premise that as in the film where Wayne’s character is unable to enter the house and make the transition to a new society, today “millions of men have been caught on the wrong side of a historic transition, unable to cross the threshold into the new economy.”
Who knew one could study economics by watching old movies?
The picture above shows Wayne lingering outdoors, just outside the entrance to a happy household rejoicing at the return of a beloved niece (Natalie Wood) who had been kidnapped by Indians. This ending shot in The Searchers is one of the most evocative in movie history. A beauty.
In any event see the film. It’s movie making at its best. (Above is a shot of Wayne and Ford on the set.)
Interestingly, not everyone agrees with Brooks’ effusive interpretation of The Searchers. Although Citizen Kane creator Orson Welles liked John Ford personally, he was less taken with his movie.
As quoted in the remarkable new book, the newly-published My Lunches With Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles (Henry Holt and Company, Metropolitan Books), Welles said that he and Ford were very good friends, and he always wanted to do a picture with me. He was a pretty mean son-of-a-bitch Irishman. But I loved him anyway.
Then this: I recently saw what I’ve always been told was Jack (Ford’s) greatest movie, and it’s terrible. “The Searchers.” He made many very bad pictures.
Who are we to disagree with Orson Welles, but in this case we certainly do. Despite his opinion of The Searchers, Welles added, But Jack made some of the best (movies) ever.