She Was In America’s Greatest Western, Too

The Trunk didn’t mention the best movie that Natalie Wood appeared in–John Ford’s The Searchers, starring John Wayne, considered by many critics to be the quintessential American western. This is understandable in that the young Miss Wood–the film was made in 1956–made only a brief, but critical, appearance at the end of the movie.
A year or two ago, just about everyone was using the movie High Noon as a metaphor for the war on terror. President Bush was Gary Cooper, standing tall, and almost alone, against the forces of evil.
It seemed to me then that at some point, the movie analogy would shift from High Noon to The Searchers. In The Searchers, John Wayne plays a Confederate veteran, Ethan Edwards, who returns to his Texas home after the war. A group of Comanches raid the home of Edwards’ brother and slaughter the family, with the exception of two daughters, whom they abduct. One of the daughters is killed shortly thereafter. At first, Edwards’ neighbors are all eager to hunt down the marauding Comanches and rescue the girls, but when winter comes and the search is still unsuccessful, they return to their peaceful pursuits. Accompanied by only one young man, the sisters’ part-Comanche step-brother, Edwards keeps up the hunt for seven long years. His companion’s life is more or less ruined, and Edwards is seen as an obsessive, bitter man–which is pretty much true. Almost everyone believes the second daughter, Debbie Edwards, is long dead. Suffice it to say that the movie’s conclusion is powerful.
It seems to me that we are entering into the Searchers phase of the war. Many people, perhaps most, would like to forget the whole thing. As President Bush continues to hunt the terrorists, his resolve will be seen by many as mere obsession. It will be easier and more convenient to believe that the hunt is pointless, or no longer necessary. Whether a majority of Americans will grow prematurely weary of the frustrating, murky effort to defeat the Islamofascists is, I think, the central political question of our time.
I couldn’t find a photo of Natalie Wood in The Searchers, but I can’t resist adding this more conventional Hollywood glamour shot to the lovely picture selected by the Trunk:
BIG TRUNK adds: Here’s a photo of Natalie Wood in the role of Debbie.


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