The Searchers (1956)
In The Searchers Ford’s cramped domestic scenes highlight the romantic western tradition of rugged isolated individualism. An isolation that is seen as superior to ‘marriage and settlement [which] are presented as crippling or at least inhibiting’◊ The excessive difference between Wayne’s body and the cramped hemmed-in homestead is used by Ford to foreground the excessive symbolism that the western genre commonly uses.
Ford is criticizing the way in-which the western genre and Hollywood has converted a violent, bloody and shameful heritage into a story of powerful individuals whose heroic struggles ensured the individual freedoms of ‘today’. John Wayne’s body, often a symbol of that rugged manly isolated individualism, is manipulated by Ford’s use of a cramped homestead to criticize the western genre.
◊ Douglas Pye ‘The Western (Genre and Movies)’ in B.K. Grant (ed), Film Genre Reader, (Austin: University of Texas Press) PP. 187-202 P. 200.