John Wayne’s Physical Presence

 The Searchers (1956)

John Wayne’s large body is important when placed against the claustrophobic backdrop of the Edwards’ ranch. Wayne is a large man and his physical presence is used by Ford impressively to produce a sense of entrapment and claustrophobia. Ford does this because he is attempting to communicate that Wayne’s tough rough frontier image is at odds with the close, structured atmosphere the Edwards’ ranch exudes (Wayne’s frontier isolation Vs Edwards’ ranch community).

The claustrophobic atmosphere is produced by the use of browns in conjunction with soft lighting. The ceiling height is also low. The criss-cross lines of the beams create a sense of partitioning and order. Beams in a house work by placing pressure equally amongst the whole structure, in the same way that a community equals out the pressure of life by working together so as not to become crushed under the weight of holding oneself upright. Wayne’s physical presence is the antithesis of this partitioned and equalized pressure. The Director John Ford cleverly uses Wayne’s large body, in conjunction with the beams, to indicate to the viewer the opposing philosophy and the isolated nature of Wayne’s character.

Published by

A.R. Duckworth

South Yorkshire England

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