Wayne’s Body (Continued)

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.

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