A flawed – but only slightly flawed – masterpiece, with emphasis on masterpiece. The romantic subplot was fine, even necessary to contrast with Ethan’s solitude; the not funny comic relief I could do without.
My other quibble (really question, actually) is this: Why did Debbie decide she wanted to go home the second time Marty meets her when she refused the first time? The impression I got is that she realized the Comanches were preparing for an attack, and didn’t want to be a part of it, but maybe I’m missing something? It seemed an odd reversal. More subtly, it could be that Scar started sleeping with her. This would make sense – it would explain her fear, then relief, upon seeing Marty standing above her instead of Scar, and her scream of terror when Scar shows up. But then again, lots of things would explain it.
At any rate, the movie is unquestionably brilliant. There are some legendary and iconic scenes, deservedly so. “Let’s go home, Debbie.” should and does stand as one of the great lines in the history of cinema. A more powerful moment has rarely been portrayed on screen.
The final shot of the movie is a beautifully tragic moment. Ethan stands in the doorway, looking at the family he helped reunite. After staring for a moment, clutching his arm, he turns away and walks off into the sunset. Nobody notices him leave. A fitting end to an absolutely sensational performance by John Wayne. That he wasn’t nominated for this but won for “True Grit” is just stunning, and not in a good way. Better late than never, I guess…
“The Searchers” is Ford’s masterpiece, and has rightfully gone down as a masterpiece not just of the western genre, but of American cinema in general.