As many others before them, the authors of Ride, Boldly Ride correctly identify The Searchers
(1956) as John Ford’s most beautiful and most controversial Western, and Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) as one of the most ambivalent and divisive figures of the whole Western genre. Taking into consideration the weight of the Ford/Wayne association and the Wayne ‘persona’ as seen in Stagecoach (1939), Red River (Howard Hawks 1948), The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), and/or True Grit (Henry Hathaway 1969) explore some of logic and the contradictions of the “Wayne” Western hero. From redeemed “outlaw” to tyrannical “father figure” to ragingly racist confederate veteran and murderer of Native Americans, how does Wayne’s characters/persona contribute to the many ambiguities of this most popular of American classical genres? In other words, is there a way to reconcile the undeniable beauty of movies like these –especially The Searchers– with the ideological, ahistorical, and racial implications of the Western and the westerner “myth” as represented by Wayne?
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