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The Searchers (1956)
Seeing This For The First Time Has Changed My Top Ten List Completely.
I have read in the past about how great this film is and in fact, bought the 2 disk DVD when it was first released a couple of years ago. Since that time, it just sat on my shelf collecting dust. This is even though I am a huge John Wayne fan with more than 100 of his films in my collection.
I go in spurts about watching those films, sometimes not watching them for months, and then getting the urge and watching several of his films over a weekend. This is what happened this past week, as I began watching post True Grit films such as Big Jake, Chisum, and Cahill: US Marshall. It was after those films, that I thought maybe it was time to watch an older film, and I found The Searchers, still wrapped in cellophane.
From the very first minute of the film I knew I had been insane to have never watched this movie sooner. It is truly a remarkable piece of art, and now I believe it is the greatest role that John Wayne ever performed.
The cinematography is breathtaking and I'm sure at the time of it's release, when it was filmed in VistaVision, it must have been unbelievable. The intensity of the performance that John Wayne gives as Ethan is so shockingly incredible that at times you forget that it is the Duke on the screen. His character Ethan being so full of hatred and rage that you see it in every crease on his face, in his eyes, and in his voice.
I see no reason to give the plot away other than to say it is a five- year journey of searching for Debbie (Natalie Wood) who was taken by the Commanche in a raid on his brother's ranch that left everyone else tortured, raped, and murdered.
Rooster Cogburn has always been my favorite Wayne role. I have probably seen True Grit between 75-100 times. And for pure entertainment value, that is indeed a great role. The Searchers was completely overlooked by the Academy and that is a shame. Wayne's performance in this film was truly his finest and the collaboration with Director John Ford, their best.
Wagon Train (1957)
Best Way To See Episodes Of Wagon Train
I had never watched WAGON TRAIN when I was growing up as at that time I wasn't particularly fond of westerns. The only one I remembered enjoying was Death Valley Days. So it was with some amusement that when I ordered Wagon Train: The Complete Color Season at Amazon.Com, I was thinking at the time I was ordering the other shows. At 50, my mind was already slipping. When it came, I decided to give it a try. The DVD set includes all 32 episodes of Wagon Trains only color season, plus 16 episodes of the best of the black and white seasons. It turned out to be one of the best television series I have ever bought. What made the color season unique was that the shows were ninety minutes long, each story practically a movie unto themselves. The colors on the transfers were still vivid and the black and white episodes were crisp and clear. Unlike other comments, I really enjoyed John McIntyre in the role of Chris Hale as Wagonmaster. He reminded me almost of John Wayne in his later years, in movies such as True Grit and The Sons Of Katie Elder. The ensemble cast on this show was excellent as well as the endless parade of guest stars, most notably in the color season with Barbara Stanwyck, appearing in two episodes, Suzanne Pleshette, playing a very unsympathetic bad girl role, and Burgess Meredith in a touching, sentimental role that will leave tears in your eyes. Wagon Train was truly one of the great westerns. If you can't find it on TV, I suggest you get it on DVD in whatever form you can find.
My Cousin Was On This Show
The reason I remember this show is because of my cousin, Katie Sweet, appearing in it. I was pretty young at the time and was thrilled to know someone from a TV show, even though I would see her only at family reunions. Katie Sweet was a child actress that appeared in numerous episodes of television shows at the time. Besides Hank, Katie appeared on Bonanza, The Fugitives, The Farmers Daughter, Lassie, Wagon Train, The Lucy Show, Ben Casey, and many others. She had an uncredited role in the movie Roustabout, and was one of the schoolchildren in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds". She was related to the Grotes from Kentucky and would come to the reunions. She was not one of those spoiled child stars that you think of. Lost track of her in later years but I have heard she still lives in California.